Day Three RtR
Day Three of Ride the Rockies found us reconnoitering the western and southern flanks of the West Elk Mountains, a sparsely traveled range thanks to minimal vehicle access to the West Elk Wilderness Boundary. The day's route started with an easy pedal from Hotchkiss to Crawford, where we feasted on pancakes at the first water stop. Crawford, a small ranching and farming community, also was home to the late Joe Cocker (the 60s rock singer). If you hike around to the north side of Needle Rock, you can get a view of Cocker's English-style mansion and Mad Dog Ranch. Moreover, Joe Cocker owned and ran Crawford's Mad Dog Café for years.
From Crawford, we continued south to the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The weather also went south, entertaining riders with severe thunderstorms. At one point, the lightning was bad enough that I took shelter in the barrow pit until most of the lightning had moved east. Storm cells plagued us all morning, yet cleared by early afternoon. Nonetheless, 50 miles of our 79-mile day was in wet shorts, which quickly contributed to saddle sores. I had rain pants, but they were packed in my transport duffel-bag en route to Gunnison.
I didn't take too many pictures this day; mainly because I was wet and didn't want to stop. Secondly, I didn't want to stand on the edge of an exposed canyon wall, hoping to not get electrocuted. The north rim is a nice place to visit. It's much more remote and less crowded than the south rim. There are unimproved routes to the canyon floor that are very much worth hiking. The rangers monitor the hiking routes, so you need to ask them which routes they're using. If you plunge into the abyss, know how to identify poison oak.
Thanks to Snowcatcher, you can see what the Canyon looks like from above. Snowcatcher took this shot during the 2012 RtR.
After descending from the Black Canyon's north rim, the ride continued east to Gunnison, some 30-plus miles away and probably my favorite town in Colorado, except for maybe Crested Butte. About 20 of the final miles parallel Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is quite scenic in itself.