Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Friday, May 7, 2010

Colorado Parks and Friends, May 4-7

My first stop in Colorado was at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.  Driving up to the park, it seemed a strange combination of desert in the foreground, the huge sand dunes in the middle, then mountains behind.  I'm not much for sand.  It seems to find it's way everywhere -- in the car, shoes, eyes, face ...  But, the height of these dunes are so impressive (I just had to overlook that they were made of sand ... lol).  They are the tallest in North America, with Star Dune at 750'.  After sleeping off a bout of altitude sickness, I got up at sunrise the next morning to explore.  At the base of the dunes is Medano Creek which runs very shallow and very wide in the spring season.  The edge was full of ice crystals, due to the freezing temperatures the night before.  The most amazing thing about this creek, though, is a rare phenomenon call "flow surge."  It makes the creek flow down in waves, sometimes a foot tall.  It sounds something between a creek and the ocean.  I tried to capture it on the attached video.

After seeing the dunes, I had the good fortune of visiting with Karen and her family from the Vandwellers Group. When she heard of my travel plans, she invited me to come to see her ... so, I did! She has a wonderful cabin-home near Westcliffe, an old silver mining town.  She lives off-the-grid with her son Erik (16) and daughter Katie (12) on several beautifully treed acres. Having spent so much time in deserts lately, I had been missing trees, so, it was good for my soul to be there. They have a 1yo large dog Beau who I fell in love with (shh, don't tell Missy or Gretchen), an old little Pomeranian Zoey, and a big cat Boots who stayed upstairs clear of Beau who'd only been in the family for a couple of months. I thoroughly enjoyed Karen's pressure-cooked dinner, learning that is about the only way to get meat tender at the 8500' elevation.  I hope to be able to swing by again before the summer is over.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was my next stop.  A canyon so deep, cliffs so sheer and black, there's no evidence that prehistoric people ever ventured down into the dark canyon.  They seemed to only visit the mesa tops.  It was a hard canyon to photograph for it's blackness too.  The Gunnison River carved this canyon very efficiently because of it's swift current due to its steep rate of drop.  I took a road down to the canyon floor at the East Portal to spend the night.  It must be a premier fishing spot given that everyone else had gear.  The campsite itself, was actually in the Curicante National Recreation Area adjacent to the NP.  In the early 1900's, a small town was at that site to bore a tunnel for water for the Montrose area on the other side of the mountains.  It was a huge achievement.  That tunnel is still in use today with a diversion dam nearby.
More and more I find myself getting up at sunrise to explore the parks ... less people and more opportunity to spot wildlife.  Here's me in the morning sun waving hi to everyone!  On this early morning hike at Black Canyon, I saw sign of deer, elk and coyote ... but, didn't see any animals.
originally posted 5/11/10

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