Here Comes the Sun
A Black Canyon of the Gunnison Adventure
August 20, 2020
I turned left off the main highway. The air was heavy with darkness. There were no streetlights out here. The moon and stars provided some light, but my headlights, foggy with age, were left to do the rest.
The straight, flat road began to rise. Curving and twisting as it gained elevation along the mountain’s edge.
My mind drifted toward a place of ease as the familiar momentum made me lean with each turn. A well known sensation. One that comes with anticipation of getting deeper and deeper into the mountains.
I was almost in the zone when something startled me out of the daydream.
I slammed on the brakes as the critter scampered into the road, paused, and then dashed across to the other side. It was followed by another and another. Then another!
Heart racing, mind wide awake, I slowly stepped back on the gas. The car creeped forward and I continued at a cautious pace. My eyes were now open to the prevalence of many pairs of tall, skinny ears lining the sides of the road.
I was in bunny territory. And they seemed to have no fear of getting squashed.
My mind flashed to my rabbit, Harley, safe at home in my room. I’d be so upset if I killed one of his kind.
I continued on, as fast as I dared to go, sporadically braking for the thrill-seekers.
Would I make it in time? I checked the odometer. Five miles to go. Fifteen minutes until game time.
It would be close.
I arrived to the first spot and found one other car. Not a crowd by any means but I decided to check the second.
It was clear.
I pulled into a spot along the side of the road and shut off the car.
I grabbed my gear, zipped up my coat, and set foot on the trail.
Five minutes to go.
The first signs of light were starting to brighten the sky. The sun hadn’t crested the mountains yet, but it was light enough that I could make out the trail without a headlamp.
My hiking boots treaded lightly through the soft dirt. Desert shrubbery extended in every direction, abstract silhouettes all around.
Then I saw it—my destination.
I approached slowly. Cautiously.
It was light enough that I could tell I was looking at something stunning, but not light enough for me to witness it’s full beauty.
A cool, gentle breeze blew through.
I could hear water flowing far below, but from this distance and in this light, I couldn’t see it moving.
Then it began.
I sat down to take it in.
One by one the sun’s rays broke over the mountains to the east and hit the canyon wall to the west.
The rock lit up golden red, as if on fire.
It created a harsh contrast between the illuminated ridge and the shadow covered wall below.
I sat in awe.
I watched it all.
Noticing the subtle differences minute by minute as the sun rose higher.
Soaking in the moment and appreciating God’s immaculate work around me.
I felt at peace.
The changes, which had started quickly, began to slow after a while.
The sun was almost fully above the mountains now, revealing the full detail of the Painted Wall. My day at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison had begun.
And I couldn’t wait to see what else it had in store.
Looking for the best things to do at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park? I explored everything along the south rim and here are my recommendations. For other things to do in the area, check out Crested Butte and Blue Lakes!