The high-altitude rock and trail season runs out of steam at about the same time mountain passes start to clog with snow. Go figure.

Outside the fat-tired winter-trail fans, most rock-and-bonkers use this intermission to shift to the desert sand season, and to reminisce with friends about the year’s adventures. One of the best runs that came up – thanks to its recipe of high-Q humanity slathered in adventure sauce (and spiced up with industry stalwarts and yours truly) – was FJ Summit’s third-annual Veterans’ Ride-Along, which carried an army of Colorado-based vets from the Grand Junction Veterans’ Administration up and over Ingram/Black Bear Pass.

FJ Summiteers assembled early in downtown Ouray. We’ll assume the Caddy was there for some hair of the dog.
An attentive builder or vendor will always ensure their rigs are parked for good visibility.

Hosted by the Grand Junction (Colorado) VA Hospital and FJ Summit (celebrating its 12th year in Ouray, Colorado, this July), about 20 veterans met up in downtown Ouray early on the last day of FJ Summit. Trucks and representatives supporting ‘Summit, including Marlin Crawler, Metal Tech, RevTek, Nitro Gear, Rago Fabrication and Expedition One (as far as we can remember) were there to support local veterans too. FJ Summit reps and vendors kicked merchandise into giveaways for the vets in attendance.

Representatives from FJ Summit, Metal Tech and other outfits expressed their affection and distributed SNEG (Stuff No one Else Gets) to the veterans in attendance.
Experienced four-wheelers with the ‘Summit ensured easy passage to the heights of Ingram/Black Bear Pass.

The fabricators, builders and manufacturers supporting FJ Summit lined up to assist the veterans’ run – even if it meant waking up at 6:00 on the last day of the event, after all the big Friday industry parties. Tim “Every Time I Get Out, They Pull Me Back In!” Terleski from the FJ Summit board helped conduct the group’s comings and goings.

It’s difficult to illustrate the precariousness of the initial drop-in to Telluride. This cut turns knuckles white.
Beneath the bolt-ons, success on Ingram/Black Bear is about a good truck, good tires, and a good driver.

Legend tells of the Veterans’ Ride-Along being the brainchild of VA employee Tim Guyne. While out on trail during the 2015 ‘Summit, Guyne was confronted with the repeated difficulties of trail rigs struggling to climb Poughkeepsie Gulch at The Wall. He wanted to subject his coworkers to the same degree of suffering.

Not much parking at the view-point. Figures. That’s Telluride in the background, trying to look pretty.
The remnants of the mill that overlooks Telluride are worth a standalone day’s exploration. Mankind has built spectacular things.

We kid. Word is that Guyne thought the supportive camaraderie required for ‘froaders to crawl The Wall was just the type of positive challenge to impress, inspire and invigorate the veterans he worked with at the VA – a backcountry giveback from serious four-wheelers who could safely deliver local vets to whereabouts unpaved. With clearance from Michael Kilmer, Grand Junction VA Hospital Director, the groundwork for the first Veterans’ Ride-Along was in place.

What switchback? The cutting brake on Big Mike Crawler’s Taco let him pirouette the truck around the tightest switchbacks by pivoting on the inside-rear tire.
Speaking of cutting, if you try to cut early and one-turn the switchbacks on Ingram/Black Bear, not even a 4Runner can save you. This is another argument for ‘froading with friends.

“Director Kilmer has empowered VA employees like myself to seek out potential partnerships with organizations that value our veteran population,” declared Guyne. “FJ Summit definitely exceeds this standard and everyone involved is thankful for it.”

There’s surely a seatbelt on something…
The Veterans’ Ride-Along group assembled at the base of Bridal Veil Falls to plan their attack on Telluride’s ridiculous real estate prices and overdressed hipsters.

The logic is simple: who’s better to transport people into Colorado’s high-mountain goodness than the altitude-addled Toyota-equipped off-roaders attending one of the Toyota truck world’s best events? Combine this group’s admiration for America’s veterans with an opportunity to go ‘froading for a good cause, and you’ve got the third-annual FJ Summit Veterans Ride-Along.