This was the longest day of driving. We set out from Aspen close to 9 am and started off towards the main part of the day, driving the Kebler Pass. I had no expectations or idea as to what the ride would be like, but turn by turn new views emerged and I began understanding why this drive was such a popular one.
We weren’t the only photographers out there that day, other cars drove behind and ahead, constantly catching up then falling behind. Kebler Pass is long, and it’s especially not a short ride if you keep stopping for photographs and we eventually realized during this that our gas was really low with no gas stations around for at least another hour. D decided to put the car in neutral and for a good portion of the ride we cruised, literally, up then down down down the hills trying to use as little gas as possible.
We finally rolled into Crested Butte, our saviour at the end of the road. We poured gas in a station decorated by taxidermied animals wearing party hats. It’s a small town with big history, a former coal and silver mining town sitting in Gunnison County that was settled by many European settlers in the 1800’s. It was the first of many old,mining towns on our way to Black Canyon. (One town –the name escapes me- was completely full of casinos, ones with mining themes no less.) We passed so many that eventually you could tell, by the run down buildings and old detailing on houses and poles, when you were in an old mining town.
Sunset found us at Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park, a heart-stopping surprise. The eerie quiet of wind between walls of rock lent to the sheer awe inspiring feeling of being a small, small human at the edge of a literal precipice. You realized how tiny you were by simply walking to the railing. Even the majestic Rocky mountains, with their beautiful, grand, snow-capped peaks didn’t make me feel the sublimity of this canyon at sunset.
We met a group of other photographer at the last look out before sun set; a couple from Georgia who were doing the same trip as us only backwards and a Science teacher and her husband from Florida who were on leave traveling the sights of southern Colorado. The Georgian couple had been here the night before and said they saw a mother bear and cub run across the road in front of their car. We hope and prayed this would happen to use, summoning the bears from their secret hiding places through pleas and reverse psychology. Instead we saw rabbits and a bobcat (!) As the last bit of sun disappeared over the hills, we left Black Canyon looking for any nocturnal creature we could find, and began heading to our next stop, Alamosa.