You learn the tricks pretty quickly. In my job as a demo driver for Yeti, second priority is learning where to go for an easy access ride. (First priority: Keep the beer cooler full.) Easy access, meaning easy to pull the rig in, quick access to the trail from the interstate, a satisfying but not too epic ride...you know...easy. The I-70 corridor has a wealth of options. The obvious choice is the Fruita area, with the plethora of desert trail goodness that lurks just beyond the Mack exit, but when it is rideable, I head for Minturn, Exit 171. The Meadow Mountain Loop.
Last November I was spinning back to the Front Range after a four-day demo out in Fruita and spent the first stretch debating on whether or not to try for a ride. I was torn between steaming back home in a diligent fashion, or trying for one last high country ride. I drove right by the exit, in fact. Spent the next two exits drumming my fingers on the steering wheel and looking at the mountainside in the rearview mirror. The old adage ran through my head like a stock ticker: "always ride...always ride...". So I dove off the Interstate and turned around. I ended up swiping a ride right out of the clattery beak of winter.
I rode the jeep road up and spun the highway out of my system. It was a funny sort of day out there. Quiet, quiet. With occasional groups of wildlife moving around in excited little clusters. A couple of magpies bustled and fussed over me, followed by several crows. The woods had that aimless feel of the last day of school. Up top at the line shack I could tell I had some postholing in front of me. The first section of singletrack had a healthy layer of snow on top of it. The easy had become epic. Well, sort of epic. Semi-hemi-demi-epic. But as always, it paid off. After losing about 700 feet of elevation, the trail cleared out and turned into flowy, loamy Colorado singletrack. One last taste before it all went under for the winter. —Anthony Sloan
On a Ride, On a Rock...
It was April, 1997, the second Fruita Fat Tire Festival. Local riders rallied to support the new festival and humor out-of-towners with local lore and semi-secret rides, and maybe even some geology and history of our area. It was one of the beginning years of the massive cycling movement that has since exploded here in the Grand Valley.
I loaded my '79 Land Cruiser with my Moots YBB and drove down from my home in Glade Park, high above the Colorado National Monument at 7800 feet, my favorite coffee mug in hand—all dented and stickered, leaving my toddler and husband-at-the-time at home for the day, and headed over the Monument toward Fruita to guide some rides for the day and assist with the Festival. It had rained that night, leaving the freshest, most crisp sensation in the air—I remember the smell of sage well. As I descended the west side of the Monument, coffee mug stationed in my favorite cup holder (a roll of duct tape), the Valley below was gray with clouds, wet and chilly—but so alive! It was the quintessential springtime-in-the-desert morning. And I'll never forget it as long as I live.
I parked my Cruiser around the corner from Over the Edge Sports in Fruita, left my bike in the back, and hopped out to check in with the shop. As I rounded the corner I stopped to say "Hi" to a group of guys, kvetching about the weather and seemingly unrideable sloppy, sticky trails. One person in particular struck me as a mountain bike purist—his bright blue eyes sparkled with life, and I knew instantly that we would become kindred pals.
Turns out, he was the president of COPMOBA (the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike and Trail Association, the small group that develops and maintains these trails and advocates for their existence), and indeed represented the essence of mountain biking and the spirit of the trail—and was, to me, a keeper of all things important in life. He lit up when he spoke of his daughter and the joy being a Dad brought to his life...of geology...of the outdoors...and of living; all things I, too, relished. We hopped in his 4-Runner, drove to Rabbit Valley, jumped around in the squishy, dense sand, and gave it a thumbs-up for the day. The trails would rejoice that morning and day and weekend with riders from all over the nation.
Fast-forward eleven years...a few relationships later, a brain cyst, two children for me, one for Chris... Chris and I now share a straw bale home together with our three kids. It sits perched at the edge of the Tabegauche/Lunch Loop trail network, at the base of the Monument. We ride from the house, trail run and hike from the house, listen to the coyotes, watch the quail and look back on our lives—as symbolic and important each of our paths has been, they brought us together under one roof, at the edge of the trail.
Now Chris and I both serve on the COPMOBA board—he, once again, as president. The trail inspired my business Mountain Sprouts and our mission to get kids and families outdoors. It is the trail where we excitedly meet the obvious out-of-towner with the usual "where you from?", introduce ourselves and, more often than not, have them over to our home for a few beers and whatever's on the grill that night.
We each have our trailside rocks where we have much-needed "come to Jesus" moments. We've each taught our kids and friend's kids on these same trails to navigate the dirt, rocks and roots that make mountain biking so much fun, and inspire a lifetime love of the outdoors. We've each bled and cried and thrashed and laughed and hi-fived and hugged friends out there.
And just recently, eleven years to the day of that introductory Fat Tire Fest, we became engaged...on a ride, on a rock, overlooking what we now affectionately call "Little Surprise Canyon"...and one of these days, we'll elope there, too.
Who knows what paths are ahead, but the trail remains a constant thread in our lives—weaving what was, is, and one day, will be. —Jen Taylor