Every September, Flatfender enthusiasts converge on the Thirsty Dirt Ranch located near Nathrop, Colorado. The ranch sits at the base of the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range and is grand central station for the Colorado CJ2A Annual Fall Colors Tour, which in 2015 marked the 8th event. Attendees this year came from far and wide for a week of camaraderie, trail runs, and beautiful fall foliage.
Every year, the number of Flatties has grown, and this year was no excpetion. By our count, there were 40 rigs from 14 states gathered at the ranch. That number included an MB, a GPW, a CJ-2 AgriJeep, a CJ5, a wagon, 17 CJ-2A’s, 5 CJ-3A’s, and 6 M38’s. Notable Jeep historians Fred Coldwell, Keith Buckley, and Bob Westerman were also in attendance. Their presence among all this wonderful old iron made for never-ending conversations about the significance of these rolling examples of Americana.
Mike Picard is the event organizer, and he and his wife Nancy open their property and home to those who attend. Trail runs are planned for each day, with a big dinner each night. It's quite impressive to pull up to the ranch and see the large number of campers, tents, and vintage Jeeps parked on the scenic hilltop.
Most of the trails are fairly easy for a stock Willys to run, and Mike's attention to detail and history on each trail is informative and enlightening, not to mention the breathtaking scenery at every turn. The area is rich in mining history, with dozens of historic sites and ghost towns planned as stops on each run.
We had the pleasure of being on Friday's "Grand Ride" that took the group from the ranch along highway 285 into Salida, Colorado, and then on a climb up a rocky forest service road to Aspen Ridge. When the group pulled out on hightway 285, looking back up the stretch of road and seeing a 1-mile-long line of old Willys, it brought tears to our eyes. Our rest stop at the top of Aspen Ridge was impressive to see, with 34 pre-’55 rigs lined up side by side.
One of the best parts of this event are the people who attend. They were welcoming and friendly. As with almost any trail run, there can be rig troubles along the way, and it was refreshing to watch everyone come together and help get a rig running again and back on the trail if it had an issue. Our own rig, “Slick” (a 1951 Willys Wagon), toasted its alternator late in the day, but everyone got together to make sure we got off the trail and into town for repair.
We plan to attend the Colorado Flatfender Fall Colors Tour again in 2016. If you have an old Flattie and want to have a fantastic time, make new friends, and enjoy the beauty of autumn in Colorado, then check out theCJ2Apage.com for more information.