Monday, May 4, 2009

Running Fruita

OM...
Keeping watch:

You know you've found a great outdoors playground when you visit a place you're loathe to leave. Places like Silverton, Bishop, and Stehekin quickly come to mind. Such was the case with a recent serendipitous sojourn to Fruita, Colorado. With a few free days on the front end of a work trip to Denver, too much snow in the higher country, and no clear plan (yeah! in my book perhaps the #1 ingredient for a great trip), the warmer temps of canyon country beckoned this wimpy Vermonter turned SoCal sun lover. I liked the place enough to add it to my ever lengthening list of "Places I'd Like to Live for a Year."

Fruita, a few miles west of Grand Junction, is more commonly known as a mountain biker's destination, but the awesome singletrack makes for some splendid trailrunning as well. Trailrunners have, of course, discovered Fruita: it is the home of the Spring Desert ultras. But I've never really heard runners talk about its being a great running destination... especially in springtime... especially if you're coming off 4-6 months in the frozen hinterlands. With the small town of Fruita as the hub, trail systems surround the area, most notably the Kokopelli, 18 Road, Rabbit Valley, and Lunch Loop trail systems, with the Pollock Bench area set aside for foot travel only. There are MILES 'n MILES of trails here!! For an epic run, one can go all the way to Moab via the 140-mile Kokopelli Trail. For a really epic run, she could continue to Montrose via the Paradox Trail and from there back to Grand Junction on the Tabeguache Trail, for a grand total of about 385 miles. Anyone ever run it?? Hmm...

There's also great road running and riding, specifically 23-mile-long Rim Rock Drive through the fabulous rock formations of Colorado National Monument.

With only four days to kill--barely enough time to scratch the surface--we experienced a good sampling of what the area has to offer. The first day was a 7 miler through Flume Canyon followed by fluid & electrolyte replacement at Pancho's Villa. The waitress was a pro: "I hope these aren't too strong." Riiight...

Day #2 was a 15-mile jaunt across some of the Kokopelli trails: Moore Fun, Mary's Loop, and Horsethief Mesa, where all the mountain bikers we met were friendly and courteous. Likewise, we were quick to smile and jump off the singletrack so they could quickly pass. We ended the day with a drive through Colorado National Monument.

On the third day Chris wanted to check out Rattlesnake Arches (photo at top, more to follow), the second largest collection of arches in the country after the ones near Moab. The shortest access is a 4-5 mile hike via a 4WD road, but our PT Cruiser rental necessitated the longer 13-14 mile round trip schlep across the Pollock Bench Trail, "bench" being a bit of a misnomer since we had to descend & ascend 4 separate little canyons to get to Rattlesnake Arches Trail proper. Surprisingly (remember, I don't always do well with planning), this included a bit of Class 3-4 scrambling in a couple of spots. The arches were spectacular and in a very peaceful and remote setting, 8 arches along the trail and reportedly many more off trail. Upon reaching the end of the maintained trail, one could either backtrack or take the more, uh, adventurous shortcut through Rainbow Arch, cutting off about a mile. I opted for the shortcut. This Youtube link probably describes the route better than I am able. This little friction climb would've been nothing for a rock climber, but I'm not so it was a little bit scary... not one of the smarter things I've ever done but wicked fun just the same. :) After photo-documenting my stupidity, Chris wisely chose to retrace his steps and we regrouped at the trail junction for the long slog back to the car. That night we craved beer, fat & salt so decided on pizza at the Hot Tomato Cafe, where we lucked out, hitting $2 Fat Tire draft (1554, yum) and live entertainment night! The pizza was to die for...

On our final day, we decided to check out the 18 Road area north of town for a quick morning workout. I couldn't resist "Zippity Do Da" and "Chutes 'n Ladders." Wheeeeeee... these trails rock! Because of an upcoming date in drizzly, cold C. Springs, sadly we had to hit the road. We will definitely be back. I may even bring my mountain bike...

3 comments:

Jamie said...

Sounds like a killer place! Cool report.

HappyTrails said...

Fruita IS AWESOME! We discovered it many years ago by mountain bike and have since, ahem, become trail runners and are enjoying exploring all the great trail areas we have mountain biked previously, now on foot. It was fun reading your trail descriptions - we have biked and run all of them!!! We try to get over there once a year from the Front Range. Next time, check out Breckenridge Brewery in GJ. Great food and fun! BTW, found your blog via Banff Trail Trash!
K

amy said...

Gorgeous photos. Looks like you are both having a grand time on some lovely trails. Saw the post on the BlueMoon run....hope to make another trip to Ojai. Much lovelier than NoVA at that time off year!