Turkey Flats Loop Trail a great place to spot a butterfly or two
Butterflies are fascinating. In everyday life, butterflies are mainly concerned with feeding, escaping from predators and finding a partner.
Yet, as I hiked along Turkey Flats Loop Trail the other day, it appeared that butterflies acted more like puppies, chasing each other’s tails, zigging and zagging across the hillside, flitting from one flower to the next.
There were tons of butterflies on this trail last week, and they found tons of nectar to gather nourishment in the broad, wide fields of wildflowers on Pinon Mesa.
What kind of butterflies were they? Yellow ones. And some orange ones. And some dark gray ones.
There are approximately 115,000 species of moths and butterflies in the world. I don’t even know the three or four I saw on Turkey Flats, but they’re still cool. So is the Turkey Flats Trail. In fact, it’s about 20 degrees cooler than in town.
When the swamp cooler is working overtime in the Grand Valley, it’s time to make a quick escape to a higher altitude. This trail head is only 25 miles from town, but it sits at 8,400 feet in elevation, in the middle of a beautiful, cool, quaking aspen forest.
With lots of wildflowers.
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, but as I’ve noted before, your support of a national monument in our own backyard is greatly appreciated by all outdoor enthusiasts.
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, because 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 the Grand Mesa National Forest.
Travel past Fruita Reservoir #1 and the Fruita picnic ground, then past Fruita Reservoir #2. About .3 miles past #2, you’ll see the Turkey Flats trail head on your left. Park on the right.
This trail is great both winter (for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing) and summer (for hiking, bike riding, horseback adventures, fishing, wildlife watching, etc). 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.
Speaking of which, for planning purposes, you may want to cut this out: Deer and elk archery hunting seasons run from Aug. 27 to Sept. 25 this year. The first major rifle-hunting season for deer and elk begins on Oct. 15 and the last major rifle hunting season ends on Nov. 20.
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, then meander down into a long, lovely park where the Turkey Flats trail meets Haypress Trail #662. Go left, or northeast, and continue on Trail #661 through another 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 Trail #663. Take a hard right, turning south.
If you continue forward here, you’ll find yourself at the Fruita Picnic Grounds, which you passed on your drive in. Follow Trail #663 through a gate, then along the reservoir. As you leave the reservoir, continuing south and slightly west, the path climbs again.
About a mile and a half past the reservoir, you’ll come to a junction with Trail #646. Continue southwest, staying right at the junction.
You’ll now actually be on Trail #646, but stay on it for another mile or mile and a half, and eventually the trail begins heading north again onto Haypress Trail #662. Take that back to the meadow you visited hours ago, then turn left onto Turkey Flats Trail #661 and back to the vehicle.
By the way, do you know how the butterfly got its name? I found 44,800,000 answers on the Internet, but here’s the one I like: During the spring, cows would have their calves and produce milk that would be turned into butter. Springtime is also when butterflies begin to hatch. They were named butterflies because they would fly around while milk was churned to butter.
I’ll be dipped in buttermilk!