The Shit You Find Out from the National Park Website: Here you’ll learn that even small rocks can be fatal, somehow, and that poison ivy grows five feet tall near the river in the canyon. Five feet. This is poison ivy that is tall enough to nearly equal the height of former NBA player (and first round pick) Muggsy Bogues, who, might I add, blocked 39 shots in his career. You can learn about the lovely and scenic East Portal Road, which has a steep 18% grade and hairpin turns, but should be driven at no-less-than 50 miles per hour, but that last part is just a personal recommendation. Hey, if you’re going to pussy-foot it in a national park, why even bother going?
The website will also warn you that hiking the inner canyon is perilous, to wit, “There are no maintained or marked trails into the inner canyon. Routes are difficult to follow, and only individuals in excellent physical condition should attempt these hikes. Hikers are expected to find their own way and to be prepared for self-rescue… Not all ravines go all the way to the river, and becoming ‘cliffed out’ is a real possibility.” Also, remember the MUGGSY BOGUES EDITION of the poison ivy, which the park claims is “nearly impossible to avoid.” Put it all together and you have the script for the next National Lampoon’s Vacation movie, where the family ends up bloody, lost, starving, dying, and pretty fucking itchy. And once all that is in mind, the website adds that “Inner canyon routes are not meant for small children.” Why is that sentence on the website, when it’s pretty damn clear that small children, let alone super heroes, do not have any business trekking down into the canyon? Well, I for one suspect that there might be a small skeleton lost in that canyon somewhere, and now that warning is a bit more obligatory.
Oh, and a fun fact you might encounter is that the temperature inside the depths of the canyon can be eight degrees warmer than the rim. That’s what she said!
The Shit You Find Out When You Get There: Hiking the inner canyon is not as necessarily difficult as it is made out to be, but to be sure, I think you still have to be a partial badass to do it. You DO have to be prepared, but it should take less than a day. Then again, when you stand out at the edge of the canyon and look down…
Below: Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Uh, yeah. Fuck that.
Oh, also, I don’t know if I would call it a black canyon. The rock color is sort of blackish, but really, it’s more gray. I guess Gray Canyon doesn’t really cut it, especially when you see how magnificent and balls-out-intimidating this thing is. I mean, seriously, balls-out.
J. and I camped here, and found out that it gets windy as fuck, and soon our attempts at grilling were ruined. Luckily for us, my trusty propane stove doesn’t care so much about wind. Throw in some bad whiskey, and you’ve got a pretty nice situation going. We tried to hike most of the next day, and were creeped out by a woman we saw dressed in some olde-timey clothes. I figured she was a Twilight Zone case, but J. thinks it more likely that she was part of some fundamentalist Mormon cult. Either way, she probably got beat by some male figure in her life because I stared at her for way too long. Overall, it was a pretty good time.
Thing I Never Expected to Hear but Then Did: I asked one of the rangers, who had taken just about every path possible into the inner canyon, if the poison ivy really was five feet tall, or if that was some park bullshit that they used to keep fat Midwesterners from starting a trip they are physically uncapable of finishing. “No,” she said, “it’s really that tall. Actually, some places it’s a foot or so taller, and you just have to walk through a sort of ‘poison-ivy tunnel’ in a few places.” That’s what I didn’t expect to hear: poison-ivy tunnel. Seems to me that there must be some sort of very important, very elusive, very dangerous artifact hidden in that canyon, and Indiana Jones (and possibly the Nazis/North Koreans/Mooninites) is just itching to get his hands on it.