If there's one thing that's certain about four-wheel adventure it's that it's almost always more enjoyable when it's shared with good friends.?We guess??that??it??has something to do with man's inherent need to explore the great unknown and an associated sense of camaraderie while doing something exciting. There is a reason you own the four-wheel-drive vehicle sitting in your driveway, and subconsciously it just may stem from your childhood. As kids we loved to explore the unknown, and whether it was on bikes or skateboards or foot, we just had to see what was up around the corner.
Recently, we met up with a group of friends and casual four-wheel-drive club members just south of Denver in the small town of Castle Rock, Colorado. We headed south on Highway 25 to Highway 50 and then west toward the Rockies. If you've been to this area before, you know just how spectacular it is for adventure. If you haven't been here before, we highly recommend it as a future recreation destination. Wheeling with friends has a twofold purpose: safety in numbers and fun. It's also much easier to overcome daunting challenges and obstacles when there's someone there to help spot or motivate you through the tough sections with the proper hand signals, a little friendly name-calling, and some radio banter.
Our destination was an area just east of Salida, Colorado, around the Arkansas River. The real objective of this adventure was to find a pass through a canyon that connects one trail to another - a missing link of sorts. A year or so back this group thought they had found the connection, but it wasn't passable. Upon further consideration, they weren't really sure if it was the right pass at all. However, as incongruous as it may seem, just one of the exciting perks of four-wheel adventure is searching for a hidden trail and never finding it! This may sound strange, but it makes things on the trail exciting. Besides, there's always more to explore along the way.
The area around Salida in Chaffee County offers some phenomenal mountain recreation and is a mecca for four-wheeling. The trails here consist of loose rock, sandy and rocky water crossings, and steep off-camber passes. Most people we've spoken with who visit the trails around Salida are usually hooked for life.
Salida is nestled between three amazing mountain ranges: the Mosquito Range to the north, the Sangre de Cristo to the south, and the Sawatch to the northwest. This year, the town was homebase for one of Colorado's oldest and largest four-wheel events, the Mile-Hi Jeep Club's annual All-4-Fun. The area is also rich in Old West and mining history, so there are plenty of sites to visit off the trail.
Along the way to the trail, we visited a few other interesting sites like the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City. This is the world's highest suspension bridge, hanging 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River. For some people, driving the 1,260-foot length of the bridge is a little unnerving, but we thought is was a blast as the boards under the Jeep's tires squeaked and creaked from the vehicle's weight. In some sections of the bridge you can actually see the distant river below between the spacing in the planks. The conditions of the unmaintained trails in this area sometimes change drastically due to the harsh winters. After quite a few hours on the trail, it was evident that we just weren't going to find the linkup between the two trails we were looking for. What we did find was some good trail action, conversation, great scenery, and the always-necessary escape from the rigors of everyday life. We would like to thank Jeff Leonard and Dave Gauthier of Rokmen Manufacturing for an exciting time on the trail and another cool adventure. We are sure we'll be back for years to come.