Trip past Mud Springs to Fruita Reservoirs offers the smell of woods, escape from inversion
Catherine Robertson was quick to call me out.
“You owe us a retraction,” said Robertson, the field manager for the local Bureau of Land Management office here in Grand Junction. “Mud Springs is a BLM Campground, not a Forest Service Campground.
“Didn’t you see the sign?”
Well, actually, I didn’t. That’s because I snowshoed over the top of it on the trip to Mud Springs I wrote about last Sunday. Nonetheless, Catherine is correct and here is my correction: Mud Springs is a BLM Campground, and it’s in great shape, especially in the winter when it’s closed and there’s no one around.
I followed the same road this week to see how far past Mud Springs it was plowed. Our destination was the Fruita Reservoirs in an area known as the Fruita Division of the Grand Mesa National Forest. I double-checked the sign, so I know I was on forest service property this time.
To reach this area, take Grand Avenue over the Colorado River Bridge and turn left onto Monument Road. Travel through the Colorado National Monument’s east entrance.
Once you’re through the tunnel and reach the top, you’ll come to a turnoff for the Glade Park Store. It’s just past Cold Shivers Point. Turn left and go to the store, which is 14.5 miles from Fourth and Main. Turn left onto 16.5 Road. The pavement ends in another 2.6 miles, but stay on it.
This is a well-maintained dirt road, but there are a few blind curves, so watch your speed. During the summer, you can make this trip in the in-laws’ Cadillac. During the winter, however, you’d better have a 4WD vehicle.
You’ll find Mud Springs Campground about 4.2 miles past the end of the pavement. In another 1.3 miles you’ll come to a fork in the road. The left fork leads to Enoch Lake and to private property. The right fork leads to the Fruita reservoirs, but winter maintenance on this road ends at this point. You cannot drive any farther, even though someone in a white Chevy 4 x 4 tried. It’s buried there, and you can visit it from now until the spring thaw, because it will take at least that long to get it out.
From the fork in the road, you can ski about 1.5 miles until you actually enter the Grand Mesa National Forest — yes, a small parcel of Grand Mesa’s forest is actually on the monument. This area is well-packed by snowmobilers, and is a multiple-use area, even in the winter. It’s used by snowmobilers, skiers, snowshoers and their dogs.
It’s wide open and gentle terrain, with plenty of snow this year, but if you plan on skiing, you should do it in the morning as the snow sets up quite fast in the mid-day sun.
Once you enter Forest Service property, you can glide past the Fruita Reservoir No. 1 turnoff and the Fruita picnic ground, then past Fruita Reservoir No. 2. About .3 miles past No. 2, you’ll see the Turkey Flats Trail head on your left.
I’ve written about this trail in the summertime, and it was pretty cool to ski past the nearly buried sign in winter.
We continued on up the road for a few miles before turning around, but you could ski for miles and miles here. You’ll be skiing at an elevation of about 8,400 feet with small climbs up and down through a lush aspen forest. The road eventually angles through a transition zone of aspen and spruce.
The smells of the woods here are much more pleasant than the fossil fuel smells of town, and it’s wonderful to get up and above the dreary, smoggy inversion that’s enveloped and choked the Grand Valley this winter.
The City of Fruita actually owns four reservoirs in this area known as Piñon Mesa — the three Fruita reservoirs as well as Enoch Lake. These reservoirs are primarily recreational, and are stocked with fish.
Fruita Reservoir No. 1 was not open to recreation during the summer of 2009 while it was being rebuilt by the National Guard. Locals used to call this spot the “Ranger Station Campground.” It is located just below Fruita Reservoir No. 2. As the name indicates, the Forest Service currently considers it a picnic area rather than a campground.
The City of Fruita also owns 80 acres surrounding and including Enoch Lake, back where you parked. There is some hillside terrain, so you could cut a few telemark turns if you wish.
You can do the same all along the main trail past the other three Fruita reservoirs, but the Forest Service asks that you respect private property in this area and that motorized vehicles stay on the main roads.