Odie handled the high mountain passes with the greatest of ease. The scenery of the Rockies with the steep hillsides, the contrast of the dark green of the pine trees and the lighter green of the deciduous mountain ash and birch made for beautifully textured and compelling settings for the mountain meadows and alpine lakes that seemed to follow one after another around every twist and turn. As well, the log cabin style homes fitted perfectly into their environment and there was many times when we thought; we could live here!!! And then, in one of the high valleys was the perfect alpine village with the main street lined with little shops and restaurants. Ouray was the name of the town, and for Tim, it was very hard to resist the call of the little brewpub that was on the second floor of a corner building with an open balcony deck on the roof and many patrons enjoying a class of micro-brewed beer in the warm late spring sunshine. Nevertheless, he called upon some heretofore unknown reserves of will power and carried on towards the National Park.
This, as is turned out, was a wise decision as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a small, yet stunning National Park! We pulled in around 2pm and before we knew it, had eaten lunch, pitched the tent and we were off to explore. After a quick stop at the Visitor Center and the required purchase of badges, we spent the rest of the afternoon pulling into overlook after overlook and studying the amazing sheer cliffs that descend, in places, over 2,000 feet to the valley floor below. Our favorite stop was the short walk to the Painted Wall. The layers of minerals that were exposed in the rock created amazing pictures and images that looked at times like giant serpents, and at others, like the ancient petroglyphs which could only have been created by giants. Then Jess dropped Tim, Lily and Eli at the Visitor Center so that they could take the short hike back to the campground. BBQ chicken and rice pilaf for dinner, some time writing in journals and now all the food is packed back into the car in order to avoid attracting bears, and we are all reading books until darkness falls completely. It has been another inspiring day.
We had lovely neighbors in the campground last night, a Mum and her son and daughter set up camp the next site over. The daughter was an amazing violinist and the Mum strummed along on the guitar and we had some lovely bluegrass music for a couple of hours before it got dark. Waking up, it was time to pack up the tent and the car and hit the road again. It was not forecast to be more than a couple of hours drive to get to the next National Park. Before long we drove into Durango, Colorado, a lovely little ski-town and we fueled up the car and loaded the chilly bins and bags with enough food to last us for 4 days as we are not sure when we will next be near to a large grocery store. Then it was up through the Rocky Mountains for a couple of hours drive. We had no idea what a beautiful tour through the Rockies this was going to be. At our highest point we were over 11,000 feet (more than 2 miles) above sea level. In fact, despite it being the end of May, when we stopped to stretch our legs, the kids and Tim were able to scramble around in the last of the winter's snow and even chuck around a couple of snowballs.