Rediscovering Lunch Loop through Three Sisters and the Bookends Expansions
By Chris Muhr and Libby Collins
COPMOBA/Mesa Land Trust
Lunch Loop is known to many of us for its rugged and wild mountain bike terrain. Yet, the land on which that trail system traverses is loaded with history.
When a local paleontologist wanders the property, he often stoops to pick up a gizzard stone, left from a dinosaur intestine. Colorado and Gunnison River gravels coat the hilltops of the Three Sisters, evidence of ancient channels far above the modern day Colorado River.
And, as you stand atop the Big Sister and look out over the Valley, it is easy to imagine other more ancient peoples spending time on the benches overlooking the Colorado River and the distant Bookcliffs and Grand Mesa. In fact, Paleo-Indian artifacts have been found in the Lunch Loop area that date back 10,000 years. More recently, the Utes and their ancestors spent time enjoying their own trails, beautiful views, and night skies.
While the Mesa Land Trust was raising money to purchase the Three Sisters and convert it to public open space, our valley’s own older generations came forth with tales of exploration and local lore about the Three Sisters and Lunch Loop. The broken glass and rusted tin cans with bullet holes testifies to fun and wild times for youth enjoying night skies in their own way. Many old timers speak fondly of school picnics; bike rides to lands that used to seem so far from town, armed with a mason jar of water and a few hot dogs to roast over an afternoon camp fire; and driving jeeps all over, forging a few of the trails that exist today.
One recollection is of driving a 1948 jeep in first ascents up some of those rugged hillsides, including the Widowmaker. This same jeep was occasionally used for students celebrating their 12th birthday to get behind the wheel on a few of the more tame trails. In 1970, elementary students participated in the first trash clean-up at Lunch Loop to celebrate the first Earth Day.
Then there are the old timer mountain bike riders like Lenny Dunn who has been attributed for laying down some of the first tracks at Lunch Loop on those old jeep roads forged by that same 1948 jeep!
Lenny Dunn and Walt Bergman have also been credited for first rides up Jacob’s Ladder and Widowmaker in the 1970s. Though Lunch Loop and Three Sisters are known today for mountain biking, runners and walkers and dog walkers have been following old jeep roads and forging new trails for decades as well.
As Bergman was quoted in “Cycling” magazine, ‘We grew up here, but with mountain bikes we rediscovered the Valley.”
Mesa Land Trust, the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, the Bureau of Land Management and the City of Grand Junction hope to keep that sense of discovery and exploration alive by working collaboratively to purchase more land for public open space along Monument Road.
The Three Sisters, once zoned for a high-density residential development, are now protected forever, will always serve as public open space, generating more memorable outdoor experiences for folks of all ages. COPMOBA, Mesa Land Trust, and BLM continue to develop trails on Three Sisters that connect to Lunch Loop. While these trails were designed for beginner riders, many more advanced riders enjoy the sweeping gentle trails around the Sisters to warm up or cool down.
Mesa Land Trust is now raising funds to purchase the Bookends, two properties that flank Lunch Loop and Three Sisters trail areas. These properties will add another 63 acres, expand trails, protect views that are critical for trail users, neighbors, and those that drive along Monument Road.
The enormous support Mesa Land Trust received from the community to purchase the Three Sisters and the hundreds of volunteers that have built trails with COPMOBA and BLM on Three Sisters and Lunch Loop testify how our community values recreation and conservation are along Monument Road.
Monument Road historically has been a place of adventure, exploration, and learning and today is a critical asset for our community that provides healthy and active lifestyles, ensures an enviable quality of life, and promotes our local economy.
Please help Mesa Land Trust purchase the Bookends! Go to http://www.mesalandtrust.org and donate!
Special note of thanks to Josh McDaniel who provided quotes and information from his article “How mountain bikes ‘rediscovered’ the Grand Valley,” in Cycling 2008.