Grand getaway to Grand Mesa
Sometimes you need nothing worse in the world than a weekend getaway, even if it’s just a hop and skip away. My wife and I found a perfect one with friends last weekend.
We scored a cute cabin at a historic resort deep in the heart of the Grand Mesa — the expanse of high country that dominates the scenery east of Grand Junction and Palisades, on the south side of Interstate 70. The place where we stayed, Grand Mesa Lodge, is at about 10,500 feet in elevation, so it’s been getting pounded by snowstorms. By the time we arrived Saturday, they had received six feet of snow since Jan. 31. We pulled up to our cabin and found a snow bank towering to within two feet of the eaves.
The cabin was clean, rustic and contained a kick-ass fireplace that kept us cozy. But we were there to ski, not to lounge. The County Line cross-country ski trail network was just 2 miles from our cabin. The grooming is typically immaculate for the 14.1 kilometers of classic and skating trails that undulate between 10,786 to 10,839 feet in elevation. There are no big climbs or long, sweet descents, but the views blow you away.
We were glad to be tucked in the trees for most of Saturday’s outing. When we emerged into one of the numerous natural parks, we found snowdrifts piling up on the trail from a persistent western breeze.
We spent the evening playing games, drinking brews and eating a dinner of hearty beef stew warmed up in the full kitchen. We were ready to hit the trails again by 9 a.m. Sunday. We returned to the County Line system since it is dog friendly. The 19.6-kilometer Skyway trail system, just a few more miles away from our cabin, is dog-free. We had Ginger the wonder dog with us.
Both trail systems are segregated from dedicated snowmobile trails.
We were the first car at the trailhead parking lot Sunday morning even though it wasn’t that cold. We were delighted that the snowcat had just groomed a perfect carpet of corduroy. Clumps of snow remained pasted to the major branches of trees in the thick spruce stands. The trails snake and wiggle through these stands. Every few tenths of a kilometer, skiers emerge from thick woods to wind through snow-covered meadows and frozen-over lakes. The immensity of the backcountry playground and the sense of solitude is the strength of the area. The snow was piled up at least two feet on the sides of the groomed trails, adding to the amazement at an epic snow year.
We had to depart way too soon and start on our 2½ hour drive back to the mid-Roaring Fork Valley. We vowed to return.
Travelers looking for luxury and adrenalin-sparked adventure can skip this trip. Those looking for a rustic getaway into one of Colorado’s magnificent wild places are well advised to check out Grand Mesa.
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While the Aspen/Basalt composite mountain bike team couldn’t defend its state championship, it did get a strong showing from its youngest riders this past weekend in the Colorado High School Cycling League finale in Durango.