FJ Cruiser Summit in Colorado with Discount Tire

Oct. 14, 2011 By Don McNielly
Nothing that compares to the majestic beauty of the mountains from Silverton to Ouray as we traveled to the FJ Cruiser Summit No. 5.

This year marked the fifth running of the FJ Cruiser Summit in Ouray, Colorado. Discount Tire, which was a sponsor of the event this year. The Discount Tire crew particpated in the ride and even posted daily coverage in the Forums. The event looked so cool we wanted to share it here, but feel free to check out the original posts here. Check out the action from this year's year's event below.

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 for the FJ Cruiser Summit. Everywhere you looked there were decked-out FJs 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.

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 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, and with Eddie, who is a manager at Discount Tire's Phoenix, Arizona, distribution center. The second vehicle is owned by Rob and his passenger was Lee. They are both store managers from Denver, Colorado.

It was a long and somewhat boring drive on Tuesday 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.

Here's the FJ I rode in with the new Level 8 Guardian Wheels installed. They remind me of the FJ TRD Wheel.

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.

We came in early so we could get registered first thing Wednesday and get the two FJs 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.

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 FJs everywhere all decked out to look at.

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.

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 FJs 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 the trail guide arrived, 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 four-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.

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.

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 which 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.

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.

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.

Our Trail guide for the day Robert with his wife and daughter.

It was 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

At Cinnamon Pass the sign says 12,640 feet in elevation and we are certainly well over the tree line.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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  appreciate your business.

To check out even more images, visit the full posts in the Off-Road Forums.

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