Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fruita Desert Run: Kokopelli TH Trails

Spring Break Day 2 (Sunday, March 13)
Fruita Desert Rats Loop (mostly)
22 miles, ~3000' gain
~4 hours

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. I hadn't brought my smaller pack with me, and my shoulders were sore from carrying my skis up the day before, and undoubtedly sleeping in the car. After some debate, I only went with 2 handhelds (50 oz water), thinking it wasn't that hot and I'd be good. Also, I made that decision knowing that I could easily cut straight toward the car rather than following the looping course and be back at water within 30-45 minutes or so at any given point. I rationed this water to last 4 hours, and felt fine, but was clearly slowing down in the dry desert. I took my last sip with about 20 minutes to the spot where I stashed another bottle earlier in the day. I decided I'd drink as much of that bottle as I needed and see how I felt about 5 more miles. When I got there, the bottle was there, full of warm water, and I drank the whole thing. I bagged the final Lions/Mack Ridge Loop and ran back to the car, and called it a day.

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.


  1. Mike - Sounds great. I love that terrain out there.

    The sis lives in Fruita, so I've done some running in the area, though not nearly enough! The Monument has a few trails that start outside the park on the northeast that will keep your jaw open. They basically go from the valley up to the road and beyond. Mt. Garfield next to Palisade has interesting shale hills with trails going up steep spines and such. Vertigo is an occasional experience there, for me anyway.

    Once in August I almost baked though, gotta be careful. And that air is DRY, even compared to here.

    Stop at Hot Tomato in Fruita some time if you like pizza and beer.

  2. I've been wanting to check out Mt. Garfield, and forgot to look up some beta before I left. Based on the rock/sandstone out there, I figured I'd better be sure about the route. Next time!

    Hot Tomato continues to elude me, even being there 2.5 days...separate post...but the fact that they aren't open Sunday's, Monday's, and *that particular Tuesday* (new oven being installed) means I still haven't been there!