Getting the Lead Out in Lake County, Colorado
Cloudy, gray Colorado skies loomed and thunderstorms darkened the mountain ahead of us, but we kept our rigs plodding upward as an eerie fog surrounded us. Above the tree line, pushing 12,000 feet elevation in the high heart of the Rockies, we were climbing a lonely and desolate trail called Halfmoon Creek. It seemed like an alien landscape. I fully expected the Abominable Snowman to walk out of the fog at any moment.
Well, OK, the Snowman thing might be stretching it, but let me assure you, when you attend All-4-Fun organized by the Mile-Hi Jeep Club of Colorado, and basecamp is established nearly 2 miles up, you never know what you might see! One thing for sure, you won't be disappointed in what this club has to offer.
All-4-Fun is a family oriented event where you can have nightly fun, view incredible scenery, get in some awesome 'wheeling, and make new friends every day–for a whole week, if you decide to stay for the entire experience.
The club sets up trails and has 'wheeling options suitable to all levels of drivers and vehicles, from stock to buggy, and from scenic to extreme. Some days there could be as many as 15 trails. Every night in the main camp, you sign up for one of the trails the next day, based on a clear description of what you are getting into. It is well organized and just plain well done.
The full week costs $300 for one registered vehicle and driver. Throw in a passenger and you add $50 to your costs. Considering this is a weeklong event, registration prices are very reasonable. There are typically games, prizes, beverages, food, and some type of entertainment nightly. Most evenings, one vendor or another is dishing up something for all the participants, free. My wife and I particularly enjoyed the Ice Cream Social night sponsored by Poison Spyder Customs, and the Warn night with a full-blown dinner and dance-band entertainment. Most years the club provides at least two dinners for all guests, plus a lunch, and a pancake breakfast. You just can't go wrong.
Camping is usually right around base camp, and hordes of tents and RVs fill up the surrounding flat spots. We've gone for five years, and just park our RV wherever the club sets up base camp.
The 2013 event took place in Lake County, near Leadville. Trails offered had names like: Carnage, Holy Cross, McAllister Gulch, Hagerman Pass, Chalk Mountain, Chinaman's, Bird's Eye/Mosquito, Halfmoon Creek, and more. The club provides a brief description of each trail. For additional details, bring along your favorite trail guidebook, such as those from FunTreks written by Charles A. Wells (funtreks.com).
Chinaman's Trail brings back fond memories for me. On that trail a couple years ago, I snapped off my passenger rear axle at the flange. It was just a small rock, but my 37-inch BFGs locked up with ARB Air Lockers pushed by 4.88 gears found the weak spot and snap! As usual, especially on organized runs like those by the All-4-Fun crowd, several folks jumped in to help fix the problem. Don't you love the camaraderie of our sport?
Tyler Schleppy of 4x4 Used Parts & Off-Road (4x4offroadnetwork.com) actually used my Warn PowerPlant air compressor to build me an axle right there in the dirt, on the trail. He had to cut the splines on a spare axle that we had to shorten, but made it work. (Mary Levenhagen, Shop Boss of T&T Customs (tntcustoms.com) offered Tyler a job on the spot because she'd never seen such incredible skill under such crummy circumstances.) Thanks to everyone's help, we got Red, the Land Use War Machine, home just fine.
This year, Halfmoon Creek, which I mentioned earlier, was memorable. The trail winds its way up to the Champion Mill and Mine at nearly 12,000 feet in elevation. The lovely old mill is located on the eastern slope of Mount Champion on Halfmoon Creek. Multiple stories tall, it's a miracle this 1890s mill is still standing. In her day, she produced gold, silver, galena, and pyrite for the smelters in Leadville. She was still running up until about 1919 when the shipping costs became too high for the profit margin. Now, it's a destination for 'wheelers and explorers like us who want to see what our forefathers built.
"We were very excited to have the 2013 All-4-Fun in Lake County, Colorado. This year marked a precedent for us in that the Lake County Commissioners contacted Mile-Hi Jeep Club and asked what they could do to bring All-4-Fun to their community," said Jeff Miller, Mile-Hi Jeep Club member and event chairman for 2013 (and for 2014).
Jeff had a lot of good things to say about the community. "I think it is great the local elected officials are looking out for their constituents and bringing a diversity of events to Lake County. The community was very supportive of the event and was an amazing host."
Frank Eichenlaub was the Trail Boss, and he had a swarm of volunteers to help put on this amazing event. All-4-Fun brought in 322 registered families, with about 800 folks in attendance, and 35 exhibiting vendors on vendor day. I represented BlueRibbon Coalition (blueribboncoalition.com), and was proud to support this awesome club.
The club sells tickets to raise funds for charitable organizations and land-use projects. This year it was able to donate $10,000 to the Children's Hospital of Colorado's Burn Camp (noordinarycamps.org), and $3,400 for the Stay The Trail program (staythetrail.org).
Some of the key sponsors were Warn, Daystar, Clemson 4Wheel Center, Poison Spyder Customs, Stewart & Stevenson, Bestop, Tuffy Security Products, and more. See the whole list of supporting vendors and registration details for next year at the All-4-Fun website: mhjc.org/all4fun.
The 48th Annual All-4-Fun for 2014 is scheduled for July 28 to August 4 and will be hosted by Silverton, Colorado. Whatever trails you choose; however you decide to RV, hotel-it, or tent camp; whichever All-4-Fun you can attend, put this on your bucket list.