We left Grand Junction and headed for the nearby town of Fruita, CO, which had a visitors center and also seemed to be the hub of activity for the BLM. The very helpful woman at the center told us how to get to some of the more interesting trails and assured us that we would really enjoy our time in the sweeping canyonlands. Fortified with coffee, we set off to discover them for ourselves.
Our first stop was in a parking lot out in the middle of the desert. There were a few trails that lead off from this lot, but no real maps or anything. As we were changing into our boots, a government truck pulled up and the gentleman inside asked us if we would move our van so that the school bus full of teachers that was to arrive shortly could squeeze in. We obliged and in return, he gave us a map and some tips about hiking out in the canyons.
Hiking in the BLM is a cool experience. There were no other people there and the wilderness was unspoiled by most anything, be it noise, trash or other people’s children. Huge rock formations rose up all around us and the sky was as blue as is possible. It was also very, very hot, so our hike wasn’t terribly long.
Our next stop was the Colorado National Monument. This is perhaps the least descriptively named of all the National Parks or Monuments. Would you think from the name that the park actually is a huge, red walled canyon topped with desert? Or that some of the rock formations within it actually look like the things for which they are named? No, you would not. But that is what it is. We drove the 22 mile loop and wound up back in Grand Junction.
From there, we headed up to Dinosaur National Monument, the first stop all day that was actually in our original plan. As we drove, we kept an eye out for cool scenery, which was all over the place. Ceridwen fell in love with the high desert with the red dirt and the scrubby little plants and the huge rocks. We tried to go out for another hike, but it was one in the afternoon. Ceridwen loves the desert, but sadly, the desert does not love her back.
We arrived in Dinosaur too late to really do much but set up camp, but of course, after dinner, we were stir crazy. So we went out and got a guide for a driving tour and did a few stops along the way, including the Swelter Shelter, which had some pretty cool petroglyphs. It was pretty much sunset by this time, and the light was fading fast, making everything pink. No one else was around, and all that could be heard were the cries of some birds. The point here is that the ancient carvings of horned figures were just a little spooky. Spooky, but very cool. We did a few more stops on the way back to the campground and then went to sleep in preparation for our early waking time, which we hoped would facilitate a nice hike in the desert.