Stash of singletrack heaven a secret no longer
Some of us have to face the fact that Fruita just isn’t a secret anymore. Although the place had for years been something of the quiet, neglected sister to mountain biking Mecca Moab, Utah, by the looks of the crowd wrapping up the 10th annual Fruita Fat Tire Festival last weekend, the Colorado singletrack venue is doing more than capturing wheels on its tracks. What’s cool is that miraculously, it appears that the multitudes haven’t altered the landscape. This has a lot to do with the Over the Edge Sports Fruita mountain bike scene pioneers, the integrity they’ve maintained in the singletrack and its upkeep through the years – which is evident even in the Fat Tire Fest’s inclusion of events like a trail-building conference.
When I told people that I was making my spring trip to Fruita last week after having not been in two years, the news was met with all sorts of cautionary sighs about how packed it would be, how, on any given Saturday in May, a cloud of dust in the sky from the stampede of bikers is as noticeable as the neon glow of Las Vegas from dozens of miles across the darkened Nevada desert, and how the Fat Tire Fest would surely yield everyone in the entire state who has any vague interest in mountain biking.I first rode Fruita about five years ago, just when it seemed a whole lot of High Country riders were catching on that it’s about an hour closer than Moab and, well, … a lot better. As Troy Rarick, king of Over the Edge Sports and responsible for the majority of Fruita’s expanse of singletrack, points out in his comprehensive riding guide, “Fruita Fat Tire Guide,” Fruita has a lot less sand than Moab and a lot more singletrack. Every spring since I made the first trip, people seemed to catch on exponentially. A campsite at Bookcliffs (one of five different riding areas along with Kokopelli, Douglas Pass, the Tabeguache area and Rabbit Valley) had become tougher and tougher to find – each designated spot on the low-key area of BLM land had been claimed by one gear-packed truck or another. Somehow, it always worked out and we’d grab a spot as others were on their way out.
This spring though, it seems that every second person I’ve talked to in the last month has mentioned something about a trip to Fruita. So, prepared to take my chances and camp in the City Market parking lot if need be, we packed up Friday morning, headed west and braced ourselves for the inevitable cloud on the horizon.The cloud was there, but not like we were expecting. An ominous black one hovered over Bookcliffs and, while it might have discouraged some riders, we were suitably pleased to find a camp spot upon our first search and outright shocked to not run into another soul on The Edge Loop that afternoon. Saturday in the Kokopelli area was a different story. But, like the times I’ve been to Fruita in the past, it amazed me how courteous such multitudes of riders can be on the trail. Every rider I encountered followed trail etiquette of yielding and riding “the narrow line” over obstacles to avoid erosion off-trail, and some even offered words of encouragement to those of us wheezing up steep pitches and wobbling over rocks.
The trucks eventually did roll into the Bookcliffs camping area, but rolled obediently out once they saw the designated sites were already taken. Everyone seemed to mind the rules of setting up camp and packing out waste – I didn’t see a trace of litter all weekend – and everyone rode in the trenched-out road to reach the singletrack from their sites rather than creating renegade trails. Despite the frequent rain and obvious softening of the trails, the only ruts we encountered were made by cows.I’ve come to terms with the fact that good secrets are often hard to keep. Fruita, whose visitors will inevitably continue to multiply, is one place that thankfully is just the way it used to be. Let’s hope it stays that way.Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com.Vail Colorado
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