Emily & Silent Partner
In our continuing series on places we’ve stayed in the Airstream, I am proud to introduce Fruita Colorado.
*According to a local we spoke with, Fruita is pronounced “Froo”-“tah”. Apologies to any other locals reading this blog if we got that wrong.
Free! That’s right – we boondocked on BLM land north of Fruita near the 18 Road Trailhead for free. As American citizens BLM land belongs to all of us so you can stay out here for up to 14 days at no charge. Etiquette suggests however, you try your very best to occupy only a campsite that has previously been established, pack out whatever you packed in, never dump water (not even gray water), be mindful of fires (as in dead out when unattended) and in general leave things better than they were when you got there.
Amenities & Activities
The 18 Road Trailhead is about 40 minutes north of town on a curiously non-linear route that threads itself among beautiful rural Colorado farmsteads and frustratingly slow school buses. Buses aside, the seemly endless series of lefts and rights eventually gives way to dirt as 18 road crosses onto BLM land; finally heading north uninterrupted.
We stayed at a dispersed spot slightly south-east of the trailhead and made use of a previously established fire ring and turn-around for the Airstream.
Since we were boondocking we were entirely cut off from services. Survival consisted, therefore, of a combination of solar and generator for power, our 50-gallon tank for water and every nook and cranny stuffed full of food for provisions. At the end of our stay we stopped by the Colorado Welcome Center, which offers a free dump station and water fill.
Our camp site was comprised of dense compressed clay and sadly we were also heavily surrounded by foxtails, an aggressive weed-like grass that is very harmful to pets. This heavily limited our dog-walking activities and definitely blemished the experience. The best thing about boondocking, though, are the stars, which are just unbelievable out there.
As remote as this spot felt, services were within easy reach. We utilized the Fruita Laundromat several times. Across the street is Judy’s Family Restaurant serving authentic delicious Americana at fair prices with genuine friendly service. We shopped at City Market for groceries and washed our bikes and truck at the Wildcat Car Wash.
This area is wildly popular for off-road enthusiasts and there seemed to be a good balance of roads and trails for everyone. We also saw some horseback riders and plenty of other mountain bikers, noise was low and everybody pretty much kept to themselves. Also best of all cell signal was strong.
We came to this spot because Fruita is somewhat legendary in the mountain biking community, essentially right up there with Moab. Unfortunately, while we were staying there (early November) it rained quite a bit and I discovered on my first attempt to ride Western Zippity that the ground here is actually dried super glue, and when mixed with even the slightest amount of water, it turns into a dreadful slag that instantly cakes on wheels, gears, pedals and chains making riding impossible.
Once the rain subsided I did finally squeeze in one ride on the Zippity Loop.
This trail is marked blue/black and I would agree this is an accurate designation. Altitude makes for moderate fitness and there was one intense hike-a-bike on the north portion of the ride.
The ride wasn’t wildly technical except for one downhill on these ridges where I dismounted due to a puckery incline. As you all know by now I ride to zen out, and I got that on the western part of the trail but had to reel it in so as not to die on the black part of the eastern leg.
What Could Go Wrong
No Airstream Issues!
We came through Fruita in mid November, a full month later than we’d intended. This was due to a massive six week delay in Denver while Windish RV replaced a broken A/C unit and addressed a dozen other quality issues. They did excellent work, though and the repairs have held to this day. I also would not recommend hanging out in the Rockies this late in the season, we got lucky with only some moderate rain but at those altitudes anything can happen.
No Riding in the Rain
Because of our November arrival we were on a bit of a schedule and moved through Fruita quickly. The rain caught up with us there really giving me only one day to explore. When I tried to ride in the rain anyway I was severely punished by the cement-in-disguise. My only takeaway is don’t try to ride in the rain here, as I had to carry my bike out a mile (1.6 km) and take it to a car wash to get all the crud off.
As I mentioned previously foxtails are harmful to pets. We had a severe incident with one of those little buggers embedding in one of our dachshund’s paws leading to an abscess. Because of this lesson we very carefully charted a course to walk the dogs and inspected them after each walk to remove any hitchhikers.
Fruita is an interesting stop on our journey because my silent partner and I almost always agree on what locations we liked, except for here. I loved the remoteness and the one trail I got to ride was gorgeous. My silent partner, on the other hand, thought it was too lunar in appearance and found the foxtails ruined dog-walking. I suppose this means this particular location in Fruita, for us, did not have “it”.
We still talk about it though, and if you’re in the area I say go for it and ride the rides! Just be very careful with your pets and please respect the land, we saw a fair amount of damage from ATVs, which seemed so senseless.