Sunrise Out My Front Door

Sunrise Out My Front Door
Sunrise Out My Front Door

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison

October 12, 2019

I haven't taken a lot of time to play this summer as I've been really busy and have spent a lot of time visiting doctors and therapists to get over my car wreck. And I've been surveying for bees more in in my free time.

So the weekend after the Saturday I spent working at the crane festival, I invited a new staffer to go camping at Black Canyon of the Gunnison. She texted me on Thursday to ask if we should worry about the snow. My storm app showed the moving east out of Colorado so I texted her back that there was no problem. 

We planned to leave about sunrise on Friday.  I woke up to 14° which continued to drop to 9°.  But Elizabeth had assured me that she had already survived cold camping, so we set off. I have two sets of sleeping bags and extra blankets as well as my bedding, and I took it all. 

About half way to the park, we started seeing a light snow on the ground,  but none was on the road and the temperature was  rising rapidly. But we did have to stop to allow a heard of bighorn sheep to climb off the highway and up a nearly vertical cliff. 



The only road hazards we encountered
We got to the park to find it almost empty and all camp sites free, saving us the grand total of $8.00 per night. ( I think I induced Elizabeth to come because of how inexpensive the trip would be but we found we have lots in common, even though she is young enough to be my granddaughter.) We decided on a site with plenty of room for our two tents and  and a huge western view.  We were soon set up and headed for the visitor center where we got information and watched a movie, before going down to the overlook by the visitor center. We were disappointed to find that the few trails were all about two miles. I drove back to camp while Elizabeth hiked the Rim Trail back.  We were both tired so took a nap. 

Then I was time to go exploring and walk to almost all the overlook points. We hoped for a lovely sunset, but the best one came after we got back to camp and had built a fire and were eating supper. 


The Canyon walls look mostly black in most places

This area had more color 

This is part of the Painted Canyon area and shows intrusions of newer rock


Our little sunset and Elizabeth's wonderful fire - I brought LOTS of wood

I got up early the following day and checked out a few places for light before coming back to camp and finding Elizabeth had gotten up and immediately gone hiking.  She suddenly appeared while I was sitting in the car getting warm. We again went out to see the overlooks in the morning light and then took a wonderful hike - put you will have to wait to find out about that.

Last picture as sun rose


The best time to take pictures are before and after the sun is present but you can't do all the canyon in those times


I  took way too many pictures of the canyon walls - they look unique and special in the camera
but it's hard to tell where I took them later. 

This is a long shot  in morning light - I thought a raptor might have had a nest above the white wash

The river is almost 2000 feet below us and we just heard the murmur of a tiny stream -
but the explorers were driven crazy by the constant roar of the big white water

Another view of the painted area

Shadows become a huge problem as the sun gets high - that blue patch in the bottom is the color of snow in the shade. 

 Elizabeth and I did two more hikes, and moved camp - stay tuned.

Monday, October 7, 2019

In Search of Natural Arch

September 22, 2019

I had worked at least part of all the days this past week until Sunday, so decided to go see some local scenic places. The closest place was Natural Arch, on Bureau of Land Management Land, which was even on my phone's GPS.  It was listed as forty-six miles away. I also had   just gotten a new camera and need to learn to use it and figure out the best settings to get the kind of pictures I want so I needed something to photograph.

I was lazy and did not get out of the house until after sunrise, but the day was still beautiful and I think the new camera manages strong sun better than did my old one.

But you decide.

Soon after I left the town of Del Norte, I found huge boulders, more like tiny mountains scattered across a plain. They were produced by one of the biggest volcanic eruptions ever.  One of the sets of boulders was set to the east of the road and called Elephant Rock.  The sun was shining right into the camera, so I didn't take it.  But there was just one fabulous view after the other.

Come along.


Along the way

This was an area of a huge eruption - see last post for details

I thought these cones to be as beautiful as flowers. - think this is pinyon pine

There were lots of long views like this

The huge rock outcroppings went on forever with several trails running through them

Prairie, outcrops, and conifers

These rocks reminded me of a herd of elephants - real mammoths did live here

A very different rock structure

Another volcanic outcropping

As I was climbing the last road to Natural Arch, I was struck by the green field 

Getting close

I've arrived

I loved the tree growing in the "window" 
 I found a trail running along the "wall" of rock that contains Natural Arch, hoping to find an easy trail to it. I gave up before finding an easy way to climb up to the arch but enjoyed these pictures as I climbed ever higher and looked back down into the valley.


The view was of hills all the way to mountains


I found a lovely dispersed campground - this was one of the views from it

Another sign of past volcanos

I forgot I had started this post, and came to the library to post about my trip into the San Juan Mountains to enjoy the aspens turning golds to red when I found it partially done. Next time I'll share views of aspens.

On a personal note, I helped get ready for and then worked at our annual Kids Crane Festival Saturday, October 5. Then today I met a tour bus and spent an hour showing then ducks and sandhill cranes. We also got to see a herd of twenty elk.

I'm stopping all other work to pin my bees and then will take them up to the Museum of Natural History to get identified. I'll probably continue my survey next year because I didn't get to all corners of the valley and the surrounding mountains or catch each set of flowers in bloom.  We had lots of very high winds that blew my traps away as well as which kept bees from flying.

I'll spend a four day weekend at Black Canyon of the Gunnison, will be driving my bees and getting organized to leave.  But I'll be back next February.

I'll have many adventures on the way home. I'll spend three-four days in the Taos, New Mexico region and then pick up a friend in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We plan to spend a busy 5 days in Mexico, touring the National Monuments and Parks before I drop her off at the San Antonio airport.  Then I'll drive to spend a weekend camping out with my daughter and grandson before officially arriving in Texas.

I won't have connectivity or time, but eventually I'll get caught up with blogs.




Monday, September 23, 2019

A Hike Through Penitente Canyon

September 22, 2019

I have had a busy summer and have spent many of my weekends hunting bees, and recently, entertaining company, so haven't had my usual adventures. I decided I needed to make some short forays into recreational lands belonging to the Rio Grand Forest Service or the San Luis Valley Bureau of Land Management. I have a book of local birding hot spots, some of which are also scenic spots, which I used to find the sites.

One of two places I set my sight on Sunday was  Penitente Canyon. This site is supposed to be a premiere climbing area and is also known for hiking and birding. I found this site and the other site I visited, Natural Arch, are both part of the one of the largest explosive eruptions on earth, estimated at 1,2000 cubic miles.  This formed the La Garita Caldera. The scenic areas I saw were the result of this eruption.

I got to Penitente Canyon a little after noon.  It has a camping area with about ten campsites, some squeezed between the large boulders. The canyon itself is narrow to very narrow, but the trail is mostly very flat and easy to walk on.In less than two miles, the the trail forms a circle that runs through the canyon, climbs out to a mesa, and then returns back down into the canyon as it reaches the beginning point. 

View from the parking lot

How did this hole get there?

The very easy path

I think the climbers can only use these points to attach their climbing ropes to and not add any attachments of their own

The easy, flat trail

So many boulders

One of a few mountain climbers


Was this area carved by giants?

Intriguing composition 

This seemed to be a worn area on the rock.
 At about this point, the trail turned to the NW and climbed up through shady vegetation in a few easy switchbacks to finally reach a rock face where I lost the trail for a few minutes.  I had very different vegetation and views.

Looking east across the canyon

Long views to the south and west

Found the trail 

Had to stop repeatedly to capture views
I could have taken a detour here to see wagon tracks made by Mexicans who
 drove tiny carts through this area to harvest wood

Bug love - think these are a kind of assassin fly

I enjoyed the backlit spines on these cacti

Another "carved" rock

I was almost back to the kiosk when I found this scene

Trying to get everything captured

More scenic views

It was amazing to see so much vegetation growing in the high rocky crevasses

This was a sacred site to several Indian tripes. There are a few rock paintings. Also people of the Penitente Religion also used this canyon.  Three men painted the Virgin of Guadalupe high on the canyon wall, but I didn't know to look for it until after I got back, so never noticed it.

But I did get to see one rock painting right on the parking lot. It has a sign describing it so it was hard to miss.


The only rock painting I found.