Turkey Flats the perfect place to appreciate beauty
Learning to look. Looking to see.
Learning to look at animal tracks in the woods can teach us a lot. They can help us become more aware of our surroundings. They can help us recognize we’re part of a larger community. They can help us see the world a little more clearly.
The trail along Turkey Flats on Glade Park is a wonderful place to rediscover the joy and importance of seeing as fully as we can “as a way of appreciating, respecting and learning more about the world in which we live.”
As an Information/Education Specialist for the former Colorado Division of Wildlife in a previous life, I had the opportunity to work on and implement a thing called Project WILD. It was/is an interdisciplinary, supplementary education program for educators of kindergarten through high-school-age kids.
One activity in Project WILD was called “Learning to Look. Looking to see.” The objectives of the activity were to allow students to describe differences seen in an environment as the result of casual and detailed observation, and give reasons for the importance of looking closely at any environment.
What’s more, it allowed teachers to actually teach language arts, science, social studies and art. How? By using wildlife as a catalyst, those educators had the kids’ attention. If you have that, you can teach ‘em almost anything.
On Turkey Flats Trail No. 661 the other day, we saw lizard tracks, deer tracks and elk tracks. We saw a mountain lion track following some of those deer tracks, and a lone coyote track crossing the trail at numerous spots.
Plenty of bird droppings showed us there was lots of avian life around, even if we couldn’t hear the song of a black-throated gray warbler or see the soaring golden eagle above.
We observed the tracks of chipmunks, squirrels and a grouse, probably a blue grouse, winding in and out of the pines at the highest points on this trail, at 8,878 feet in elevation.
We noticed all of our senses were more tuned, not just our sense of sight, as we listened to the wind blow through the trees and understood why the quaking, trembling aspen are called “quakies.”
To reach the Turkey Flats trail head, take Grand Avenue over the Colorado River Bridge and turn left onto Monument Road. Travel through Colorado National Monument’s east entrance. You don’t have to pay the park fee if you’re going to Glade Park.
Once you’re through the tunnel and reach the top, you’ll come to the Glade Park turnoff just past Cold Shivers Point. Turn left and go to the Glade Park Store, 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 watch your speed, as there are a few blind curves. Mud Springs Campground is 4.2 miles past the end of the pavement. In another 1.3 miles you’ll come to a fork in the road. Take the right fork toward Fruita Divide. In 1.5 miles you’ll enter Grand Mesa National Forest. Yes, this small section on Glade Park is managed by the Forest Service for your use and enjoyment.
Travel past Fruita Reservoir No. 1 and the Fruita picnic ground, then past Fruita Reservoir No. 2. About three-tenths of a mile past No. 2, you’ll see the Turkey Flats Trail head on your left. Park on the right.
This trail is great in the winter (cross-country skiing and snowshoeing) and summer (hiking, bike riding, horseback adventures, fishing and wildlife watching). Spring brings mud and accessibility issues, and hunters enjoy it most during fall big-game hunting season. Hikers and mountain bikers usually find another spot at those times of year.
The Turkey Flats Trail begins with a small climb through a lush aspen forest. It then angles through a transition zone of aspen and spruce.
Within another half-mile, you’ll top out at about 8,800 feet, and then meander down into a long, lovely park where the Turkey Flats Trail meets Haypress Trail No. 662. Go left, or northeast, and continue on Trail 661 through another beautiful grove of aspen. In about three-quarters of a mile, you’ll have to climb again. In another half mile, you’ll come to a junction with a trail that has no sign. Continue forward and to the left on the most-used trail here, and eventually you’ll find yourself on the dirt road that leads to Fruita Reservoir No. 1 (to the right) and the Fruita Picnic Grounds (to your left), which you passed on your drive to the trail head.
Turn left and follow the road back to the trail head. Yes, it’s a couple miles down the dirt road, but it will allow you to actually see what you passed on your way in.
It may even help you appreciate, respect and learn more about the world in which we live. You just never know.