What an unbelievable event this year turned out to be. There were over 250 FJ Cruisers that filled the little town of Ouray also known as the Switzerland of the United States. Everywhere you looked there were decked out FJ’s with every imaginable gadget available and then some. I was absolutely amazed at the wide array of parts on all the vehicles. Everyone was excited and willing to share their knowledge on how their rigs worked and what they did to make them even better.
I was lucky enough to be invited as one of the participants for Discount Tire and we brought two personal FJ Cruisers. I was riding with Cary who is one of the managers at Discount Tire Direct along with Eddie who is a manager at our Phoenix AZ Distribution Center. The second vehicle is owned by Rob and his passenger was Lee. They are both store managers from Denver Colorado.
Along the way in Arizona.
We brought extra goodies for our 10 plus hour drive from Phoenix so we trailered Cary’s FJ along with all our boxes of food and give away items.
It was a long and somewhat boring drive on Tues the 19th until we hit Cortez Colorado. The mountains grew to giants before our eyes. We have big mountains in Arizona (10,000 feet) but nothing that compares to the majestic beauty of the mountains from Silverton to Ouray.
There was a tee shirt in Ouray that said it all about the road between the two towns. It said “ I survived 155 turns at an 8 % grade”. They didn’t mention that many parts of the road have straight drop offs on a very narrow twisty two lane road with no guard rails. It will keep your attention for sure.
What a neat old town as we enter Main Street.
We came in early so we could get registered first thing Wednesday and get the two FJ’s stickered up for the event. Fortunately we all pitched in and got our work done early so we could go and check out some of the trails.
We decided to take the trail named Ophir that goes over the pass to Telluride. What gorgeous scenery as we climb to the top of the pass where the snow is about 15 feet high.
As we go through the pass the trail becomes one narrow switch back shelf road. The sides fall almost straight down several hundred feet. It would ruin your day if you went over the edge.
Here's the FJ I rode in with the new Level 8 Guardian Wheels installed. They remind me of the FJ TRD Wheel.
We even saw a few Rock Chuck’s above the tree line.
It is amazing how there are waterfalls all over these majestic mountains.
With just the two of us we were able to run the trail into Telluride in about an hour without any trouble. What a great waterfall view as we pull into town.
After stopping for lunch we decided to take another trail back to Ouray called Last Dollar Highway. After passing the airport the road climbs quickly to a beautiful Aspen forest. There must have been rain the last couple of days because the trails had some large puddles.
The FJ Summit crew had a dinner lined up that night along with plenty of vender booths set up. Plus there were FJ’s everywhere all decked out to look at.
I even caught the Discount Tire gang talking with Seth the promoter for the FJ Cruiser event.
It looks like Brad from Ricochet was out playing today as well.
After mingling with the crowd for a couple of hours we were all beat from our long drive with limited sleep so it was time for us to turn in so we could get up early for the next day’s run.
Here is the link with additional photos and our GPS tracks from the trails we ran today.
Today is the first official day of the FJ Summit Event so we needed to be up early and get to the staging area over by the Natural Spring swimming pool. We are sponsoring a trail ride each day and today’s trail is Black Bear. Unfortunately the trail is still snowed in at the summit.
The FJ’s started rolling in early to see which trail we were going to run because of the closure. Our group of five was having a great time handing out swag bags and talking to all the nice people as they arrived. It was fun looking at all the different accessories that everyone put on their FJ’s.
At each of the four take off times arrived the trail guide who would give a brief talk about what was expected of the drivers to make sure everyone would be safe. They also went over some rules and asked if anyone had any medical issues since we would be at about 12,000 feet in elevation.
There was also a group of volunteers that were going out with a Forest Service Ranger to do trail maintenance that staged near us. They had a good size group heading out. It's always good to see 4 wheelers helping maintain the trails that we all have the privilege of using. Good job by those that helped.
Our group was the last of the day to take off. The plan was to take the highway over to Telluride and catch the back side of Black Bear. We were going to go up the trail as far as we could and turn back. Then we would take Ophir, stop for lunch on the trail, and head back to the highway. From there we will go over to the start of Black Bear and run it up to the summit where it is closed and back to town.
The plan sounded good when we were all together but plans have a way of changing sometimes. We made it to Telluride but missed the trailhead to Black Bear. We ended up going up a trail called Imogene Pass. We were only on it for a couple of miles when Robert our trail guide realized we were going the wrong way after passing another group of FJ’s. So now for the tricky part. Turning around a group of
vehicles on a very narrow trail.
On the positive side we did get an awesome view of the waterfalls towards the end of town along with a great view of the ski lift.
In the photo below you can see the 3-point turn switchbacks off in the distance if you look close between the two waterfalls. That is Black Bear.
We headed over to the trail head but road closed signs were posted. At least we got a bit closer to the falls. How awesome would it be to stay in this house for a while? I would imagine the sound of the water is deafening. Also notice the swinging bridge across the canyon (to the left) that you have to walk over to get to the house.
We take off to Ophir Pass which was originally established in the late 1800’s as a wagon road for the mines in the area. You can see the trail off in the distance.
We stopped for lunch just before heading up the famous shelf road which is cut into the side of the mountain.
Our Trail guide for the Day Robert with his wife and daughter.
As we head up the shelf road we notice a vehicle that was coming down the trail. He had failed to stop at the turn out at the switchback whichh made for an interesting pass in the middle of the shelf road where there was not much room. I was in the passenger seat and was telling Cary “you are very close to the edge on this side”. It was not a good feeling at all as it's several hundred feet down on an almost straight drop off.
Trail etiquette dictates that the vehicle going uphill has the right away although that is not always possible.
Well we all made it through the pass to the start of Black Bear. As we go toward the pass we run into another group of FJ’s coming down the trail. This part of the trail is covered with beautiful greenery. It's a stark contrast with patches of snow and waterfalls flowing in several spots.
One of the overlooks has an outstanding view of the red mountain tops that are next to the US~550 that goes into Ouray.
As we approach the closed summit there is a side trail where we can see someone tried going up through the snow. Rob wanted to give it a go in his FJ. He made a couple of valiant efforts but the snow was just too deep.
There was another driver that tired to go up through the snow but was also stopped in his tracks. He even tried a very big running start before hitting the trail. He hit so hard that it threw him against his steering wheel and he honked his horn. He then went to the top and remarkably was able to make it all the way down the hill. I believe his full skid plate helped him make it as he slid most of the way down
on his belly.
What awesome views from the top of Black Bear. Unfortunately this is where we have to turn around as the trail is closed. You can see it going off in the distance in the first photo.
Time to get back to town and get ready for dinner. What a blast walking around talking with everyone about how their trail run went today. Telling the stories and hanging out is part of the fun at events like this. This is where you get to meet some very special people. An added bonus is you get to look at all the great products available for your vehicle.
Remember to appreciate the beauty that we are so lucky to have in our great Country.
Here is the link with additional photos and our GPS tracks from the trails we ran today.
Another beautiful crisp morning. We've had the best weather imaginable. There has been no rain and most of the time there's been big puffy clouds in the bright blue sky.
We were up early again to meet everyone taking the trail we sponsored today called Alpine loop. This is one of the longer trails at about 65 miles. It seemed everyone at the event was up early and eager for another adventurous day on the old mining roads in the San Juan Mountains.
The FJ Summit trail guides went through the same preporations as they checked off each driver on their list to make sure everyone made it back safely to the staging area.
This trail starts just south of town off US!~550. It doesn’t take very long before we're already seeing snow and waterfalls.
We had a lone Jeep come up from behind our group so the tail gunner radioed our leader to let him know. That was one of the neat things as almost everybody had CB radios so it was easy for the leader to let everyone know to pull over to let someone by. Since we pulled over it was time for a short break.
As we hit the trail again we are once again reminded of how lucky we are to be 4 wheeling in such gorgeous country.
As we start the climb up to Engineers Pass the views just keep getting better and better. Off in the distance there are remnants of an old mining operation.
When we are close to the top I just caught this Marmot begging for food along the side of the road. I think he was disappointed we did not give him any.
We made it to the pass which is 12,800 feet in elevation and beautiful! The tundra in this picture reminds me of a golf course with a lot of sand traps.
I just had to "ham it up" a bit next to the sign.
Here is the sign that was next to me explaining some of the history of this land.
As we head over to Lake City to have lunch we pass a very cool house that is actually for sale. Our guide came on the radio and said you could buy it for a cool 4.1 million dollars. Maybe we will have to take up a collection? Look at the swinging bridge that you have to walk over to get to the house. How would you like to carry the furniture over that?
It seems every corner we go around we see more incredible waterfalls and vistas.
We stopped in the town of Lake City for lunch which turned out to be somewhat of a mistake. Most of the group went to a restraunt but they were so overwhelmed by the groups that were ahead of us it was a long wait for food. We hung out at the park in the middle of town eating a packed lunch we prepared the night before.
As we were talking with some of our group a dragonfly decided to take a break with our tail gunner (I believe her name was Dorian?). How cool is this, she must have a knack with insects. It stayed on her for about 15 minutes.
Now we are headed over Cinnamon Pass which again is over 12,000 feet. The sign says 12,640 feet in elevation and we are certainly well over the tree line.
This time we actually lined up for a group photo at the top of the pass.
Here is a photo of our awesome trail guide and his lovely wife.
As we come down the mountain there are a couple of old mining areas before going through the town of Eureka.
The road then comes out at the town of Silverton. From here you take the very narrow and curvey US~555 back to Ouray. I had been driving Cary’s FJ since Lake City over Cinnamon Pass. I was more nervous driving his rig on this part of the road than I was with my dually. Maybe it was because it was not my vehicle.
After we got back and cleaned up we walked over to the Best Western for dinner. They did an awesome job feeding all the hungry people.
Here is the link with additional photos and our GPS tracks from the trails we ran today.
Darn, today is the last day for trail riding at this year’s FJ Cruiser Summit. We've had a great time meeting such nice people and seeing some of the most outstanding scenery in the world. Thank goodness the cameras are now digital because It would have cost me a ton in processing.
We started our day as usual at daybreak. When we arrived at the Best Western the sun was just breaking over the mountains. It was going to be another gorgeous day. We've been very fortunate to have such great weather throughout the week.
I happened to see this FJ camped over by our staging area.
People were gathering at their designated check in points and were eager to get on with the days ride. Today we are sponsoring Imogene Pass which is known as one of the most scenic runs. The summit elevation is 13,114 feet. It is the second highest pass in Colorado that is passable by vehicles.
As we were handing out our goodie bags I noticed a couple of kids getting ready for their ride. We had some Brad Keslowoski model race cars so I grabbed a couple and with mom’s permission handed them to the kids. They really enjoyed them.
When the last group of the day was leaving we joined up with them. This trail starts just south of town. The immense mountains engulf you almost immediately. Right after the sign for Imogene Pass there is a fun little (optional) water crossing. If you prefer, there is a bridge that goes across the water but what fun is that.
Shortly after going through a beautiful woods section there is a boulder we had to crawl up. I believe Imogene Falls was to the left of this area. We had a large group so we motored through this section.
There was a ton of water coming down the mountain and some of the people said it was the most water they had seen in years. There were a couple of other small water crossings. The water looks so refreshing.
As we come out of the woods there is a beautiful snow laced mountain with an old miner’s house just begging us to come take a look.
Getting into the Imogene mine was a bit of a challenge. The road was made up of old mine tailings with water on both sides and about a 30 foot straight drop. The road was plenty wide but as a passenger it seemed very narrow.
This is from the passenger side window as we drove across the dam.
It was stunning watching the majestic FJ Cruisers in line coming across the dam.
There was a tricky part as we neared the other side. The road dipped putting you in an off camber position. As a driver, you climb up the other side of the narrow path which made it seem like you should turn to the left, but you actually needed to turn right.
I was spotting at this point and every driver wanted to go left. There were only a few inches for error at this point. This was one place where I was happy to be out taking photos.
We took a short break so everyone could look around the old mining area. The background was beautiful.
From here we drove back over the narrow dam and headed towards the summit.
There was still quite a bit of snow beside the trail as we were climbing above the tree line.
Our Trail Guide had us stop by a rock that hangs over the side of the mountain. You know the classic shot of the vehicle parked on the overhang with a several hundred foot straight drop off. There were quite a few takers in our group.
In this photo you can see the dam we came across at the mine below.
This lady came up to me as I was standing next to the edge and told me she was so nervous that her hands were sweating. I touched them and they were wringing wet. The next thing I know she is standing next to the edge, yelling with joy. She said this was her way of overcoming her fear. I even saw her sitting on another ledge dangling her feet over. GREAT JOB!!!!!
On to the summit which is 13,114 feet high.
Here is a photo from the top looking into Telluride. You can see the airport off in the distance. There was even a glider plan soaring above us.
It was so clear you could see for what seemed like hundreds of miles in all directions.
As we were coming down into Telluride we took one more short break and I could not resist taking a photo of this little guy. He was so happy to be along for the ride.
As we came into Telluride the group was going to stop in town and have a late lunch. We needed to get back soon for the big dinner and raffle so we radioed the Trail Guide and let him know we would be leaving. There were a couple of other vehicles that went with us as well.
We decided the fastest wat to get back would be through Ophir Pass. This is the 4th time this week we have gone over the pass and I've been truly amazed each time. The view is just absolutely incredible!
We made it back in time to get cleaned up for dinner but we missed out on the car wash. The Fire department brought one of their fire trucks down to the event and had a free car wash with a fire hose. We got there just as they were shutting down. It looked like the kids had a blast.
Seth was kind enough to have us park Robs vehicle over by the Raffle.
Dinner was a big hit. The Best Western did an awesome job preparing BBQ chicken and all the fixings for such a large group. It was almost more than one person could eat.
Everyone was very excited for the big raffle. There were a lot of excellent prizes to be given away by all the vendors. Discount Tire had two fabulous prizes. One of the prizes we gaveaway was five Level 8 Off-Road Wheels. The second giveaway was for five Falken Wild Peaks A/T tires. The winners we very appreciative of all the prizes.
The last drawing of the night was done by Joe Bacal. Joe is a BaJa 1,000 race winner who drives for team Lexus. He also owns a couple FJ Cruiser's and enjoys going out in them.
They had a band playing for entertainment after the festivities. We turned in early as we were getting up early for a group photo and then had a 10 hour drive home.
The town's Police Office closed down Main Street so that the FJ Summit crew could wedge all the vehicles six deep in a V shape for a group photo. They even had a high lift pick the photographers up to get the best shot.
I have to thank all the staff and trail guides that put in the time and effort to make this such an enjoyable event. I did not hear one person complain.
All of us here at Discount tire would like to thank the participants for the great stories you shared with us about your past experiences with Discount Tire. We actually work as hard as we play to make sure you're treated the way we want to be treated. We really appreciateyour business
Please be safe and enjoy our Beautiful outdoors. We can’t wait for next year’s bigger and better event.