Friday, August 1, 2008

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Over the winter I had been day dreaming of exploring some of Colorado's natural wonders in search of great fishing, beautiful scenery, and a fun trip that a small group of us could take backpacking. Through a great deal of research we decided to go and explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park which is said to be even more spectacular than the Grand Canyon. All I can say is that we got everything we asked for plus a whole lot more!We left late on a Thursday afternoon and made the long drive out to basically the middle of nowhere Colorado and set up camp at the canyon rim just as the last bit of light faded over the horizon. We got up first thing in the morning and prepped for the hike making a stop by the canyon viewing area to see what exactly this canyon was all about.... The view was simply breath taking but a pressing though instantly came to mind... who's idea was it again to hike to the bottom (and back out)....? - oh yeah-it was my idea...

While we all knew that the hike was going to be difficult, nothing could have prepared us for what was really in store. The sign on the ranger's station claimed that it was a 1.75 mile hike to the bottom with a 2,000ft elevation change. As it turns out, the first quarter mile was pretty flat and so was the last quarter mile which meant that all 2,000ft were lost in about 1.25 miles - not 1.75 - in other words, this was one steep "hike". Most appropriately, this crazy steep"route" down which required scrambling over loose rock and navigating giant boulders the size of Volkswagens, not to mention being lined with 5' tall poison ivy, was named the "SOB Draw" - how fitting!

Somehow this picture doesn't make it look all that bad, but let me tell you, this was one extreme backpacking trip!
After three hours of grueling hiking, we could see the river clearly below and could hear its roar over the rapids. Unfortunately we were completely exhausted leading to probably the most dangerous part of our trip. We still had some steep hiking left over huge, sharp, and often loose boulders and our legs were completely spent! The camp site couldn't have been a prettier sight once we finally arrived.

With only a few hundred yards to the camp site and some rough terrain ahead Kate takes a well deserved break to rehydrate and rest the legs.
We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful campsite. This was about the only flat spot around and incredibly, we had it all to ourselves. The river, loaded with some fine trout was only about 30 feet from our tent and there was some nice shade for the few hours the sun was over head.
Fishing in the canyon was unlike anything that we had ever experienced. The fish were everywhere, they were big, and they would eat just about anything you threw at them regardless of how well you presented it. It was simply unreal!
The Black Canyon is know for its stonefly hatch in the early summer. We were fortunate enough to catch the tail end of it. The huge bugs would often meet an explosive end as the trout would pounce them off the surface. This enabled us to fish large foam stonefly patterns that were just as effective dead drifted as the were submerged through the swing.

The river had been heavily hit by whiling disease a while back and now the Browns rule the river. With so many browns, the streamers proved to be another very effective technique. Most amazingly - we had it all to our selves. I simply couldn't believe that were were there to fish this incredible fishery with no-one else in sight - it just doesn't get any better than this!

Check back in for another post on the Black Canyon Trip shortly...

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