Friday, June 17, 2016

The Gunnison

Our Volvo SUV was in the transmission shop {boo!} so we packed up the old station wagon, Griswold style. 

The Gunnison

As with most things, it did not look the same coming out as it did going in. I mean, when we got back home. The car was trashed. But that day we were Telluride bound. A mountain wedding was in order and we were set on doing four of the six hours that day, stopping overnight in Gunnison.

We were sure to pack plenty of snacks and...distractions.

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I was dealing with a clogged ear thanks to seasonal allergies that popped HARD right as we switchbacked our way up Monarch Pass, where the Continental Divide rests.

To Gunnison! Home of Western State Colorado University! Grandma Erickson's alma mater and the place where Papa Erickson was recruited to come do summer theatre in 1970something. Yep. My parents fell in love in Gunnison. Were it not for Gunnison, yours truly wouldn't be here.

The Gunnison

{He always stops for stranded motorists. I'm like, honey I love that you know cars and love to help people but if you'd just read some Stephen King novels you'd know all the crazies live here.}

The Gunnison

Gunnison is the least pretentious of mountain towns. It's not run down by any means, as some humble mountain towns are. Gunnison is just so down-to-earth. When you stop in Gunnison, you eat dinner at Mario's.

The Gunnison

The pizza is good, but I really recommend their beer cheese soup, topped with popcorn your kids steal.
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As a city dweller, I haven't seen a vintage grocery store in a long time. Why am I including a photo of the Safeway? It's just they don't look like this in cities anymore! We bought post cards and pool inflatables for less than a dollar each. Then we passed a Dollar Tree on the way to the hotel feeling quite smug about it.

The Gunnison

Last fall my parents took us on a weekend to Gunnison, which is how we knew to stay at the Tomichi. Or, rather, The Inn at Tomichi Village, as it's called now. Grandma brought mom here in the 1970s. It's far from the most expensive Gunnison hotel, but it's a hidden gem of a hotel.

The Gunnison

Now, across the highway from the Tomichi, it just looks like hills and fields, but that's actually the Gunnison airport. Heh.

The Gunnison

When we were here last fall, the kids swam in the indoor/outdoor pool before we made our way over to the campfire and sat for forever with other guests, who all talked with my parents about Colorado adventures. All of them vying to be the most well toured Coloradan.

The Gunnison

Their pool is in a greenhouse, so it's heated during the winter {Gunnison winters are none to be trifled with} and open during the summer. Brilliant.

The Gunnison

Daddy tried to get a fire going, but there was no one around to assist so we made s'mores in the hotel microwave. Oh well, next time...

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So after a very comfortable night, we piled back in the wagon and head out.

The Gunnison

But hold on, we had some business in town first.

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Oh yaaass. As it turns out, right next to the Tomichi is a graveyard! If you read my last post, you know I have a newfound affinity for graveyards! There were four grave photo requests for the Gunnison Cemetery.

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With Sander's help, I fulfilled them all.

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Next, we stopped in the post office in downtown Gunnison and asked for two stamps, please. Then were embarrassed when we had to charge sixty-eight cents on a debit card because apparently we travel cashless. {They both sent mountain goat postcards to Grandma and Papa. Of all the choices.}

The Gunnison

Then we hit the W for an early lunch. The W is where my parents dined way back when.

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The food was really good, and they pre-split our breakfast burritos--a Colorado classic with green chile on it. Yum.

The Gunnison

So like that we finally found ourselves on the road to Telluride, which passes the Blue Mesa Resevoir. It goes on for miles and miles along the highway. It's full of gorgeous southwestern views. This is where I turn the music to Apache by The Shadows and play our favorite vintage southwest road trip song. It's what we listen to! It's the music of the landscape.

The Gunnison

The Blue Mesa area is just full of it. A stark contrast from our drive toward Nebraska a few months back, which was just farm farm farm field farm field farm farm...over and over. {And that's not a diss to good old Nebraska, but rather the boring high plains of eastern Colorado.} It's just that, in the west, every bend of the highway reveals another stunning sight. It's highway always in flux of something to behold.

The Gunnison

We could have pressed on and made good time, but I convinced Sander to detour past the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. {An idea I'd later question the wisdom of.} This is a national monument and a national park.

The Gunnison

I tried taking them into the national park's bathrooms, which are basically fixed outhouses, but my girls took one look at the toilet-seat-ringed black hole abyss that stank to high heaven and said, "No." And I said, "Atta girl." So we climbed up the hill and into some bushes and risked rattlesnake bites on our tushies for the sake of doing our business Colorado Girl Style. Outhouses are for tourists. And their mama knows a trick or two so as not to get yourself messy or pine needles on your butt.

The Gunnison

We stopped at the visitor center where we got sucked into an actually very entertaining informational video on the Black Canyon. Let's just say, a lot of people died trying to figure out this national monument when it was first discovered and they feared it and called it impenetrable. Sadly, people still die. A hiker fell to his death there just a couple days ago. But the history is amazing, like how a railroad was built through there by our Irish immigrants, and how irrigating the local provinces with water from the Gunnison created the lush western slope as we know it today: Olathe corn and Palisade peach producing.

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Also, their visitor center had an impressive exhibit for kids:

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For those who like to explore safely.

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It was Astronomy Week there, too, so we got to look at the sun! I was actually really delighted by that. I've always been fascinated with the sun, moon, and stars. I've been studying solar flares and coronal mass ejections lately, no joke.

The Gunnison

So here's the thing about the Black Canyon...it terrified me. I have an issue with wide open spaces. I also have a vividly wild imagination, intrusive thoughts, and a twice-diagnosed anxiety disorder. I used to be fine with these things, until I had kids. I repelled down a cliff as a teenager at camp! But now, I can replay a gruesome scene over and over in my head of my son running up to the canyon's edge...but not stopping in time...and then how I'll regret ever coming here. I can't shake those thoughts in these situations. So driving those winding roads alongside the canyon that you can't even see the bottom to...Sander should have let me drive because I would have felt more in control. But he didn't. I was a nervous wreck. So I don't have great photos. But you can look here and here to get the gist of what we did behold that day, but which I just couldn't get close enough to photograph. I was snapping these ones with my eyes closed!

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Apparently, I couldn't get a decent photo of us that day either.

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But there are decent photos to come! Remember, we were Telluride bound and going to a wedding the very next day. With Gunnison and the Black Canyon, we were off to a good start.

The Gunnison

And as far as mountain towns go, Gunnison and Telluride are polar opposites. I had no idea what we were in store for.

Cheers,
Heather

2 comments:

  1. Oh MY GOSH, Heather! What beautiful scenery! We are hoping to take a trip out West for several weeks in a few years, and I will definitely be keeping Gunnison on my list of places to visit.

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  2. It was such an intimate moment and you could really feel the love and energy in the wedding venues NYC. They had out sparkling water, wines, champagnes, etc. for all of us upon arrival, and provided dishes and serving utensils for the bagels and other snacks we brought.

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