So this is the point in our story where the random day in Moab slots in: the morning we were to leave Cortez, with the sketchy weather forecast in mind, we checked the highway conditions on the way to Ridgway, where we had planned to go, and the roads were snowy. Plan B: go to Grand Junction, via Moab, and from there head south to Montrose.
We stayed at the Grand Junction KOA. KOAs are reliably close to town, organized, and have decent wifi. This one is next door to the Mesa County Fairgrounds, and luckily for horse-nerd me, a multi-day horse event was going on. I wandered through the barns, admiring the shiny ponies. Reining horses are WAY different from hunters, and these guys were gorgeous. So that was neat. The campground was a nice one, with each site (as far as we could tell) having a grassy area with a fire pit.
After two nights at the KOA, we moved to a campground at the Colorado National Monument, with no hookups and tiny sites, but a sweet view of the valley from our picnic table.
Grand Junction has loads of nearby outdoor adventure opportunities. It’s a big mountain biking destination; when we first visited Fruita, the town just to the northwest closer to our hiking destinations, they were setting up for a big mountain biking festival. Fruita is a cute tiny town, and the gateway to hiking and biking in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area and the Colorado National Monument. Both have great hiking and incredible scenery, but there’s an important difference to people like us: National Conservation Areas are BLM-managed, and this National Monument is NPS-mananged (not all National Monuments are NPS-managed; notably, Grand-Staircase Escalante is BLM land). BLM says “we love dogs, let your dog run around and have fun, just have your leash accessible” and NPS says “no no, please take your dog away.”
We did two awesome hikes in McInnis Canyons: Devil’s Canyon, and Rattlesnake Arches. I wrote a separate post with pretty pictures from those hikes.
We visited a few breweries in the area: Copper Club Brewing Co in the super cute little town of Fruita (where we would probably stay on a return trip to Grand Junction); Kannah Creek Brewing Co in GJ, which was on the lame side; and Palisade Brewing Co in another tiny suburb of GJ. We liked Copper Club and Palisade a lot; J wrote about them here.
We mostly cooked at home this trip, but got carryout from Suds in Fruita to eat at our picnic table with the view at Colorado National Monument. I will give you one guess what I ordered. MORE FISH TACOS. They were good–different from standard fish tacos, with a fruity sauce–and came with sweet potato fries!
We also bought some local food at Roan Creek Ranch Grocery in Fruita, a cute little shop full of humane, grassfed meats; local honey; and candies, snacks, and sauces made nearby. Produce is coming soon–we were a bit too early in the season for it. The grocery has a great story: Roan Creek Ranch’s owner is a veterinarian who, after years of first-hand experience doctoring to livestock, came to appreciate the value of treating food animals humanely, both for the good of the animals and for the people eating the animals. So she bought a farm to raise her own food animals on grass, without hormones or antibiotics, in natural social groups with room to play and indulge in normal animal behaviors. The grocery is a new addition to the business, to provide happy, healthy food to the larger community. We went home with some meat, eggs, and locally-made peach salsa (oddly, this is a big peach-growing area) and salad dressing. This little store makes charming Fruita even more appealing.