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LAKE CITY TO MONTROSE, CO ~ September 2, 2007

Posted by on September 8, 2007

Lake City was named for nearby Lake San Cristobal. There are quite a few smaller lakes and a stream runs through there, too. We saw lots of beaver dams and lodges. The whole area is picturesque and unpopulated. Lake City is a well preserved turn-of-the-century town. It’s one of Colorado’s largest historical districts, with over 75 buildings from the late 1800’s. I would have loved spending some time walking around Lake City’s charming downtown and admiring its quaint Victorian architecture. As one of the most isolated 19th-century Colorado mining camps, Lake City is still a quiet little town in the middle of nowhere, a perfect getaway destination from civilization.

From Lake City we headed north on Hwy. 149 to Blue Mesa Reservoir. Created by Blue Mesa Dam, the 20-mile long fiord-shaped reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water, with 96 miles of shoreline. The road skirts alongside of it, so we got to see the lake from one end to the other. The most amazing thing was, on this huge lake hardly anyone was there on a beautiful 70º Labor Day weekend! We saw one sailboat and a few other boats, but Arizona lakes are way more crowded than this one! Their facilities include two marinas, three boat launches, and a National Parks Service visitor center with displays. There are hiking trails, too.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison begins below Blue Mesa Dam. The deepest and most dramatic section of the canyon is preserved as a National Park. The Black Canyon is so steep and narrow that the walls are cloaked in dark shadows because sunlight doesn’t reach them. The Gunnison has one of the steepest river descents in North America, dropping an average of 43 feet per mile, and as much as 240 feet per mile at Chasm View. (In comparison, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile.) On the north side of the canyon is Painted Wall, the highest sheer cliff in Colorado at 2,250 feet. There is a scenic drive along the south rim, a campground and several miles of hiking and nature trails. The canyon is also popular with rock climbers. It’s not the place to go if you’re scared of heights, however! We didn’t have time to stop there but I shudder just thinking of it!

Cimarron is a small community on the Cimarron River, just south of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We passed by the Cimarron Shooting Club, and a place that resembled a Pioneer Village with old buildings to walk around. From there to Montrose it’s wide open prairie for the most part. Montrose is the largest town in the area. Incorporated in 1882, it became an important shipping center with the Denver & Rio Grande railroad as well as a branch railroad line serving the mineral-rich San Juan Mountains to the south.

Montrose has an airport and is gateway to the world-class ski resort Telluride as well as the exclusive Valhalla Shooting Club & Training Center on the grounds of the five-star Elk Mountain Resort. VSC features a 16,000 square foot indoor pistol facility with a state-of-the-art automated shooting range and a two-story 360-degree live fire scenario house. The computer-controlled lighting, sound effects, and props were created with the assistance of Broadway stage designers. Realistic scenario rooms include a subway station, bedrooms, kitchen, bar, nightclub, industrial area, a warehouse, the first class section and cockpit of an airliner, and many other fully furnished settings.

This is a great concept and it’s worth checking out the video on their website at, but Valhalla is certainly out of our price range. A lifetime membership costs something like $60,000! (Norman Schwarzkopf and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are members.) It’s open to day visitors, but members and resort guests have priority. If you were to just take a two-day class it would cost around $500 per person. Then they will let you stay at the resort for a special “reduced rate” of only about $300 per night. There is an on-site restaurant, but even that will average $30/plate. Hmm, is it really a progressive one-of-a-kind educational facility or more like a reality-based playground for the rich and famous?

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