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Firing Order: Where’s Your Favorite Place to Wheel?

Posted in News: Features on October 10, 2019
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Everyone has favorites. For example, if you looked inside the Four Wheeler cooler during SUV/Pickup Truck of the Year or the Easter Jeep Safari, you'd find a varied collection of beverages. There's Dr Pepper (Holman), water (Hazel), semisweet iced coffee (Korfhage), Coca-Cola (Brubaker), and the list goes on.

Favorites carry over into the wheeling world as well. Most wheelers have a favorite place to wheel, a place where they'd abscond to without a second thought if they could drop everything and leave immediately.

For me, it's the high country of southwest Colorado. I think about trails like Black Bear Pass and Imogene Pass frequently, even when I'm sitting at my desk pretending to work. Of course, I like just about every place I've wheeled, but the San Juan Mountains are my all-time favorite. I had been to Colorado many times previously, but the first time I visited the San Juans was for the Telluride Rotary 4x4 Tour. I was hooked.

This is the only photo I could find of the first-gen Explorer that carried me deep into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado during my first-ever visit.

It was late in the month of July, but at T-ride's altitude (8,750 feet) the morning was cool as I loaded up my first-gen Ford Explorer for my inaugural San Juan trail day. Telluride sits in a box canyon surrounded by steep, tall, forested mountains, so the views in almost every direction were staggeringly beautiful. Gazing at the mountains and knowing there were miles of unseen trails was stimulating. The experience of wheeling the legendary trails did not disappoint. The sound of the Explorer's V-6 engine as it pulled the rig up steep trails in 4-Lo; the sound of rocks crunching under the rig's tires; the smell of pine; the cool, crisp air; the sound of ice-cold water tumbling over rocks in picturesque streams; and mining history everywhere made it unforgettable. Then there were the views—majestic, snowcapped mountains in every direction.

I liked the San Juans so much that I made it a point to return yearly, and for several years I accomplished that self-imposed goal. I've had some great adventures there, including being caught in a rockslide, exploring private mining roads, slashing the sidewalls of tires on rocks, and driving over Imogene Pass in a snowstorm. During one trip over Ophir Pass I met my buddy Fred Perry of South Carolina-based Clemson 4 Wheel Center. Neither of us knew the other was in Colorado, let alone on that pass, so we had an impromptu reunion on a shelf trail. My great memories of wheeling in the San Juan Mountains are comprised by little things like that.

What is your favorite wheeling place that you would, without hesitation, point your 4x4 to if given the opportunity? Is it acres of sand dunes? Miles of sandstone? A muddy two-track deep in the woods? An off-road park? A boulder-strewn, waterfall-laden trail? Miles of beach?

Send me an email and tell me about it! I'd love to hear about your favorite place, and we may be able to share your choice with Four Wheeler readers. Please include a high-res photo if you have one!
—Ken Brubaker
ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com

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