Pam Penick, a fellow garden blogger at Digging, asked bloggers to recount their past trips to our country’s national parks. While another blogger has already posted about their trip to this area, I thought I would share my experiences and pictures from our 2008 trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park as well as the surrounding national wilderness areas: the West Elk Wilderness and the San Isabel and Gunnison National Forests.
Michelle and I decided to drive to Colorado last summer for our vacation. Michelle had never seen Colorado, and although it had been nearly thirty years since I had been to see family there, it left such a lasting impression on me that I have always wanted to go back. We were anxious to try out a bunch of new camping gear, and I chose a primitive camp site in a remote part of the West Elk Wilderness to pitch our tent. The campground was small – only ten campsites in total – but sat along the edge of an alpine lake at 9600 feet, below the East and West Beckwith mountains. There were no reservations, so we drove 1,000 miles in hopes that we’d find an open spot.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and the rain was misting the entire area. The camp host informed us that there were no campsites, and after talking with him for several minutes, he couldn’t help but feel our disappointment. Then he remembered an “overflow” site that nobody ever wants to stay at because it doesn’t have a table or firepit. “We don’t need those!” we exclaimed and quickly took the site. As it turns out, it was one of the largest and more private spots, with an awesome view of East Beckwith mountain.
We spent the next several days fishing in one of three lakes, we climbed to near the top of East Beckwith, wandered down miles of trails, and even trudged our way along animal trails through ferns as tall as our heads trying to find our way to the top of Marcellina Mountain. You see, I had it planned out to propose to Michelle on top of the mountain.
The ten mile trip through the trail-less woods, however, clamoring up the rocky side of the mountain for hours and sloshing through the high-altitude swamp wasn’t quite what I had in mind. We didn’t make it to the top, but enjoyed the view from the altitude we climbed to – about 11,500 feet. The view of the Ruby Range and the Raggeds was literally breathtaking – or maybe it was the difficult scramble and high altitude!
After getting lost on the way back, feeling a bit of panic and pushing our bodies to the limits, we made it back to camp and collapsed on the tent floor.
By the way, she said yes. It wasn’t quite as romantic as I’d hoped, but it was certainly an adventure!
We finished up the trip by completing the rest of the West Elk Scenic Biway, circling southwest to the north ridge of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We made several stops along the rim, taking pictures as we went.