Southwest Colorado Adventure

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Southwest Colorado Adventure ~ Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP

This last weekend we embarked upon our Southwest Colorado Adventure, another first for us. The weather had prevented us from being able to do everything that we had planned. But we still had a great time visiting this part of Colorado, although it had felt like a world away from our neck of the woods (Grand Lake).

We left early Friday morning and headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This is a place that Larry was very eager to visit; it is one of the least visited of all the National Parks (we visited the South Rim, as the North Rim was closed at the time). The canyon began its transformation more than sixty million years ago as the lands surrounding the canyon uplifted, followed by volcanic activity.

The Gunnison River then began its special process of carving away at the softer volcanic rock more than two million years ago, creating the canyon as we see it today. At the canyon floor, it is forty feet wide at its narrowest point. And one of the most awesome features of the park is the “Painted Wall,” towering just shy of a half-mile above the river.

Southwest Colorado Adventure ~ Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park ~ Painted Wall

We only went on one short hike in the park, the Oak Flat Loop Trail; the trailhead is located immediately to the left of the visitor’s center. Normally, this trail would have been fairly simple; however, the trail was laced with lots of mud and areas of slushy snow. Unfortunately, we did not bring our trekking poles, so our footing was quite unstable in many areas of the trail. We ended up turning around at the halfway point instead of completing the loop. And, the weather had turned sour, as we hiked in graupel the entire way back. The hike is definitely worth your time as it offers views below that canyon rim without having to hike down to the canyon floor.

After the short trek, we drove throughout the park, stopping at many lookout points so that Larry could take more photos. Once finished, we headed into Montrose for dinner and then onto the place where we would be staying for the next two nights (more about that below). 

Day two of our Southwest Colorado Adventure, the plan had been to kayak all day on the Blue Mesa Reservoir. However, it had been far too windy, and the reservoir was well over an hour drive away from the place where we were staying, back in the direction that we came from (when I had made our lodging reservations, I had not realized the distance between the two places). Instead, we enjoyed a scenic drive to Ouray, with the San Juan Mountain Range directly in front of us.

Over the winter, we had a trip planned to Ouray, also known as, “Switzerland of America,” so that we could do some ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park. But, we had changed our plans due to Ouray being a COVID hotspot at that point in time. This day, we decided to visit Box Canyon Falls. The trail is only about a quarter-mile long, and is well worth the visit! Box Canyon Falls spills water from a creek situated 285 feet above the falls through a narrow quartzite canyon. To make your way down to the bottom of the canyon, you walk on a grated metal walkway, which is fairly narrow. 

I had eagerly made my way to the bottom of the canyon and thought that Larry was right behind me. But when I turned around, I noticed that he was still up at the top! I waved for him to come join me, and wondered what the hold up was. It was then that I had realized something was off. His reluctance, along with slow pace down the steps, told me that he was uncomfortable. I later learned that he does not like walking on metal grated steps/walkways.

At the bottom, you behold the magnificent waterfall jutted between the tall pillars of the canyon. At the very bottom, the water spills into a large, shallow pool before flowing into Uncompahgre River. It was spectacular! And the small nature paths surrounding the Box Canyon were beautiful, laced with small wildflowers. If you find yourself in Ouray, this is a worthwhile attraction to visit.

Once back in the Tahoe, we headed to Ridgeway State Park. It is a beautiful, well-maintained park along the shores of Uncompahgre River. The park offers many things to enjoy: a reservoir, bike paths, many picnic areas and fishing spots on the river, and three campgrounds. And the water in the reservoir is mesmerizing, with different shades of color ranging from emerald to dark blue. The bulk of the spring runoff has not yet occurred, so the water was at least ten feet low. I desperately wanted to kayak on this beautiful reservoir, but alas, the wind…

Even though the wind was very strong, we wanted to at least do some biking. We started out heading north, which leads to a crushed gravel path that is all uphill as it meanders around the east shore of the reservoir. I was very uncomfortable on this path because the tires on my new bike do not handle crushed gravel really well. Plus, the path is very narrow with no room for the slightest twist of the handlebars. 

After a short distance, we turned around and biked in the opposite direction, heading south. We had an awe inspiring view of the San Juan Mountains ahead of us as we biked on a paved path leading toward the picnic areas, which are situated along the Uncompahgre River. Each picnic area is like an individual cove, with a large cement pad and picnic bench underneath a covered shelter. From most of the picnic areas, you are able to fish in the river within a few yards of your individual picnic cove.

We had continued biking in this direction for few miles, but eventually returned to the Tahoe a short while later. I had desperately wanted to bike more, but the wind, combined with the strong gusts, were unbearable. A few times, the gusts kicked up rocks and dirt that pelted our legs. Not fun. Because of the wind, we decided to call it a day and head to the restaurant for an early dinner before retiring for the evening. 

The next day, we had hoped to be able to kayak on Blue Mesa Reservoir since it would be on our way home. However, the wind that day had been crazy, too! Instead, we wrapped up our Southwest Colorado Adventure and headed back to Denver with our sights focused on our next adventure: Moab!

Southwest Colorado Adventure ~ Blue Mesa Reservoir
Blue Mesa Reservoir

For our Southwest Colorado Adventure, we stayed at the Double G Ranch and Guest Lodge, located about twenty minutes south of Montrose. The 40-acre ranch offers horseback riding to guests and has walking paths around the property. The lodging area is inside of a beautiful home that the hosts had remodeled in 2018, upon moving there from Germany. The lodge boasts breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains to the south as well as the Cimarron Range to the southeast.

We stayed in the Eagle’s Nest, a very large room with a private balcony and bathroom. The bed was extremely comfortable and the room was very well appointed with everything one could want. And, the degree of hospitality from the hosts was unparalleled; we felt like family. The biggest bonuses for us, however, were getting to enjoy their three pups, as well as talking with Frank (one of the hosts) about his country and culture. If you find yourself in this area of Colorado, we recommend staying at the Double G Ranch and Guestlodge.   

Southwest Colorado Adventure ~ Double G Ranch and Guest Lodge
Double G Ranch and Guest Lodge ~ A room with a view… The San Juan Mountains

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