Colorado 4Runner Jamboree: Buena Vista 2009

Toyota Crawlers and 4Runner Junkies Unite in Colorado Back-Country

Aug. 14, 2009 By Justin Fort

Photos by Kelly Miltimore and Justin Fort

Friday’s splinter group headed up to Hancock Pass (see the summer snow?) and on to Tomichi – this is the best the road got at any point.

If you’re not familiar with the backwoods of the silver state, pick up a DeLorme map book or one of the many excellent trail guides or adventure manuals for Colorado and do some reading. Then, after you’ve filled yourself with all the energy and urges to go disappear into Colorado’s high country for a few weeks exploring, multiply the number of trails you read about by about 100. There is so much off-roading in Colorado it’s silly, so much so that events like the Colorado 4Runner Jamboree (CO4RJ!) will always offer its jamboroons that optimal off-road options list as meat in its weekend jamboree sandwich.

On Carnage, the nastiest of the nasty show up. Amongst rock buggies and trucks was Cory Paparigian’s ‘90s shortened and exo’d pickup (maybe).

Get Your Pasty White to Colorado
Fueled by the online message boards and local feeder groups and off-road fabricators and vendors, the umpteenth-annual CO4RJ met in Buena Vista for 2009, circling the wagons in a secluded campsite in San Isabel National Forest at the intersection of Fire Road 315 (a dirt road scratched into a mountain ridge just east of Buena Vista and the Arkansas River valley) and the Lenhardy Cutoff. The location could be reached coming from out of Colorado Springs in less than two hours via the 24 West. About 40 off-road vehicles came over the weekend with the majority of them camping on-site (though cold summer storms on Thursday and Friday might have chased away some who’d planned to attend). For those less interested in roughing it, the bucolic old transit and ore center of Buena Vista offered quite a few places to stay, including an adorable vintage prison. Full of prisoners.

This is how hard-core trails like Carnage Canyon work: one guy runs, everyone else points their finger offers advice. Very supportive.

The efforts of local enthusiasts have milked the CO4RJ into a somewhat national event, with ‘Yota fans coming from as far as San Diego and Oregon to participate. A raffle full of killer merchandise from off-road manufacturers served as further bait on the hook. Goodyear Tires offered a set of the new MT/R w/ Kevlars, and Addicted Off-Road donated a set of sliders. Over $400 dollars was collected in the raffle as a gift for Stay the Trail, a Colorado-based off-road advocacy group (

The Colorado 4Runner Jamboree brought out the Toyotas in full force.



Jason Samuels and his early Toyota pickup had a problem with falling over – this was the second time of the weekend.

Split-Personality Event
Trails? Sort’a. There was a distinct schism in those who attended, with some using the CO4RJ as an good excuse for all sorts of backwoods adventurism (fishing, camping, shooting, hiking, mine parties, beer and rum consumption) with good off-roading as the uniting factor, and those who came prepped to the hilt to crawl, drag, bash and generally assault some of the hardest off-road trails Colorado has to give. It seems the Colorado trail fans are as serious about big articulation as anybody.

Hero of the weekend had to be Jared Lvie and his ’91 pickup, which managed to clear Carnage. Not one body panel survived unmolested. It was Cory’s idea.

Superior Trail Action: Backwoods Adventurism vs. Maximum Damage
On Friday morning, the gnarlier slice of trail dogs headed for a wet and slippery run up Holy Cross in the rain, which includes famous hits like French Creek. A smaller bunch sheared off and sought out more scenic, and slightly less lethal, trails for rigs that weren’t as prepared as the folks headed to Holy Cross. This illustrates the split personality of CO4RJ, with a good slice of the attendees interested in off-roading for adventure and destination’s sake or for the inexpensive family vacation offered by Colorado’s high country. The non-damage group drove up to and through the “rich folks pretending it’s still a ghost town” of St. Elmo, up the old Alpine Railroad grade, and veered off to hit Hancock and Tomichi passes (about 12,000 feet each) in the shadows of the Collegiate Peaks (a roughly north-south spine of serious 14,000-foot-plus peaks that make up significant portion of Colorado’s roughly 40 “14ers.”

Everyone knows someone with a Jeep. Eric Elson helped winch (it took two winches) Bear’s front-diffless ’85 4Runner up the final obstacle on Carnage.



Passable trails mean more adventures: at the bottom of a mile-long tailings pile, a pre-war International rested on its roof after performing what might be a world record for barrel rolls on jagged rocks. From the look of the cab, it was not a happy ending.

Charming for all was the relatively mild-mannered behavior at the campsite on FR 315, with children and dogs asleep as 50 to 60 off-roaders whooped it up (with a dose of restraint) at a big campfire 20 yards away. Friday and Saturday nights went long into it, with libations flowing but nothing expensive being broken, much in tune with the low-impact camping encouraged by state and national forest municipalities.

The carbed '85 4Runner started wheezing at 11,000 feet, and an idle adjustment was necessary to keep it chugging along in Low.

Saturday saw the headiest of the bunch line up early(ish) for what was billed as the premium run of CO4RJ, the all-day bead & bend march up Carnage Canyon, a ridiculous side route through the same neighborhood as Chinaman’s Gulch Loop. While Chinaman’s would be the main to-do on Sunday, Carnage was the attraction with a big “S” and a cape for Saturday, and the root cause for most of the hardcore CO4RJers to make the trip to Buena Vista and the Fourmile Travel Management Area in the first place (though a splinter group headed for Iron Chest instead). About 10 rigs, nine-tenths of a mile and 10 hours later, everyone actually drove out, including one sorry rock-pup that slipped a front-shaft twice, blew the front diff and bent his Hi-Lift like a pretzel.

The guys from Grand Junction brought Russell Battles’ bobbed ’84 4Runner and Phillip Rodger’s ’85 pickup. This is the pickup’s second bed and cab, and by the top Rodgers had managed to bend the dashboard too.

The Colorado 4Runner Jamboree is an annual event, and with a keen eye on the boards you’ll be able to pick up the buzz around December or January for the 2010 event. There is no shortage of to-dos in Colorado, and if you’re any sort of fan of full-tilt crawling and back-woods adventuring, CO4RJ is a must-hit event for you in 2010. There will be stickers.

Aaron Elson’s SAS’d ’84 4Runner was so evolved and – can we suggest graceful? – in the rocks that it rarely stood still long enough for good photos. Newsletter
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