Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blue Mesa Lake - Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado!

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     Blue Mesa Lake!
     In the old days, a station wagon full of kids, dogs, coolers and camping equipment with a boat trailer in tow meant only one thing.  A week long vacation of fun in the sun at the lake!  
     Spending some time at the lake is a traditional thing to do during the summer season.  Some people have their own favorite lakeside campground or cabin that their family has visited every summer for many generations.  When the announcement is made at home about how it is vacation time, often the first thing that is heard from the kids is "Wow!  I hope we going back to the lake!"
     For people that are cooped up in the big city all year or for those who are locked up in an endless suburban routine, a vacation at the lake is an escape like no other.  There are no tall buildings or traffic jams.  There is no strict schedule or bills to worry about.  There is only cool blue water, fresh air, sunshine and the call of the wild.  A few hours at the lake is enough to provide stress relief and a week long vacation at the lake is enough to cause visitors to completely forget about the mundane daily routine altogether.
     I have camped out at eastern lakes in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina.  I also worked as a chef at a lakeside resort in the Poconos for one summer.  Eastern lakes are fun, but because there are so many big cities nearby, on a holiday weekend the lake can get so crowded that visitors wonder what ever happened to peace and quiet of mother nature.  
     Just like back east, lakes out west are usually located well away from civilization in remote wilderness areas.  The difference is that western wilderness areas nearly stretch out forever and the drive can take all day, especially when towing a camper trailer or boat over the mountainous terrain.  Some say that half of the fun is just getting there and the wild west scenery makes the long drive all that much better.  
     Some of the well known western bodies of water, like Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell or Lake Mead have hundreds of miles of shoreline, so these places rarely seem crowded even on a holiday weekend.  There are plenty of lesser known lakes out west that are smaller and easier to navigate.  Many of these lakes are located in majestic mountain landscapes and these bodies of water are remote enough to cause visitors to feel like they are the only people there.  If solitude or some extra breathing room is a high priority, then venturing to a remote lake in the west is the way to go.
     Of course there is a middle ground too.  There are lakes in the west that are located along major travel routes that are large enough to not be crowded, while still being small enough to make navigating a boat relatively easy to do.  Blue Mesa Lake is one such place!
     Blue Mesa Lake is one of three alpine lakes in the Curecanti National Recreation Area.  The three lakes in Curecanti are actually reservoirs created by dams on the Gunnison River high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  U.S. Highway 50 runs through the Curecanti National Recreation Area and it crosses Blue Mesa Lake on a causeway that is just a few feet above the water.  The views overlooking Blue Mesa Lake from the highway are truly breathtaking!
     Blue Mesa Lake is surrounded by rock outcrops, canyons, rolling hills and majestic mountain peaks.  The air is crystal clear and the skies are nearly always cobalt blue in this pristine environment.  As far as summertime lake vacation destinations are concerned, Blue Mesa Lake is as picturesque as it gets!         
     The surface of the lake is over 7,000 feet above sea level, so it may take time to get adjusted to the thin air.  Altitude sickness can occur during physical exertion, so it pays to slow down when the first sign of dizziness occurs, in order to avoid blacking out.  Staying hydrated is the best way to prevent altitude sickness, so it is advisable to drink more water than normal in the high dry mountain air.
     The water temperature of Blue Mesa Lake is very cold in early summer, but by the month of August the water warms up a bit.  Even so, swimming for an extended time is not recommended, because the combination of cold water and thin mountain air may put swimmers at risk.  This does not mean that visitors cannot have fun playing in the water.  Blue Mesa Lake is a haven for water skiing, jet skiing and sailboarding.  The fishing on this lake is great too and there are many shallow coves that are perfect for fly fishing in waders.          
     There are picnic areas, campgrounds, lodges and boat landings located at several sites around the lake.  Watercraft rentals of every kind can be found in the area too.  The historic town of Gunnison is a short hop away and this is where visitors can find modern amenities and places to stock up on camping goods.
     August is when the water at Blue Mesa Lake is relatively warm, but this will not last for long.  The seasons change quickly at high elevations, so it will not be long before snow drapes the mountain peaks.  With the change of season comes high winds and this is good to be aware of, if spending a week on a houseboat is in the plans.  
     Blue Mesa Lake is one of those scenic places that causes a traveler to stop and say "I sure would like to spend some time here whenever I get a vacation from the job!"  If a summer vacation at a pristine lake in the Rocky Mountains is long overdue, then Blue Mesa Lake definitely should be moved up to the number one spot on the western travel destination bucket list! 

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