An escape to the desert

Colorado: the Rocky Mountains slice the state in half. The east is a never ending expanse of grassland rolling for hundreds of miles towards Kansas: an unknown land not explored by most who live on the Front Range. To the west of the Rockies, the high desert sprawls in sharp red sandstone mesas towards Utah. The Colorado river cuts a clean line through the arid countryside and forms a playground in the sand. That was our destination. We were in Edwards for the week – in the middle of the mountains. It cut the drive to Fruita in half. It would have been rude to not take advantage of a quick trip to the trails. Two hours from dumping snow at Vail to ripping dry trails in the desert.


Christa and I landed in Fruita at lunchtime, with enough daylight to explore the trails radiating from the Kokopelli trailhead. There is no doubt that one must live the seasons: eat and drink and play according to where you are and what the weather is doing. If you happen to be in Colorado, living the seasons can be a wild ride from one day to the next.


We pedalled up the dirt road and then dropped into flowing trails that took us along the mesa overlooking the Colorado river.


The low light hardly changed all day. The sun shone cold across the desert, the temperature just hovering above 0 degrees celsius. The moisture free landscape barely changes with the seasons though – there’s isn’t much in photographs to give away that it’s deepest midwinter, other than all the clothes we were wearing to stay warm in such conditions.


The first trail we rode was the Horsethief bench loop. A steep rocky staircase shoots you down towards the river,  and then the trail winds around the very rim of the mesa, giving expansive views of the river, and also the Grand Mesa in the background. The Grand Mesa, sitting just east of Grand Junction, is the frontier of the mountains. The snow clinging onto the Aspens was just visible in the distance, reminding us that we’d be back in Vail later that day to enjoy the snow.


Christa has been really enjoying her new bike. It’s made riding with her fun; her old bike was a limiting factor for enjoyment and speed. I was worried it would fall apart, and she was worried that it couldn’t handle what she wanted to ride. The new bike is perfect; XC trail bikes in Christa proportions are hard to come by, but this Trek has been doing her great. I knew she could ride a lot more than she’d been riding before and I was proved right.


Lions loop was a new trail for me: normally by the time the option presents itself, we’re already tired and heading for the car. Today we had some extra energy and plenty of food. The opening climb was very uninspiring, with multiple washed out sections in the bed of the trail. It improved though, and the last section gave us plenty to concentrate on instead of looking down at the river. It dumped us onto the Kokopelli trail proper, which was some much needed respite.



The river is never far from view. It’s amazing to think how far that water will travel.


We finished up by climbing onto Mack’s ridge, a brutal but beautiful stretch of singletrack that really tested both Christa and I. We’d been out on the trails for almost three hours already and the sun was stretching itself against the horizon. It was reflecting back at us the most perfect silver thread of water in the river below. The temperature plummited quickly. Our sweat from the climb onto the ridge quickly dried and we hurriedly put on all the layers we we carrying. From there the terrain eased slightly, the singletrack flowing along the ridge edge with views back across the river, and also north over the Grand Valley and the book cliffs.