Thursday October 1, 2020
Our drive from Yampa River SP to Fruita CO was uneventful. We enjoyed some pretty spectacular scenery along the way. Colorado Hwy 13 brought us right into the community of Rifle. We wanted to drive through town and find a nice spot to eat lunch but the Garmin GPS wasn’t specific enough as which exit to take a turnabout so we missed a turn and wound up on US6.
That worked out OK as we eventually jumped on I-70 and went a rest area in the town of Parachute (1000 souls). The rest area seems to have been established by local merchants and is unlike any state or federal highway rest area we’ve visited. It’s parking area is small- maybe large enough for two RV’s and 10 cars. BUT across the street are no less than two marijuana dispensaries with a total of seven in town! One by the name of Tokin Tipi which initially I thought was a taco joint, and the Green Joint a nursery.
Holy cow, am I gullible or what. Then I saw the light, er, the traffic pulling in and out of those establishments’ parking lots. A thought crossed my mind that if those tokers get hungy right next door is a Mexican food joint and a Chinese restaurant. I assume a good portion of the profits from the sale of “buds” goes back into the community as taxes because as we leave town we pass the most drop dead gorgeous athletic field we’d seen outside a professional ball park. I don’t think that most towns of 1000 souls could afford anything like that.
We take I-70 through the Colorado River Canyon and out into a large broad valley, appropriately named Grand Valley, to the Monument RV Park located in Fruita, CO (12,646 souls). The park is pretty nice as far as RV parks go. We’d like it a lot better if there was grass between sites rather than gravel, but it’ll do for three nights.
Fruita was originally home to the Ute people before they were moved to a reservation. The town was established in 1884 by white farmers as a fruit producing region- mostly apples and pears were grown. Today the city is well known for it’s outdoor sports activities such as mountain biking, rafting and hiking as well as it’s proximity to the Colorado National Monument.
So back to the title- The Colorado Monument is not what some may think such as a statue or an obelisk, its actual name is the Colorado National Monument. Monument status was established in 1911 and several efforts have gone forth to upgrade its status to National Park.
As the National Park Service website states “Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. But this treasure is much more than a monument. Towering monoliths exist within a vast plateau and canyon panorama. You can experience sheer-walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of Rim Rock Drive, where you may spy bighorn sheep and soaring eagles.”
The Monument is just a couple of miles from our campsite so how can we resist? A word of warning to you big rig drivers- there are a couple of tunnels that your rig might not fit through and the road is very twisty, steep in places with long drop offs and nary a guard rail in sight. Fifteen and twenty mile an hour curves are the norm even though the posted speed limit is 35mph. But it is a spectacular road in a spectacular park. I found it interesting as one looks up the canyon the road is imperceptible- ya just can’t see it- but it’s there.
We drove the Rimrock loop which put us close to Grand Junction (58,566 souls) the seat of Mesa County. Downtown is pretty neat as the streets are lined with planters containing flowers and trees which not only beautify but act as traffic calming devices. The city’s name derives from the convergence of Grand, renamed the Upper Colorado and the Gunnison Rivers.
We are so glad we stopped in Fruita so we could visit the Monument. To me it’s reminiscent of combination Zion National Park with a touch of Bryce Canyon thrown in. The colorful rock cliffs are a sight to see as are the many spires created by the forces of erosion.
We also climbed Dinosaur Hill, located outside of the national monument, where 600 pound dinosaur bones were discovered. The hill had a great trail with signs explaining its geology and how the bones were discovered and recovered.
We also were fortunate to visit the Fruita Paleo Area located within the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. The one mile loop trail has excellent signs explaining the geology and paleontology of the area of which there are two separate excavations.
Downtown Fruita looked like it was getting ready for a festival. Cross streets off of the main drag had been blocked off to auto traffic and outdoor seating put in the street. I assume it is Fruita’s merchants way of dealing with the COVID-19 virus- no indoor seating so they improvised.
Our next stop has to be classified as Plan C with Plan B again washing out. Our original Plan B was to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Again, RV site availability prevents our visit as all the parks in or near Moab are booked solid through the third week of October. We’ll settle for Plan C as that plan will take us to another beautiful place!