Friday, September 25, 2009

In Search of the Wiley Trout

We limped into Grand Junction and settled into the local KOA for two days. We had hoped to stay in the Colorado River State Park, but learned that it was only 40 yards or so from Interstate 70. The KOA is south of town, very quiet, and has trees!

When we chose Grand Junction as our next destination, we had in mind two things in particular that we wanted to see. One was Colorado National Monument, and the second was Grand Mesa. Since we had a limited amount of time, we chose Grand Mesa and will save Colorado National Monument for another visit.

Grand Junction is located on the Colorado River and has an elevation of +/- 4600 feet. Grand Mesa rises to over 10,800 feet. On Friday, we drove up to the mesa top for some fishing and were not disappointed. As we left the desert southwest environment, we entered groves of aspen and spruce on the higher elevations and mesa top.

The aspen were beginning to turn, so the vistas were spectacular! The transition was swift and amazing. We went from shorts and t-shirt weather below to a chilly 55 degrees on top with a brisk wind blowing.

Once on top of the mesa, we were surrounded by some 300 lakes. Many appear to be fed by snow-melt, and others have water sources from seeps, springs and small streams. They all, however, have fish! We fished in Ward Lake and Alexander Lake, shown below, and brought home our limit of rainbow trout. Dinner was a feast! The trout tasted wonderful, especially accompanied by fresh sweet corn and vine-ripened tomato salad, followed by Palisades peaches (the Colorado equivalent of Hill Country Peaches).

The produce here is local, fresh and especially wonderful. Most grocery stores have special sections of locally-grown fruits and vegetables, many of them organic. There are also numerous road-side stands with just-picked produce.

From Grand Junction, we drove 60 or so miles east on I-70 to Rifle Gap State Park, 10 miles or so outside Rifle, Colorado. Rifle Gap this time of year is quite dry, and the reservoir is down to about 50% of its capacity. There were people fishing, but mostly from boats. The shoreline slopes gradually into the reservoir, so it's not a good place for bank fishing.

We did have a good campsite, though, with a view of the lake and surrounding mountains. The campground, like many in Colorado, has been recently renovated and offers all the amenities. We had not only a stained concrete pad for the RV, but a covered picnic table and full hookups. The girls were excited to have a lake to play in, but were surprised at how cold it was....a shock to their Texas systems. They took a quick dip and were content to play along the shore.

We took day trips a few miles up the road to Rifle Falls State Park. The campground is quite small, but as you can see, the falls themselves are beautiful. Trails to either side pass cliffs honeycombed with caves. From the top of the falls there is a nice view of the valley. We were told the fishing in the stream above and below the falls is good, but in two days were unable to convince the numerous small trout to take the bait. Oh, well, we'll try again at our next stop.

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