June 11, 2019
“We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain.” -Henry David Thoreau
Here I am, alone on the rim of the Black Canyon. This is my tenth visit, and one of my favorite parks. Half the day spent driving through the western slope of Colorado, the other half at the canyon. I’m patiently waiting out the rain, which has lasted all day. Clouds and cold wind and intermittent showers. I drove down the steep road to the East Portal to examine the Gunnison River as it rolls and froths into the canyon. I stopped at each of the overlooks on the canyon rim, peering down and across. The canyon is like a great granite laceration upon the earth. A deep wound torn for millions of years. The river continues the cut still today. Deeper and deeper. This is a vertical landscape. The canyon is very deep and very narrow. When you approach the rim, you cannot see the bottom until you are right on the edge. The effect is breathtaking in the truest sense. Peering into the chasm elicits vertigo – a sensation enhanced when ravens and swifts glide through it, hundreds of feet below you. All the while the river roars on – a constant tumult carving away the dense hard rock. I love coming here because of the staggering beauty, and because it makes me feel alive. It shocks the senses and fires the imagination. I will never get enough of it.
After scouting out all of the overlooks, I settled on Dragon Point, with a clear view of the magnificent Painted Wall and a straight-line view down the canyon. I set up the tripod and mounted the camera. After experimenting with a few different angles, all was set, and I waited. Aiming westward, my only hope now was for some clearing skies before the sun set. Patience. Sitting on a rock on the edge of the cliff. Alone here. All is quiet except the low roar of the river below like white noise. The White-throated Swifts are darting around the rim and I hear and audible whoosh each time one swoops near. Waiting and waiting. I haven’t been this still in a while. I can feel the temperature dropping and I know the sun is setting behind those clouds. Around me the sky looks menacing again. Dark clouds are moving in and I can see rain curtains in the distance. The canyon, already dark, is growing darker. Then finally, a warm ray of golden sunlight shoots across the canyon right at Dragon Point. I am bathed a glow and my skin feels warm again. I leap to my feet and fire the shutter – over and over trying to dial in my settings. Behind me a rainbow rises up from the scrubby Gamble Oak and Juniper forest. Rays of light enter the canyon like lasers highlighting the jagged features, then fade. The setting sun casts the canyon in an array of colors from yellow and orange to violet and blue, all within minutes. As it dips into the horizon, the canyon grows dark and the clouds come alive. Gold then pink then violet and indigo. Flashes of lightening in the distance. And just as the sun flickers out below the vista, a blast of wind and the skies opened up again. Rain. Practically running with tripod and camera down the trail and back to the truck, I can only smile. The whole show lasted mere minutes.
Parks visited since June 1st:
Colorado National Monument
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Curecanti National Recreation Area
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument