Day: 6
Miles: 1,266
Location: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

My new favoirte National Park
After a long drive up from Durango, I crashed in the National Park and paid $6 for a campsite. Its wonderful to know there are still parks that offer campsites for six bucks a night. Most are $20-40 these days which is why I prefer camping in our free National Forests. The night was pleasent, but then I awoke to another hail-freezing rain-snowstorm which got me down. I was pretty sure I would just run up to the rim of the canyon, snap a picture, and leave, but the snow subsided quickly. As a matter of fact, an hour after I woke up, it was sunny!

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is as foreboding as it sounds. Its a 2,000ft deep canyon that is only a quarter to a half a mile wide! For comparison, the Grand Canyon is 6,000ft deep and 18 miles wide. The river literally cut straight down into the rockbed and has exposed billion-year old rocks. I was absolutely floored to be standing atop its rim. Unlike the Grand Canyon, the Black Canyon's walls are vertical. Painted Cliff is a sheer 2,000ft drop and is the tallest in Colorado.
Painted Cliff, to the right
Being the intrepid explorer that I am, the first question that came to mind while viewing the canyon was... can you get to the bottom? YES? EXCELLENT! A couple of helpful park rangers gave me a briefing on what routes are available and recommended the Tomichi Route. While climbing routes do exist, this was not a climbing route, but more of a scrambling route. No ropes or gear needed. The Gunnison Route is supposedly the easiest route down but the Tomichi Route is completely exposed to the sun. In the late winter, this makes the route clear of ice and snow. I received a backcountry permit and gave the rangers a return time.

The Tomichi Route leaves from Tomichi Point and immediately descends. Again, its not a technical route, but its not a hike either. I wore a helmet and brought pleanty of supplies. It descends roughly 2,000ft in about a mile; do the math. Hiking poles were absolutely essential and they helped greatly with the descent. The route is pretty well marked by previous travelers, but its important to be continuously noting your surroundings and making sure you know the way back up. Rocks, scree and dirt composed most of the "trail" and I would never recommend this to someone with bad knees!
The harrowing descent into the Canyon!

Total descent time was about 1.5 hours and I stayed a good 1 hour down there just hanging out. Its nice to be by such a river with absolutely no distractions! It was certainly one of the most peaceful places I've ever visited. After the hour of chilling, I had to climb back out. For me, climbing up is always easier and faster than climbing down, I made it out in about the same time. The ranger was a little shocked that I made it back in the same day!
This is the greatest vacation ever
Well, I was headed off to climb Mt Elbert after that, but I'll have to find time to post about that later!