Friday, July 3, 2015

North Rim Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park



Back in August 2012 we spent time in Curecanti National Recreation Area and did some hikes along the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, hiking down into the canyon, and even taking a boat ride on the Gunnison River. 


Since we didn’t actually visit the national park while we were there, and Cedaredge is about 40 miles from the North Rim, we thought it would be a good place for a day trip and a hike. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park contains only 14 miles of the 48 mile canyon, ranging in depth from 1,800 to 2,700 feet. The South Rim is the most visited since it is easier to access, being just 15 miles from Montrose. The North Rim is more remote and is accessed from a 6 mile dirt road 5 miles south of the small town of Crawford, CO. There is no visitors center, just a ranger station with park maps, a couple outhouses, and a five mile drive with scenic overlooks, 14 miles of hiking trails, and a small campground. We opted to do several short trails to overlooks since although we were at almost 8,000’ it was in the mid 80s with very little shade.


Our favorite was the North Vista trail that begins at the ranger station, where we hiked 1.5 miles to Exclamation Point. You just have to love that name!







At its narrowest the canyon is only 40 feet across. It isn’t the Grand Canyon but it’s pretty impressive.


On another note, I’ve been going to the animal shelter in Cedaredge a couple times a week to socialize with the kittens. They have at least a dozen one to two month old kittens and several of them are very skittish and need more human contact to get them ready for adoption so I am happy to oblige. Jim came with me once but you know him, way too soft hearted and wants to give them all a home! My favorite is Gilligan, the gray and white one at the top right. He’s not one of the shy ones.

Cedaredge, CO3

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Another Hike On Grand Mesa



Since we’ve been in Cedaredge, CO we’ve taken one bike ride, a nice loop on rural roads with hardly any traffic but a tough ride for us since it was uphill the entire first five miles. The last seven miles of mostly downhill sure was a lot of fun, though. So we’ve been looking for an easy mountain bike trail and found a link to the Flowing Park Loop off Land’s End Road on top of Grand Mesa. We decided that before we hauled the bikes up there we would hike part of it to see what we thought. It’s been our experience that many trails rated easy to intermediate are way beyond our ability and comfort level, but this one was a pleasant surprise.

It’s many miles down a dusty dirt road to get to the trail head at Flowing Park Reservoir, but what a lovely spot.


In order to get to the loop trail you must walk or ride your bike about 2.5 miles along a mostly level gravel road which turns into a double track then finally a narrow single track trail. This is the Indian Point Trail.


At the the 2.5 mile mark the 12 mile Flowing Park Loop begins. We opted to follow the Indian Point trail to the right that goes by Chambers Reservoir.




Although mostly open meadow we did go through a dark forested area and a couple small aspen groves.


We turned around after coming to an overlook at around 4 miles. Up to this point the trail had little elevation change and just a few rocky areas that we may have to walk our bikes over. In fact we talked with 4 bikers who told us it was similar around the whole loop, although on the other side of the loop the trail skirts the rim of the mesa for some even better views.





Not sure what mountains we were barely seeing here but they still have a lot of snow on them. We will definitely be back with the bikes. Oh, and Jim likes his new hiking boots. I would have been hesitant to do an 8 mile hike in new shoes but he had Keen’s in the past and knew they were comfortable from the start.


When we got back to Land’s End Road we decided to drive about 10 more miles to the observatory, 6,000’ above the Gunnison River Valley. Maybe we’ll drive the many mile gravel switchback road another time.




When we walked up to the overlook we were immediately approached by at least a half dozen little ground squirrels, and based on the number of sunflower seed shells scattered over the ground, it must be a well known feeding spot. Looks like they’re getting their fill, yet they still begged us for more. Check out those cheeks!



It was another good day on the Mesa, capped off with a pizza and beer at 4B’s Brewery in Cedaredge. They just opened a month ago and are only brewing three of their own beers, all lighter than we like, so we had a couple of the guest beers, Revolution’s IPA and Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro, one of Jim’s favorites.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area, Grand Junction, CO



After our hike on Kebler Pass the other day Jim noticed that his hiking boots were coming apart at the seams. The closest town with good shopping is Grand Junction, about 50 miles from Cedaredge. They have a Sportsman’s Warehouse, REI, and Cabela’s, so we decided to take a drive and check them all out. On our way we stopped for a hike in Dominguez Canyon off Bridgeport Road, about 17 miles from Grand Junction.

Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area contains 210,172 acres of red rock canyons and sandstone bluffs along the Gunnison River, and the Escalante, Cottonwood, Little and Big Dominguez creeks. There is a 17 mile dirt road that goes through Escalante Canyon about 10 miles from Delta, CO, but to reach Dominguez Canyon, the largest BLM roadless area in Colorado, you drive just a few miles on Bridgeport Road as it twists its way down the canyon to the trail head parking area.

Gunnison River from the bluffs above the parking area.

Cedaredge, CO

The start of the trail, where there is obviously a security issue. There is an unlocked pedestrian gate on the right.



For the first third of a mile we had to walk beside the Union Pacific railroad tracks. Our timing was perfect, as a train came towards us just a few minutes after we began. It was a bit unnerving being so close to a moving train, and on a curve no less. The deafening squeal of the brakes from the cars made us both imagine an imminent derailment.

Cedaredge, CO1

The trail then crosses the tracks and continues along to two bridges, about a mile into the hike. The first is private property, so we crossed the second where the trail continues along the Gunnison River for another mile toward the mouth of Dominguez Canyon.






So after about two miles we’ve finally reached the trail into the canyon.




This is really an easy trail, with a gentle grade up the farther we got in the canyon. And extremely scenic with our favorite red rock.




We went another mile and turned back, since we still had shopping to do in Grand Junction, and the temperature was rapidly rising.




There is supposed to be a waterfall at 3.5 miles and petroglyphs around the 4 mile mark but that will have to wait for another time in cooler weather. The trail continues for over 16 miles to a primitive campground.

View across the railroad tracks and river, almost back to the car.


And the shoe shopping was a success. Jim now has a new pair of waterproof Keen hiking boots, on sale at Cabela’s, which he breaks in on our next hike back up on cooler Grand Mesa.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Three Lakes Trail, Kebler Pass, CO


We took a day trip east through the little towns of Hotchkiss, Paonia, and Somerset, then continued on to Gunnison County Road 12, better known as Kebler Pass Road. This is a dirt/gravel road with a couple spots of intermittent pavement that goes for thirty miles to Crested Butte, climbing over the 10,007’ pass.

Mural on a building in cute little downtown Paonia.


Along highway 133 before we got to Kebler Pass Road we encountered many cyclists heading west, and I remembered that the 7 day, 420 mile Bicycle Tour of Colorado was taking place this week. It was really hot, in the 90s at the 5-6000’ elevation they were riding through. Some of them didn’t look like they were having much fun. There is a lot of climbing on this ride.


Rest stop along the route.


The temperatures dropped to the upper 70s as we climbed to our destination, the Lost Lake Campground a couple miles south of Kebler Pass Road, about 7 miles before the pass..

Our lunch stop at a very scenic overlook..



The Three Lakes Trail begins at the Lost Lake Campground, with many sites having great views of Lost Lake Slough.


For a short hike (just under 4 miles), and with only about 500’ of elevation gain, it packs a lot of scenery.




Kebler Pass contains one of the world’s largest aspen groves, which you get to hike through on this trail. When we did the full moon ranger hike in Great Basin National Park we learned that aspen trees in a grove all grow from one root system, something we did not know. I found an article about the Keebler Pass grove which says:

“This aspen grove has been tested and found to be a clonal colony. It therefore grows from a single root system and is a single living organism. This hidden leviathan is ostensibly the largest living entity in the state of Colorado and one of the largest in the world.”

You can read the full article here. It’s quite fascinating.


More sights from the trail that passes Lost Lake Slough, Lost Lake, and Dollar Lake.




And even a small waterfall.



A very nice hike indeed.




On the way home we stopped in Paonia to give Revolution Brewing a try. It’s been a while since we visited a brewery and this is just a small one with a tasting room in an old church downtown. We got a flight of four different beers, and although not bad (I did like the IPA), it was pretty much just average.

We did have an enjoyable conversation with the guys at the next table, who were cyclists from Michigan riding the bicycle tour. The next day’s ride was going from Hotchkiss to Crested Butte, a route that took them over Kebler Pass Road. They weren’t too crazy about riding 30 miles of gravel on road bikes, and since this is not a race, they were planning to just bike to where the pavement ends and back to their car for about a 50 mile ride, then drive over the pass to Crested Butte. Smart idea!