Black Canyon of the Gunnison
On leaving Rocky Mountain National Park we managed to drive around 100 miles before nightfall. We found a turnout on the highway to spend the night. Unfortunately we hadn’t escaped the weather and the night was very cold – down to -4c outside and when we woke up only 3c in the camper. Wow. There was some light snow in the night but it had melted by morning. The mountain tops got some proper snow though.
We drove the rest of the way to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – on the way we had to cross Monarch Pass at 11,300ft where we actually encountered snow and ice conditions. We also drove through a desert like area with an amazing Mesa.
Once at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (the most improbably named park we’ve come across yet) we settled into the South Rim Campground (only US$6 per night – an absolute bargain for a National Park Campsite). We walked a trail along the edge of the canyon before getting back to the camper just as it was getting dark.
This was another cold night – down to -5c this time. No snow overnight but more snow on the higher mountains. Winter really seems to have arrived in this area. The days are getting up to 15c though so are pretty pleasant and the sun is out too.
In the morning we drove around the canyon and visited a number of the viewpoints. The canyon is a pretty new National Park. The canyon itself is up to 2700 feet deep and is relatively young having been carved by a very energetic river. Unfortunately dams upriver have reduced the flow of the river so the rate of erosion has been slowed considerably.
One of the interesting features of the Canyon is that the North Wall is almost vertical while the South wall is nowhere near as steep. This is a result of snow accumulation being greater on the South wall (being North facing) and it causes more erosion than on North where the sun melts the snow more quickly.