Black Canyon of the Gunnison

13Jul12

On Saturday, June 15th we got up early to beat the heat and left Ridgway, CO. It was a beautiful morning with the Cimmaron range on our east and the San Juan mountains behind.  Montrose was an easy 26 miles away and it was mostly downhill. We rode past Ridgway State Park and kept on descending. As we approached Montrose we picked up the Uncompaghgre River Trail. This flat paved trail brought us right into town.  We ate a quick breakfast at a picnic table at the Ute Indian Museum which is right on the trail just south of town.  As we got closer we found a Safeway supermarket to re-supply our food cache and then continued on toward the center of town. The day was starting to warm up as we checked out the local farmers market. As a change from our planned route out of town we decided to cruise some back alleys that paralleled our route which made for  more interesting sights and traffic free riding.

Leaving Ridgway, CO

US 50, heading east out of Montrose was plenty wide enough for cyclists but had just been freshly chip sealed and with the rising heat of the day it equaled a total bummer. Super hot and stinky air with no where to go but onward. The turn for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was marked with a unique little gem and mineral shop and a small store. We stopped for a light browse of fossils, rocks and minerals all of which are a bit too heavy to carry on the bikes. After a bit to eat and a short nap we started the four mile climb up to our warmshowers.org hosts. This turned out to be a good climb and with the blazing sun it made it all the more challenging.

Rolling roads of Montrose

Upon our arrival our hosts Brad and Eva fed us an amazing lunch and gave us a tour of their home and gardens. We had an amazing dinner on their patio overlooking the San Juan mountains.

The next day, Eva drove us up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Brad and Eva kindly let us borrow their recumbent trikes for the day. It was a totally new experience to take these kind of bikes on a long ride so we were really excited. Eva took us up to the park and drove us down East Portal road so we could see the canyon from the bottom and then drove us back up to the top. East portal road is extremely steep. We unloaded the bikes and rode all around the park and then back down to their house. An epic day indeed. These trikes may have been the funnest bikes we have ever ridden. Although we wouldn’t tour on roads with traffic with them the trikes were super fun and really fast. In the park we checked out Devil’s Overlook, Painted Wall, Dragon Point and Sunset Point. While at Devil’s Overlook we saw two fighter jets rip through the canyon. One of the jets was well below us down inside the canyon.

View in the National Park

The steel steeds of the day

Slight view down into the canyon

Gunnison river at the bottom of the canyon – hard to capture the immensity

Debi getting ready to rip!

Bryan on three wheels

View down canyon

Painted wall

On Monday, June 18th we said our good byes to our amazing hosts. Thank you both again for an incredible stay and lovely conversations! We hope to see you again soon! Riding back out the dirt road and back out to the paved road was an early morning workout. Once on the pavement we bombed back down to the highway and had to wonder if the last couple of days actually happened because we had so much fun.

The day was  slowly warming up as we climbed long and steady up and over Cerro Summit. There was a little construction on the pass which always makes things interesting but the ride down into Cimmaron was fast, fun and wide open. We found a  roadside park and visitor center right off the road next to a visitor center for the Curecanti National Recreation Area. After a hefty lunch in the shade we started yet another climb over Blue Mesa Summit. The day was working us good and our ultimate destination would actually be about 12 miles north of our current location but because of the immense canyon we rode over 40 miles to get there.

Late that afternoon with the heat roiling and the traffic dwindling we crossed Blue Mesa reservoir which is the largest body of water entirely within Colorado. We re-supplied on our water at an ugly campground near the dam and moved on. It felt good to leave US 50 behind. Colorado 92 does not see much traffic and we were glad for it. That night we found a campsite near the Curecanti needle and watched the sun go down across the amazing canyon.

On the way to Blue Mesa

Looking down canyon from the north rim

Sunset from near our campsite

Curecanti needle

View up canyon from Curecanti needle

High mesa near camp

On Tuesday, June 19th we woke up early and started off with a quick chilly descent and then immediately started climbing up to a place called Hermits Rest. From here we could see the dam near the visitor center we were at the day prior in Cimmaron. The canyon is truly formidable and commands respect, space and attention. We have been riding the rims of the canyon for days and feel that the early settlers and natives must have met their match. In fact it sounds as if they avoided it all together.

Morning view from Hermit’s Rest

View from Hermit’s Rest with the San Juan Mountains in the distance

From Hermit’s Rest which hovers around 9,000′ we bombed all the way down toward the town of Crawford. A sign we passed proclaimed that we were now entering Crawford Country. Crawford seemed tired and struggling to hang on. The outskirts of town were riddled with dead prairie dogs and dry hot mesas. There is probably some hidden charms here but we didn’t spend enough time to seek them out.

As we made our way out of town we could see the lush north fork valley in the distance and we were glad to see more and more trees surrounding our hot  sunny ride to Paonia, CO.

See you there,

Bryan and Debi

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8 Responses to “Black Canyon of the Gunnison”

  1. Great work guys….missin’ you in Santa Fe…we need your help in convincing Blair and Andrew to get out here, they fell in love with it!

    • 2 thrubike

      Santa Fe is on our minds. We’ll be in touch soon with some ideas. Have fun at Interbike-so awesome that you get to go.

    • 3 thrubike

      Will do!

  2. 4 Kate Cross

    These views are just incredible! Where do you think you will be come fall?

    • 5 thrubike

      We are just starting to put that together. We will be house sitting on Vashon Island in Washington until Labor Day. We should be caught up on our blogging soon!

      B+D

  3. 6 Betty

    Hi Debi & Bryan! You’re having some wonderful experiences & taking great photos! Remember me (the fiddler) from Gilbert Ray? If you hit SD next summer, stop to see me. I’m in Fla til April. Happy trails! Betty

    • 7 thrubike

      Thanks Betty! We definitely remember you! Enjoy Florida this winter and Yes, if we come through SD we will look you up!

      Take Care,

      Bryan and Debi


  1. 1 Northbound once again | thrubike.net

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