staycation: grand mesa loop

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One of the best things about living where we do (near Glenwood Springs, Colorado), and one of the reasons we’ve chosen to live here twice, is its proximity to so many wonderful places. Within three hours we can be in Denver, Breckenridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Moab, Ouray and Ridgway, Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction…you get the idea. That makes it easy to get away for a week or just a weekend without traveling too far.

Sometimes, though, we can’t get away for a whole weekend (one of the downsides of owning a retail store) but still need to leave the house and yard work. It will always be here when we get back. I keep hoping that won’t be the case, but time and again it’s still here.

Solution? A staycation daytrip! We have lots of options, for which I’m forever grateful, and last weekend it was the Grand Mesa Loop. It was a favorite back when I was a badass motorcycle chick and it’s still a favorite when I’m in the passenger seat of the Jeep.

The Grand Mesa Loop route goes from Glenwood Springs to Carbondale to Redstone on the West Elk Scenic Byway, over McClure Pass, through Paonia, Hotchkiss and Cedaredge, over the Grand Mesa, through the Debeque Canyon Cutoff, and then I-70 back home. It’s 234 miles and five plus hours according to Google Maps, but that’s without all of the fun stops along the way.

This trip, our first stop was in Redstone to check out the General Store. The new owners have made a lot of improvements, including lots of seating out front. We bought a couple of treats, they have lots of fun, old-fashioned candy, and walked through the park as we ate them. This is such a picturesque setting, I’m awestruck every time. (See top photo.) It’s easy to spend a full day or weekend here, which we did on one of our anniversaries, with tours of the Redstone Castle and lots of galleries and shops. And, you’re off the grid.

Black Bridge Winery in Paonia

Next up, over the pass and through the woods to the Black Bridge Winery in Paoinia. We found this gem years ago returning home from watching a volleyball game in Delta and stop in whenever we can. The setting on the North Fork of the Gunnison River is ideallic, and they have thoughtfully placed Adirondack chairs where you can picnic on the wine and goodies from the store. We walked way with six bottles of wine, locally made summer sausage and cheeses, snacks, two kinds of hot sauces and some handmade soap. Score!

Alongside the North Fork of the Gunnison River at Black Bridge Winery

By now it was lunchtime and we knew exactly where we were headed: Big B’s Delicious Orchards. There is a lot going on here, and it’s all good. It’s a farm and orchard where you can drink hard cider, eat good food, camp in the orchard, listen to live music, play on giant swings, pick your own fruit and veggies, buy locally made or grown products and have a swell time while you’re at it. They have great festivals as well. This trip we split a flight of ciders and had lunch at the bar since it was raining lightly outside. I love the tamales, and Scott loves the BBQ pulled pork.

Cider tasting at Big B’s Delicious Orchards

Our next stop was a new one for us, one of nine in the West Elks AVA, also known as the North Fork Valley Wineries. Mesa Winds winery is off the beaten path in Hotchkiss and definitely worth a stop. Honestly, it doesn’t look that appealing driving up but inside the covered patio tasting area is a different story. There are a handful of table facing the Mesa, each with bouquets of fresh flowers. You can taste their wines as well as guest wines from other Colorado wineries. We were able to try wines from Sauvage Spectrum in Palisade and Buckle in Gunnison. We were full so we didn’t eat, but the menu options included a charcuterie board, a crimini mushroom and goat cheese tart, a ham and provolone panini, pan-seared Verlasso salmon (YUM!) and salted caramel bread pudding. I’ll save room for some of these treats the next time we stop.

Wine tasting at Mesa Winds Winery in Hotchkiss

We’d planned to visit the Snow Capped Cider tasting room in Cedaredge next, but apparently it didn’t survive the pandemic. We stopped where we thought it was, which was lucky for me because there were several shops inside and my favorite new shirt just happened to be right next to the ladies room. I want to spend more time there and check out the Williams Winery tasting room, café and gallery. The Apple Fest in Cedaredge is worth a visit in the fall.

Score!

From there it was up and over the mesa, which is a spectacular drive on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. There’s a nice visitor center at the top, but the storm clouds were gathering so we headed down and back home. It was the perfect, one-day vacation that we needed to satisfy our wanderlust.

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