The Mile-Hi Jeep Club Celebrates 50 Years Of Rocky Mountain Wheeling
In 2007, the Mile-Hi Jeep Club of Colorado celebrated its 50th anniversary. Jerry Cronk, All-4-Fun Secretary and long time MHJC member, said that in the mid-'50s, Denver-area Jeep enthusiasts congregated at Kurland Motors, a Willys/Kaiser dealer to organize trail rides and Jeep races. At one meeting, more than 500 people came to organize what eventually became the Mile-Hi Jeep Club. In 1957, the club incorporated, and members began holding regular meetings, trail rides, and races. Mile-Hi consists of various patrols or groups of wheelers with similar interests: hard-core wheelers, family trail riders, stay-up-laters and party animals, ghost town explorers, and so on. Each patrol leader serves as a Mile-Hi board member.
In 1966, the club held its first annual All-4-Fun Week at Golden. The club grew slowly until 1984, when they hosted the United Four Wheel Drive Convention during All-4-Fun Week at Ouray, Colorado, and Four Wheeler reported on the event. After the magazine spread, the club grew steadily. A different Colorado mountain community now hosts All-4-Fun each summer. The club allows a limited number of lucky nonmembers to attend. It is a family event and is fun for all. In 2007, 999 participants in 398 vehicles attended All-4-Fun, camping on a ranch northwest of Salida for a week last July.
Each day, except for Wednesday, small groups accompany Mile-Hi members on a dozen or more trails in the surrounding area. The "trip leaders" and "tailgunners" provide commentary about the trail, assist new wheelers, and if necessary, teach Tread Lightly! ethics. Each evening, there is entertainment in the Mile-Hi camp under All-4-Fun's big tent. Frequently, vendors provide food and refreshments, like Bestop's ice cream social, and Colorado Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs' hotdog fest.
For 2007, All-4-Fun revived an overnight trip for those willing to rough it. David Boening of Mile-Hi's Lost Patrol led a group up Mt. Blanca. Blanca is perhaps Colorado's most challenging trail, so most of the group was experienced 'wheelers with winches, lockers, and at least 35-inch tires. Someone dubbed Blanca's worst obstacles Jaws 1 through Jaws 4, all difficult, and some offer opportunities to slide sideways and roll down the steep, treeless sidehills. Since the rocks were wet on our way up, we used straps or winches on several of the Jaws for safety instead of using horsepower; consequently we made the trip with no dents or parts failures.
Before we reached the Jaws, we passed several Jeeps and pickups parked beside the trail. After we worked our way through the Jaws and neared Lake Como, we met a young man hiking down the trail, and he was glad to see us. He was with a group of mountain climbers camped at the lake. His friends had parked their rigs below and hiked up to their camp, but he'd elected to drive his built Jeep on up to camp. He used momentum to get through the Jaws, but he had ruined two 35-inch tires, and was hiking down the mountain to borrow a tire off one of the parked Jeeps. He would have to carry/roll it several miles back up the mountain. We loaned him a tire and escorted him to a tire store the next day. He was one fortunate camper.
There are no trail rides on Wednesday, but most participants ride in the parade of 4x4s through Salida. During the parade, more than 50 product vendors, along with representatives from United Four Wheel Drive Associations, Colorado Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, Blue Ribbon Coalition, and Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition set up their displays in and around the big tent. After the parade, many rigs lined up in various categories for the 4Wheel Parts Show-n-Shine contests.
While adults perused the product displays and checked out the show-n-shine vehicles, the kids enjoyed games courtesy of Four Wheel Drive Hardware. Everybody enjoyed food and refreshments courtesy of Tellico 4x4, Clemson 4-Wheel Center, Rancho, and Santa Fe Brewery.
The afternoon was free for rest, repairs, river rafting, and recuperating in Mt. Princeton's hot springs. That evening, after Rancho's Bar-B-Q, Mile-Hi's judges awarded trophies for the kid's games and Show-N-Shine contest.
Thursday evening was door-prize and raffle night. After every registered driver received a door prize, it was time for raffles, which benefited Children's Hospital of Denver and Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition. Over the years, the Mile-Hi Jeep Club has raised more than $150,000 for Children's Hospital with events like All-4 Fun and winter ice races.
On Friday evening, Warn Industries provided burgers-'n'-watermelon for everyone, and a live band. Not everyone danced, but everyone stayed close to the tent because there were intermittent drawings for Warn products, and you had to be present to win.
A few charter members and many long-time members attended All-4-Fun '07. Numerous club members and leaders are third- and fourth-generation Mile-Hi Jeepers. Nonmembers from many states, who have been coming to All-4-Fun for 20 or 30 years, say that they enjoy wheeling the beautiful Colorado trails, but what really draws them back year after year is the camaraderie with friends on the trails and around the campfires.