Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Montrose, Co

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I have to give a quick shout-out to one of my favorite blogs – Explore All 50. Written by a single mother of three, Alisa Abecassis details trips she has taken to show her children every state. I’ve looked at it to get trip ideas and I wouldn’t have ever known about this national park had it not been for her website.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP is an easy park to explore in a few hours. Starting at the visitor center, we watched the 12-minute movie and drove the 7-mile South Rim Road. With the multiple overlooks of the steep 2,000-foot canyon walls, you don’t have to do any hiking to get a feel for this awesome, little-known park.

At one of the overlooks

At one of the overlooks

Carved by the Gunnison River, the steep cliffs are mesmerizing. The ranger suggested stopping at Pulpit Rock, Painted Wall, Sunset View and High Point overlooks. We hit those and a few more on the way. The steep canyon is a dark, almost black color hence the name. The misnomer is that it is closer to Montrose than the town of Gunnison.

The Painted Wall

The Painted Wall

At the end of the drive is High Point overlook with a 1.5-mile, round-trip, Warner Point Trail. Although we all started the hike, only two of us got to the end. The sweeping vistas were beautiful and worth the hike.

Warner Point Trail

Warner Point Trail

The park’s gravel, North Rim Drive lies on the other side of the river, but it is remote and closed during the winter. Other activities include camping, climbing and kayaking. Learn more at the park’s website here.


Trip Report – Utah and Colorado

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Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

I wanted to go somewhere that didn’t look just like home. For several years I had been researching the Grand Canyon, but flights were expensive. After talking to a friend who did a 2-week tour of the national parks, we came up with this 5-day itinerary. The focus was on the three Utah parks – Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef and we made Moab our base. The nearest airports are Salt Lake City and Denver. Since Denver was significantly less expensive and we’d get to explore some of Colorardo, we chose that route. It sounds like a lot, but it worked and was the perfect amount of time. One more day and everyone would be getting cranky. Be sure to click on the hyper-links for detailed posts on each place.

Ski Lift at Vail

Ski Lift at Vail

 

 

Day 1

Fly to Denver

Vail Ski Resort – lunch

Colorado National Monument

Dinner and Overnight in Moab, Utah

 

 

 

Windows Arch at Arches NP

Windows Arch at Arches NP

 

 

Day 2

Arches National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Return to Arches NP for Delicate Arch trail at Sunset

Overnight in Moab

Canyonlands NP

Canyonlands NP

 

 

 

 

Day 3

Canyonlands National Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

Capital Reef NP

Dinner and Overnight in Moab

 

 

Scenic Colorado

Scenic Colorado

 

 

Day 4

Scenic drive to Telluride

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Overnight in Salida, Co

 

 

 

University of Colorado

University of Colorado

 

 

Day 5

Boulder, Co

Rocky Mountain National Park

Overnight in Denver for early flight the next morning

 

 


Bathhouse Row – Hot Springs

The restored Fordyce on BathhouseRow

The restored Fordyce on BathhouseRow

My husband thought I was nuts – completely nuts. We were visiting my hometown of Shreveport, La. when I said, “Instead of going straight back to Atlanta, we could go up through Arkansas, over to Tennessee, spend the night in Memphis and then get back to Atlanta tomorrow night.” Within a few hours, we found ourselves in Hot Springs where I had vacationed as a child.

Things had changed since those trips in the 1970’s. Well,  not everything had changed, especially not the Arlington Hotel. This historic hotel has looked the same since 1924 and will continue to do so until a natural disaster comes along. I fondly recall walking with my parents across the street from the Arlington into the Hot Springs National Park at dusk. It was the first time I had ever seen fireflies, which we called lightning bugs.

But what had changed – and for the better – was Bathhouse Row. Back in the 1970’s, these large house-like structures seemed abandoned and decrepit. Now, this was a vibrant area and most of the bathhouses had been restored on the outside to their original splendor during the earlier part of the 1900’s.

One bathhouse – the Superior – has been converted into a craft brew pub, two others – the Quapaw and the Buckstaff are fully operational bathhouses. But the most opulent is the Fordyce Bathhouse which was constructed in 1915 at a cost of over $200,000. Renovated and reopened as a museum in 1989, it also serves as the Hot Springs National Park visitor’s center.

Bubbling water from two terra cotta fountains greeted us as we entered the marble lobby.  The original Otis elevator that transported guests throughout the Renaissance Revival building was located around the corner from the attendant’s desk.  We toured both the men’s and women’s (considerably smaller) bathing sections. The women’s bath hall resembled a large locker room filled with stalls each housing a porcelain bathtub and chair. We passed through the pack room and the cooling room. At times, the rooms seemed cold and sterile and even a bit spooky – especially as we saw an old electrotherapy machine that looked like it came from a James Bond movie. Because it is no longer functioning as a bathhouse, we had to envision people travelling from far and wide to find relief for many different ailments including arthritis, liver disease and headaches.

Care for a steam bath?

Care for a steam bath?

No expense was spared when Samuel Fordyce built the 28,000 square foot facility to attract visitors from all over the country. This was most evident in the men’s atrium. This space houses a DeSoto fountain flanked by marble columns and benches while light shines from above through the aquatic themed stained-glass window.

Taking the grand marble staircase, we approached the second floor which had dressing rooms, the men’s massage rooms, exhibits from the bathhouse days and an outdoor courtyard for sunbathing that was segregated between the sexes. A short film detailing the history of the springs, the bathhouses and the creation of the Hot Springs National Park was presented on every half hour.

But the bathhouse wasn’t just a place to bathe. It was a respite from the outside world with a solarium, private state rooms, a music room for the ladies and a billiard room for the men, all of which are on the third floor. Additionally, there was a large wood-paneled gymnasium with athletic rings and pummel horse. At one time, the Fordyce even had a bowling alley in the basement. Today, visitors can see the Fordyce spring and some of the mechanical and pumping equipment in the basement.

All good things must come to an end. Most bathhouses experienced declines after World War II due to the discovery of penicillin and strides in modern medicine. In 1962, the Fordyce closed its doors, followed by the Quapaw in 1968. By 1986, only the Buckstaff was still functioning as a bathhouse.

Fortunately, the National Park Service designated Bathhouse Row as a National Landmark in 1987 for everyone to enjoy. For more infomation visit the website at http://www.nps.gov/hosp/index.htm.

This is the ladies solarium where bathhouse clients would rest and write letters.

This is the ladies solarium where bathhouse clients would rest and write letters.