Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

After firing merciless rounds at a mound of dirt, we reached Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park as the sun was setting.  Of course we felt we needed to make it to the vista point dubbed "Sunset View" to catch sunset... and pretty much missed it.  The late colors produced on the canyon walls were unlike any other pink or red sunset I'd ever seen in nature.  

That evening, before setting up camp, we noticed two park rangers idling near a massive telescope in our campground. We inquired and learned that there was a "star party" that night, as conditions were expected to be ideal for viewing several celestial bodies.  We returned hours later to be absolutely blown away by what could be seen.  One telescope was large enough for me to fit inside and provided a view of the rings of Saturn.  While it looked a little bit like a glow-in-the-dark sticker on the ceiling of my childhood bedroom, I still couldn't believe my eyes.  ...I guess kudos to the sticker manufacturers because that shit is ultra realistic, if not accidentally so.  We saw the Andromeda Nebula, an exploding star, and a super impressive laser pointer that somehow stood out among these other things that weren't even on Earth.  Perhaps one of the more entertaining aspects of the star party was the apparent rivalry between the attending telescope owners that were seemingly posturing for status among their peers.  Christopher Guest needs to make a mockumentary of this whole scene.  Some of these telescopes are driven to location in their own trailers.  Tell me there isn't high comedy there.

This is what my measly 6 year old DSLR could produce at horribly noisy high ISO.

We hit the highway again, this time for Telluride.

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Guns in Gunnison

After leaving Rocky Mountain National Park, we dropped into Boulder for a quick lunch and great beers at Mountain Sun Pub.  Colleen and Haley flew via Denver to their respective coasts later that evening while Chris, Bott, Nate, and I attended a Rockies game.  Bott waited until we arrived at Coors Field to surprise us with a luxury suite upgrade courtesy of his cousin.  I have no idea what happened during that game.  What I do know is that the view of the sunset over the Rocky Mountains from the park is incredible and so are free Aramark chicken fingers.  

My love for the outdoors, and realization that I needed to spend more time there, came during a completely unplanned and spur of the moment drive from New York City to Colorado in early 2005.  I ended up in Salida, Colorado for a few days kayaking, mountain biking, driving golf balls, and camping.  As official itinerary developer this year, I mandated an overnight stay in town as a halfway point to Gunnison.  Things have changed quite a bit in town, including the appearance of the fantastic Palace Hotel, where we stayed the night.  One thing that hasn't changed is The Vic.  Drunk dart playing, an awesome bartender, and locals on mushrooms... this is the spot.  We started this day in Rocky Mountain National Park, had lunch in Boulder, caught a baseball game in Denver, and night capped at The Vic.  That's a fucking day.  

bourbon pregame at the crashpad

view outside from Palace Hotel

I had a curveball of my own.  About 10 months prior I'd met a fellow American while traveling solo in Argentina.  We rode horses, hiked, fished, ate piles of steak, and drank whiskey in my cabin.  His name:  Buzz Slaughter Bauer.  His trade: representing Rocky Mountain Underground Ski Company.  His pastimes:  skiing, ranching, and firing an incredible assortment of bad ass weaponry.  His happy place:  located smack dab on the way from Salida to our day's destination, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  This is opportunity.  

After confusing the hell out of Nate by meeting Buzz roadside, reaching out the window to slap him five, saying few words, and chasing him down a dusty road, we arrived at Ranch del Buzz.  

I often avoid political discussions for the sake of maintaining friendships with people who subscribe to different schools of thought.  I do believe that most arguments inherently contain good points.  Gun control is certainly one of them.  I hunt, and in the summer I shoot clay traps.  These are some of my most favorite times spent with close friends.  I do not condone the irresponsible actions of those who are not mentally sound.  I'm not trying to make a statement.  I just like good clean solvent fun.  Now, safeties off... 

Now we've got our sights on Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

This year's National Parks trip with the crew, otherwise known as Bear Jam, began as the trip that almost never was.  Last minute buy-in from key founders led to an impromptu schedule that manifested itself as a trip full of unknowns and fortunate whereabouts.  And when I say "this year," I mean 2012.  Time flies when you're jobless and traveling... or employed and traveling.  I'm running out of bad excuses.  After several proposed and subsequently nixed plans, we landed on a final itinerary including Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver for a Rockies game (men's trip from here on out), Salida and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Telluride, and a happenstance cruise through Colorado National Monument.  

Misplaced luggage, surprise luxury suite upgrades, unexpected international rendezvous/weapon firing, 100 bags of beef jerky, and impossible scenery at every stop... Bear Jam 2012.

Alberta Falls

 exploring Sundance Mountain

view of Gore Range from Trail Ridge Road (click for larger image)

Nate & Haley

is that a....


sunset view 

Dream Lake

Lake Helene (click for larger image)

view down to Odessa Lake from Lake Helene (click for larger image)

We almost didn't go to Odessa Lake, but we ran into two people who were on their way back onto the trail from the Odessa Lake approach who said we absolutely had to check it out. 

Odessa Lake approach

I was pretty psyched that the newspaper clipping I ripped off to mark my sandwich just happened to be a dude whose name was a combination of both mine and the great Southern Ocean Explorer, Robert Scott.  Odd coincidence considering I'd just been in the Southern Ocean overlapping his historic rescue route just months prior.

fishermen on Lake Odessa

Odessa Lake (click for larger image)

worm wood

Nate getting the best angle

post hike rewards

Bear Jam crew picking up snacks for the road

Estes Park memorabilia

 Nate & Haley at the Stanley Hotel

Next stop, Salida and Gunnison with a stop in Boulder and Denver on the way.

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