Friday was a big day so I was out of Grand Junction by 7. By the way, if by "Grand," they mean "confusing," then they named it right. Otherwise: no. It's a confusing town where directions involve "oh, that's at the corner of F and 23 and a half." Really? Go fuck yourself, Grand Junction.
Anyway! Off to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a truly staggering place. Like Arches, there's nothing to do but look, hike and gasp. So if that's not your thing, scroll down and read about the tourist trap I went to. I went below the rim of Black Canyon for a two-mile hike - the Oak Flat Loop - and I don't know how on earth I could have forgotten my eye-popping experience at the Grand Canyon a few years ago when I forgot that every step down meant one back up. But it wasn't quite that hard and it allowed for some astonishing views of the almost 90-degree vertical walls of the north rim.
I did my loop, gasped for air as I came back up to the rim and then got in the car and visited the their overlooks, the most amazing one being Painted Wall, the highest cliff in Colorado.
Oh! SIDEBAR! About superlatives: When I was talking about Great Basin a few days ago, I said it was our newest national park. WELL IT'S NOT. Black Canyon of the Gunnison is newer. And I think Congareee in SC might be newer than that even; I'm not quite sure when it switched over from a National Monument or whatever the hell it was before it was an official Park.
I was there about three hours total (moderately okay gift shop, with two books I almost bought but decided to Amazon later), then I hopped in the car and headed east across the continental divide. 58 degrees.
Now...my original plan was to turn south in Salida and visit one more National Park - Great Sand Dunes National Park - before the big push east begins in earnest on Saturday. At the absolute last opportunity to do so before the turn, I noticed that if I did that, I'd miss Royal Gorge. So because I'm spontaneous and not really a slave to my travel book that I put together, that's what I did...headed to Royal Gorge, which has the world's highest suspension bridge.
And it's a hilarious tourist trap! I loved it! I rode a cable car over the gorge, I rode an incline railway down to the bottom of the gorge, I petted a bighorn sheep, I ate a funnel cake. I walked across the bridge and then drove across it as well. It bounces, which I know it's supposed to do but halfway across the bridge I started singing under my breath to the car "bang bang chitty chitty bang bang chitty chitty bang bang I love you" because I had the distinct feeling that I was about to need to fly and/or float when the bridge gave way.
So that was exciting, because the trip has been very heavy on natural beauty and spiritual blah blah and except for the Kokopelli Fried Chicken, not very chintzy. Royal Gorge is privately held, and like most things like that, it's rinky-dink,, poorly signage-d, not handicap-accessible in any way and looks borderline unsafe. Seriously, I expected at least five children to fall to their deaths there, it's so not well-designed safety-wise. I kept hoping anyway, but no dice. It really makes you admire the National Parks Service because in comparison, they're practically a model of organization and clarity. But! BEST GIFT SHOP ever, except for maybe the Trees of Mystery gift shop in Klamath, CA. I cut a swath through the Royal Gorge gift shop like a lumberjack with a chain saw. So check your stockings this Christmas!
On the way from Royal Gorge to Pueblo, I saw this sign. I have no idea what it means, but it works on many many levels.
Then I headed on to Pueblo to try and watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. How'd that guy run sideways up in the air like that? Those crazy Chinese! I did think the globe thing was cool, because when I was a child, I thought people in China walked upside down on the other side of the world because I was right-side up. And wa-la! There they were walking upside down!
Today I head to Dodge City, where I am scheduled to shoot the person of my choice on Main Street at sunset. Will it be you? Stay tuned!