After breakfast we headed away from the park until we came to the turn off for Zapata Falls. We birdwatched all the way there and part way up the road to the falls. The gravel road went up the mountains across the valley from the dunes
. As we ascended we saw more and more blue birds. When we stopped to ID them, they were pinyon jays which made sense since most of the trees were pinyon pines. The road went up the mountain for about 3 miles and ended at the picnic area and trailhead to Zapata Falls and Lake Zapata. The view of the dunes from the parking lot was really good. The trail to the Falls was only 1/2 a mile and before long we could hear the falls. When we got to Zapata Creek, we discovered that you have to walk up the creek for a while before you can see the falls. We had worn our Teva sandals because we thought you just had to walk across the creek. When I found out you had to walk up the creek, I opted out and gave Larry my hiking poles to assist him in navigating the creek. I waited at the trail and soon Larry disappeared around a bend in the creek. While he was gone I watched a Magnolia Warbler preening in a tree across the creek. Then a young family with five kids came and they all walked back the creek in bare feet. Before long Larry came down the creek and showed me the pictures he had taken. He was back there all by himself and I wondered what I would do if he fell or something.
We hiked back down the trail, drove back down the gravel road, and headed west toward Mosca, then north to Hooper, then west again to Rt. 285 north to Saguache where we had a picnic lunch at the City Park
. This morning drive took us across and up the San Luis Valley. We passed the Colorado Gatos Reptile Park where you can wrestle an alligator if you want to. They can have alligators because of the hot springs in the area. We passed lots of crop circles with mostly wheat growing in them, lots of huge bales of straw were everywhere. There were also lots of potatoes being grown. Just before we got to Saguache we left the San Luis Valley and started up into the Cochetopa Hills on Rt. 114. There were horse ranches and cattle ranches on the way up to North Cochetopa Pass where we crossed the Continental Divide for the second time. On the way down we went through Cochetopa Canyon which was even more impressive than Big Thompson Canyon because there were so few places where people lived. The last part of the canyon was very winding with steep walls on both sides. When we came out of the canyon we were again in area of ranches. We connected with Rt. 50 just east of Gunnison. We went right by Western State Colorado University. After leaving Gunnison we entered the Curecanti National Recreation Area which surrounds Blue Mesa Reservoir which is formed from damming up the Gunnison River. It was about 20 miles long but the water level was about 20-30 ft. below what looked like normal. At one point we crossed the reservoir on a bridge and shortly after stopped at a scenic view where you could see the Dillon Pinnacles across the water.
We decided to go to the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison today so we headed up Rt
. 92 which took us across the Blue Mesa Dam. Before long we were driving along the rim of the canyon on the way to the park. We followed the rim, stopping to take pictures where there were overlooks, for about 20 miles until the road took off across country. We finally arrived at the road to the National Park, North Rim Road after about 42 miles. The road back to the Rim Road was another 11 miles but only the first 5 miles were paved. The rest was a very good gravel road through Grizzly Gulch. When we reached the park we drove the rim road which wasn't very long but had several stopping points: The Narrows, Balanced Rock, Big Island, Island Peaks, and Kneeling Camel. We walked out to each view and took pictures. We never saw another car on the road there or on the rim drive until we headed back. We also went to the campground which was mostly deserted and hiked the nature trail to Chasm View. Then we headed out of the park to Rt. 92 and headed north through Crawford a quaint village and then Hotchkiss. At this point we headed west to Delta where we stopped at a Maverick for gas. I used the restroom. What an experience! The whole inside of the store, the hall to the restrooms and the restrooms were painted in scenes from the Southwest. It was awesome.
At Delta we got on Rt. 50 and headed south to Montrose and the Super 8 Motel. It only took us about 20 minutes to get there on a nice 4 lane road
. We noticed that there were no more mountains to the west of us, just flat land. We arrived at the motel just after 7:00. It was a very long day. We had read good things about this Super 8 possibly being the best one in the country. It is very nice and the manager was very helpful. We asked about the Two Rascals Brewery but he had never heard of it. There is one called Horsefly just down the street from the motel. We did a little research and decided to go to Camp Robber for supper because they served Two Rascals beer and because the menu sounded great. Larry had Two Rascals Amber Ale and I had a Robberita, one of the best margaritas I have ever had. We had salads, bread, and I had Southwestern Chicken Linguini and Larry had Pistachio Encrusted Pork Medallions with green and wax been and cheesy posole ( something like hominy). Great meal! Then we came back to the Super 8 and I did the blog.
We got up shortly after 7:00 because we could see the sunlight on the dunes from our sliding door. Larry went and got coffee and we sat on the porch and watched the sunrise. When we first got up the shadows were long on the dunes. As the sun got higher in the sky the shadows lessened and the shadow of the mountains behind us got shorter and shorter until the whole valley was in the sun. All of the other people staying at the lodge were out on their porches too and we all sat in quiet, using only hushed tones as we conversed. We finally went in and got ready for the day, packed the car and went down to breakfast. Larry had sausage, gravy and biscuits and I had fruit, granola, and yogurt served in a dish for an ice cream sundae.