Located along Highway 550, about 50 miles north of Durango, Colorado, is the historic town of Silverton, Colorado. Gold and silver attracted people to the area in 1874. In 1882, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad brought prosperity to Silverton by lowering the cost of hauling ore by as much as 80 percent.
Today, mountain climbers, photographers, tourists, and four-wheelers discover adventure in the San Juan Mountains surrounding the area.
The Mile High Jeep Club (MHJC) returned to Silverton for its 36th Annual All-4-Fun event. Guided trail rides, food, games, prizes, vendor day, and a whole host of activities make this a fast-paced event.
The town rolls out the red carpet for the four-wheelers and they returned the favor by patronizing restaurants, gas stations, shops, campgrounds, and hotels. During the 36-year history, Silverton has been selected as the site for the All-4-Fun Event on three occasions. Other sites have included Fairplay, Salida, Central City, Gunnison, Leadville, Buena Vista, and Ouray.
Regardless of the location, the MHJC seems to always have sellout crowds. After you've attended an All-4-Fun event, it's easy to understand why.
The community of Silverton provided an area on the south side of the Animas River for the event's base camp. The MHJC set up its "Big Top" tent, registration, and meal preparation in this area.
About half of the participants took advantage of the primitive camping around the tent while others used the conveniences in town. From Main Street to the "Big Top" was a level 10-minute walk. Level is the operative word here. Silverton is located 9,318 feet above sea level and any uphill hiking will challenge any flatlander to keep enough oxygen in his body to stay upright, much less keep moving uphill.
Each night, the trails being run on the following day are posted on a bulletin board for registered participants to sign-up on a first-come, first-served basis.
The 12 possible trails included Black Bear Pass, a one-way trip down switch backs into the town of Telluride and a return trip through Ophir Pass, and the Alpine Loop Trail, an easy drive over Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass, with a stopover in Lake City for some sight seeing and lunch. Most of the 4x4 trails around the Silverton area are considered easy, with Black Bear and Poughkeepie Gulch being the most difficult.
Of course, a little rain or snow and many of the trails will become difficult or even impassible.
The week-long event included much more than guided trail rides. Sunday evening was appreciation night for the city of Silverton and the MHJC raffled off prizes purchased from the local shops. Monday was filled with trail rides. On Tuesday, Bestop sponsored an old-fashioned ice cream social, one of our favorite events.
On Wednesday, the trail rides were replaced with a Parade through town, a show-'n'-shine competition, and vendor Expo under the "Big Top." The Wednesday festivities also include games for the kids, sodas provided by 4x4 Xtreme, and adult beverages sponsored by Clemson 4 Wheel Center. Wednesday ended with a free barbeque and awards for the kids' games and show-'n'-shine competition.
On Thursday, the guided trail rides resume. You can bring your own 4x4 or rent a new TJ in Silverton. The evening was filled with the excitement of the Children's Hospital raffle. The Mile High Jeep Club had raised a tad more than $90,000 for the Children's Hospital when the 36th annual All-4-Fun began.
By the end of the evening, sponsored by Discount Tire, the club had achieved its goal of raising $100,000 for the Children's Hospital. This is an admiral accomplishment for any club.
When the drivers returned from the trail rides on Friday, they were greeted with hamburgers and hot dogs prepared by employees of Warn Industries. A spectacular prize drawing followed dinner in which more than $20,000 worth of prizes were given away.
Prizes included everything from Warn Winches, BFG tires, and a Howell Fuel Injection system to a discount coupon for a Premier Welder or a Navajo Brakes Booster.
Each of the 230 participants was given only one raffle ticket for Friday night. There were more than 230 prizes, so everyone who attended the raffle walked away with at least one gift. After the raffle, the band set up and the dancing began. As the evening progressed, a rain shower forced the party-goers to crowd under the "Big Top" to finish their celebration of another successful All-4-Fun event.
By Saturday afternoon, nearly all of the participants had left for home and club members began the laborious task of packing up. The one single thread that was woven throughout the weeklong event was hospitality. "Welcome All-4-Fun 4-Wheelers" banners hung throughout Silverton. Club members always greeted participants with a cordial attitude.
One of those club members was Jim "Tug" Provence, promotions chairman. Jim greeted us upon arrival and invited us back next year when we left. The image of his friendly smile, cowboy hat and boots are everlasting reminders of a wonderful experience in Silverton. Jim Provence died August 9, 2002 at the age of 41.
If you are interested in attending the 2003 All-4-Fun Event, watch for the announcement in December or January at www.mhjc.org. Space is limited, based on the location, so register early.