Foreword by Rob Lindauer. Story by Heath Scott Heath Scott is a Surf & Adventure Co. alumni from the old days of our Sandbridge Lifesaving Service. Having spent most of his time on the beach, Heath found ways to cope with being about as far away from the ocean as you can be in our country — Colorado. We know as well as anyone that adventure is where the heart is, and it seems that Heath may have had a change of heart! At 14,157 foot, and only two hours from the trail system in Fruita, Mt Sneffels is an excellent "14er" to climb while visiting nearby Telluride. Taking a breather after the climb up the Moore Fun Trail, west of Fruita, CO. Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket: A Quirky Little Town, Epic Views, and Miles of Empty Singletrack It was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I moved to Fruita, Colorado in the summer of 2013. Having spent most of my adult life living in close proximity to the ocean, I was concerned that being landlocked would present some claustrophobic challenges. One of the truly therapeutic activities I enjoyed in Virginia was simply gazing out over the vast expanse of ocean. The openness always conveyed a sense of freedom and limitless possibility. However, being a trail runner, preferring anything longer than a marathon, when my wife accepted a job in Colorado, I still felt like I had drawn one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets. Colorado is the undisputed capital of mountain trail running. Hence my second dilemma — when most people think of Colorado, snowy Rocky Mountain peaks come to mind, not an arid desert. My wife, daughter, and I were moving to Fruita, CO, which sits at just under 5,000 feet, four hours west of Denver. It is on the western side of the Rockies, and is classified as “high desert.” Think more Moab red rock canyon country, and less Vail and Aspen. What draws most people to the Western Slope of Colorado is the climate — mild winters with little snow, a dry heat in the summer, and what could conservatively be described as epic trail conditions year-round. Little did I know on the family drive west that I was moving to an area that has more trails than could be run in a lifetime. It was to my great surprise that for trail runners and mountain bikers, I really had drawn the Golden Ticket. Fruita is widely considered a fierce contender for Moab’s title of “Mountain Bike Capital of the Country.” Whether you’re a runner or cyclist, the number and diversity of trails in this corner of Colorado is simply mind-boggling. The crucial factor that tips the scale in Fruita’s favor is that despite a fair amount of bike traffic in the summer, Fruita has remained a sleepy town compared to its much busier neighbor in Utah. Though, if you’re in need of a bit more social interaction after a long day’s ride, Moab is only an hour’s drive to the southwest. The annual Fat Tire Festival, which draws thousands of amateur and professional riders from around the globe, is testament to Fruita’s commitment to the road bike’s somewhat rebellious cousin. It would literally take a book to highlight all of the trails around Fruita, but most of them can be broken down into three main areas. * 1) The Tabeguache (pronounced tab-a-watch) goes through public and private land for 142 miles connecting Montrose and Grand Junction, Colorado. These trails are also referred to as the “Lunch Loops,” as this is where local riders come to blow off work place frustration on their lunch break. Most of the trail system is on remote, unpatrolled USFS and BLM land. The adventurous nature of these trails requires users to be cautious, personally responsible, self-sufficient, and have a working knowledge of backcountry survival. The use of topographic maps and a compass is strongly recommended. My initial exposure to these trails was during my first group run with the Mesa Striders, a group that has become like family to me. I had previously considered myself a rider of the fat tire variety, having spent countless hours on them since high school, some 25 years ago. But when I saw what these guys were doing at Tabeguache, I realized the trails I built my chops on back east were child’s play. Tabeguache is a series of highly technical, rocky trails, with huge drops. The semi-regular ambulance visits to the trailhead attest to what these trails can do to you. If you’re in town, be sure to get a Tabeguache ride in on Thursday evenings. You’ll be joined by the Endoholics, a wonderful local mountain bike group. Their post ride trailhead cookout/tailgate rivals that of a Super Bowl party, and they’re extremely friendly, so bring your bike, a six pack, and a smile…you’ll be welcomed with open arms. It’ll be the most fun you’ve had on a Thursday evening since college! 2) 18 Road (North Fruita) Trails offer up a wide variety of terrain from easy rollers for the beginners to more technical trails that hold their own against those at Tabeguache. This is an extremely popular destination, and with trail names like Zippity Do Da, Vegetarian Loop, Chutes and Ladders, and Prime Cut, how could you pass them up! To really soak in the high desert life, camp near the trailhead. There are designated spots, or the more adventurous can choose the “dispersed camping” option. This is my preferred method, because it’s free, and usually easy to find a remote spot in the desert, with no one in sight. The crown jewel in this area is the Sarlacc Trail, deriving its name from Episode 6 of Star Wars, because of the large holes that are found in the area where the Book Cliffs have fractured. When riding by a prominent hole at the start of the singletrack at the Western End, it is easy to imagine the Sarlacc monster and its tentacles at the bottom. The most striking feature of this gem is its position atop the Book Cliffs. These magnificent cliffs border the northern edge of Fruita, and neighboring Grand Junction, rising some 2,000 feet from the valley floor. With stunning views of the back of the Book Cliffs, as well as enormous views of the Grand Valley, the Sarlacc Trail rewards those that can make it to the top. The trail itself is a full bench cut trail, 30″ in width with some tight corners, rock moves, and a generally twisty, rolling nature. Riders will find leg burning climbs and fun descents, but overall, the trail rolls very comfortably, and will allow faster riders to really enjoy the turns and rolls. 3) The final major concentration of trails in the area is known as the Kokopelli Loops. These trails derive their name from the Kokopelli Trail that runs 142 miles from Loma, just west of Fruita, to Moab. This is an extremely remote backcoutry expedition that very few complete in a day. But rest assured, there are numerous areas along the way to pitch a tent and take in the massive night skies. If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime adventure, the ride from Loma to Moab just might fit the bill. For those with more reasonable aspirations, the series of loops branching off from the trailhead in Loma offer a wide variety of some of the best riding and trail running in the country! After a grueling ascent to the top of the Mack Ridge or Moore Fun trails, riders can lick their wounds as they soak in views of the Colorado River, winding its way westward far below, and the Grand Mesa, the world’s tallest flat top mountain, twenty miles to the east. After a long day in the saddle, this quirky town of 12,000 has a surprising number of offerings for indulging in libations and filling the belly: two breweries; a great pizza joint, The Hot Tomato; Camilla’s Kaffe, offering a wide array of delicious fare; and the most recent addition, the aptly named No Coast Sushi, surprisingly serving up the best vegan sushi I’ve had the pleasure to put in my mouth. Approximately eighteen months after making the Homeric transition to Colorado, I can say with reassuring certainty that I rarely miss the ocean. The staggeringly beautiful views across the desert, miles and miles of singletrack, 14,000 foot peaks to climb, and the Colorado River to float during the summer, don’t leave much time for nostalgia. Though I don’t see myself giving up the high desert life anytime soon, I still haven’t found anything to match the enchantment of paddling out for an early morning session, with the sun rising behind the spray of a cresting swell, and Coulson slipping effortlessly down the face. That’s hard to shake. *Trail information was adapted from Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association’s website, www.copmoba.org, and The Grand Valley Trails Alliance www.gvtrails.com. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.