Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Groundhog Day

pic 1: Typical Black Canyon Scene
pic 2: High mountain meadows near Crawford...view of West Elk Mountains

Day 22 August 23 Wednesday - 210 miles

Groundhog Day

I almost feel like Chevy Chase in his Groundhog Day movie. I wake up, go get the continental breakfast (coffee and cereal mainly), pack up, load up, gas up, hit the road. But in my case, the locales are always different.

Since the day’s ride schedule was not too long, in miles at least, I decided to wash clothes at a Laundromat. That done, I was on the road by a little after 10.

The first destination was the Gunnison Black Canyons. The canyon system is not too far out of Montrose and I had wanted to see it for years. The Black Canyons, so named because they are so steep and narrow that light can reach the bottom only when the sun is nearly directly overhead, were formed by the Gunnison River wearing through hard, crystalline, ancient rock; the Colorado River, by contrast, cuts through the much softer sandstone of the Grand Canyon.

In the 48 miles of the canyons, the Gunnison River drops more than does the Mississippi in its entire 1,500 mile length. (Test question: how much does the Mississippi drop? I mentioned this earlier.)

One road at the park runs straight down to the river at a grade of 16%, which is almost three times the steepest grade on interstates; I think the elevation drop is something like 2,000 ft. in less than 3 miles. We’re talking 1st and 2nd gear here, folks!

After being awed and then numbed by the vastness and wildness of the canyon, I ran back down to Hwy 50, continued east and over the Blue Mesa, and then turned north on Hwy 92, a scenic drive.

Hwy 92 was quite a surprise. First, I had no clue that it would be so twisty and slow. Second, I didn’t know it would climb so steeply. And third, it bent back on the map so that at one point it was maybe 10 miles, as a crow flies, away from where I was in the Black Canyon, but was over 40 miles away by road.

Hwy 92 at first ran up the side of a large mesa, crested it, and landed me in high mountain meadows. Once up on top, the road straightened out and I began to run at about 70. Then, I saw a small deer up ahead and let off the throttle to get a better look. BUT WHAT WAS I THINKING! That little sucker could run out in front of me. I grabbed the brakes, not an easy task because the road had been resurfaced and was coated with a fine, loose layer of small gravel. The deer, thank god, ran back into the woods. I was to see three or four more in the next five miles or so.

I turned west on 133 at Hotchkiss headed toward Carbondale, and this turned into a beautiful section. The road, smooth as it could be, continued to run across the high mesa before dropping a little into a very wide canyon where it passed through several coal mine areas where trains were being loaded for trips to utility companies.

Then, 133 climbed for a few miles and before descending along the Crystal River that ran into Carbondale.

So, north on 82 and I’m in Glenwood Springs. I did the usual, “Ma’m the internet in the room has to work,” and also visited with the other motorcycle riders who were camped out in front of their doors.

Supper, bath, read a little, download pictures, and do the journal. Just like Groundhog’s Day.

1 comment:

mcook said...

Bill Murray was in Groundhog Day, not Chevy Chase.