Elisa Jones windmill tabeguache billings canyon trail winter grand junction colorado jeep

Around the World in 180 Minutes

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” 
― Henry David ThoreauWalden: Or, Life in the Woods

It’s nice to see that my little experiment on trails has already started rubbing off on my kids.

For example, Timothy says, “I want to go home.” Trinity: “Why? You just want to play the iPad. Being out here (Jeeping) is more healthy AND fun!”

I’ve noted this before I’m sure, but as much as the kids might gripe about being dragged out of the house and onto the trail, once we are out they love it. Today’s trail experience was taking our Jeep down Third Flats road down to where it turns and follows along the river. It then connects to Windmill road, which its self ends in a “T” intersection with the Tabaguache trail. It’s a full, majestic loop. The name, unofficially, is called the Magellan Loop. It’s one of my favorites. And it wasn’t what I had planned for today.

I knew I wanted to head down Third Flats, but only wanted to try the road that connects to the Billings Canyon jeep road. We parked at the bottom of Billings and I took a little exploratory stroll up it while the kids threw rocks over the edge of the canyon below. Throwing rocks was the order of the day, as we stopped again at the river’s edge and cast stones out onto the ice. Most bounced off the surface, some crushed inches into it, and come completed their journey through the ice and to the floor of the river.

Trinity was upset. She wanted to walk out onto the river ice. She was forbidden, and was so disappointed she sat down in the snow, arms folded in protest against parental protection. When we showed her how thin the ice was in parts, she eventually understood. We had to explain that if she fell in, she would probably be dragged under the ice sheet unlikely to be seen again until Spring. I’m sure I could now develop some analogy for life lessons and obedience to parents here, but I won’t. I shall resist!

I was entranced by the ice formations themselves, and slightly terrified when one large (20×6 ft) cast of ice detached its self and floated down the unfrozen river. The breaking was a surprising sound and the magnitude of the consequence was impressive. It blocked the current flow and virtually rerouted it.

Most of the journey was spent musing on the adventure of biking this same route, as it was part of the Grand Junction Off-road 40 Grand route. Dennis had raced the event, I had ridden this section as recon; partly because I’m crazy and partly to add to my knowledge for my role as the event announcer.

It’s interesting the contrast of man-powered vehicle to human-powered vehicle along the same trail. Just as I’ve stated that the same trail is a new experience when ridden in the opposite direction it typically is, traveling the same route under your own power vs. the power of an engine is equally different. The climb up Windmill road in the Jeep is nothing to write home about. But the same experience on the bike will be a discussion point, a valid claim to your physical endurance, for years to come.

Conversely, the descent down Tabegauche from Windmill is contrasted in a different way. You can get down it exponentially faster on a bike. And it is far, far more enjoyable to do so. In the Jeep it’s practically tortuously slow, requiring careful maneuvering and attention to all four wheel placements. On the bike it’s a 2 mile section of joy. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Long ago, when I owned a mountain bike but never rode it, and Dennis was racing, we would be out on a Jeep ride and Dennis would say something like, “I’d rather be riding this road.” I just didn’t ever understand that. Why on earth would you rather be pedaling, your bum being pounded by a hard seat, your legs burning, your heart exploding! But last Spring I discovered myself having the same experience. I can’t remember the road, but I’m pretty sure it was near Moab, and I suddenly found myself thinking, “I would rather be riding my bike.”

As one would suspect, we stopped at Rough Canyon to let the kids out to hike and play. It’s adorable the way they describe this place. Trinity says, “It’s our private play area, where we can be Kings and Queens!” It’s that special for them. Today we did some rock hounding and the kids each found something beautiful to carry back.

All in all, a successful day.

Me and the jeep at the start of Billing's canyon
Me and the jeep at the start of Billing’s canyon
My boys running to their mom
My boys running to their mom
Sometimes he let's the little lady drive.
Sometimes he let’s the little lady drive.
Tim running
Tim running
Maybe the only picture I'm not holding back a yawn (because I had just finished one)
Maybe the only picture I’m not holding back a yawn (because I had just finished one)
Billings connector road, running parallel to Third Flats. Less traffic here, more tree density.
Billings connector road, running parallel to Third Flats. Less traffic here, more tree density.
Required equipment for running Billings. We'd need to do some alterations to prepare either of our Jeeps for it.
Required equipment for running Billings. We’d need to do some alterations to prepare either of our Jeeps for it.
Sometimes I'm a poser.
Sometimes I’m a poser.
Selfie
Selfie
Mine boys.
Mine boys.
Tossing stones on ice.
Tossing stones on ice.,