August 19, Aspen CO to Montrose CO

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Today we drove the West Elk Scenic Highways to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We had to hustle out of Aspen in the morning to beat the bicycle race. We drove along the Elk Scenic Highway passing a bunch of State Troopers and support vehicles for the race.

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After a couple of hours of driving we arrived at the sign for the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. The drive in was on some county roads with the last 6 miles on dirt roads. As we got near the park entrance there was still nothing that would hint at how spectacular the views were. The Canyon is only about a half mile wide but varies between 1500 and 2000 feet deep. At the bottom is the Gunnison River which rips along at a pretty good rate. The North Rim is pretty lightly visited so the overlooks were pretty basic, and you could approach the rim of the Canyon with almost no protection. Ton got over her fear of heights and got some good pictures. After spending a couple of hours at the North Rim we went back to the Elk Scenic Highway and headed to the more developed South Rim. The last 30 miles of the Elk follows the Black Canyon and reminded Ton of the Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur if you change the Pacific Ocean to the River and Mountains of Colorado.

When we got near the South Rim we decided we needed to stock up with some food, and Diesel Exhaust Fluid in Montrose. We also needed good internet so we decided to stay in a campground in town. When we checked in the guy told us this valley only averaged 7” of rain per year. When we were done checking in we headed out to the visitors center at the South Rim, and of course it rained. So we drove the rim road and headed back to town. By the time we got to town it was raining buckets! They probably got 1” of their 7” of rain for the year.

ducksksr@gmail.com travelin tiger 2013