|Location: Black Ridge Wilderness,
BLM. Near Grand Junction, CO
Maps: BLM Edition 1:100K: Grand Junction. BLM Trail maps are available from the kiosk in front of the Grand Junction Field Office, 2 miles North of the Interstate on Horizon, near the airport.
Access: I-70 to Fruita exit. South 1.5 miles to Kings View Estate subdivision. West into the subivision. Devils Canyon TH is .5 miles on left, Pollock Bench TH is 5.5 miles on left.
Trails: Steep, winding, often difficult. Little shade, no water. Myriad trails, but main Devil's Canyon loop is 5.3 miles, Pollock Bench has loops ranging from 5.6 - 7.5 miles.
Dog regulations: Leash or voice control
Webcam: Tomorrow Hill Farm, Grand Junction
Weather: Current & recent conditions National Weather Service Forecast
I read about this place in Backpacker magazine and decided it looked like a place I simply had to visit. Andra, Frank, Makenzie and I piled into the car one Saturday morning and zipped off west on I-70 to Grand Junction and a little beyond. It was just as good as the magazine said, and we hit it on a perfect weekend in late September 2002 when the summer heat had given way to cooling autumn breezes.
We camped at a great BLM site in Rabbit Valley. The site was free and only had one other car in the area, although we almost never saw the people who drove it. I was impressed we were able to score a campsite, having arrived so late in the day. We had intended to go further off the interstate and camp along the edge of the Colorado River, but the road was definitely not suited for my Saturn. Our camp was downhill from the parking circle and we pitched our tent behind a giant 15-foot boulder. There were very few trees or greenery of any kind in the area, just rocks and more rocks and sandy bottoms. It was very secluded and quiet. My kind of place. We pitched the tent and then walked off to the east across a low valley to a peculiar sandstone ridge.
Frank and Makenzie frolicked in the sagebrush and rocks near camp. I thought Frank would run himself to death after the birds that effortlessly glided to and fro in the shrubbery. At the sandstone ridge we first walked downhill a bit into a bowl at the foot of the cliff shaped by runoff water pounding the sand away. The chute that delivered the water was clearly distinguished overhead. It would be fun to be on the cliffside of the bowl in a rainstorm and be hidden behind a sheet of muddy water on the gently sloping rock wall. We amused ourselves by clapping and watching the young mind of Makenzie attempt to figure out who was clapping on the other side of the bowl...since that is where the sound seemed to be coming from. After we tired of watching that, we walked uphill in a southerly direction and soon found a trail that led up a narrow wash at a steep incline, with a steep rock wall on the east and a gentle wooded slope on the west. The trail took us up very fast and we were up above the surrounding terrain in no time. We stopped at odd places to admire the beautiful view and drink water. We traversed a couple of pretty sketchy inclines that dropped off precipitously beyond a short, steep ledge, but the rest was cake. Of course, it would all be easy without dogs around who feel they need to be in front and behind at the same time, and go barreling past you when you are lightly balanced yet won’t move when you need to move forward. Nevertheless, we made it to the top of a rounded spire of sandstone and were able to look down on a round flat plain to the south that was encircled on two sides by a graceful semicircle of layered sandstone. We loitered up top before slowly making our way down amid deepening evening shadows. By the time we got back to the ravine, the sun was only visible as a pale orange light hitting the rock wall above our heads. The air was cooling, and we walked towards camp. Again, the dogs went bananas chasing birds in the shrubs and we often lost track of one or both for several minutes at a time. Once we even hid from them to see if they’d miss us. They did, and soon came galloping back toward our position in a panic.
Back at camp we brewed up some hotdogs and Andra scowled at me for forgetting ketchup but remembering mustard for myself. Who puts ketchup on hot dogs? As the evening drew darker, we played fetch with Makenzie using sticks and I threw rocks for Frank to chase. Frank refused to join the circle of dinner, instead posting himself twenty to thirty feet from camp and waiting for rocks to be thrown. Makenzie continued to demonstrate her keen ability to discover bones of long-dead and not-so-long-dead mammals and drag them into camp. As the darkness really drew down, Andra and I played tag-team hide and seek in the boulder field upslope from our tent. I would hide while Andra distracted the dogs and then I’d whistle and they’d hunt all over and eventually find me (after I perhaps whistled several times). While they searched for me, Andra would hide, and so forth. Makenzie displayed remarkable tracking ability by going to the place she last saw one of us, then following the scent right to us. Frank instead chose the sweep-search method, simply running around in ever-widening circles until he caught a whiff or sight of us. Both of them were stymied the time I leapt up onto a large boulder that they couldn’t jump up to. I laid flat on top of it so they couldn’t see me. Only their whines of frustration let me know they were down below. Fun game. I highly recommend it to all you dog-enthusiasts out there.
The night was long and unrestful as Makenzie the pup refused to sleep like a normal animal and instead decided 2AM was about the right time to get up and go play. Therefore, Andra and I took turns laying on top of the beast to keep her still. This was not conducive to our own rest, but it was better than being trampled all night. We both got up very early and ate a quick oatmeal breakfast before striking off in the car for the wilderness area to the east. The destination was Pollock Bench and we found the trailhead easy enough. All four of us started off with me carrying about three gallons of water. The trail was very pretty and very pristine. It meandered through a pinyon-juniper forest, then dropped down into a narrow canyon that led around a gorgeous sandstone ridge and to a precipice above yet another, deeper canyon. The terrain was heavy in indian rice grass and prickly pear cactus. Large expanses of nothing but sandy soil testified to the pervasive dry condition of the area. We drank over half our water to get to that point, barely 2 miles from the car, and decided we didn’t have enough to go further. We tried to keep the dogs calm, but they hiked with such enthusiasm and energy, and consequently were panting and exhibiting signs of early heat stroke almost constantly. They drank the bulk of the water.
We tarried at the canyon rim for a long time before turning back. Halfway back we stopped and ate a tuna and cracker snack in the shade of a juniper. Frank slept and Makenzie watched the can of tuna like a hawk. It was late afternoon by the time we returned to the car.
On the way back to camp at Rabbit Valley, we stopped and ate at an A&W since our appetites could not wait. When we did arrive at camp we selected a different site (of the three possibilities) and enjoyed a completely empty area. I went with Frank and Makenzie to the top of a hill to the south to get a better view of the landscape in that direction. Andra remained at camp and read a novel. From the top of the hill I could see the Colorado River meandering among giant monoliths of rock. The setting sun cast an orange glow on all. As the sun’s last rays slipped off the top of the hill, we retreated down to camp. We all repeated the hide and seek game until dark when Andra went to bed. I stayed up late to photograph the stars. It never got too cold, and I was quite happy in the dark still of the desert night. Nights in the desert are always less threatening to me than nights in a forest, and I think the reason is that the desert affords unobstructed, wide open spaces. You feel a little more secure being able to see around you. Also, it is much quieter in the desert.
The next morning, Makenzie was at it again. This is why puppies make poor camping companions. Instead of throttling her, I got up before dawn and played fetch with a very heavy log in an attempt to wear her out faster. Soon, the sun came up and made the sandstone boulders glow in a golden yellow. Makenzie played fetch unceasingly until after Andra got up. We loaded up the car and sped off for Devil’s Canyon.
We stopped along the way to get water and donuts. Necessities.
Devil’s Canyon was a labyrinth of trails that threw us for a loop and we had to retrace steps many times. Trails were hard to find in places, especially when you’re keeping an eye on two dogs at once. Nevertheless, we found a gorgeous trail that followed the canyon bench rim and followed it for several miles. The rock formations were very impressive and the dazzling sun made all colors shine and glow. The dogs loved it. I had filled my frame pack with every water container we had. We still emptied them all and had to turn back partly for that reason. On the way back we missed a trail branch and had to backtrack and search around a great deal to find it. That was frustrating, but added to the adventure. We drove straight back to the Fort after getting to the car.
Devil’s Canyon lies adjacent to Colorado National Monument, which we couldn’t visit because of the dogs. However, we returned to the area two weekends later, sans dogs, to explore. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so cooperative this time. It rained and was cold the whole time. We drove through the monument, and even hiked around Coke Ovens but not extensively. We cannot honestly count the park as sufficiently explored by a long shot, and will have to return at some point soon to do so. The bright side of the second trip was that my friend Todd hooked me up with directions to Talbott’s packing house where I bought 80lb of super-cheap super-fresh and super-delicious apples along with 4 gallons of fresh cider. Great stuff.
Prints and Digital Imagery from this trip location, and others, are available for sale in the Colorado album at LandscapeImagery.com
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Page created 11/02