Snowcatcher and I just returned from spending Christmas in my hometown of Grand Junction, Colorado. The landscape is a high desert, pinon/juniper ecosystem thriving amongst colorful sandstone canyons, escarpments, plateaus and mesas. A jewel of the area is the Colorado National Monument for its ease of access to stunning red rock vistas and the scenic Rim Rock Drive across the top.
Since my blog is heavily biased toward two-wheeled antics, it's no surprise I begin with some biking history. The defunct Coors Classic of the 1970s and '80s, was a popular annual fixture on the Monument. The Monument's Coors Classic stage was referred to as The Tour of the Moon because of its exotic, lunar-type landscape. Moreover, a portion of the cult cycling movie American Flyers was filmed here. More recent, Colorado's USA Pro Cycling Challenge has three times been denied a Monument stage by park powers that be. I think the Park Service views the area as a personal fiefdom and puts aside who actually owns the place. Rant complete.
The Monument, in my opinion, is one of the finest road bike rides around. A quick loop over the top is about 45 miles. A ride over the top, then east along the Grand Valley into the orchards and vineyards of Palisade and East Orchard Mesa, will yield a magical ride between 80 and 100 miles, depending on route. Thus, we packed our road bikes and were anticipating a quest over the top of the Monument. However, Mother Nature had other plans – fresh SNOW! No big deal; winter is extremely magical here. I hope the following pics capture winter's mystique in canyon country.
Hmmmm... Perhaps the snow is exposing a potential down-climb through the cliff-band.
Millions of years of erosion developed the personality of Upper Monument Canyon. In the background, the Grand Mesa rises more than 10,000 feet in elevation. Remnants of an ancient volcano, it also is one of the largest plateaus in the United States.
Headwall of Columbus Canyon
The lower reach of one of my favorite hikes, No Thoroughfare Canyon.
Prickly pear cactus
A colony of lichen-covered sandstone patiently awaits warmer temps. I kind of felt for this delicate community because it faces north, brrrrrrr...
Diurnal melt-water slowly fills an Indian well.