Rain and Desperate Measures: The Grand Valley’s Riverfront Trail

Back in September when Colorado was getting doused in rain, I really wanted to go for a ride… but the trails were soaked. As a biker or outdoor enthusiast, what can you do?  You can’t fight Mother Nature, so instead you have to adapt.

For mountain bikers in the area, that means finding another way to stay fit, because bikers here know that riding wet, muddy trails is not an option.  This photo by fellow Singletrack and Skinny Tires Sister, Kristina Kettleson, has been circulating on Facebook:

This is what happens when people ride on muddy trails.  They make new lines, they leave ruts, and they trash their bikes.  Here in the desert, those ruts will stay for quite some time and the fragile grasses growing at the edge might not rebound either.  I understand that sometimes people travel a long way to bike and it doesn’t seem fair when you get here and the trails are a mess.  Still, I don’t believe that “riding anyway” is the right solution.  Take a day off and try to let the trails dry out by taking a brewery tour.  Please, if you can at all avoid it, don’t ride our very fragile trails when they’re muddy.

So one day, in an effort to stay off the dirt trails, I improvised and went for a ride on the Riverfront Trail.  After a week of nothing more than rides to work and back, I figured any ride was better than none at all.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I am not a road biker.  I don’t find road biking to be nearly as entertaining as mountain biking, and I don’t even own a real road bike.  I do have a ride-to-work bike: a rigid Sette frame with cross bike tires and Singletracks stickers on it.  I was desperate though, so I hopped on my bike and set off across town to the river.

Our Riverfront Trail is a paved trail that runs from Palisade, Colorado all the way to Fruita, along the banks of the Colorado River.  Along the way it passes through areas like the Junior League Service Park, the Audubon Nature Center and Connected Lakes, which is a great area for walking, fishing and picnicking.  The trail doesn’t cross many roads and is wide enough for bikers to pass each other or for moms with strollers to walk side-by-side.

Not long after turning onto the trail behind the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, I knew that staying off the dirt trails was the right decision.  Water was still standing everywhere!

The views of Mt. Garfield were spectacular, though.  I biked along at around 12 mph on my cross bike, and just enjoyed the ride.

My destination was Corn Lake.  I’d never been there before, but I liked having an end point.  Corn Lake is about 8 miles from my house and about 6 miles down the Riverfront Trail from where I started.  Along the way I passed so many people; everyone was desperate to get out and enjoy some sunshine!

Seniors walked parts of the trail, other bikers had the same idea as me, and lots of people were out with their dogs.  Honestly, I’m not sure how so many of them could amble along at a slow pace, because the gnats were insane!  Thankfully they weren’t bad on the whole ride, but I rode through several swarms; I tried to hold my breath as long as I could!

Finally I came across a sign that said Corn Lake was just another 1.5 miles ahead. I rounded the corner a few minutes later and pulled off to the side. It was quiet here.  Fish jumped, leaving ripples across the water.  People wandered around the other side of the peaceful lake.

Views of Corn Lake from the Riverfront Trail.

By the time I got home I’d ridden 16 miles in a little over an hour.  It certainly wasn’t a mountain bike ride, but sometimes you just have to “make do.”  If “making do” means a peaceful ride to a lake like this, I’ll take it!