Back in April, I wrote a post on the Set Them Free Off-Road event happening in June of this year. At the time I wrote that post, I wasn’t even sure if we were going to be able to make it to the event. Our summer calendar is so jam-packed with Jeeping, camping, and other fun family-and-friend events, that we just weren’t sure we could fit this one in. But when push came to shove, we determined this was one of the runs we definitely wanted to do and a cause we really wanted to support. So we booked our camp spot and made our reservations for the last weekend in June.
Friday morning we packed up Lil’ Bruiser in full Clampett fashion, grabbed some yummy beef, potato, green chile, and chicharones wraps from our favorite local burrito shop, and headed for the mountains near Buena Vista, Colorado.
We arrived at the official campground for the event and found our site – a beautiful spot that, though nestled among other campers, felt somewhat secluded and was surrounded by majestic peaks. Have I mentioned how beautiful Colorado is?
The atmosphere about the camp was buzzing with excitement and it was good to see that many of our friends were camped near. That evening, the creators of the event, Gianni and Betsey, had quite the party planned! We were treated to a raffle for prizes, kegs of inexpensive beer, and a young couple who entertained the crowd with cover tunes as Peanut and a couple of other little girls danced till past their bedtime.
Once back at our campsite, we put Peanut to bed and enjoyed a roaring fire – just the two of us.
Saturday morning, we awoke early and got ready to hit the trail. There were eight trails to choose from during the weekend, and with over 200 participants, those eight trails were busy! We chose to run two trails on Saturday: Iron Chest and Grizzly Lake. Both trails are fairly short and extremely close to one another, so they are easily and usually run together.
We drove down to where everyone gathered for the Iron Chest/Grizzly Lake run – there were ten rigs total – then headed out to the trail. By the way, have I mentioned how beautiful Colorado is??
Once we got to the trail’s staging area, we aired down, disconnected sway bars, and enjoyed the entertainment – brought to us by our Jeep Kids!
We began the day with Iron Chest, a short but extremely challenging trail that starts out with its most difficult part: The boulder field. These boulders are quite large and very loose, and they move after each vehicle, making the trail different every time you drive it. Some of the rocks are large enough to damage to your vehicle, so high ground clearance and body armor are musts. The boulder field begins right from the start of the trail, so it gets real fun real fast!
Since the start of the trail will challenge both your skill and your rig, it’s not surprising that the only breakage of the day happened near the beginning. While climbing one of the larger boulders, the driver side rear axle shaft of one of the TJs snapped. Since we were so close to the beginning, the driver limped his Jeep off to the side, and he and his family hitched rides with a couple of other wheelers, and we were on our way.
The rest of the boulder field gave some good thrills, but thankfully, was uneventful.
Thinning trees and smaller boulders signal the end of the field. Then comes the most amazing part of the trail: Steep shelf roads with gorgeous views of luscious green trees, bright blue skies, and snow-capped peaks. Oh, have I mentioned how beautiful Colorado is???
The big payoff is reaching the top that is adorned with the Iron Chest Mine and surrounding mining buildings. There is a trail that leads to the top of the mountain, and is well worth the short, steep climb, but with an exceptionally snowy spring, the snow and wind kept us all in the main parking area.
The return trip is the way you come up, so, after lunch, we headed back down the shelf road and into the boulder field. We are a musical family, so we descended with the three of us listening to and belting out Rocky Mountain Way, Livin’ on a Prayer, and Mustang Sally.
When we reached the broken TJ, we all stopped and the guys made a plan to limp it down the small amount of the trail left, then put it on a trailer.
The driver of the broken Jeep and his family were such troopers, nothing could break their spirit. With smiling faces, they chose to fix the Jeep the next day, and continue on the ride with the rest of us up Grizzly Lake.
Grizzly Lake is as fun as it is alluring, and you will have to tune in next week to hear about our trek up this engaging and exciting trail!