hunter canyon ice fruita colorado

Hunter Canyon. Probably the Coolest Place I’ve seen since Mt. Garfield.

“Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe it. A flower is beautiful. But this is beautiful the way that a person is beautiful- terrifying with its jagged edges, yet seductive with its crevices that hide so many secrets.” 
― Jeri Smith-ReadyRequiem for the Devil

Not sure that you’ve noticed this or not, but the last few trails I’ve tried to do some exploring. Mostly close to home- the random trail I’ve passed 300 times but never set foot on- that kind of thing. I’m expanding my Trail Maven knowledge. Today was no exception. And I was highly rewarded.

I started with a map. Being very sick still- but not too sick to still maintain some level of functionality- it was bound to be a Jeep run. Also, Dennis wasn’t back yet. Also also, it’s Sunday. And I was listening to Rascal Flatts. Throw in a Mt. Dew and you’ve got a recipe for a canyon drive, Erickson Style.

The only real hang-up: the book I bough myself last night. You see, I have a bit of an addiction to the written word. When I discover a good book, it is very, very challenging to put it down. Last night I splurged on a carwash and a novel, “Silver Linings Playbook”. Could not put the thing down.

Now, on a “typical” Jeep run, when we are with a large-ish group, in Moab, doing something insane and techincal and it’s going to take all day and someone is going to break something or several peeps are going to be breaking several things and several hours are going to be spent sitting around waiting waiting waiting while someone fixes these several broken somethings. This may take several hours.

On those occasions I’m usually thankful I brought a book along, for the distraction as well as the companionship. Dennis usually complains. So a couple years ago, I brought an audiobook, “The Actor and the Housewife” by Shannon Hale. We listened to it together over 4 days. It made us laugh. It made us cry. He loved it.

Okay- so the point is on THIS occasion I left the addiction home. And I waited for Dennis to get home. We selected Hunter Canyon (21 Road), which takes us up into the Bookcliffs.

Now, if you ask my Dad, the Bookcliffs are not particularly scenic. But you shouldn’t ask him. His opinion, I’ve come to recognize in a profound way in recent years in particular, is someone skewed. In other words, free to disregard. Especially because it is an interesting beauty that this area has- sculpted sandstone, chipped boulders scattered around as carelessly as a new bride’s lingerie.

The canyon offered many “look at that, kids!” moments, as well as “when it’s warmer, we need to come bouldering here” and “stop! Let’s hike up to that cave!” and “that ice is freaky”. And it’s true. The ice was freaky. I think that was the highlight of my experience: freaky ice.

You see, unlike the many other washes I’ve experienced since the Western Colorado Ice Age of 2013-14 began, the ice in this wash was porous- joined together by monstrous ice crystals, all dyed in the colors of the rock surrounding us: yellow, black, red, brown.

We followed the road until it became too precarious, and then commenced hiking up the wash. We found the signature alcove- too open to be cave, too overhung to be a wall- and were treated to the smell of sulfur. As Trinity put it, “Why does it have to stink? Why can’t it smell like something nice, like flowers, or cupcakes?” Well spoken, no?

You see, the alcove was full of watery seeps, and at least two running springs that I could find. What might in the Summer be simply darker spots on the wall accented with bright green moss, in the Winter had become flowing sculptures of ice, like the veil of the aforementioned young bride, alongside those of her 13 closest friends’.

The kids were in some kind of wonderland- sliding down the ice flows like they were made simply for their enjoyment. I was thrilled by the ice formations themselves, the way they hinted at blue, cleverly seemed into the larger-crystal formation, and seemed to be coated with some kind of whispy white filament. Dennis had fun taking panoramic pictures.

Eventually we hiked back to the Jeep, stopped a couple more times to explore potential climbing excursions for in the Spring, then headed out of the canyon. We discussed options for riding up/down Hunter Canyon on our bikes in conjunction with a larger loop. Could be very weird, and fun, and super-ultra-enduro-hard-core.

Instead of heading straight out the direct way, we decided to explore the trails to the West, and attempt to connect to 18 road. Being the trail-addict that I am it was difficult not to explore every off-shoot of the road- exploring just by taking the route that put us headed into about the right direction was fun, though.

We did find 18 rd, checked out the trail conditions there (mud mud mud and a little more mud), then turned tail and headed to Fruita.

All in all, it was a good experience, a good day.

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cool ice formations
cool ice formations

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more ice sliding
more ice sliding
sliding on the ice
sliding on the ice
in the alcove
in the alcove
looking up the canyon
looking up the canyon
cool lighting
cool lighting
on the prow
on the prow
Testing out the bouldering potential
Testing out the bouldering potential
Doesn't this huge rock look like a ship?
Doesn’t this huge rock look like a ship?
Obligatory selfie
Obligatory selfie
Normal faces?
Normal faces?
Funny faces
Funny faces
Looking toward 18rd
Looking toward 18rd
From the road, this big rock looked like the body of a great ship.
From the road, this big rock looked like the body of a great ship.nter