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Trail’s End: February 1991, Ford Stockies in the Rockies

Posted in Features on October 26, 2017
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Photographers: Dave Epperson

Think back to buying your first 4x4. Whether you squealed off the lot with a sparkling new pickup, or traded bills for a dusty barn find, this was a golden ticket of sorts into the world of wheeling. For those whose rigs came in the unmodified state, a blank canvas sat before us, waiting to be painted with lift springs and rumbling exhaust kits. But who actually waits until their truck is built up before they start wheeling? We sure don’t, and neither did the folks who attended Ford’s Mountain Rendezvous, which we wrote about in the February 1991 issue of Four Wheeler.

Ford owners journeyed with their Broncos, Explorers, and F-series rigs to Ouray, Colorado, where some of them planned on indulging in their first 4x4 experience. Local trail guides welcomed the weary travelers with a steak dinner and a driver’s meeting, where participants reviewed essential mountain driving techniques, and whispered amongst themselves as the presentation included a warning. People have died tumbling from Black Bear Pass. Careless driving is not an option.

The intrepid explorers were anxious to explore the San Juan Mountains and filed off into the wilderness, with destinations ranging from the abandoned mining town of Animas Forks to the boulder-strewn climbs of Poughkeepsie Gulch. More daring trekkers joined the queue pointed toward Black Bear Pass; a name that to this day elicits awe in the off-road community.

After climbing the 12,830 feet to Black Bear Pass and back down, the Ford fanatics were awestruck. First came the breathtaking mountain scenery, followed closely by trepidation as the descending trail pitched precariously toward the driver side, challenging the nerves of those in the pilot seat and making some passengers wish they stayed back in the hot springs.

Everyone made it down the pass with the help of either careful spotters or alternative methods. One driver said, “It was scary, sure, but my Bronc knew what to do.” While another noted, “My wife took a Valium and said she had a wonderful time.” Regardless of which trail they wheeled, all of the rendezvous participants left the event inspired, not just by the capability of their 4x4s, but by the beauty found beyond the pavement.

Gatherings like these help us look at off-roading through a different lens. Take a step back from building a rig for the roughest trail and wonder, what is the toughest trail I can do with my stock rig? Think back to a day when your 4x4 wasn’t lifted, but your spirits couldn’t have been higher as you started exploring backroads and vacant lots. Places like the San Juan Mountains of Colorado offer endless opportunities to explore, requiring no more than a stock truck and a splash of motivation.

Here at Four Wheeler, we’ve also learned that wheeling a stock rig sometimes means we just need a seasoned spotter—and skidplates willing to take some extra trail lovin’!

Now it’s your turn. Tell us where you’ve gone (or shouldn’t have gone) with your minimally modified 4x4. Was this your first rig, or just a mule you had yet to make your own? Send your best story and high-resolution photographic evidence to

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