How do you narrow all the awesome things to do during the summer in Mesa County down to a list of seven? Well, to be honest, someone (since I’m writing this, I get to be that someone) has to make the decisions. I’ll admit I’m biased, and that this is nothing more than my opinion, so feel free to add your comments and voice your choices.
Having grown up in the valley, and moved away for a while, I’ve gained a fresh perspective on what stands out as great summer-time fun. So, here’s my choices…
1. Colorado National Monument.
I’m totally amazed by how many people, who live in the valley, have never spent time on the Monument. Growing up my family spent almost every summer weekend having a cookout or picnic at Devil’s Kitchen. I loved all the eating, hiking, and playing until after dark, what a great place to grow up! When I was taking Driver’s Ed in high school, we had to drive over the Monument… there’s a learning curve thrown at you! That’s where your tour of the CNM should start. Drive it. Stop often. Get out and look. Stare and take lots of pictures. Do it again, at a different time of day. You’ll be amazed how the view changes as the sun and clouds move through the day.
Need an adrenaline rush? There’s nothing quite like getting out on Cold Shiver’s Point… but make sure you get the wife (or whoever) out of the car to take your picture!
2. Fruita. Since you’re already close, you’ve got to find out why it is an international destination! Mountain biking is exploding, and there’s nothing like Fruita. But bikes aren’t the only thing moving in the lower valley. Fruita hosts the Fat Tire Festival, Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, and the Fall Festival, just to name a few. Have an itch for music? Thursday Night Concerts happen all through the summer, and the big boys come to play during Country Jam down the road at Loma. There is more than enough happening in this end of the valley to keep your summer full!
But wait, that’s just the first two. And you don’t have enough time in your summer to do all that those two offer. Yet, there’s more!
3. Downtown GJ. To start with I have only one word. Enstrom’s. I could quit right there, but I won’t. There is so much going on downtown. It is rich with culture, from the food and dining experiences, to the Museum of the West, and all the way through a summer-long series of events. Why not try the GJ Off-Road/US Bank & Downtown Art+Music Festival (maybe they should just shorten it to… GJ OR DAM Fest)? Have you been downtown for the Farmer’s Market? Go, you shouldn’t be disappointed! Make sure you check out what’s playing at the Avalon, all the shopping, and you can even spend your nights staying right downtown.
4. Baseball! Where do I begin? As I write this the Colorado Mesa University Maverick’s have won 19 straight games and are ranked #1 in the NCAA Division II National Coaches Poll, and it looks like it should be an exciting run! But summer baseball really gets started with the annual JUCO tourney starting Memorial Day weekend. Since 1958, the best Junior College baseball teams have converged on GJ to slug it out until only one team stands alone. When I was growing up we would go watch the Eagle’s play semi-pro ball at Lincoln Park, now we get to watch the GJ Rockies play at Suplizio Field! But you don’t have to just watch. Baseball and softball are played all summer long by teams and individuals who love the game, join in!
5. Land’s End Overlook.
I guess you could say the entire Grand Mesa, but I especially love the drive up Land’s End Road and the view, from the San Juan’s to the La Sal’s across the valley to the Bookcliff’s. It’s a great spot for a picnic (with the chipmunks as well), and a leisurely stroll along the rim. But why stop there? There are fish to catch, wild flowers to photograph, moose to see and Crag Crest to hike. All the way over the world’s largest flat-topped mountain to Mesa Lakes, there is a plethora of things to do and see! But you have to go up!
This could easily get really, really long. Just giving a list with no explanations would be simple, but it wouldn’t give you any idea why each was included. And yet, so much more needs to be said. Make sure you check out the links!
6. Palisade. Where do I begin? Fruit? Wine? Festivals? Hiking and/or Biking? Home to over 20 vineyards and wineries, Palisade is sure to have something for any wine lover’s palate. Peaches, awesome, tree ripe peaches, you cannot beat them! You can enjoy great music at a number of concert venues all the way to the Bluegrass and Roots Festival. Other notable festivals include the Peach Fest and Winefest. Palisade offers so much to do, taste and see… it’s surprising that it falls at #6. (But this list isn’t a ranking… it’s only a list!)
7. Mount Garfield. Can you really claim to be a citizen of the valley if you haven’t make the pilgrimage to the top of Mt. Garfield? Yes, I know it is physically taxing (I’m in training now to make my next assault), but it is a special badge of merit to have scaled the heights and looked out over the valley to the south and the backside of the Bookcliff’s and the Roan Plateau to the north. And there is nothing like spending the night up there to watch the stars, eat next to a campfire, and wake up to the sun rising over the Mesa (not sure that you can still do that, but it was fun back in the last century!).
There you have it. My idea of Seven Fun Summer-time Things to Do in Mesa County. How many have you done? What would be on your list? And what new, fun thing should I try this summer?