Colorado Epic - Fruita, Co.

Well, after last weekends epic adventure in Moab, Utah, my body and mind were craving more MUni adventures. This is The Edge Loop, in Fruita, Colorado, which is only 2 hours from my door. Once again, the story is as long as the ride, enjoy it!
Get out and ride :slight_smile:

Colorado Epic The Edge Loop Fruita, Co. May 8, 2010
My daughter, who is getting ready for school, after hearing me scream in pain, comes to my aid to see if I am alright. Lying on the stairs holding my throbbing right foot, I catch my breath enough to let her know that I think I will be all right, but maybe my foot is broken. Barely awake at 7 a.m., I try to carry a small refrigerator from the upstairs to the garage, by myself, w/o shoes on. Just two more steps and I would have done it, but I lost my tight grip, and it fell right onto my foot. All I could think of was, oh ------, I won’t be able to go on my big ride tomorrow.
Waking up to an empty parking lot, with Jupiter and the Crescent moon shining brightly on me, my foot feels like it is ready for some MUni, albeit swollen. The North Fruita morning air is fresh, and the sky is filled with wispy featherlike clouds. My eyes catch some pronghorn moving through the green landscape. It is unusual for the desert to be this green, this time of year. April brought record moisture, and below normal temperatures to the region. I find some myself dancing to the music, as the pronghorn spot me and move on. I am alone at this early hour, the smell of nearby campfires awaken my senses. I am psyching myself up for the big ride ahead.
Today, I will attempt to ride the classic,” The Edge Loop’.’ This was completed in 1996, and has been the flagship ride in the Fruita area. This was the site of the first “Epic” ride of the IMBA. It is a true loop ride, starting and finishing with single track. There is nothing but dirt on this loop, and rock. I have ridden other amazing trails that are part of the “18 Road” section, north of Fruita, but have only dreamed of being able to attempt The Edge Loop. This Edge Loop trail is very remote, and there is no “out”. It can snow, yes snow, up high, and be hot and dry at the bottom. One must be totally prepared for such an epic.
This ride is in the Bookc1iffs area, which is named for the dominant cliffs that form the northern border of the Grand Valley. This ancient shoreline of sandstone and adobe runs far into Utah. These trails are still some of the few trail systems anywhere, designed and built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, and mountain unicyclists. Ethics here are crucial as the trails are narrow and meant to be: tight and curvy the way we like “em”. -Keep Single Track Single -
I study the route in the guide, trying to remember all the turns and important~. The map is very good, and I have a good idea of where I am going. First trail is Western Zippety, which will lead to the meadow intersection with Frontside. Due to the moisture this early spring, the cattle that typically graze this area, have really done a number on this double track. The trail is rock hard hoof sized pockmarks from edge to edge. Luckily the morning is beautiful, the colorful flowers are everywhere, and I am in no hurry. This was a difficult stretch of trail for me, and to start a long day with this was a little discouraging. I pedaled on through it, and finally, the trail turned out of the bottomland and uphill onto single track. This was the smooth narrow single track that I remember so well, I make it to the meadow and stop to take it all in. The air has warmed so my lightweight long sleeve layer comes off. From this point on, I will be in unfamiliar terrain the rest of the day. A happy place feeling comes over me; I smile and look at the amazing place I am at. There, perched precariously on a small branch in front of me is my lucky bluebird.
This single track here, rolls like a roller coaster in and out of these pristine little valleys, sitting so peacefully at the base of the Bookcliffs. The rhythm of my pedaling seems to be in concert with my heartbeat. The birdsong relaxes me even further, as I settle in for a wonderful day in the saddle on my GB4 29er. Single track meets fire road, which I will be on for the next 6 or so miles. I pass a few campsites, and those people that are up, do double takes. Still, no riders on the trail. I opt to put the earphones in, and spin the pedals up this steady grade. The canyon narrows the further I get up into it. Water comes and goes out the creek bed at random spots. I am looking for a split in the road, where I go right.
After a few steep little pitches, I ride up to the split. Both roads rise above the creek bottom, but the road that is The Edge Loop, ramps steeply upward. Stopping and looking at what lies ahead, I check my Garmin on the stats. I have gone approx. 13 miles, been out for 2 1/2 hours and have climbed about 1000’. Climbing up the dirt road, my heart races out of control, so I stop. Get back on; ride some more, than stop again. This is one steep climb; on one pitch my Garmin reads 31 %! Some of it is walked but the majority of the climb is ridden, in sections. The views get really good as I continue up this climb. As I look around, that sensation of getting above it all begins to sink in. A few hard miles of climbing on this road and I am hearing people, I look around and there is no one around, hmm. Maybe my 170-bpm heart rate for the last hour has something to do with that. Pictures are taken at the upper meadow, and I read more from the guide. I pass a few gas wells, and with some more climbing I am at the highest point of the ride, 7326’. Immediately the fire road becomes a challenging rutted 2 track as I descend and ascend some rideable sections. The guide spoke of a fantastic viewpoint, a must stop. It comes into view, so I stop and walk to the overlook.
Yes, this is a MUST stop, a surreal view of the Grand Valley and beyond lies in front of me. The majestic San Juan Mountains are off in the distance to the south, the world’s largest flattop mountain-The Grand Mesa borders the southeast view. Off to the southwest are the La Sal Mountains, which tower above Moab, Utah. 2,000’ below is the Grand Valley, with its vibrant green appearance. The muddy Colorado River flows left to right, on it’s long journey to the Gulf of California. I am standing on the top of one of the Bookc1iffs, literally. A golf ball hit here would fly forever. I have once again found Nirvana. The peacefulness and happiness that I am experiencing at this moment is profound. Some of that comes from 4 ¼ hours of working hard to get to this point, and some just comes from the serene landscape that surrounds me. I can see where I have come from, and can see where I still need to go, impressive. I am so grateful to be here, unicyc1ing has given me many joyful moments like this one. Time is spent here meditating and getting ready for the next part of the adventure, Downhill.
The downhill section from this point until the next single track is sickly steep and challenging. It is like riding an 8" wide dirt ridge with drop offs into 2’ deep washed out pits. Oh, and if you crash bad left, you can go over the Bookcliffs into the valley below, not an option. There are some sections in between the steepest parts that are rideable and less horrifying. I remember that the guide spoke of the next single track to be excellent. Most of the ride is well marked, and sure enough, a marker pointing to that single track comes into view. I leave the edge of the Bookc1iff, and head down into Lipan Canyon. This single track is absolutely incredible. It is narrow, and steep, but rideable with 175 mm cranks. I love the feeling of complete control with leg power, no brakes for this kid. It is a mix of smooth dirt, with roots, loose and solid rocks, tight twisting turns, switchbacks, juniper and cacti dodging, and just pure heaven. I am loosing elevation at an alarming rate. I stop and find myself in pure bliss; this is to good to keep going. The quote from the guidebook comes to the surface of my mind, “Descend like a giggling schoolgirl into the canyon below”, it is so true, and I laugh. I still have a long way to go on this adventure, but my fun tickets are being used up fast, damn.
I make one last tight slalom turn through the junipers, and I hit the creek bottom. Following the dry wash is now the type of riding, and it has its own challenges. From the big boulder hopping, most I walk around, to the thick dried out willows that act as punji sticks from below and both sides. The big benefit I am getting from being down here is the wind that is blowing up the wash; it is having a nice evaporate cooling effect on my sweaty skin. Then, a sound from behind me, it startled me and I UPD. People on bikes, three of them, wow. These are the first bicyclists I have seen in 6 hours, amazing. I have been out on the trail by myself for along time, and loving it to. We exchange kind words, and they pedal off. Around the next comer they are stopped, and off their bikes. Could it be the waterfall?
The infamous waterfall on The Edge Loop, it is so well known, that some riders avoid riding the loop, because of it. And then others ride this trail just for the Waterfall. It is at least a 30’ rappel, some say up to 50’, and is done in two pitches. The three riders are locals and give me the beta on the waterfall rappel. They are opting on the portage, to save their bikes. Not me, I came all this way, I am going for the full Monty. I pull out my Highlands Bowl ski strap; I planned ahead and brought this so I could attach my unicycle to me on the rappel. There is actually a second rope that can be utilized for the wheel(s). Ropes are secured to pro on the two pitches. One of the riders graciously takes my camera and offers to take pics while I rappel to the bottom. Trust the equipment Mike, a voice tells me in my head. So, I step off and adrenaline starts pumping wildly through my body. I hold onto the rope tightly and continue down the rock, as my unicycle bounces off my camelbak. I stop to look back up, and the guys are silhouetted above me. One more pitch and I will be down, I make it with full concentration as my feet hit solid flat ground. Wow, that was just another incredible chapter of this fantastic adventure. My camera is still at the top, so I drop the uni and camelbak off my back and scramble back up the waterfall. Camera in jersey pocket now, I say my farewell to the bicyclists and rappel back down the waterfall. The dry wash opens up more as the canyon walls spread out. With that comes more sun and more desert heat. I am now looking for a right hand Y that comes out of the wash.
Switchback after switchback after downhill, after more dry wash riding, wow it just never stops. The afternoon heat is starting to raise my core temperature. The riding now is all single track, with lots of ups and down. I am working my way back to the west, where my ride began hours and hours before. I find a nice big juniper tree that is providing some much-needed rest in the shade. The air temp is not bad, especially for May, it is in the 70’s. Hydrating and eating some is first on my list, then taking my shoes and socks off. Then lay down on the cool juniper needles, very nice. I refer to the map and it appears I have about 4-5 miles to go, mostly single track with some 2 track. I have been watching my liquid intake religiously, up until this point. On long unknown epics like this, it is important to get enough water, but not overdue it early on in the ride. Pulling the 100 oz bladder out of the camelbak, I am totally stoked to see I have over half of it left. I take some nice big pulls on the water now, enjoying every oz of it. I get all of my gear back together; and start riding again feeling really good about finishing strong. Every inch of trail from here on in is ridden, if I fall, I go back and try it again. There were some nice steep climbs that I made and some intense twisty techy single track as well. The 2 track comes; I make a left and climb out of that little desert valley to an area where I get a good visual of what’s ahead. Some flats, and there perched on a branch is another good luck bluebird-maybe it was the same one. Hooking up with the final single-track section, I run into the only other bicyclists I see on the trail all day.
Pulling into the now overfilled parking lot, and looking at the stares I am receiving, I am overwhelmed with a felling of accomplishment. Then, a voice says hey Mike. I look and it is one of my clients who is there riding. I make a couple of passes around the parking lot with him, and finally stop. We exchange tales from our adventures, and are both so thankful for the beautiful day that we were treated to. I had to tell someone, local, about my adventure, so I stopped at Over the Edge Sports, www.otesports.com in downtown Fruita. This is a great LBS, so stop and say hi on your way through. They call me “one of those guys” and confirm that no one has completed the Edge Loop on a unicycle, especially a young guy like me over 50 :wink:
There is a good reason why the IMBA chose to make this there first “Epic” trail, I found out today. I am the luckiest guy on the planet to have had the opportunity to experience this trail. Put it on your list of “MUni must rides”. Peace.
RIDE STATS
Distance ridden 29.29 miles 47.2 km’s
Elevation gain 3,684’ 1123 meters
Highest Point 7,326’ 2233 meters
Lowest Point 4,995 1522 meters
Average heart rate 141 bpm
Max heat rate 171 bpm
Ride Time 7 hrs 32 mins
Moving Time 5 hrs 27 mins
Average moving speed 5.4 mph 8.7 kms/hr
Max speed 10.7 mph 17.2 kms/hr
Highlights:
-Remoteness of whole loop
-Only 5 people seen on trail in 7 hours
-Terrain always changing- best single track
-Views
-Climbing & Descending
-Rappel down the waterfall
-Rideable on a 29er
Two minor mechanicals - Cranks loosened up and pedal bearing loosened up. Fixed both in the field.
Equipment –GB4 29er, 175 Shimano cranks, no brakes, air seat, Exiwolf tire, azonic a-frame pedals.

I will attach some pics as well, enjoy.
1st pic - sunrise
next pic - first single track of morning

next pic - riding with paintbrush foreground and Bookcliffs background
" " - views from top of bookcliffs

next pic - endless views
next pic - lunch

next pic- now for something completely different, lets rappel down a 30’ waterfall
next pic - MUni in Lipan Canyon drywash

next pic - barrel cactus
next pic - end of edge loop single trak

thanks for looking :slight_smile:

Very cool Mike, I did a few some loops out there on Halloween last year on my 29er, although not the “edge loop”, I opted for doing loops closer to my campsite. Zippity Doo Dah was my favorite by far. The bookcliffs are amazing for 29er muni - very fast moving singletrack. I’ll be taking the geared 29er out there sometime to try some 1.5:1 riding.

zippety is perfect 29r riding, as are all of the 18 rd trails. kessell would be smokin in 1:5 to 1
here is upper zippety from 08’

Another amazing ride, you lucky dog! Keep it up!

Respect!

wow, so nice, gotta get out there and ride with you some time!
ro

Nice Mike. I soak up every word of your writeups. Good stuff.

you and steveyo would just go crazy out here, there is so much good adventure MUni. time to start planning for next year.

thanks, i get to enjoy the ride again and again writing it, and am glad that you appreciate it as well.

Yeah, thanks. I can’t stop now, to many epics and not enough daylight :slight_smile:

Thanks. You will get it underdog, just keep at it, pushing your limits a little bit at a time. Hows Flag these days?

I am dying for the snow to melt so I can do some high altitude muni - monarch crest, and some of the other amazing single tracks I have read about that made me move out here.

Be patient, Middle of June at the earliest. The window of oppurtunity is small, so be ready to hit it hard when it comes.
That is why I am doing the lower elevation epics now, there is plenty to ride and keep you smiling, until the high country opens up. You just have to follow elevation.
Indy Pass maybe this Sunday?? I fly home Sat. night and could do it Sunday.

Yeah that could work, although they are calling for more snow tonight/tmrw at least out near denver.

Another great write-up, Mike.

Thank you again.

Cheers,
Eoin

snowing now here, damn. we will see by weeks end how it looks.

Your welcome, glad you enjoy these ride reports. Cheers to you EoinC