Black Canyon of the Gunnison is way underrated.

Probably one of our more dramatic hike stories. 

Over Spring Break Tony and I decided we should see more of our own good ole' Colorado. We choose to take a road trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde; two National parks that were relatively close to us that we hadn't yet made it to.

The trip started off well enough, we took off from Estes on a Sunday night and ended up car napping on the shores of the Blue Mesa Reservoir before we were completely useless at the wheel.  When the sun rose we got to finally test our AAA card for the first time because one of our tires was more flat than a penny on train tracks and the one tool we forgot were the locking lug-nut keys. Ah, the joys of buying strange cars.

Three hours later we made it safe and sound to the Black Canyon. It's amazing. No other way to put it. Canyon Fever set it rapidly.

Canyon Fever, as known to the TJFotography team, is an acute condition where the sufferers are inexplicably drawn to explore a canyon to it's bottom and back.

Tony and I quickly came to a conclusion. We must see the bottom. Noticing there were no descent trails labeled on the National Park Maps, I said to myself "they probably don't want people to try without talking to a ranger."

Bingo. We soon were in the visitor center talking to some of the nicest Park Staff we've ever encountered about the hazards of traveling into the Black Canyon. The staff also added that we would be the first people to camp at the bottom. We nearly ran out the door right then to start. 

At the end of our chat the rangers had suggested we take the Tomichi Route as it gets full sunlight and had little snow left. The Tomichi route is a 1,980 ft descent within a mile, it's challenging I'm not going to lie. More challenging, if perhaps the holidays had been extra generous to your waistline (like us). 

A lot should have warned us against traveling to the bottom.

  1. Oncoming rain clouds.
  2. Forgetting a lighter.
  3. Starting late to get a lighter.
  4. Having what seemed like the heaviest tent known to man started to our bag with rushed para-cord workmanship.

Did we falter? No.

Did we wish we had? Maybe for a little bit. 

It didn't take more than a few hundred feet down to know this was going to be a different breed of canyon for us. Scramble was everywhere and where there wasn't scramble there was mud. Rocks moved fast and without hesitation. Feet were quick to slide. 

Tony had been watching and warning me for a lot of the the hike and I had been annoying him with glances back exclaiming, "You still OK?" We were almost forcing our luck to become poor. 

Half way down tony slipped and cut open his right hand on a rock shard. When I looked back the rocks below him were splattered in blood and our first aid kit had been left in the car. I had thin tight gloves in my pocket so i had him wear them to slow the bleeding and keep more dirt out of the wound. Right at sundown we reached the bottom and rushed to purify some water and cook our meals. Biolites are totally worth the investment by the way.

After a night a sleeping in the tent listening to rain tap the side of our tent, we awoke to more rain.  We had to leave in case the rain decided to pick up momentum in the afternoon. While I packed our supplies in the tent, Tony went to the river to take some photos. Unfortunately, the next thing I heard was SPLASH.

He fell in the river I look out to see him scrambling from the water soaked head to toe and holding our camera above his head. Barely able to stand I realize it's just barely above frrzing for air temperature and the water was so cold his muscles have locked. I un rolled the sleeping bag and stripped him down as fast as I could. He wasn't getting hypothermia, I would not allow it.

While laying there in the sleeping bag he looks over at me and says with teeth chattering, "Iss-ss th-th-the Ca-ca-cam-era alright?" After assuring him it was fine, he insisted that I go try for one photo before we leave. Which was this.