The summer of 2002 was tough on the residents of Colorado. Below-average snowfall had left reservoirs and creeks far below normal levels and summer rains had been sparse, leaving the area parched. Then things got worse. By July, forest fires were burning throughout the state, and in some cases they were traveling unabated, consuming everything in their path. In the southwest corner of the state, the dry conditions and the massive Missionary Ridge wildfire north of Durango forced the closure of the Durango and Silverton narrow-gauge railroad for almost a month. This put a significant dent in the town of Silverton's tourist-driven economy during what should've been prime tourist season. Then, in the face of doom and gloom, came a bright ray of economic sunlight. This sunlight arrived in the form of the Mile High Jeep Club's (MHJC) annual All-4-Fun event. With it came hundreds of eager participants. This was an adrenaline shot that helped the town of Silverton weather a difficult time.
Of course, the MHJC didn't directly plan on helping jump-start Silverton's fire-weakened economy, but there's no doubt that the timing was perfect. They were just doing what they've done for the past 36 years--holding one of the premier four-wheeling events in the country. The All-4-Fun tradition actually began in 1967, and has continued each consecutive year without fail. In order to keep things fresh, the event is based at a different location each year. In the past it's been held in locales such as Telluride, Ouray, Creede, Leadville, Gunnison, Breckenridge and Central City. This year's base of operations and campground were located on land graciously donated by the city of Silverton, in a picturesque area on the south side of the Animas River.
All-4-Fun is unique in that it's a week-long event that begins on a Sunday and ends on a Friday, so it's a great family vacation destination. With that said, they really integrate kids into the goings-on, with stuff like Wednesday's Pro 4x4-sponsored kids' games. Other unique All-4-Fun features include nightly activities such as Tuesday's Bestop-sponsored Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social, Wednesday's 4x4 Extreme and Clemson 4-Wheel Center-sponsored beverages, Thursday's Discount Tire-sponsored door prizes and beverages and Friday's Warn Industries-sponsored hamburger fry. On Wednesday, daytime trail rides are replaced with a massive Vendor Day, which allows participants to hang out in camp if they wish and peruse scores of wares under the ever-present event big-top. Vendor Day wraps up on Wednesday evening with an MHJC-sponsored barbeque. Thursday is also a focal point of the event because this is the day when the annual Children's Hospital of Denver raffle is held. Going into this year's event, the MHJC had raised more than $90,000 for the Children's Hospital. By the time the massive raffle had concluded this year they had exceeded their goal of raising $100,000.
Of course, trail rides in the Colorado high country were the crown jewel of All-4-Fun, and each evening participants could sign up for the following day's guided trail runs by marking their names on a bulletin board located at the big-top. The collection included such legendary Colorado trails as Black Bear Road, Poughkeepsie Gulch, Imogene Pass and Yankee Boy Pass, in addition to some lesser-known trails like Kendall Mountain and Brown's Gulch. The accompanying photos tell the story of one of many great trail rides, this one taking place on Black Bear Road and Imogene Pass.
The 2002 All-4-Fun event was a huge success, due in part to the excellent preparation displayed by the MHJC, the beautiful surroundings, the numerous collection of trails and the support of almost 100 corporate door-prize contributors and almost 25 corporate exhibitors. Participants should also be commended for their vigilance in avoiding any and all use of open flame outdoors during the event's dry conditions. The 2003 All-4-Fun event is right around the corner, taking place August 2-9 in the Leadville area, and there's no doubt it'll be another peak performance. For the latest information, visit www.mhjc.org or write them at Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Dept FW, P.O. Box 8293, Denver, CO 80202.