Devil’s Canyon, Pollock Bench too muddy for early season hiking
Be a friend ... don’t hike here yet.
Get back on those skis or snowshoes and head to Grand Mesa, because it’s just too muddy to hike on the wonderful trails in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.
I say that, of course, after having hiked these trails a couple of days ago. It was muddy. I’m still trying to clean my shoes — and the floor mat in my truck.
The trail heads at Devil’s Canyon and Pollock Bench in the front country of the National Conservation Area (NCA) were dry and appeared to be in good condition for an early season hike in the desert. Yet, the higher I climbed, the muddier it got.
The trail head to the Pollock Bench area is only 4.5 miles from Starvin’ Arvin’s in Fruita and is located on the eastern edge of the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness Area. Take Interstate 70 (or old Highway 6 & 50) west to Fruita (Highway 340/Exit 19 off the interstate). Travel south across the river for 1.3 miles to Kings View Estates Subdivision. It’s directly across the road from Rimrock Adventures.
Turn right (west) and go through the subdivision. When the pavement ends, veer to the left around the gravel pit and follow the signs to Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area. The Pollock Bench trail head parking lot is 3.3 miles from the subdivision. You’ll pass the Devil’s Canyon Trail head on the way and you’ll also pass the Fruita Paleontological Area, with all its excellent information displays.
The Pollock Bench Trail head is located just before you enter the main section of Horsethief Canyon SWA. The parking lot is large enough for horse trailers, as this trail is accessible to both hikers and horseback riders. Mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed.
A vault toilet is found at the trail head, and there’s a sign-in register. It’s important to sign in, not only for safety reasons, but to allow the Bureau of Land Management to keep tabs on use in the area.
Trails here are managed as “designated trails only.” Open trails are assigned with white arrows on brown carsonite posts. If a trail is not marked with a white arrow, the trail is closed.
The BLM is closing and rehabilitating excess routes. Recreationists are asked to stay on designated trails since cross-country hiking and horseback riding impact fragile desert soils.
The high desert climate and rugged landscape can make this a tough area. Summer daytime temperatures can soar above 100 degrees.
Biting gnats can be a huge problem from May through August. Not to worry yet. It’s still too cool for the gnats to come out. However, there’s still that problem with mud.
The first mile and a half of trail is dry enough to hike, but as you continue to climb into the canyons of this spectacular national conservation area, where snow continues to melt, this sandy desert soil sucks water like a vacuum. Then, it swallows tennis shoes like a storm drain.
So, be a friend and hike somewhere else, or keep skiing on the mountain until things dry out a little more.
Speaking of friends, the Friends of McInnis Canyons, a local non-profit group, has extended its friendship to a couple other NCAs around here — the Dominguez-Escalante NCA and the Gunnison Gorge NCA.
Now called Colorado Canyons Association, its mission is to “foster community stewardship of our National Conservation System Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Areas in Western Colorado.”
It’s a non-partisan, non-profit organization that encourages cooperation among all NCA users and interests.
The Friends of McInnis Canyons formed about five years ago to help the Bureau of Land Management care for and manage the national conservation area outside of Grand Junction. Now, the group has a new name and a new executive director, Joe Neuhof, who began his new job on Feb. 1.
Colorado Canyons Association’s board of directors includes hikers, as well as ATV users, mountain bikers alongside equestrians. Traditional land uses like grazing, hunting and fishing continue in national conservation areas, as well as these other divergent recreational pastimes. This board of directors represents different groups that have not always agreed on issues surrounding public lands. Nonetheless, they’re willing to meet monthly and discuss issues that affect all of us.
Collaboration among diverse interests has made NCA management successful around here, and if you’d like to be part of this process, join the Colorado Canyons Association. You can do that by sending a big fat check to the group at 543 Main St., No. 4, Grand Junction, 81501, or hop online at http://www.coloradocanyonsassociation.org.
So, be a friend. Join this worthwhile group, and don’t hike here just yet. Give it a little while to dry out!