Twice the fun of Fruita

Two rides planned for the Saturday meant a really busy day! We got up early and headed out to the North Fruita Desert aka 18 road. No agenda planned for this ride, other then find singletrack and have some fun. The parking lot at 18rd was already busy when we showed up about 9:00 - lots of cars and bikes. We quickly got organized and hit the trails, heading west. At the first intersection, a choice - road or new single track. We had a general idea of where we wanted to go and I more interested in exploring then getting there fast. So on to Zip Off we rode. And it was fun. Undulating single track through the sage and desert. Nothing hard but really cool riding with views of the book cliffs to the north and the monument to the south. It was also a good easy warmup to riding. We reached Western Zippity after a bit and started climbing. Gentle rolling climbing, but there was no mistaking the increasing elevation. We hadn't met another rider yet and were enjoying the peaceful ride. So much in fact we missed a turn and kept climbing! It was only when we got to the road at the northwest side of the desert! Whoops! Wouldn't have been a big deal except we had also had some fun descending down to the road. And now we'd have to climb back up it all.

Nick coming down the steep hill on Edge Loop - We'd have to climb back up it later....
Once we got back on the main trail we found out where all the other riders were. Herds of them heading west. All ages, all kinds of riders. It was really cool to see some of the little kids on their 20" tires just pedaling away, rolling over bumps and rocks. Only issue was we were headed east! Lots of stopping to let the west bound up hill traffic through. And it would only get more crowded as it got later. We opted for Chutes and Ladders to keep heading east. I was looking forward to another try at that trail. I hadn't ridden much the last time we'd rolled through a few years ago. Well, I made more of the climbs and and thought id be able to ride the tight downhill switchbacks. I tried them st least! Made the first one but not the second one. Too much speed and a handful of front brake sent me flying. There would have been blood if I hadn't been wearing my knee warmers! As it was, I smashed the buckle on my left shoe. Nothing holding my heel in place for the rest of the ride! The two straps of Velcro worked, but it wasn't ideal. We finished out Chutes and Ladders, but missed the turnoff to Edge Loop. A huge group was standing in front of the sign... As it was, we were both getting a little fed up with some of the Cat 2 syndromes on display and decided to call it a ride. The parking lot was a mad house when we rolled up, indicating that the craziness on the trails would only get worse. Time to head back to the hotel and chill before our second ride.

Scenery shot! Climbing up into the BookCliffs under bluebird skies

Our second ride was at the Mack's Ridge area, AKA Mary's Loop. We parked in the middle lot, at the end of Mary's and the start of Lion's loop. This time, we had a specific ride planned - out the Kokopelli Trail to the Troy Junction, then continue on Troy back to the road. We wanted to finish the ride on Mack Ridge. These were all trails I hadn't ridden and I was looking forward to the adventure. While the parking lot was full, there were plenty of riders finishing up. We were pretty confident that we'd have most of the trails to ourselves and started down the road. Hitting single track and the trail turned up. Legs a little tired from the earlier ride, I was quickly yards behind Nick. But I was riding smooth and smart - at least on the sections of trail that weren't right on the cliff! It didn't take long for the ground on my left to drop away - 100s of feet down to the Colorado River below. I got a little sketched out at times, bailing on fairly easy technical sections because of the consequences. It wasn't that I couldn't ride through the rock gardens, it was more that fumbling might lead to a really long fall. So I walked a little more then I wanted. Nick kept pretty close so I could keep my eyes on his tires, not on the ledges beside me. The views also made it hard. I kept wanting to look around, take in the stunning surroundings. But that meant taking my eyes off the trail!

One section of Troy that was a little further away from the edge
Fun riding on one of the easier chunks of trail - Troy

Troy Built Loop was even worse with the exposures. There were a few times that the trail was only feet from the edge. I was having a blast riding when we weren't right along the cliff but freaked out every time the trail meandered closer. And on Troy, there were plenty of times we were riding right along the edge, through rock gardens, down step little hills with sharp turns right at the end... I kept talking to myself - eyes on the trail, follow Nick's wheel, breath, relax and ride... While I never really got over the cliffs and ledges, the trail was really cool. We were the only ones riding that section and it was super quiet. Nothing but the faint sounds of the river, the crows calling and our tires on the gravel. We reached the Bridge overlook and debated continuing out on the Kokopelli trail. Between the steep climb on the other side of the creek and the gathering clouds, we decided that it would be smarter to continue out on our planned loop. Finished out the loop, ending on the road. Then came the long, long climb up to Mack's Ridge.

Nick waiting for me in one of the rock features near the end of Troy

Our final section of singletrack for the day - Mack Ridge Trail. On Nick's map of the area, we had to turn left and continue on road at the top of the hill. But we'd passed a sign for Mack Ridge Trail when we'd turned onto Troy. So down the road we went, searching for some more fun to end the day. And Mack Ridge did not disappoint. Both the climb and the descent were legit challenges. I think I only rode about 50% of the climb. I was doing a lot of walking - between never seeing the trail before and being pretty darn tired, I wasn't going to take any chances. I made more then I expected, a combination of talking to myself and focusing on the basics of riding. We finally reached the top of the climb and the trail meandered along the cliff edge. It was a spectacular view, with the Colorado Monument and canyons off in the background illuminated though cloud filtered sun. The reds and greens of the canyon popped against the blue sky, with Nick riding into it. (I didn't get the photo though - Nick didn't know how long the descent was going to take and didn't want to take a chance of getting caught in the threatening storm. Given that I'd seen the waves of rain off in the north while climbing up the road, I couldn't disagree. But I still pouted... There was a short section of road, then the drop back down to the car. Wow. Legit trail. Super fun - I was focused the entire time. Really pleased with the amount I was able to ride, between focusing on my skills, getting my weight back and just riding my bike. I didn't try to keep up with Nick at all, I just picked my own lines and rode my bike. There was one section where I think everyone walked - I saw no tire tracks at all, just foot prints. And given the precipitous cliff at the end of the steep rock drop, I'm not sure how anyone could ride it! One mistake and SAR was going to have some business  Once through that, it was back to more challenging but fun riding. A few things I missed, but it was the best way to finish the day out.

Into the rocks of Mack's Ridge Trail
My turn at the rocks! I didn't make it....

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