First, watch this video. It’s hilarious to me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iehOvkO54g&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D8iehOvkO54g&app=desktop
Today wasn’t just a hike in the snow: it was an adventure! But then, Andy’s trail usually is.
Some background: this is one of the most spectacularly interesting trails in the area of Grand Junction. It is typically ridden on mountain bikes from Little Park road. From there it descends over Bentonite soil– which must be one of the weirdest materials on Earth. When dry it becomes little deer-poop sized rocks. In massive massive mounds. When wet, it is like peanut butter consistency. It sticks to everything and is slippery as synovial fluid. Do not ride through it- unless you want to add 50 pounds to your bike and ruin your drive train. Do not walk in it- unless you don’t mind losing your shoes, socks, footing and sanity.
But that’s just the top of Andy’s. It descends into a ravine, and if you look about you it is like the first of three foreign plants you will think you are on. The canyon walls are delicately sculpted sandstone. There are pock-marks and a cave that cuts through the canyon wall. The wash is beautiful and subject to occasional flash-flooding.
From the wash you climb off-camber up the canyon wall- exposure is your friend. You can see down Echo Canyon in the Colorado National Monument. From the top you get a view of the cliffs of the monument- it is spectacular. Then you partake of a gnarly descent that will test your ninja skills, in between fast flowy sand and winding through cottonwood trees.
The last 1/3 of the trail you are on Mars, surrounded by yellow and white and red hills, starkly free of flora, but tainted instead by black-as-death volcanic rocks. Where did they come from, you wonder. Only G knows. (G=geologists, ha ha ha). Then it’s a handful of steep climbs before you partake of Eagle Tail. I’m telling you; the trail is 2.3 miles of incredible weirdness.
It is even worse when you attempt it the opposite direction. I have. Twice. When the crazies hit me.
So-back to today. Dave likes to work on this trail. Particularly as it needed a fair amount of grooming before hosting the Grand Junction Off-Road. Rather than carry his tools back and forth, he cached them. Today we hiked down on a retrieval mission. It was excellent.
The snow was immensely beautiful. Unlike yesterday in Utah where the only color was the blue of the sky, Andy’s provided us with sandstone reds, some evergreen, mixes of soil colors, all of which had melted and frozen again and again into a vastness of shapes and patterns. The icicles dripping from the cliffs seemed formed from the very blood of the hills. In the wash the water had frozen into layers, each with its own shade and tone. In one section the ice was crystalline, revealing rocks in perfect formation, leaves seemingly untainted, and sediment frozen mid-dissolve. It was incredible.
But the Bentonite. It was buried under 4 inches of snow, and had been subjected for hours to sub-zero temperatures. It was a balmy 10-f when we were out, and yet the mud beneath the snow remained quite viscous. Each step was a precarious have-slide, fingers-crossed, terrifying descent. It was also incredibly fun!
Thus today’s trail experience summed-up: terrifically cold, immensely beautiful, incomparably fun, and totally rad.