Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hiking with my dad

Last month, my dad and I went hiking in southwestern Colorado. Specifically, we spent one day in Black Canyon of the Gunnison and one hiking Grand Mesa. Dad and I hadn't done a trip together, just the two of us, probably ever. And I learned a bunch of stuff about myself, my dad, and a part of Colorado I had not experienced.

Black Canyon may lack the size of Grand Canyon, but is certainly not lacking in grandeur. The sheer walls of black volcanic rock, cut with pink stripes of quartz monzonite, are striking. My photographic skills really don't do it justice.

The vertical drop is so precipitous that the river bed at the bottom shows no evidence of human occupation, ever, even as the Ute Indians lived all around the canyon rim for hundreds of years.

The only way down to the bottom is down some very steep trails (the park service won't even use the term 'trail' to describe them) with pitches up to 60 or 70 degrees. At one point, they have even installed an 80-foot chain to help you descend or ascend a particularly steep section.

We only went about a third of the way down because we didn't have enough time. That was enough, however, for me to be as impressed with my 77-year-old father as I was by the natural surroundings. That's him working the chain ...

The next day we hiked Grand Mesa, the largest flat-top mountain in the world. Because the mountain top is nonporous lava rock, water is trapped on top of it, forming 300 lakes. Dad grew up in the area and used to go fishing up there.

There are miles of healthy forests, with no sign of the beetle-kill that has ravaged Colorado. And almost no sign of people either. It's quite a treasure that I had never seen before.

As I described in my previous post, Dad was a hiking stud. Those two days of hiking wore me out, and overall it was a terrific four-day weekend with my dad. We're going to have to do it again next summer.
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