Friday, June 22, 2012

2012-19 Montrose Colorado


Montrose Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP


Campground:  Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP campground.  I reserved an electric site at the Senior rate of  $10.50 plus $3 each night for reserving the site online.  No water or dump station.  My campsite is considered a pull-thu but in reality is a space parallel to the road.  Took a bit of jogging to get close enough to the campsite side so I could open the sides. No Verizon cell signal.  No internet. Good DTV over-air reception.

UFO Watchtower. 

 On my last day in the Salida area, I had a choice of going north to Leadville high up in the mountains to visit an historic mining town or go to the San Luis Valley south of Salida to the UFO Watchtower.  Now for me there was really only one choice and that was to the UFO site.  How could it not be fun.  Now up here, which ever direction one goes, one goes over a mountain pass.  Heading south I went over the Poncha Pass at 9,010 ft through a winding, windy pass and then onto the San Luis Valley the largest Alpine valley in the world. Even though it’s high dry desert, with irrigation, those huge round fields of green are throughout the valley.

I just knew I would hear some great stories.  The owner, Judy Messoline author of “That Crazy Lady Down the Road” has quite a story to tell.  Wanting to start her own cattle ranch, she ended up here in the San Luis Valley with about 350 acres of land.  Bought some cattle, fence it in, built a log cabin and from there it went down hill.  Cattle and horses died.  Irrigation rights were false and she was unable to grow her own feed.  Joking with the locals at The Two Sisters Restaurant where she was working to make ends meets, they started to tell her stories about all the UFO sightings in the area.  She said, I think I’ll put up a UFO tower.  Before you knew it, with money running out and having no other options, she did just that.

The short tower was built (after all the land is already at 7,500 feet), a small dome gift shop and a dozen dry camping sites were built.  Tons of news media picked up on the story back in 2000 and it’s been attracting UFO aficionados ever since.  Including psychics, mediums and all the rest.

So here I am in this dusty high desert setting.  Little green men made out of sheet metal point the way to the tower and gift shop.  Old satellite dishes dot the grounds.  Candace provided an introduction to the place, telling the small group about the sightings that have been seen in the area, a green orb, a cigar shaped ship illuminated in white.  About the rock garden with the two vortex’s and how people leave small trinkets and ask for help, healing et all and many receive what they’ve asked for.  Strange stories about the cattle mutilations found in the area, as if lasers were used to remove animal organs and some of the dead cattle having no blood in them.  The ranchers who had a UFO hover over  their vehicle.

The place has a very peaceful feeling to it and I can sense something special about this most unusual remote site.  It feels energized yet there’s a stillness about it all as well.  The UFO tower came after all the sightings had been going on in the area for quite some time, so is it just a tourist attraction, or is it now attracting those space beings.  It would be nice to bring the camper down here and spend a night out here just to see what one could see. Do Dooo, do doo.

In any case it was a fun Sunday drive to a most unusual place.  I of course bought the book so will be learning more of the story behind That Crazy Lady Down the Road.  Note:  I’ve read most of the book and must admit it’s poorly written.  About ¾ of the book contain stories people have told about their own UFO encounters.  Poorly written, bad grammar.  Few details and no names of who experienced the sightings.

a thru the window pic as I'm heading back to Salida

The winds continued to pick up back over the pass and into Salida and I was worried about heading on out the next day over Monarch Pass which is 11,312 ft.  Winds were expected to be as high as 65 mph gusts the next day.  The winds died down overnight and I left early in the morning which is usually very still.  It was a quick rise in elevation with ears a popping.  Pulling a camper going up a mountain the average speed is around 35 mph.  Fortunately they had many passing lanes.  It was a quick view at the top of the pass where there’s a ski resort with ski lifts right to the top of the mountain.  And then a very long decent as the road twisted and turned at a 6% grade for many many miles.  Even with the truck in low gear, by the time I got to bottom, the brakes were a smoking (figuratively speaking as I didn‘t actually see any smoke).  Though I will say I could smell them after they had overheated going down that long incline.

Then it was a pleasant drive along hwy 50 through Gunnison past the Blue Mesa Reservoir looking strikingly blue against the arid landscape and finally to my destination of The Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP.  It became one of the newest National Parks in 1999 having previously been a National Monument.  Up a particularly winding and guard rail free drive to the top of the ridge.  Only to be told first to check in with the visitor center, who then told me to go directly to the campground where a camp host would direct me to my site.  At the campsite, I was told there was no water to fill my holding tanks, so once again I took that winding road down off the top of the ridge and into Montrose to fill my holding tanks.  By now I’m getting hungry and I have a slight headache from the mornings trials.  Right next door to the gas station where I was able to fill up with water is a restaurant.  Inside I sat at a U shaped counter, had a great lunch and conversation with a couple guys living in the area.  Great way to get to learn about the local scene.  Like, it’s been the driest year since anyone can remember.  Even the grazing of cattle on National Forest land was ended early this spring as there is no grass to feed the cattle.  Many farmers without irrigation rights are selling of their stock.

Back up to the top of Black Canyon, 8,000 ft elevation, I finally got set up within inches of the roadway.

Reminder to self:  Review the literature on the next campsite to make sure they have the basics, water, dump station, electric.  If not, make plans before getting to campsite.  I.E. fill holding tanks with water/ use dump station if needed.

The next day I tour some of the south rim scenic drive and watch a film at the visitors center.  The canyon is a shear drop of 2,500 feet down.  Solid granite walls that are nearly vertical unlike the Grand Canyon that has a more weathered gradual decent.  It’s very difficult to capture the steep edges of the canyon which are often in deep shadow as well as attempt to capture the depth all in one shot.  And if your at all queasy about heights, well let’s just say you’ll be doing a lot of hugging thick log rails, metal rails and walking along the very center of narrow rock bridges to the viewing areas.  The word vertigo keeps coming to mind as I venture along the many viewing trails leading of course to the very edge of the canyon rim.

Later in the day I’m sitting out at my campsite.  The camp area that’s off the road is quite secluded with a thick underbrush and stunted oak trees surrounding my picnic table and chairs I’ve set out.  Giving my campsite plenty privacy.  The sun is really intense at 8,000 ft and I’m enjoying the shade of my little hamlet.  As I’m reading a book, I look up and notice a four legged creature munching on the other site of a thicket near the roadway.  Minutes later, a brazen mule deer, with those huge mule ears sticking straight up, comes sauntering into my campsite.  Nonchalantly walks right on past me.  Around my camper and across the street to the next campsite.  One of the rangers had told me the mule deer are not afraid of us humans and know they’re safe in the park.  I had no idea I would be visited by one later in the day.

Note on restaurants in Montrose:  At Emily’s a Mexican restaurant the waiter short changed me $5 from a $20 I gave him.  The next day at the Pancake House, with service extremely slow, the waitress charged me for the wrong breakfast I had, a $1 over charge.  May have been a fluke in both cases, but I’d be careful and watch the bill closely and change given back when traveling in the area.


One of my day trips took me to Ouray Colorado.  For the tourist or as I like to call myself, an explorer it has just about everything you’d want.  Fantastic scenery, hot springs, historic buildings, old mines to explore, waterfalls, hiking with starting points all over town and campgrounds in the area including two right in town.

Ouray’s about an hours drive south from Montrose so I had plenty of time to enjoy the views as the mountain ranges kept getting closer and closer.  When the white capped mountains started to really come into view, a final turn along hwy 550 and suddenly I’m in the snug valley surrounded by all these magnificent mountains.  It just about took my breath away as I stopped next to the visitor center and Ouray hot springs.  Covered in Ponderosa pines, rock outcroppings and patches of green meadows the surrounding mountains create a vertical display of wilderness for the eye, it was just a wow moment.

Ouray county has a total population of 4,260 with a total of three municipalities.  Ouray being the county seat.  It’s the jeep capital of the world and anyone with a good 4-wheel drive vehicle will love exploring all those dirt roads around here.  Sure wish I had one.  There’s definitely a jeep tour in my future the next time I come into this area.  And for my Canadian friend Gary, they tell me the fly fishing is stellar here.

This is another place that I am just so disappointed that my pictures just don’t capture the magnificent scenery the way I’d like them too.  The scenes are just too broad and expansive, it’s very difficult to get the concept of those sweeping views in a single shot or even a dozen shots.

A final note on Ouray. At 12,000 feet above sea level the sun is intense.  I had to wear my sunglasses constantly.  I kept thinking, gee someone has turned on all the 1,000 watt light bulbs and really needs to dim it back a bit.  With the air much thinner up here, acclimation to the thinner air can take some time.  Drinking lots of water and having my broader brimmed hat is a must.

I'll be doing a day trip to Telluride next week......

more photos on PICASA.

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