After months upon months of snow and ice there are times when we all find a need to escape.
Rivers, Lakes, Hiking, Biking, Wineries, Agritourism and Scenic Drives Galore!
Rivers, Lakes, Hiking, Biking, Wineries, Agritourism and Scenic Drives Galore!? Where you might be asking? Montrose! The Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism invites travelers to make Montrose their base camp so they can take advantage of one-tank trips and treks that won’t break the bank. This may be one of the less explored and overlooked areas in our beautiful mountain region of Colorado.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: At 2,700 feet deep and 53 miles long, the Black Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the country. During the summer, visitors may drive the South Rim for beautiful views of the canyon. Fishing, hiking, rock climbing (for experts only), nature walks, and horseback riding are also popular (and inexpensive!) pastimes.
Curecanti National Recreation Area: Located an hour outside of Montrose, Curecanti is home to three reservoirs named for the corresponding dams on the Gunnison River. Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water and the largest Kokanee salmon fishery in the U.S., is a great place to fish, boat, water ski, wakeboard or swim. Morrow Point Reservoir marks the beginning of the Black Canyon. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day visitors may book a seat on the Morrow Point Boat Tour, which takes tourists by pontoon on a one and a half hour scenic guided ride. The East Portal is the site of the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area: Located just northeast of Montrose, the Gunnison Gorge encompasses 62,844 acres of BLM-managed lands. Check out the new Sidewinder Trail that snakes in and out of canyons and is appropriate for hikers, equestrians, motorcyclists and mountain bikers. The gorge boasts Gold Medal trout fishing and is also a great place for technical and remote whitewater rafting and kayaking.
Scenic Drives: Montrose is strategically located at the center of some of the country’s most scenic and historic drives, making it a happening home base for all kinds of short, yet beautiful, road trips. (Visitors should plan at least a half day for each of these scenic drives.)
- Alpine Loop stretches 65 miles and provides access to mountain passes and ghost towns, as well as exceptional high-country hiking, fishing, mountain biking and camping. Parts of the route are accessible only by off-road vehicles.
- Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway climbs 63 miles from the canyon floor and peaks atop the world’s largest flat-topped mountain, the Grand Mesa. Along the way enjoy alpine forests, crystal-clear mountain lakes, and (if the timing is right) fields of colorful wildflowers.
- San Juan Skyway, nicknamed the “road to the sky,” is a long route (233 miles) that may be shortened. Travel the section between Ouray and Silverton, located less than an hour south of Montrose, to see the stretch that has been dubbed the “Million Dollar Highway.”
- West Elk Loop extends 208 miles and accesses Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Curecanti National Recreation Area, and Crawford and Paonia State Parks. White River and Gunnison National Forests are also included in this loop.
Wineries & Other Agritourism Treks: Agriculture is an important industry in Montrose, as indicated by the many farms and orchards dotting the area.
- Cottonwood Cellars & The Olathe Winery is a traditional European-style winery located on a 52-acre farm on the California Mesa. Using equipment from Italy, this family-owned label produces a variety of wines.
- Garrett Estate Cellars is located in nearby Olathe. The location of this vineyard provides its vines with excellent soil conditions and the Rocky Mountain water provides a quality growing environment.
- Mountain View Winery is a fourth-generation orchard and vineyard that has been producing wine and fresh fruits for more than 45 years. Besides the traditional varieties of wines, guests may also sample specialty wines made from the orchard’s fruits.
For a truly local flavor, stop by Mattics Orchards Produce Stand run by the Mattics family, which has been farming in the region since 1961. Visit the farm, located just southwest of nearby Olathe, or pick up farm-fresh fare at their produce stand at the corner of Main St. and San Juan Ave. in Montrose, open June through mid-October from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Another option – stop by the Montrose Farmers Market, which offers local produce and goods late spring through early fall on Wednesdays and Saturdays in historic downtown Montrose.
Located 10 miles north of Montrose, Rocking W Dairy creates all-natural artisan cheeses (meaning the milk is turned into cheese within a day of coming from the cow). Baby Swiss, brick, colby, mild cheddar, gouda and havarti are just some of the cheeses to pick from at the dairy’s on-site store.
Do you know Montrose?
Montrose, the gateway to the Black Canyon, is a uniquely-authentic town that has carved out a place for itself in the landscape and culture of Colorado. Montrose was recently named to Outdoor Life magazine’s annual list of the 200 best towns in America for outdoorsmen. Seventy-three percent of the land surrounding the city is public land, making Montrose a Mecca for all kinds of outdoor activities, including: hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. A multi-faceted community, Montrose serves up layer upon layer of discoveries, each more unique than the last. Whether visitors are looking for adventure, agritourism, history, culture, shopping, fine dining or anything in between, Montrose has a little something for everyone. Put this on the list of summer adventures. You won’t be disappointed!
FEATURED IMAGE COURTESY OF Mattics Orchards Produce Stand
Beyond the mountains and snow is a warm retreat in the Bay Islands of Honduras, Guanaja. This is one of the newest, coolest flats fishery’s in the Caribbean. A new lodge is set up on the South Keys in Guanaja, right in the middle of the flats. With Flyfish Guanaja you can step out the door of the guest house and cast to tailing bonefish and permit. Their compound, guides and hospitality provide a tropical trip of a lifetime.
5:00 am and the Caribbean sun lasers its first pink rays into my consciousness. It’s a clear morning in Guanaja, Honduras. Rising naturally with the sun has its advantages. This morning the advantage is waking before everyone else and getting to the river mouth. My companion hears me rustling around and joins me in the quiet preparation for a morning session of salt-water fly-fishing. We quietly walk past our snoring friends, get dressed, and grab the binoculars. From the deck I spy the river-mouth alive with fish. We skip coffee, the time is now.
Cool mist rises from the flats, clouds hanker low on the water, rain-drops are suspended in mid-air. Hungry birds dive bomb the sea, fish tails ripple the surface, sardina fly out of the water – explosions everywhere. Fire-star sun slips into view, filtering the scene with shades of paradise. We kayak to the river-mouth with our 10 weights. At any given time the river mouth holds every species of fish we are hunting: bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, barracuda, jacks and shark.
We tie off our kayaks to the mangroves and step into the river mouth. Hues of pink shower the sky and the water is glass, reflecting light in shades of diamond. Fins are everywhere, baitfish is everywhere–conditions are perfect. DW ties on a gummy minnow and I tie on a white Gotcha, both flies imitating the sardina. Within the first couple of casts DW and I both are hooked up with baby tarpon pushing 20 pounds. Side by side we laugh and watch our silver medals jump clear out of the water and shake their prehistoric heads. This is what it’s all about. This is why we are here. This is why more people are coming. For the next hour, we can’t go wrong. Every cast over active fins produce a tarpon, snook, jack, or bonefish.
Off in the distance, from the open sea, from under the rising sun, we notice a canoe slowly creeping our way. The silhouette of a man holding an old wooden paddle illuminates against the golden sky. Standing up and alternating strokes on each side, he paddles towards us, towards the river mouth. It is Ernan the fisherman coming to catch sardina in the river mouth for his daily fishing voyage beyond the reef. Ernan’s dugout canoe looks more like a tree trunk than a canoe. His presence on the ocean looks as natural as a tree in the forest. We, on the other hand, look like a bright orange North Face tent in a wild jungle. In his dugout canoe Ernan has a throwing net, two hand lines with hooks, a bucket, a glove, a filet knife, and a bleach bottle cut in half to bail out water. His is wearing a ripped-up tee shirt, oily shorts, no shoes, no sunglasses, and a sun-dried ball cap. His dark skin, crow eyes, leather face, leather feet, and toothless smile show he has endured the tropics. All in all, his stuff couldn’t cost more than 10 dollars.
DW and I, on the other hand, are sporting Simms flats boots, quick-dry North Face pants, quick-dry Columbia shirts, polarized Action Optic sunglasses, straw hats, Scott Fly Rods, Ross Reels, Scientific Angler fly lines, dozens of flies both home-tied and store-bought, and water-proof Pentax cameras. All in All, our stuff adds up to about $3000. I forgot to mention the new, state of the art kayaks we rolled over in, make that $4500.
I land another nice tarpon as Ernan rolls into the river mouth. Holding the fish half in and half out of the water I show it the old fisherman. Ernan answers with smile and a nod. He knows what we are doing, he has seen us before. The previous Spring he would come by Black Rock every couple of days with fresh fish to sell us. He fed us several different kinds of snapper, tuna, wahoo, barracuda, google-eye, jacks, and fish I could never identify or translate. Ernan speaks English, but it’s like the English of so many islanders throughout Central America–chopped up, re-arranged, slowed down, sped up, and often directly to the point. Islanders don’t say words unless they have to, at the inconsequential expense of English grammar.
I release the tarpon, waive at Ernan, “Hello there, we’re back at Black Rock to fish for a couple of weeks. How are you man?”
Ernan gets ready to throw his casting net and answered, “Right here.” ‘Right here’ is how everyone on Guanaja answers the trivial question we always seem driven to ask: How are you? Right here. This is a more truthful answer that we usually give each other. How often are we really fine, or good? Life is far more interesting. We don’t want to know the answer to this question. We usually don’t have time to listen.
Ernan casts his net into the river-mouth, pulls in an arm load of sardina, and tosses them into his bucket. Every fish in the ocean eats sardina, or eats fish that eat sardina–his day was just beginning, again.
Locals tell me they see Ernan fishing in his little canoe everyday, rain or shine, and it rains a lot. They say he knows fish around the island better than anyone. Sometimes he goes out for a couple of days at a time, and just when everyone thinks they’ve seen the last of him, he comes paddling in, with a canoe full of fresh seafood. He told me about hooking a sailfish with his hand line and staying out all night until he finally dragged in the next. No, it didn’t get eaten by sharks, and no, I don’t think he’s read Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea–but Ernan is Martiano.
Before Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Ernan was one of the wealthier natives on Guanaja. He owned the biggest store and hotel in Mangrove Bight. In October of 1998, Hurricane Mitch hovered over Guanaja for three days and changed the island forever. Over ten years later, not a day goes by where I don’t hear about Mitch several times a day. The village of Mangrove Bight was completely destroyed and along with Ernan’s lifetime of work. His store, hotel, and house were all washed into the sea. Everything he owned was stripped clean by the raging storm. Ernan now lives under a little thatch with a dirt floor, but spends all of his time in his dugout canoe. He’s often spends the money he makes from fishing on rum.
As Ernan paddles away on his venture outside the reef I yell to him, “Ernan, I’ve got some more friends here at Black Rock, if you catch a fish today, bring it on by and we’ll take a look.”
Ernan smiles in confirmation and slips into the last glow of sunrise. Our friends, who also tend to spend their hard earned money on rum, are awake now, watching us from the dock of Black Rock, drinking coffee. DW and I catch and release a few more fish and join our friends to make plans for the day, a beautiful day in Guanaja, Honduras with Flyfish Guanaja.