Even though we slept in, we managed to get packed up, breakfast cooked, and on the road in 45 minutes, which is about half as long as it has historically taken us. We were pretty impressed with ourselves.
We headed to the visitor's center, first, to ask about hiking to the bottom of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We discovered that you need a permit, which we obtained (WAY easier than for the Grand Canyon!) from another guide with a great beard. Colby is so jealous.
The hike to the bottom of the Canyon was only a mile in and a mile out, but the mile was pretty much straight down. It was unquestionably the most intense two-mile hike either of us had ever been on. Mile #1 = controlled fall down a mountainside, sitting on our heels and sliding down rocky, sandy shale slopes, jumping from rock to rock and working our way downward. The bottom of the canyon was BEAUTIFUL. It looked downright prehistoric in its ruggedness - shallow, rushing river, rocks along the edge, sandy, grassy beaches with huge pines stabbing out, and these unbelievable black cliffs rocketing up on either side. Felt a little like Jurassic Park, and was totally worth the climb. Mile #2, out = scrambling stairmaster, heaving ourselves from stable-looking-rock to stable-looking-rock, hand-over-hand climb back up the side of the canyon. For a while it even included 80 feet of CHAIN to haul yourself out. And we needed it. It was crazy.
We returned to the Visitors' Center, starting point of our hike, and watched the guest video about the park. Another thing we have discovered is that not all park videos are created equal. This one was interesting, though, and we enjoyed it, apart from feeling super self-conscious about how we smelled in a small dark room. We haven't showered since Sunday morning and this hike was kind of the final straw. We're definitely finding a hotel tonight.
We had lunch in the car as we drove through beautiful, beautiful Colorado. We love it here. I've heard so many Coloradoans (?) brag about Colorado (you know, you're at BYU and you comment on the mountains, and someone from Colorado says - that's nothing to mountains in Colorado - and you just think, geez, you mountain snob, can't you appreciate some beauty?) and it turns out it was all merited. Colorado is gorgeous. Also the autumn colors are changing, which always sways my opinion of a place, but still. We enjoyed the drive.
We stopped at the Comfort Inn in Cañon City, Colorado. We're headed to a place called Royal Gorge tomorrow, which my dad recommended. Although I don't know if it comprised a small theme park and cost $25 per person the last time he went, that was sort of a surprise. We found a coupon in the hotel lobby and decided we're going anyway, because hey, we're on vacation, and we are into creaky bridges over staggeringly deep gorges, wild rides on inclined railways, and especially we are into aerial tramways. So, we're going tomorrow, and we're super excited.
Tonight, in Cañon City, CO, we found dinner and ice cream and showers and the Dukes of Hazzard on TV, so we feel like we're back in civilization. We're enjoying that feeling.