Take advantage of less-crowded Lunch Loop

As I left the doctor’s office the other day, sporting two beautiful pre-cancerous burn spots along my rapidly receding hairline, I knew hiking in the sun was probably not in the picture for that day.

I still needed a hiking column, though, so I called my buddy Geoff Tischbein and met him and his new puppy, Kali, for breakfast the next morning at the Lunch Loop on Monument Road. The Lunch Loop is extremely popular for hiking, mountain biking and running, but it has not been as crowded lately because the Monument Road Bridge is out. Not as many people are driving up this way.

Normally, to get here, all you have to do is take Grand Avenue across the Colorado River, turn left on Monument Road, then travel a couple miles up the road to the Tabeguache Trailhead on your left. 

These days, there’s a detour. Turn on Monument Road, as normal, but at the blocked Redlands Canal, veer left onto D Road. Follow this for .4 miles and it takes a sharp right turn onto Rosevale Road. Follow Rosevale for .8 miles to Redlands Road. Turn right and follow Redlands Road for 1.1 miles back Monument Road. Turn left onto Monument Road and travel another 1.3 miles to the trailhead, which sports a large, relatively new parking area and an even newer vault toilet.  

The Tabeguache (pronounced TAB-a-watch) Trail crosses public land for 142 miles connecting Montrose and Grand Junction. The trail begins in Shavano Valley outside Montrose and weaves through the canyons, mesas and highlands of the Uncompahgre Plateau before ending here in No Thoroughfare Canyon on Monument Road.

Most of the trail is on remote lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The Lunch Loop section of the trail, however, is extremely popular and certainly not remote. Nonetheless, when you travel around the Lunch Loop trails, you’ll feel like you’re in the wilderness. Crowds spread out well here. 

With all this use comes some problems. Numerous social trails on this arid landscape erode badly. The BLM tries to restrict use to designated trails that are constructed properly with the contours of the land in mind. Sometimes, however, people still go their own way.

One trail here, the Pet-e-Kes Trail, is an example of how to construct a trail correctly. It offers views of Colorado National Monument, BLM lands and the Grand Valley, and is built so that both hikers and mountain bikers can enjoy it. It’s a little wider than some of the mountain bike trails in this area, so it’s wide enough to hike along. 

This trail is built with the intermediate hiker/biker in mind. The Tabeguache Trail attracts lots of advanced mountain bikers, but the area was somewhat limited to those expert riders. Now, here’s a new trail for the rest of us, with more trail-building planned for this summer. 

You can get involved. Call BLM, contact the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association (COPMOBA, http://www.copmoba.org), or visit your favorite bike shop for more information.

Dogs are welcome as long as they’re under control, and as long as their humanoid companions pick up after them. Pet owners should keep in mind that bubonic plague activity has been documented in this area. In 2006, two domestic cats tested positive for plague. Both cats were near South Camp and Monument Roads, adjacent to the national monument. That’s only 1.2 miles from the Tabeguache Trailhead.

While normally not an issue this time of year because of colder temperatures, ground squirrels, prairie dogs and rabbits are common hosts of infected fleas. When a rodent dies, the fleas look for a new host. Plague may be transmitted to humans by bites from rodent fleas, by handling of infected animal carcasses, or by scratches or bites from infected domestic cats.

Keep your pets under control and don’t let them roll on a dead animal, or pick one up. For more information about plague, or to report a dead rodent, call the Mesa County Health Department at 248-6969. 

We hiked early in the morning the other day, just as the sun rose. I didn’t see any dead rodents and I kept my hat on. Honest. I’m religious about applying sunscreen each morning after I shave, but as Dr. Stiefler said, “Probably too little too late.”

If you’re hiking around these parts with your kids, make them pile on the sunscreen. You should set the example. 

However, skin cancer or not, I’m going to hike and bike and ski and fish. I just can’t help myself.

After all, that’s why we live here!

And the Lunch Loop is so close, you can hike or ride there for lunch ... or breakfast, as the case may be!


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