Fifty years of anything is a big deal. However, 50 years of a popular and successful off-road event is a really big deal, and 2016 was the year of many milestone anniversaries for off-road events. The Mile-Hi Jeep Club was no exception, celebrating its 50th All-4-Fun event. August of that year found Jp Magazine in Empire, Colorado, to check out all the action.
All-4-Fun has been held for the last 50 years to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Burn Center, Stay the Trail, and Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition. Stay the Trail is Colorado's non-profit land-use education program for OHV's, and COHVCO is Colorado's legal resource for land-use issues. Both are valuable to Colorado, and nationally, for land-use issues.
All-4-Fun is a week-long “4-wheel at your level” event. Registration opened for the event in January 2016 and sold out in record time, with 525 vehicles and approximately 1,200 people making the trek from all points of the country to enjoy the variety of wheeling that Colorado has to offer. Five days of trails rides to suit all levels of experience, from the casual off-roader in search of scenic vistas to those that offered extreme challenges. Participants signed up nightly for the trails they wished to run the following day. As many as 15 trails were run daily, and each trail was led by a member of the Mile-Hi Jeep Club.
Opening ceremonies for the 50th Anniversary event were held under the big top tent, and attendees enjoyed a BBQ feast and roughly 1,200 cupcakes provided by Colorado Trailers and Poison Spyder Customs. All-4-Fun also offered exciting evening activities to help you get reacquainted with old friends and meet new ones. Throughout the week there were games for the kids, and even some fun games for the more mature kids—aka the adults. Dinner, live music, and giveaways were among those adult festivities. All-4-Fun is a great event tailored for the entire family, and each year its base camp moves to a different location in Colorado, with the 2017 event heading back to Leadville. For more information on the 2017 event, go to mhjc.org.
On Wednesday, the group took a break from running trails to host a large vendor show and “Show & Grime” 4x4 show at its base camp in Empire. The day started with a wonderful pancake breakfast. Event chairman Jerry Ross had an amazing group of volunteers and they put on a stellar event despite Mother Nature throwing everything from bright sunshine, pouring rain, snow flurries, and extreme temperature changes into the mix.
This event draws vendors from across the country, major off-road suspension manufacturers, tire companies, local fabrication shops, and local installation shops. Some vendors traveled thousands of miles to show off the latest and greatest off-road products. This is the one part of the event that is open to the public.
Corey Osbourne with Metal Cloak had the CTI (corner travel index) trailer available at the vendor show for those that wanted to test their rig’s flex. The Iron Rock Off Road Grand Cherokee had some serious wheel travel.
Brothers in sandals? Jp Editor Rick Péwé chats with fan and Jp reader Bob Donovan about his ‘’73 J2000 during the MHJC “Show and Grime” event. This is one car show that gives bonus points for dirty vehicles. No need to waste time and quarters washing your Jeep, you might even try to find a mud hole on your way there.
Thursday was a trail day for Jp, and the morning dawned brisk and damp with the threat of more inclement weather imminent. We chose a run up to Wheeler Lake. It was a fairly short, but technical 7-rated trail that started with an hour drive from base camp and then headed southwest over the Continental Divide to the trailhead located between Breckenridge and Fairplay, Colorado. Wheeler Lake Trail starts at an elevation of 10,995 feet above sea level. It is 3.13 miles long and ends above tree line at the modest elevation of 12,200 feet at a small lake fed by glacial waters and snowmelt, and the way in is also the way back.
As soon as we got to the trailhead, low range was a must, there was no doubt that this trail has some challenges right from the start. The group passed under a portion of the historic Magnolia Mill. Our group consisted of 12 vehicles, a perfect size group for this particular trail.
Within 150 yards of Magnolia Mill, we came to the first obstacle. Some call it “Flopper.” There is a bypass for this obstacle, but high clearance and some driver skill is needed on the bypass as well. If you didn't have an extreme amount of suspension flex you got a wheel-stand here, and if you didn't pick the right line it was easy to end up flopped over on your side. Drivers were just fine as long as they made sure they didn't put a rear tire in one of the many holes on the way to the top. Trail leader and MHJC member Doug Rudolchick showed everyone how to navigate Flopper.
As we meandered up the trail, we passed through a valley with low brush and trees scratching and scraping at our vehicle. If you're worried about your paint or soft-top windows this isn't a good trail to be on. There are several water crossings and muddy spots on the trail. A major portion of the Magnolia Lake Trail passes through private property, so we all did the right thing and stayed on the established trail.
After the first set of obstacles one of the relatively stock JKs sheared a steering shaft. The weather was taking a turn for the worse by now, a chill wind was sweeping down the valley, and the raindrops had a little more substance to them, leaving a slightly slushy residue on the windshield as we waited for the disabled rig to be safely moved from the narrow trail. With the help of another member of the group, they went in search of parts. There’s no getting AAA up here for this one.
We made the top and the site of the lake signaled our lunch break. Temperatures hovered in the low 40s, and the wind had a distinct bite to it. Most on the trip elected to eat inside their Jeeps with heaters running full blast. Some thoughtful participant brought a thermos of hot chicken soup, and we gladly accepted a cup full.
On a clear day, the view as you crest the top is breathtaking. However, we were greeted with low hanging clouds. Even though it was cold and the light a bit flat, the wildflowers were vibrant against the gray sky and lush green alpine tundra.
As the weather continued to worsen we headed back down the trail. The group navigated back down Bowling Ball Hill. This steep hill of loose rocks and boulders changes every year, and it can change after each vehicle struggles up the trail. Add rain and mud into the mix and its equally as challenging heading down.
Littleton, Colorado, resident Adam Soltani made the trip up the “V-notch” obstacle look easy. However, on the return trip the rocks were slick from the increased rainfall and this obstacle did what it does best. Adam slipped into the crack and laid his LJ over on the passenger side. He sustained a small trail scar to his rig and thankfully no injuries to the driver. Trail officials and participants all pitched in to help get Adam rubber side down again. A little “one, two, three, HEAVE” and the Jeep was settled back on all four tires. He then inched his way out of the obstacle without further issues.
Jp Editor Rick Péwé navigates his way down the rain slick rocks toward the end of the trail. The group took a little time to investigate Magnolia Mill and the falls on our way out as we had a brief break from the weather. The rain held off until all were aired up and safely on pavement headed back to camp.