For the first time that I have had to come up to Grand Junction for work, I had to stay over the weekend, which meant that I could play in the surrounding mountains. Since I have a newfound love for hiking (thanks Ashley), I immediately researched hiking options. Naturally, the Colorado National Monument was high on my list and Saturday would be that day.
I actually slept in for the first time in months, so I got off to a late start. I even went to Walmart to get a brand new ipod to replace the one that finally crapped out on me. I wanted to use it when I went hiking; however, I couldn't install itunes on to my work computer...so that was a waste. I will have to fix that when I get home. GRRRR!
When I got to the East entrance, the nice lady told me that it was National Park Week, which meant that I get free entry all week. YAY! It also meant that if you have a park near you, go to it and have an adventure. I thanked her and drove on through to where I saw a sign that said Visitor Center 10 miles. It was 10 miles to the next sign; it was more like 20-30 miles to the Visitor Center. However, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking on the ride up. My suggestion would be to go in at the West entrance on your first time; it's farther away from Grand Junction, but it's closer to the Visitor Center (like 7 miles).
I finally made it to the Visitor Center and went over the trails that I should go on as a first timer and relatively new hiker with the Park Ranger. I also bought a much needed power bar and Gatorade for the hike. I decided to try the short (0.5 mile one way) Canyon Rim Trail, which is right by the Visitor Center. The trail was easy and something to just get my feet wet so to speak. The trail was off the edge of cliff. What a view. When I reached the end, I saw 2 people reading and I wished that I had brought my book, but I had trails to hit. Instead of going back the same way, I went back on the road to get a different view.
The second trail (Monument Canyon Trail) was a little difficult and longer, but recommended by the Park Ranger as a must see. I wrestled with dropping in on the top part of the hike (6 mile hike one way with a 600 steep entrance) or the bottom entrance (roughly 3.3 miles depending on where I turned around and I would avoid the steep climb at the end when I'm tired). I chose the bottom entrance mainly because I hadn't eaten since that morning and I didn't want to do die of starvation. Plus, I would still get to see the famous Independence Monument and Kissing Couple.
As I set out on the trail, the other Park Ranger told me that I had to be quiet and not to linger in a certain area, because of the Eagle's nests. I got excited about the fact that I could see Eagles or a nest (never saw it by the way). Up ahead, I noticed a women wearing a dress. At first, I thought she was Amish, but I noticed that the guy was in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt (not Amish or Menonite wardrobe). Since we are close to Utah, I can deduct that she is Mormon and that is the traditional dress of a Polygamist. The husband looked sort of like Bill Paxton from Big Love. I was just amazed that the daughter and mother were wearing dresses on their hike.
The first part of the trail was interesting, because it was next to people's houses. Literally, their backyard is these wonderous mountains. I'm sure they get tired of the foot traffic though.
I signed my first ever Trail Register and got going.
Once you get passed the houses, the trail is a little bit steep and rocky. However, it levels out torwards the middle. It was not congested with people and the scenery was just breathtaking. I was a little worried about water intake and the fact that I didn't have much food in me, but that Power Bar sure helped. There also wasn't much shade and I was wishing again that I had wore shorts. When am I ever going to learn? Somewhere along the line, I rolled up my pants, because I just couldn't take it anymore. I didn't care if I looked like a dork, I was hot.
I saw Collared Lizards, which were amazing and these fast birds that looked like DoDo Birds. You can't tell in the picture, but they have these feather things on top of their head.
I saw some rock climbers. It was interesting, because it was so quiet and you could hear these people talking as if they were standing right next to you.
Everyone was really nice. If you passed someone, you said hello to everyone in the group no matter how many people. After walking a while, I asked these nice ladies where the Independence Monument was and they told me it was around the corner. I was snapping pictures away of what I was currently standing around, because I thought it was it. Thankfully, it was only a mile away. I passed through the no quiet zone (0.5 mile), but didn't see a nest or an eagle.
When I made it to Independence Monument, I was able to find someone to take my picture. He was a photo happy person. He had his bike at the top, but came in at the bottom. He ran off...I guess I was too slow.
I also saw the Kissing Couple, but it was still quite a distance from where I was at on the trail. I kept on going and made it halfway around when I started to realize that the Kissing Couple is close to the end (the steep part). I figured I would turn around, because I could tell that the trail was getting more of an incline and I was feeling the no food in my belly. Plus, I was running out of water...I still needed to make it back.
After I passed the No Quiet zone again (there were people on horseback that weren't so quiet), I found this rock that I had noticed a guy chilling on when I was headed the opposite way. I decided that I would do the same and it was worth it, just to sit there, relax, and feel the mountains. The breeze was nice. I left about 15 minutes later and headed out of the park.
If you are ever in Grand Junction, I highly recommend this trail. I will for sure be back and I will start from the top.
I'm not sure how much I walked. It was 1 mile for the first hike and about 6 miles for the second one (give or take a mile). And I'm not sure how much calories I burned, but my legs were sore.
What I learned was to apply sunscreen on all parts when you remove layers and for God sakes, wear shorts once in a while no matter what the temperature is like in the morning.