Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 20, 2011

Narrowest, Deepest, Steepest

The Grand Canyon, a mile deep, will always hold the ‘grandest’ honors. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, however, is the ‘deepest, steepest, narrowest’ canyon in North America. When it was being surveyed for hydrological uses in 1900, it ate up wooden boats. All further exploration had to be done on inflatable air mattresses; the walls were too steep to walk along. But surveying was not my purpose in visiting.

It's 2000 feet to the bottom of this chasm. Awfully impressive.

I was there to see Colorado instead of Utah for a change. Mountains instead of desert. Metamorphic rock instead of sedimentary. Rain instead of sunshine. First hints of fall colors instead of cacti. To experience 8200 feet elevation instead of 4100. To shiver instead of sweat.

Don’t laugh, but I was wearing my light down jacket, warm hat, and gloves when we got to the mountains. Desert life has certainly made this hardy Minnesotan more cold-sensitive.

The tent was up, the supper cooked and eaten, and the fire crackling when raindrops began plopping with disquieting portent. My campmate Bill threw an armful of branches onto the flames as we dashed for the car; 45 minutes of rain didn’t extinguish them, after which we gladly absorbed the fire’s heat while listening to coyotes yipping, an elk bugling, and other assorted mountain sounds before retiring.

A Great Horned Owl hooted us awake during the early morning hours, as moonlight invited itself in through the open tent doors. I can’t think of a finer welcome for the new day.

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