Spring Break Day 2 (Sunday, March 13)
Fruita Desert Rats Loop (mostly)
22 miles, ~3000' gain
After Saturday's hike/ski on Quandary, I headed West for somewhere warm to camp. I decided to do some trail running on some of the Fruita trails. Last time I was there, I ended up in the ER after flipping my mt. bike, so I promised J to take it easy on my feet instead!
After first stopping in Vail and meeting some friends for coffee, I then headed out to Rabbit Valley to camp in the car. In the morning, I headed back up I-70 to the Kokopelli TH trails. I decided to try out the Desert Rats 25M race loop. Some of these trails I had mt. biked on before, some would be new, but it was nice to have an easy map to follow for a solid loop. Also, there was in intersection at Mile 19, where I could put some extra water and/or bail if needed.
I headed out fairly late in the morning, and the weather was darn near perfect, tending towards warm, in the upper 60s with full sun. The trails were relatively uncrowded at about the most perfect time of year to be in the desert (most of the people I encountered on longer loops were Western Slope locals). I still saw a fair number of cyclists, spread out in smaller groups, and it was nice, in this case, not to be alone in the desert. I had some brief chats with some of them, especially a few groups which I encountered multiple times across an hour or more as they took a break or slowed at technical sections. One guy joked that I was "pissing him off" by going as fast as them on bikes. These guys also were able to point me in the right direction at a couple of confusing intersections.
I thought I'd be able to run a solid pace for 25M and even tack on some extra credit. By about 3 hours, I realized this wasn't going to happen.
After drinking more water, I took a nice siesta right next to my car. The afternoon sun was perfect for sleeping, just not running! I was somewhat dejected in not having finished the full loop and for having run slower than I anticipated. But, it was on the tail of a bigger running week, first day in the heat, blah blah blah. Ultimately, running longer in Boulder the following week helped me get my endurance confidence back.
Anyway, it's a great loop and a great area, nicely signed trails with great views. I had a decent amount of fun trail running (I saw no other trail runners out there all day), especially since you don't lose any momentum in technical areas compared to a bike, but it was hard to be on foot on such classic bike trails. So I'll still recommend that area for mt. biking first, and I have an impression that some of the hiking-only trails in Colorado National Monument and surrounding area are ripe for further exploration on foot instead. I want to make sure I don't completely ditch the mt. bike at the appropriate times in the appropriate places.