5K or 5 miles?

Since our return to Grand Junction, Colorado a week ago, we’ve been getting in plenty of hiking in and around the Colorado National Monument.  Our time here in the area is soon coming to an end.  Fall is in the air.

Independence Monument

Colorado National Monument; the monolith is called Independence Monument

Colorado National Monument

getting closer with each step

While sitting at the picnic table at James Robb State Park, we observe a flock of Canadian geese flying overhead.  The cool nights and honking geese are a reminder that it’s about time for our migration south.  But…..there’s one more hike I must do before moving on.

In the past I’ve attempted this hike twice, but never went far enough, never rounded that last corner to have the iconic Independence Monument come into view.  Mind you, in both cases I was eager to continue the hike, but hiking partners were not.  I understand, especially since hiking in the Colorado National Monument is rather rugged and remote.  It’s best to be safe and also acknowledge one’s limitations.Independence Monument

Ah, that illusive monolith keeps calling to me.  Oh, how I long to stand at its base taking in all of its 450 foot height.  Independence Monument is probably Colorado National Monument’s most well-known rock formations.  Every Fourth of July, rock climbers scale this unique monolith and erect an American flag on top.  However, that’s not the only time climbers are seen scaling this rock.  On any given day one might see climbers.

I read about the Word Press 5K.  A 5K challenge and my innate desire to hike to Independence Monument….count me in.  So for the Automattic’s Worldwide WP 5K 2013, I enlist my sister-in-law (sil) as my hiking partner and Tuesday, September 24, 2013 she and I set off on the Lower Monument Canyon Trail in the Colorado National Monument.

Colorado National MonumentWe park at the Monument Canyon trailhead off Broadway/Hwy 340 just 2 miles west of the Fruita entrance to the Colorado National Monument.  It’s a sunny, beautiful day in western Colorado.  The heavy drenching of rain we received on Sunday has the trail nicely packed keeping dust at a minimum.

Its 2.5 miles to the base of Independence Monument from the trailhead with a 500 foot elevation gain.  The trail starts out gentle and wide enough for sil and I to walk next to each other while chit chatting.  After about ten minutes the trail narrows and I take the lead.  It’s a moderate, steady uphill climb with some technical hiking in spots.  Sil brought her walking stick to steady herself in some of the tricky spots.

hiking Colorado

the trail consists of rock and dirt

Colorado National Monument

We continue on the trail….no monument in sight yet

We are walking in silence, taking in the surrounding beauty.  We admire the vibrant red rocks and their various shapes and sizes.  We breathe in the scent of pine from the pinyon trees and listen to the birds overhead.

We’re about thirty minutes into our hike when I hear a rustling in the brush and quickly come to a stop.  I glance around.  Finding the source of movement, I point to the valley below alerting sister-in-law of the group of bighorn sheep.  It was all I could do to keep sil from screeching in delight.  She and my brother have lived in Grand Junction almost nine years and every year they set off on hikes in search of bighorn sheep.  This was her first sighting and she was excited beyond all.  We stood there watching these magnificent animals before reluctantly pulling ourselves away.  We have a 5K to complete after all.

Colorado National Monument

I round the corner and there it is in all its glory….Independence Monument

hiking ColoradoWe continue on our hike with a new-found spring in our step and smiles from ear to ear.  It wasn’t long before we rounded a corner and there it was in all its glory….Independence Monument.  Our pace quickens and soon we’re standing at the base of this monolith looking up.

This sandstone rock sculpture looks different from each angle.  When we approach the rock from the east, we see the narrow side giving the impression it is tall and slender.  As we walk around to the other side, it widens and we see the path and wall rock climbers use to climb.

rock climbing

climbers use this side to ascend

I made it to the base of Independence Monument…..finely 🙂  However, to this point we’ve hiked only 2.5 miles.  I need to hike 3.1 to equal that 5K.  Sil and I also need to decide if we want to return to the trailhead back through Monument Canyon, the way we came, or complete a loop by taking the unimproved Wedding Canyon Trail.  Sil is unfamiliar with Wedding Canyon Trail and is a little concerned with the word “unimproved”.


5K or 3.1 miles so far

I’m feeling great.  I feel adventurous.  Bighorn sheep and accomplishing a long desired hike, who wouldn’t be.  So I say, “Let’s go for it”.  At the base of Independence Monument we pick up Wedding Canyon Trail.  Just before we round the mesa, I figure we’ve hit that 5K mark.  Yeah!


That’s the mesa we hiked around. The trail is down there…somewhere….in the valley to the left of Independence Monument

The trail leads us around a mesa.  This huge mesa, plateau, rock, mountain whatever one calls it, blocks the sun on the trail giving us some wonderful shade to hike in.


leaving Independence Monument behind we continue our hike via Wedding Canyon Trail

Wedding Canyon trail does have some steep up and down moments requiring us to focus on our footing.  We also enjoy stopping along the way to stare in awe at the majestic scenery.  Once we round the mesa, we’re greeted with bright sunshine and a somewhat flat trail.wwwp5K


sister-in-law looking back at the trail from where we came before climbing the last hill

“Are we there yet?”  We’re about ready to end this hike and thinking the trailhead can’t be too far off.  That’s when sil and I notice the trail going up.  In unison we comment, “Oh, no.  You gotta be fricken kidding me!”  We have one last hill to climb or at least we hope it’s the last.  We’re really tired at this point.

Finally we make it to where the two trails, Monument Canyon and Wedding Canyon, meet and our car sits just a little beyond. We climb into the vehicle, but not without uttering a few grunts and groans.  Yep, we’re feeling it, but in a good way.  We hiked 5 miles in 2 hours.  5K or 5 miles?  With scenery like this, who’s counting?


We hiked the Wedding/Monument Canyon Loop and loved it. We’ll do it again…..just not tomorrow 😆


Or maybe we’ll hike around the “Coke Ovens”….more rock sculpture’s 😉


59 thoughts on “5K or 5 miles?

  1. Pingback: Photo Challenge: Monument | Live Laugh RV

  2. Ingrid — Finding this a little late, but loved your description and photos of this hike — will have to “store” this in case we get out that way! Good for you for finishing the loop! Couldn’t help thinking of Sue Henry’s mystery “The Serpent’s Trail,” which is set in Grand Junction and uses part of The Monument as the plot… and when you figure in the main character (Maxie McNabb) is an RVer, well…. now you know why it came to mind when I read your post.

    What hiking shoes do you wear? I’ve tried several kinds — loved Ecco brand until they changed the style and didn’t fit, but then found Oboz (the company is headquartered in Bozeman, MT) and LOVE them! They have great grips for those tricky spots.

    Travel safe!

    • As a matter of fact, we hiked ‘Serpent’s trail’ several times. I believe its the most popular trail in the Monument. I’ll need to check out that book. I recently bought a pair of “Keen” hiking shoes that seem to be working pretty well for me. My REI socks seem to make a difference as well especially on the longer hikes. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Pingback: Yesterday wine, today whine | Live Laugh RV

  4. You’re making me want to revisit this area again! We go west next winter,but mostly along the coast so I don’t know if it will work – but I sure want to see them again.

  5. Another proof of your persistence, diligence and strong will. Incredible photos all throughout but that last shot is simply awesome. Outstanding display of the expansive field on a shot. I would so be on that edge of the cliff without hesitation as well.

  6. Do you see a trail? I don’t see a trail. I don’t see a trail in any of those photos, lovely as they are. I’m sure you have a little mountain goat in you. That’s a comment on your hiking-in-rough-terrain ability, you understand. What a great accomplishment. I like sights I can drive up to so I’m happy once again for you to do the hike!!! lol

    • My new hiking boots are allowing me to do some fun stuff and I don’t mind doing the hiking for you….lol. We’ll be in your neck of the woods next week. I’ll be sure and let ya know 🙂

    • Thanks. Since you’ve been hiking the U.P. you’d handle this hike just fine. The hardest part is not stopping all the time for those photo ops.

      • Well, I had planned to do a final hike with Nina tomorrow out at Cape Blanco, but it doesn’t look likely with wind gusts up to 90 mph in the forecast.

        • Oh my….90 mph? I’m in Moab right now and the last couple of days getting sandblasted with 40 mph….that’s bad enough. Gorgeous today. Those seas have got to be wild with winds like that!

          • Tried to get some pics at Bandon couldn’t get the car door open they were so strong. When I did manage to get out, they just about knocked me off my feet. I decided to give it up at that point. 😉

  7. Ingrid, what a wonderful, lovely day to spend with your SIL! You both will treasure this experience for a life time It shows your true character to never give up on something you desire! Congratulations! Beautiful photos and a lovely post! 🙂

  8. For a moment you made me feel young again…You are so in shape to be able to tackle that one. It almost looks like you had to slide on your bottom during part of the Wedding trail. Congratulations on making your goal happen! Gorgeous pictures! I’m cheering for you in my nice comfy chair. 🙂

  9. Excellent job..!! The only fear I have of being that remote is cell phone service if a fall should occur and help is needed…But..then again, Dennis and I are at a MUCH more advanced age. We like adventures, but realize we aren’t as sure footed as those majestic animals. Time to get South, so …make like a baby and “head out”!!!

    • Ah, we are already on the move and should be in Phx next week. Yeah, Al’s always the practical one and concerned about one of us getting injured and no cell service….yada, yada, yada…..hikes like that make me feel alive…..alive, because I didn’t die of exhaustion 😆

  10. Great Job!! So glad you final got to the base of Independence Monument. Sure looked like a fun hike. Good that you went all out and did the loop. A new adventure is always so much fun (usually). Congratulations:)

  11. A gem of a hike! The Monument is a real “sleeper,” overlooked in an area with so many National Parks to divert attention. And that’s why you had it mostly to yourself. 🙂
    Box Canyon Mark

    • Agree! Although there are some very popular trails….Serpents Trail which we hiked a few times, was always busy. If I keep this up, I’ll be ready for some of those 13er’s in the San Juans next summer.

  12. Congrats on achieving your goal Ingrid! Terry and I are so anxious to get some hiking miles in. You are in the perfect place to rack up some of those miles. 🙂

    • Thanks Lu. I’m finally doing some of the hiking I’ve wanted to. It feels great to get our activity level back up. I think its safe to say Al and I have finally recovered from the last couple of years. Next……work past that 2 hour mark!

  13. You are in such a beautiful place.. I love the rock formations and scenery that you had to feast your eyes on… For a moment there I thought you and SiL were going to attempt the climb and I was full of admiration, but there you go disappointing me again… this was a lovely share of a beautiful area… when you head south for the winter, where are we going to.???

    • I was waiting for you to assist with the ropes….I was ready to climb….lol. It truly was a great day and great hike. We’ve hit the road and heading to more red rock on our way to Arizona….stay tuned!

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