Colorado National Monument, Colorado
April 28, 2010
Cruising home from a successful observation of multiple inner canyons of the Escalante drainage in south Utah, Griff and I stop in briefly to hike some of the fantastic terrain outside of Grand Junction, sort of a stretch-your-legs kind of hike. Pulling off the highway at Fruita, we rumble down the graded, gravel road in the trusty Forrester to the apparently secret west TH of Monument Canyon. Luckily, my friend Net provided us details ahead of time on where to go, and by 8:30, we are on the trail.
Early on, we are walking behind the back yards of a subdivision that has sprung up right on the border of the park. It seems that eventually all our parks will be thus besieged on all sides, with intense development right up to the very inch of public land. Most other countries in the world that have parks are this way, and the buffers of wild lands around most parks in this country are merely artifacts of the youth of the country. We live in a fabulous time where there is still apparently enough land to satisfy all, but that will change. The sun overhead, the clear air, the glowing sandstone and the fresh smell of sagebrush all dissuade me from getting too worked up about it as we walk along, chatting about whatever topic happens to float by.
Soon, we leave the houses behind and turn southward, into the heart of the canyon. We pass a trail crew drilling rock blocks for their construction effort, and continue on around the bend where the sound of the drill recedes to nothing. If I had it to do over again, I would have joined a trail crew in college, no question. Why I wasted so many summers working a minimum-wage campus labrat job, Iíll never quite understand, except to say that I simply didnít give it a second thought at the time. Regret is keenest when it taunts you with a missed opportunity. Our route heads up the wide, sunny canyon towards the distant mesa over 1000í overhead. Sagebrush and juniper line the trail, along with pockets of brilliant scarlet Indian paintbrush.
Independence Monument is up ahead, the tallest free-standing rock formation in the park, a 450í fin that separates Monument and Wedding Canyons. We pass by, stopping at its base to enjoy a drink of water. The temperature is very mild, but the sun is baking. We press on, leisurely, and drop down into and beyond the dry creekbed that runs through Monument Canyon. Beyond, we are near the base of the Kissing Couple, a memorable rock formation that stands out from the cliffs to the west.
Somewhere above sits the Coke Ovens feature, a place I have a clear memory of visiting with Andra years ago, but no photographs or notes on the visit whatsoever, which is a rarity. Itís 10:30, and as we have 7 hours of driving to get home, this is as far as we go. We sit in the shade of a boulder and snack on trail mix items, which is about the only thing left after our week of backpacking further south. The trip back, following our footsteps in the sand, is a little quicker, as we stop less to photograph the formations. The trail crew is still hard at it as we pass back by, resuming our drive east towards Denver at 12:00.
The sharp outcrops of The Island line the Monument
Canyon Trail near the park boundary