The Nissan Crew Invades Colorado
Ouray is a small, sleepy town in Southwest Colorado that is bisected by U.S. Highway 550. All of its roads, with the exception of the 550 (known as Main Street within Ouray's city limits), are either gravel or dirt, and many of the city's structures have been there since its mining days. While it is a city that is filled with history, one of the biggest draws to Ouray has always been its proximity to some spectacular backcountry. It was this region that Ian Firth chose for the second annual Gathering of Xterras. This year's event drew Xterra club members from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey who came to be part of the fun. Ouray is not only close to some of the most scenic trails in Colorado, but it's not too far from Moab. Many of the GOX attendees had already spent several days 'wheeling through red rock before descending on Ouray for a week of four-wheeling.
Four different Xterra clubs led runs throughout the week: the Xterra Owners' Club/Rocky Mountain Xterra Club (RMXC); the Pacific Northwest Xterra Club (PNWX); the Southwestern Xterra Club (SWXC); and the Southern California Xterra Club (SCCX). Xterra owners could choose the trails that best matched their vehicle modifications. This event drew about 50 Xterras, making it necessary to split up the group, but at the end of every day there was a group dinner, where everyone regrouped and swapped stories.
Our first day on the trail, we went with the group led by Ian and his wife Leslie, which totaled about 25 Xterras. When we left that morning, the sky was a vibrant blue, dotted with the occasional puffy white cloud. We headed out on the trails, which were a perfect fit for the group of lightly modified Nissans. We took Highway 550 to Engineer Pass, part of the Alpine Loop. Poughkeepsie Gulch split off of Engineer, which we took to Hurricane Pass, and we finished off the day with Corkscrew Gulch. These trails were challenging, but not impossible, and wound through spectacular backcountry. The scenery included rolling, tree-covered hills, rugged rock, and loose dirt. The Nissans traveled through all of this, climbing over rocks and inching through loose gravel on uphill grades.
There are only a handful of companies that manufacture off-road gear for Xterras. Spencer Low Racing, Calmini, and Automotive Customizers were well represented, but for the most part, the Xterra aftermarket is a niche that is still growing. Despite this, there was a range of modifications that varied from basically stock, with new wheels and tires, to built, with impressive articulation. We had the opportunity to see the various setups work on the trail.