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Jeeping To Set Free Kids In Trouble

Posted in Events on July 28, 2015
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Photographers: Levi Jansma

This was one of the toughest off-road events I have ever been to. The trails are just difficult enough to be fun, but the hardest part was learning the sad truth behind its mission. That story was told during the Northridge4x4 open house in Longmont, Colorado. It was nearly impossible for me to understand how something like this could be going on in America, but the cold facts are that sex trafficking exists in the United States today. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), there are approximately 17,500 people every year, with an average age of 14, sold into slavery. Worldwide, 1.2 million children are being trafficked each year.

So how does this off-road event help? One man and his wife began by donating what money they could to the IJM. It wasn’t long before they decided they needed to do more. With the help of like-minded friends who were also Jeepers, they created Set Them Free Off Road. 2015 was the event’s third year, and it has grown steadily in attendance every year. As a matter of fact, the second event raised enough money for a rescue mission, one that lead to freedom for some young women.

Event Happenings
Set Them Free Off Road has been held for the past three years in Buena Vista, Colorado, at the Arrowhead Point Campground, Cabins, and RV Park. This was a super clean, family friendly, and most importantly, a Jeep friendly place. Its in-house store has just about anything you forgot to bring from s’more makings to off-road trail guides. You can also get coffee and espresso there. For this mom with two little girls that like to stay up late when camping, the store was a blessing.

Everything was up and going by 7 a.m., with a pancake breakfast provided by Set Them Free (STF). By 9 a.m., we were running the Holy Cross trail (one of the many trail options available) with a large number of other off-road vehicles (the event is open to all types of 4x4 vehicles). It’s a fairly tough-rated trail (from a 7 to a 9, depending upon the stretch you’re on) and is approximately 10 miles long. It leads you up to 11,798 feet in elevation and offers plenty of challenging obstacles along the way.

The Holy Cross trail featured some creek crossings. Phil Church smartly piloted his TJ through the water and made it all look easy.
Taking a lunch break in a Colorado Rocky Mountain meadow was just one of the highlights of the Set Them Free Off Road Event.
The steep and stone-filled Holy Cross City Trail was easily handled by Glen Hoover and his 2003 Jeep TJ.
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The author’s Jeep (driven here by her husband Levi) also saw some trail action during the event.
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Set Then Free founder Gianni Vecchiarelli was on the trails too. Here’s Vecchiarelli wheelin’ a set of rocks in Carnage Canyon.

After running Holy Cross, I would recommend at least 35-inch tall or larger tires on your rig. With that being said, I did see a ’46 CJ-2A do it all without any issues. However, as I’m sure you know, it’s the driver, not the Jeep, that many times can make the trail easy or hard. Dinnertime was 7 p.m., and all we back well in time to sample the tasty pulled pork and sausage meal, again provided by STF.

Not all the Jeeps in attendance were late models, and it was great to Ward Williams’ ’46 Willys CJ-2A on the trail.

Getting’ It Done
The silent auction held after dinner included door prizes and a raffle. There were thousands of dollars worth of parts, gift cards, and other items, all donated by sponsors for this cause. I would name them all, but there were 37 sponsors (visit stfoffroad.org for a full list) for this event. Their repeat title sponsor this year was TacTix tools.

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The next day, we checked out Carnage Canyon; another hardcore trail. I spent the day shooting photos and enjoying the company of friendly fellow wheelers. When all was done, we headed back home. During the four-hour drive, I had a lot of time to think about what I had just seen, heard, and participated in. It felt good to be involved in and supportive of something like this—I’m not one to sit back and do nothing. All the money from the silent auction and raffle ticket sales go to assisting Set Them Free get its job done. Sex trafficking isn’t going to just go away, and we had helped in our own little way to end it. That was the easiest part of this trail.

There is a good reason they call this particular trail Carnage Canyon. No one was hurt, but egos and a rollcage were scarred up a little.
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Not all the Jeeps present on the trails that weekend were CJs or Wranglers. Sonny Willier navigated Carnage Canyon in his exocaged 2001 Cherokee with no trouble.
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The camp store was a center of activity during the weekend and offered everything from coffee to spare parts for event attendees.
Scenery such as this is just one of the big attractions for wheeling in the Buena Vista, Colorado, area.
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