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Colorful Trails on Grand Mesa

October 17, 2012
This past weekend I camped at Jumbo Campground on the north side of Grand Mesa and rode my mountain bike on two wonderful trails that are open to foot, horse and bike travel.  These were the West Bench trail above Powderhorn on the northern rim of the mesa and the Mesa Top trail on the southern rim near County Line.  The colors were spectacular, with every hue from green, yellow, orange, and red of the aspens to deep green of the conifers around the mesa top.  The lower flanks of the mesa contain oakbrush, which were awash with a carpet of warm tones like a skirt with many colors and textures.  The scenery was breathtaking and the trails were great fun.  We saw a handful of hikers and bikers on both trails and almost everyone commented on the beauty around us.  If you want to enjoy some beautiful, quiet trails Quick read more or view full article by foot, bicycle or hoof, I highly recommend these two trails soon while the colors are amazing and the snow hasn’t come in full force yet.
 
The West Bench Trail, accessed from the Jumbo Lake parking lot (by Mesa Lakes Lodge), starts at an elevation of about 9,800 feet, crosses the earthen dam of Sunset Lake, and stays at about this elevation as it rolls along gently to the west along the northern rim of Grand Mesa.  The trailhead is roughly 60 miles or 1.5 hours driving from Montrose.  This trail, also known as Forest Service Trail #501, contains beautiful flowy singletrack interspersed with some technical basalt rock gardens.  At 3.2 miles is the top of the East Lift of the Powderhorn ski area, at 5.6 miles is the West Lift, and the turnaround at an overlooks at around 10 miles (see www.GJmountainbiking.com for more details).  There are no big climbs or descents and it travels through aspen and spruce/fir forests with occasional open grassy meadows.  The photograph is of me riding through one of these meadows with a stunning stand of aspens in the background. 
 
The West Bench trail has been around for a long time so it is well-established, signed and the soil is packed.  In addition, there are metal trail markers on trees and tall blue posts in the open areas to aid in winter route finding.  I have cross country skied this in the winter and I would consider it fairly challenging for skiing due to the rolling nature of the terrain.  It is easy hiking and intermediate mountain biking due to the rock gardens.  We ran into a couple of beginner mountain bikers and they loved the packed soil singletrack, which is what the majority of the trail is like, and just walked the short, technical rocky sections.  I would think it would be intermediate for horses, too, due to the rocks.
 
The Mesa Top trail (aka Trail #714), located on the south rim of Grand Mesa, starts at the Mesa Top trailhead on the west side of Highway 65, just north of County Line.  This trail is about 15 miles closer to Montrose and almost 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the West Bench Trail.  It ranges from about 10,400 to 10,800 feet without any big climbs or descents.  The huge parking lot at the trailhead contains two sets of permanent vault toilets and this trailhead sees a lot of winter sports enthusiasts.  Snowmobilers frequent this area and the Grand Mesa Sled dog races are held here at the end of January each year.  I raced one and two dog skijoring (that is, skate skiing with dogs pulling you) here this past year and I must admit, it looks totally different when not white and covered in 2 to 5 feet of snow. 
 
The Mesa Top trail is new, thanks to the hard work of volunteers with COPMOBA (Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association), horsemen and women, and hikers.  Due to its young age, it is still a bit rough, but it is well marked and a sweet, fun trail.  Other hikers and bikers on the trail shared the same sentiment.  The trail snakes through groves of aspen, spruce and fir trees and open grassy meadows for the first mile and then it reaches the southern edge of Grand Mesa where it continues southwest along the rim for another roughly 4 miles until it reaches the Indian Point (FS Trail #715) and Flowing Park trails (FS Trail #715.1A).  Several spur trails connect with Flowing Park Road to create loop options.  The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest website has a nice map of this trail system.  This trail offers similar conditions for horse, bike or foot travel as the West Bench trail.  The view to the south towards the North Fork and Uncompahgre Valleys is spectacular and below the basalt capped mesa rim are the Granby and other reservoirs. 
 
So grab your bike shoes, hiking boots or cowboy boots and head up to Grand Mesa for a great trail experience.  You won’t be disappointed by the colors, terrain, trail quality or views!

Laurie Brandt is a former professional mountain bike racer and three-time Colorado State Mountain Bike Champion.  She is now a professional geologist for Buckhorn Geotech and mother of two young girls.  Her email is bikelaurie@gmail.com.
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Posted by Laurie Brandt
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Figure 8 Stitch in Kokopelli's Robe

May 10, 2012
Sunday dawned as one of those beautiful days pulling you outside to enjoy life.  I’ve been off of my bike overly much for the last couple of months, so I was ready for a ride with my handful of free hours.  A little of it evolved as I rode, but what I ended up with was a good ride for me.  Beginning at the Loma area Kokopelli parking lot; Westward over Moore Fun, continuing southwest up and over Mack Ridge, clockwise around Troybuilt, a bit of doubletrack time back to the Lions area saddle, and finishing counterclockwise on Steve’s Loop, Mary’s and part of Wranglers, popping back over the saddle on the old Kokopelli doubletrack section to drop in at the base of Moore Fun, and over the road hump to end.
One of the nicest things about the Kokopelli loops is the opportunity to put together a ride or Quick read more or view full article a variation that suits the time available and keeps things fresh.

Moore Fun – some people refer to it as Less Fun, or some other less than enthusiastic nickname, but it’s probably my favorite section of trail in the area.  I enjoy the new entry section on the East side that was created this past year.  The route is its usual array of small rock moves, sustained climb sections to push your legs and lungs, places to dab and places to not dab (yes!).  Legs are waking up, starting to move a little less lethargically.  It always feels nice to top out and enjoy the view of the river as you bend west through the saddle to drop a bit, and then top out yet again.  The descent back towards the Lions saddle is a sweet mix of moderate speed, moderate moves, a few spots to check to see if your balance is still working, a couple of little bursts of energy moves, etc.  A nice mix.  If you’re new to this trail – think ahead and walk anything that isn’t within your skill set, and wear a good fitting helmet.

Today, so far, I see only one runner on the trail.

Mack Ridge – climbing from the saddle this is a sweet piece of trail.  A couple of rocky sections about a third of the way up the climb make you manage your timing and pedal strokes a bit more than usual, but nothing to kill yourself over.  Views of the agricultural side of Loma/Mack area are nice.  You could look down on the Country Jam folks at that certain time of year and think of the difference between their moment and yours.  As I hefted my bike through the rock band squeeze point, I notice the chainring gouges in a couple of the rocks in the middle of the move and think to myself “some folks are riding down this – I don’t”.  It’s a line that you can see, more easily when you’re at the bottom looking upwards.  It’s a little tougher to believe that line when at the top looking down the thing.  If you’re riding that – more power to you.  More spinning gains the gently rolling singletrack along the ridge top and heads towards the recently completed section that is frankly, a sharp new piece of work.  It’s still soft – needs a few more tires on it, and a bit of moisture to start settling things in a bit.  This drops you right down towards the south to low on the river side of the old doubletrack.  You can tell that a lot of effort went into the rock work in this route.  There are a handful of moves that take some focus.  I’ve had to ride a couple of them more than once to get through cleanly, but once you find the line it’s a treat.  Two more runners right here, enjoying the new route.  It would be nice to see some of the runner crowd out on trail work days.  The trail spits you out right at the top of the recent Troybuilt reroute (coincidence?  I think not).

Clockwise on Troybuilt.  This is an underappreciated piece of trail I think, sort of off on its own at the ‘end’ of things.  I love the fast moving sections of this trail – a little sandy now, but not bad.  Some moves have worn to better condition lately, and some to worse.  And a small new drainage across the trail appeared on the west side recently.  Looking down on Salt Wash and the Kokopelli route departing west always makes me want to continue that way.  I seldom do.  The skill level requirement of Troybuilt are not high overall, but it offers a satisfying mix of moderate effort, a bit of ‘chatter’ to keep you smiling, some sweet curvy & groovy spots, and the feel that not so many wheels go this way.  One of my faves.
OK, a couple miles of double track is the choice today in comparison to climbing back up over Mack Ridge on the jeep road (never all that much fun).  But quickly you’re back to the low saddle over the ridge in the Lions/Mary’s area.  A quick zip by the base of Lions, remembering the years of rides on that route and the surprising lack of time on it in the past few years….  And quickly you’re at the entry to Steves.  After dropping in and quickly hitting the level singletrack curving along the rim section, I’m blown away by all of the wandering tire tracks off of the trail.  It’s painful to see – why can’t we ride on the trails?  The power of education is the only thing that will improve that I imagine.  About this point, my orange in my pack calls out ‘eat me’.  Wow.

Then Mary’s singletrack appears in its dusty loveliness.  Wow things are dry and powdery right here for this time of year.  And again the mass traffic is apparent on this section of trail with a lot of wandering lines. But the river views that have graced a number of magazine pages are always nice, and the few familiar old moves are always welcome.  Barreling into the corner at the far East end of Mary’s singletrack I’m confronted with a parked set of bikes, in trail, between two rocks.  Watch out for inadvertent features is all I can say about that one I guess.

Wranglers peels off of Mary’s doubletrack with a sandy mellow climb.  Boy our dry winter is obvious in moisture content of the soil.  I enjoy peeling off of Wranglers just shy of its high point to head towards the old section of doubletrack that Kokopelli trail used long ago.  This allows for a quick drop right to the base of Moore Fun.  There’s nothing stellar about the route, other than it brings back old memories.

Up and over the hump on satisfyingly tired legs brings me to a view of the parking lot that is absolutely packed with vehicles and people out to enjoy the trails.  It’s funny, that on all of this ride, I’ve seen a grand total of about half a dozen people.  In the parking lot, I am greeted with a COPMOBA sticker on the truck next to mine.  Sweet!
So I bet that many or all of you have been on all of these trails, so it’s not telling you about something you don’t already know, but maybe this will spur a new route out of the old for you.

Have fun,  Scott
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Posted by Scott Winans
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Buzzard Gulch

April 10, 2012
The implementation of the Dry Creek Travel Plan near Montrose by the BLM designated over 20 miles of non-motorized trails open to mountain bikes.  In reality these trails are
old 2 tracks that now are off limits to motorized users.  The designation of these trails in the Spring Canyon and Linscott Canyon areas has created non-motorized trail systems close to Montrose.  A 10-15 minute drive from downtown Montrose brings you to some great riding.  The group of trails between Dave Wood Road and Spring Canyon has taken on the moniker of Buzzard Gulch, but the BLM refers to them as the Dave Wood Trails.

Access:  Dave Wood Road/Spring Canyon Road
Distance:  5-8 miles
Rating:  Cardiovascular – moderate, Skills – advanced beginner
Time: 1-2 hours
Recommended trailhead: Spring Canyon Road
Elevation:  6180 – 6800 feet
Season:  Spring/Fall, Summer evenings.

Description:  Buzzard Gulch is a group of jeep roads that Quick read more or view full article are quickly becoming singletrack as hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers keep to a preferred line.   Efforts are ongoing to establish trailhead improvements, narrow the existing routes and connect them to create a series of short loops.  The terrain is classic canyon country with pinyon, juniper and sagebrush.  The riding surface is sandy and rocky.

From downtown Montrose drive out West Main St.  Continue on Spring Creek Rd, left at 6300 Rd, right on Oak Grove Rd, left on 62.50 Rd. (Dave Wood Rd.), right on Popular Rd, left on Spring Canyon Rd. to trailhead.
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Posted by Bill Harris
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The Joys of Skijoring!

March 10, 2012

If you are looking for some great winter cross-training for cycling and you have a dog or two, I encourage you to try skijoring.  I read that skijoring, which is Norwegian for “ski driving,” is the fastest growing dog sport in the United States.  People realize that it is something they can do with their companion dogs in the winter so both dogs and humans can get exercise.  I picked up skijoring last winter and I’m hooked.  It’s a fun way to get exercise and as someone told me, “They do the work and I get the exercise.”  It’s so true.  Dogs have a desire to pull and love to have a job and I get to ski faster and further than I would under my own steam.  Let me share some details of the sport so you and your 4 legged friends can run/ski as a team.

Dogs are beautiful, Quick read more or view full article fast runners and they love to run.  I have always wished I could run as fast and as effortlessly over the terrain as they do.  Maybe that’s why I like riding a mountain bike on trails so much.  Skijoring gets me as close as I ever could be to the beauty of a running dog.  You ski behind one or two dogs while connected to them via a harness and tether.  They’re running fast and graceful like dogs run and you’re skiing faster than you ever would on your own.  It’s kind of like a person flying in an ultra-light plane next to a flock of geese flying in formation.  That is the closest we can get to experiencing bird’s gift of flight.  Well, skijoring is the closest we can get to truly “running” in a partnership with dogs. 

Dogs on the Run
I will first explain what it is like to ski while connected to dogs.  On the flat terrain and hills, I use the poles and my ski kicking motion to assist the dogs, all the while feeling a constant tug on my hips to propel me forward.  On the downhills, I must admit, I just glide along and recover since they run faster than I can ski.  My goal is to keep them at a gallop or full run and expend whatever effort it takes to not slow them down.  Fast dogs can run 15 to 20 mph with a skier for 4 to 6 miles, but most will run 8 to 15 mph.  That’s movin’!  It’s a very cool athletic relationship with an animal.  They are my teammates and they enthusiastically respond to my effort and directions. 

Equipment
If you have cross country ski equipment and energetic dogs, you can skijor.  Skate skis work the best, but you can do it with traditional XC skis, too.  Don’t use skis with metal edges, as you could hurt the dogs if your skis run into them.  Poles are essential to help provide thrust and balance.  The only additional things you need are about $100 in equipment, including harnesses for you and the dog(s), a nylon rope line, and some connecting hardware.  I included a photo with typical gear used to safely connect you to the dog(s).  You can buy a skijor belt or harness with waist and leg straps.  I use a rock climbing harness, instead, and it works great.  The human harness connects to the rope line via a quick release buckle called a snap shackle.  This “panic release” allows the skier to disconnect quickly from the dogs in an emergency. 

The rope line, which is usually 6 to 8 feet long, has a bungee section that soaks up the shock if the dogs or you start or stop quickly.  At the end of the rope line is a tug line (3 to 4 feet long) for each dog.  This tug line has hardware that clips onto the tail end of the dog’s harness.  The classic X-back dog sledding harness works well for skijoring, too.  It has a padded shoulder area and an open grid of webbing that goes over the dog’s back so that the dog is pulling with its entire torso and shoulders, not its neck.  The dog should wear a collar with a large metal ring so that if two dogs are running side-by-side, their collars can be connected via a short neck line.  When all hooked up, the skier and dogs are about 9 to 12 feet apart.

Getting the Hang of it
Then you can go out to a packed snow surface, hook up to your dog(s), and give it a try.  Any breed of dog will do, but they should be big enough (at least 40 pounds) to get through snow and be able to offer you some horsepower.  Most of the dogs used in competitive skijoring are mixed breeds, with some combination of hound, pointer and Alaskan husky.  However, any dog that is athletic like a herding, hunting or pulling dog, usually works well.  The dogs will learn by repetitive sessions and by watching other dogs doing it.  Lots of encouragement and praise will help, as they love to please and are eager to run.  Some dogs understand right away and others take more time.  Skijoring with other skiers/dogs should help and having someone call the dog with you attached will get them used to your connection to them. 

Common sled dog commands are “hike” or “on out” to get them going faster, “wait” or “hold” to get them to wait for you to be ready, “whoa” to slow down or stop, “on by” to pass other skiers and dogs, “gee” for turn right, and “haw” for left turn.  Give them praise, but don’t make too much chatter, as they may tune you out when you really need to give commands. 

Try not to take your dogs out on too long of a skijor session each time or they will just trot, trying to save energy for the long haul.  Instead, find a route that is 4 to 6 miles long as an out and back or loop.  In skijor racing, for example, a one dog event is 4 miles long and a 2 dog event is 6 miles.  Be aware of when your dog slows down to poop or is distracted.  Snowplow or step to the side to avoid running into the dog with your skis. 

Dogs are motivated by their desire to run and to be with you.  When you get up to speed, it is a rush to watch their graceful strides and to be moving along with them as a unit.  It is peaceful, quiet, exhilarating and rewarding.  Give it a try and enjoy the exercise and companionship with your dogs.  And when the snow is gone, you can try bikejoring, but that’s another story.

The picture above shows Laurie skijoring with Daisy (white dog on left) and Finis (right).  Another dog, Bridger, is running alongside Laurie enjoying the exercise, too.  Notice the X-back harness on Daisy and how the tug line connects to the harness near the base of her tail.  Also notice how the rope line connects low on the skier’s hips so that the skier’s upper body is not being pulled over.
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Laurie Brandt is a former professional mountain bike racer, four-time winner of the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, two-time winner of the Leadville Silver Rush 50 mile race, and three-time Colorado State Mountain Bike Champion.  She is now a professional geologist for Buckhorn Geotech, member of the COPMOBA Board, and mother of two young girls.  At the Mount Massive Mush recently (March 3-4, 2012) in Leadville, Laurie won the 2 dog skijor race.  A similar article appeared on the Outdoor page of the Montrose Daily Press on March 2nd, 2012, where she is a regular columnist.
 

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Posted by Laurie Brandt
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The Moore Fun Trail

November 10, 2011

Located just off of I-70 exit #15 (Loma) at the Kokopelli trailhead, the Moore Fun trail was originally slated to be an easy alternate route for returning to the main Kokopelli parking lot after riding the popular Mary’s Loop trail.  The story is told of the design team walking proposed routes down near the road but could not help being drawn to the views from the high ridgeline.  So it is that one must follow the steep rise and fall of the ridge as the trail claws its way from one spectacular view of trails, river and the adjacent wilderness to the next.  A warm up ride is recommended so a quick Rustler’s Loop or at least a brisk ride from the big Kokopelli parking lot up and over the small hill is recommended.  The trail starts at the very small parking area at the base of the Quick read more or view full article small hill.  Head northwest as it parallels the old road for ¼ mile before crossing the road and heading for the first small ridgeline.  If you are overdressed it will not take long to fill your pack with clothes.  For some riders, the first trip over Moore Fun can be a very frustrating experience.  One must get to know the trail and its challenges intimately before the Big Grin appears.  After a series of challenging technical climbs and a couple of small deceptive descents you catch a break for a bit.  As you enjoy the cruise across the flat, the next set of switchbacks stare down at you from the next ridgeline.  Again the climbing is technical in places and just plain steep in others.  Interesting “splattered blood” colored rock formations form the technical challenge in this section of the trail and then suddenly you are at the top.  The views of the Black Ridge Wilderness, Colorado River and Horsethief Bench take some time to absorb.  As more of the ridge, rocky outcroppings, switchbacks and ledges pass beneath your wheels, a confidence is gained which will be very valuable as you top another ridge and start the descent.  Keep your weight behind your seat or this part of the trail will be Less Fun.  As the trail levels out there are a couple of challenging twists and then you are done.  Return via Mary’s Loop or Hawkeye Road (I just saw the name of the map?).  OR if needing Moore Fun, retrace your route if you dare.   This is a very long 4.5 mile trail and is one of the most technical trails in the Grand Valley so bring your big boy (or girl) pants for this one. 

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Posted by Dan Antonelli
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Gunny Loop

October 10, 2011
Lunchtime, and a chance to get in a quick loop somewhere close ….. where is it going to be today? It’s gotta be close, and not run too long, and get a little bit of everything in…… I think I’ll head to the Gunny Loop.
OK, blaze up Little Park Road and park at the pullout where the Tabeguache hits the pavement. This makes for a quick start and my favorite way to get going. Helmet, shoes, bag – check. Sometimes I forget those things – have been known to do an occasional lunchtime ride in my work shoes and socks … you too? Dress in a hurry and drop the trusty steed off of the bike rack. Brake check – clip in and blaze immediately onto the trail, dropping through the little rock jumble, and hit that little rock kicker with a little speed that lets me know the Quick read more or view full article ride is up and running.
Confession - I like the Gunnector Trail. It does its job quite well – connecting to the old part of Gunny with trail that replaced road, and it does it in a rolly, climby, little-of-this and little-of-that fashion. And at lunchtime, I rarely see another soul on the trail. Isn’t that one cool thing about riding around here? More often than not you have a trail to yourself - I dig that. There are a couple of small ridges to climb up and over, contouring your way along, with a number of fast paced descents. That first mile or so just get’s the legs moving and the blood flowing. Climbing again up through the rock band that sort of tops the local area, you continue South and pass that trail that peels off down the gully. We just worked on the lower part of that trail, to complete it, and I don’t even know that it has a formal name yet – though it does have a sign now!
Pick up the pace a little.
Contouring again, tiny rock blips here and there, leading to and past the trail that joins in from just slightly higher up Little Park Rd. You ride past a spot where some souls are using a small rock ledge to form an impromptu drop onto the trail from above … note to self, we should formalize that line, it’s a good one. Round the corner, a quick lunge move up a small rock, and you’re now on top of that very same rock ledge, though you don’t really see it. A bit further on and you cross one of the old double track sections of road out there, then take advantage of that quick curve and smooth descent down into the next drainage. A couple fun rocky corners and groovy curves, and you climb up to the main old double track that used to be the main descent into Gunny.
OK, yes, you can still ride down the road for those of you that dig a fast and groovy and rocky double track descent. I happen to prefer the new section of trail that loops South and East. You start that bugger with some crunchy embedded rock – but keep your flow through there, don’t grab much front brake anywhere, and you are set for a good section of descending that has formed up pretty well as a fair fast techy descent. This wraps East and then North and ties back into the old double track again after another section of large embedded rock.
Some folks have made some grumpy noises about that new section of trail – don’t much care for the rocks they say. To me it represents one thing about trails – ride what you’ve got and enjoy it.

Now you drop back onto the older Gunny singletrack section and pick up a bit of speed. The fun rocky corner comes up quick – drop and duck and weave for a second and carry lots of speed through there – round the corner and head East – down the fast descent towards the river. This section is a hoot. You can slow down and enjoy the scenery… OK, never mind. It doesn’t last forever, but it is a nice slice of descending that lets you flow and also practice your braking and timing and spinning on a few sections. Somebody keeps putting a bunch of trees and brush in that one odd corner that flows better as a fast drop, and somebody else keeps clearing it out. It’s a good line, let’s leave it open.
Eventually you G-out in the small gulley at the bottom of the main descent and curve to the North. Still fast trail here if you want it to be. This area has some of those fast broad and smooth curves that a lot of people like. You can feel fast even of you’re not. Who doesn’t like that?
One more little rock drop and chicane surprises some folks – skid marks off the trail attesting to that. Guess you have to earn your scars somewhere. Eventually you curve around to the West just a bit and hit the new re-route descent section that contours along the north aspect of the hill in bentonite soil. Wet weather or melted snow is not your friend on this hillside – a little water makes is slick and gummy. This is the water-limited section of the trail. It drops you into the bottom of the steep old gulley that used to be so rutted in the climb-out. It’s all rideable now though.
A quick climb brings you to the contouring climb headed North. A couple steep sections here can remind you how to breathe hard if you stay geared too high. But it all flows and soon you top out briefly through a small pass along the ridgeline and descent at mach speed immediately down a rocky then smooth drainage. A 30 second grunt out of that depression brings you to a 5 step hike-a-bike through a rock band to top out yet again. Then smooth and fast, with a couple drop sections to enjoy that full suspension or rattle your teeth a little on your hardtail.
Then, you’re faced with Little Park Rd again, but this time a few hundred feel lower in elevation. Sure, we’re mountain biking, and riding up the road is not anyone’s goal for the day, but it serves as a good workout and finish to the ride. Who put that steep section in there anyway – that is a grunt.
So that is roughly an hour ride, and lets you get back to work not too late and just a little sweaty, but with some endorphins coursing through your body to make the afternoon work time a bit mellower. Works for me! Read Less
Posted by Scott Winans
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Paradox Trail: Glencoe Bench Loop

October 8, 2011
Distance:  19 miles
Elevation gain: 1400 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate
Approximate ride time:  3-4 hours
Drive distance from Grand Junction:  118 miles (via Hwy 141 and Delta-Nucla Rd.)
from Montrose:  28 miles (via Hwy 90 and Hauser Rd.)
 
 
          This is one of my favorite rides when I have out of town guests with limited time. This section of the Paradox Trail offers moderate terrain with rugged trail conditions and dramatic views. All of this section defines the south boundary of the Tabeguache Special Management Area, and while the trail stays high above the Tabeguache Canyon, riders get to experience the rugged terrain, fauna and wildlife that exist here. Coming from Grand Junction on Hwy 141, riders will drive through Nucla and head up the Delta-Nucla Rd. (FS 503) for 8 miles and park at the bottom of the Pinto Mesa Rd. which comes in on the left. Coming Quick read more or view full article from either Montrose or Delta, riders can park at the bottom of Hauser Rd. (FS 603) where it intersects with the Delta-Nucla Rd. It is highly recommended that you obtain the BLM Nucla 1:100,000 scale topo map before heading out on any rides in the West End.
 
          From the Pinto Mesa Rd. follow the Delta-Nucla Rd up for approx. 8 miles until you meet the Hauser Rd. and the signed Paradox Trail coming in from the right on the Hauser Rd.. Follow the Delta-Nucla Rd. for a few hundred yards looking for a jeep road coming in from the left. If you start dropping into the Tabeguache Creek drainage you’ve missed your turnoff. The old jeep trail is not maintained and is rough with plenty of hazards including ruts, rocks and overgrown trail conditions. The Glencoe Bench is relatively narrow so if you should get off trail it is easy to find by crisscrossing. During late spring there may be water on the trail and in some of the open meadow sections. The trail can get lost on the meadows but keep looking ahead for the opening at the other end as the trail heads down the bench. From the trail about four miles down you will get some nice views of the canyon immediately to the north including the North Fork of the Tabeguache and Starvation Point.  You will pass through large stands of ponderosa pine but as you loose elevation the terrain gets drier and rockier. After seven miles you will head around a point on your left as the trail drops steeply and ascends back up to Pinto Mesa on a short hike-a-bike section. On Pinto Mesa, you will climb out to a dirt road, turn left and follow for a half mile until you come to a T intersection. The Paradox Trail heads west (right) but for this loop you will go left and drop off the mesa where you will meet the Delta-Nucla Rd. and your vehicle. (or an 8 mile climb back up to the Hauser Rd.)  As with all rides, please follow IMBA’s Rules of the Trail including leaving gates as you find them. There are many grazing permits in this area.
 
The West End of Montrose County has many undiscovered riding opportunities and many good places to camp.  The best camp sites are situated at water crossings. Sites on BLM ground include:
Tabeguache Creek and CR Z-26 about 10 miles north of Nucla.
  
South  Fork Mesa Creek and CR P-12. Access to this site is off Hwy 141 and O-14. Travel up O-14 for four miles and right on P-12 for 1 mile.
 
Hwy 141 and Dolores River crossing (CR Q-13 approx. 30 miles south of Gateway on 141)
 
If you have questions regarding trail conditions or other riding opportunities here in the West End, contact me at pdkoski@gmail.com
 
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Posted by Paul Koski
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Butterknife

September 9, 2011
Butterknife is a great trail, this gem was created for both motorcycles and mountainbikes and is a new local favorite.  Within minutes from Grand Junction, the rider is treated to primitive remoteness and sublime single track. It's a high desert ribbon that twists through juniper and perches atop sandstone cliffs overlooking the Gunnison River. Parts of the trail appear to be stapled to the side of the slopes, barely clinging to the earth as it climbs up rock ledges and steep faces. Other sections of the trail take the rider on a roller coaster, bombing down steep, rocky terrain and swooping around the corners.
 
The best times to ride this trail are spring and fall. In the spring, the trail is decorated with claret cup, desert four o’clock and prickly pear cactus blossoms; and, for a short while, the desert is green. The following summer time heat not only Quick read more or view full article dries out the colors, but also gives the rider no relief during the 12 miles.  When fall arrives, the colors return and the temperatures are far friendlier to the human body. Winter time makes the trail rather treacherous after our rare snowstorms, especially in areas that receive too little sun to melt the ice and snow.
 
When ridden as a loop from Twist and Shout and then back up Billings Canyon Road, the recommended route, Butterknife offers 12.2 miles of pedaling, 2,650 ft. of climbing, and 2,650 smile inducing feet of descent. Special considerations are the remoteness of the trail, the technical difficulty and the endurance factor.
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Posted by Sarah Mah Withers of Desert Rat Tours
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Horsethief Bench

August 8, 2011
One of my many favorite trails is the Horsethief Bench Trail. Horsethief is part of the Kokopelli Loops system near Loma, Colorado. This loop is accessed by taking the Mary’s Loop trail from the large parking lot in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. After climbing up Mary’s on the old two track jeep road the trail levels out for a bit and comes upon a view point of Horsethief Bench. Just past this viewpoint Horsethief trail starts on the left side where there is a small cattle guard crossing, it is about 1.6 miles to this point. There is a ‘Drop In’ to access the beginning of the loop from the rim. The drop in is very technical and for most riders will be a hike a bike section. After the drop in is a T intersection, turn left and ride the trail in a clockwise manner. The trail has Quick read more or view full article a series of short ups and downs followed by a short and steep slick rock section. The next section has a great view of the Colorado River. The trail goes down a wash area that has a few fun drops, you’ll find out how well your full suspension works on this part of the trail. A short way after this is great spot to stop and check out the views of the numerous rock formations and the beginning of Rattlesnake Canyon just across the river. After this spot is a very scenic and fun section of this trail as it parallels the Colorado River. Next, there is a right hand bend in the trail that leads to another wash area that will also be a hike a bike section for most riders. After climbing out of this section the roller coaster ride continues as the trail makes it way around the bench. After some more fun riding, the trail exits a wash and starts a climb back to the T intersection for the hike back up to the rim—it is well worth the effort. The loop is about 3.6 miles. Read Less
Posted by Gary Smith
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Rustler's Loop

June 9, 2011
Rustler’s Loop is part of the Kokopelli system located off the Loma exit of I-70, four miles west of Fruita.  You may park in the large lot and have a little warm up on the road or there is a smaller parking lot over the hill just past the Mary’s Loop trail access.  To ride Rustler’s Loop, go through the metal gate and up to the left.  You may want to take time to read the kiosks and take a look at the map posted there.  It is recommended to ride the trail clockwise.  Riding the trail clockwise gives you the opportunity to read the signs and tips that are posted along the route. 
Rustler’s Loop was the first interpretive mountain bike trail in the United States that was designed with helpful tips for riders such as how to climb, descend, corner, ride over small obstacles and other suggestions to Quick read more or view full article enhance a rider’s experience.  There are also signs that address the flora, fauna and the geology of the area.
The loop itself is quite scenic in that you are on a small bench that will go along the Colorado River on the south part of the trail.  Here you can take a rest on some flat rocks and look at the river and the red rock cliffs on the opposite side.  If you are lucky you may see a bald eagle cruising above the river looking for a tasty fish.  There are also swallows and rock pigeons to observe here.  There are also lizards that dash across the trail when they wake up in the spring.  Sometimes you will surprise a cottontail rabbit and he may surprise you!
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Posted by Giselle Smith
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Western Rim

May 10, 2011
Westerm Rim is spectacular - we went last weekend and had a terrific ride. Great to ride at a good pace, as we did with a group of fast riders :)

Rabbit Valley exit, follow main/Kokopelli Trail back to 'Rabbit Valley camping area' (before McDonald Creek staging area). At the point where road takes a significant dive down a rocky technical bit - park at the top. It's 17'ish miles from here. *Note - you can also ride from the RV parking lot off the highway to get extra miles. The trail is 22'ish miles from here.

Trail #2 takes off to the right - take it. It intersects back with Koko trail at one point, stay on Trail #2. It intersects a 2nd time at a significant open area. Ride directly across Koko - in the direction Trail #2 spit you out - and descend a little Quick read more or view full article fun drop. Ride the sandy bits for short stretch. Do not take option to the right, keep going straight. The trail quickly descends - midway down you'll see a pinon tree and tracks lead to the right. You're on Western Rim! It's like Pollock Bench on steroids...

We ride it to the point where the trail take a straight climb stright up and turn around to retrace our ride, inc Trail #2 back to the car (a HOOT!). Or you can climb the hill and take a right on Koko Trail back to the intersection at Trail #2. Or you can take the Koko Trail back to the car or Take #2. Optons galore. But I'm tellin ya, the out & back rocks. Lotta fun. Wish I could join you! Read Less
Posted by Jen Taylor
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Free Lunch

April 10, 2011
OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: The following “Ride Review” was prepared by Chris Muhr for my fellow “Extreme” riders and is in no way an endorsement of Free Lunch Trail over other trails in the Lunch Loop Trail System.  Nor is it to be used for any purpose expressed or implied other than for entertainment and/or amusement (but isn’t that the reason we ride anyway?).
 
Now that that’s out of the way, let me describe “Free Lunch Trail” for those who are tempted to challenge themselves on the first BLM sanctioned freeride trail in the nation.
 
Free Lunch Trail (let’s just call it FLT) starts at the highest point of the main Lunch Loop trail system just southwest of Grand Junction, Colorado.  To reach the start of FLT you can park at the Lunch Loop Trail head and ride the main Tabeguache Trail to Little Park Road where you will find Quick read more or view full article Lunch Line Trail which ultimately leads you to the top of FLT, a distance of two or three miles from the trailhead and an elevation gain which I would estimate at about 18,000 feet (oxygen is optional but nice).  Some people chose, like I did, to ride to FLT while others shuttle to the Lunch Line Trail, but for reasons I will get to later…..I would recommend taking a helicopter.
 
Assuming you’ve taken my advice, once your helicopter lands at the top of FLT, you will confront a sign which states that you should be prepared for an extreme trail, with large drops, blah, blah, blah.  It helps if you can’t read, because at this point most of the intelligent people turn around and get back in the helicopter.  If you can’t read, the first “obstacle, stunt, testosterone loaded thing” you will see is a qualifier jump and a sign that states if you can’t do this jump, then turn around, load your bike back on the helicopter and take your whiney, sissy pants butt home….or something like that…it’s hard to remember.
 
Anyway, the qualifier move, which I’ve named “Hop in the Casket” is a relatively (as it turns out) small move and shouldn’t require use of either a power of attorney or your organ donor card.  The next few “challenges” are “rollable” and don’t require a pilot’s license, but I’m still trying to get my sphincter to release enough so that I can eat solid food again.  Following this mellow rolling section, you will confront a move that I’d like to call “Jaws” because it has a drop next to a gaping hole under the lip and the sandstone landing will devour all of your bike’s travel and leave you crying for Mama if you don’t land this one.  I opted for a milder traverse next to “Jaws” which I decided to walk because there wasn’t a good landing zone (LZ) for the helicopter.
 
After “Jaws” FLT rolls through some beautiful pinyon and juniper forest lulling the rider into a false state of security before dropping steeply into a drainage and up a wall ride on the other side.  This part of the circus er trail, requires the rider to carry enough speed to ascend a rock which I believe to be several stories high, about a quarter inch wide, and surrounded by rocks sharpened by the ancient Anasazi Indians to protect them from the rare desert Yeti.
 
Further on the victim, uhh rider encounters another drop which rolls off of a couple humps of sandstone before dropping through the clouds to another landing on sandstone….I think this fun filled move is called the “Devil’s Camel”…but somehow I originally spelled it with only four letters.  Once again, I opted to “detour” around the “camel” on the mellow alternate route, finding a few traces of the Shimano tribe that is believed to hunt in this area.
 
After the Devil’s Dromedary, FLT drops through a “slim” niche in the sandstone ledge that borders the western side of the mesa that overlooks the trailhead area and has nice views of the cliffs along the Colorado National Monument and on into Utah,  Nevada and California.  Once on this traverse, you are well on your way to finishing FLT, with a “little” exposure (I had my handlebar grips surgically removed from my hands later that day) a minor drop or two and finally a nice room in a hollowed out boulder that I believe was referred to as a “smoking lounge” by a couple of frequent riders of FLT.
 
After “the lounge”, the trail hops back up on the mesa top and over to the Tabeguache Trail, where the rider can relax and ride down the ever so gentle “Widow Maker Hill” and on into the parking lot,  or if positioned correctly…directly into your waiting helicopter for quick spin to St. Mary’s Hospital to assess the riders quality and quantity of health insurance.
 
And that pretty much sums up the approximately one mile of trail that is lovingly referred to as Free Lunch.  I hope my trail description encourages many of you to explore the limits of your riding ability and health care for yourselves.
 
Happy Trails,
Chris Read Less
Posted by Chris Muhr
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