Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Travel

April 25, 2012

Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park

- — Contemplating the eons of time, and my place in them. That’s how I started a visit in southwest Colorado’s Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park.

Surprised me since I was simply taking a 90-minute pontoon boat ride with a National Park Ranger.

“1.8 billion years old these cliffs,” Ranger Whitney Masten said.

Meandering on that river between the cliffs, I tried to think thoughts big enough to match the magnificence.

Deep canyon and high skies. Rolling farm land with alfalfa, cherries, corn, garlic and cattle grazing on ranch land. That’s the view en route to the Morrow Point boat tour, a value at $16.

Skim on a reservoir 240 feet deep in places, blue sky high above and towering old stone cliffs on both sides.

I recommend skipping the deck chairs to stand at the railing.

Another word to the wise: boat time is comfortable but getting to and fro requires a ¾ mile walk on a path that used to be a narrow gauge railroad track, plus 232 steps, wide with handrails.

Montrose is the gateway city to this experience and to the south rim of the Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park.

Also a sensible base camp to Telluride, Crested Butte, Durango and other Colorado communities. They’re higher elevation, harder to acclimate.

I liked seeing mountains every which way: San Juans, 14,000 feet; Uncompahgre Plateau,10,000 with two peaks reaching beyond 14,000 feet.

At 5,794 elevation, Montrose is a pretty bowl with inspiring sides.

Grand Mesa looms large 45 miles north, reported to be the world’s largest flattop mountain with fishing lakes, hunting lands, hiking and camping.

Black Canyon National Park gets its name because sunlight can’t very well reach the bottom.

As I stood on the rim -- carefully -— a peregrine falcon flew in front of me. Birders say the dusky grouse is a treasure to see here too.

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