(Photography and Captions by Thomas J. Hester, Mile-Hi Jeep Club Commander)
4WD clubs are plentiful throughout the U.S. and Canada, across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. For a Jeep owner, finding a club that fits means matching interests and aims. Reasons for joining a club can include the degree of family involvement, the sharing of common values, trail preferences, environmental viewpoints and community concern.
One group that I would consider joining is the Mile-Hi Jeep Club (MHJC). Chartered and incorporated in Colorado on July 2, 1957, MHJC is among the earliest organized four-wheeling groups in the United States. This comes as no surprise, as Colorado offers some of the best recreational and family-oriented 4WD venues in the world!
The Mile-Hi Jeep Club first caught my attention when I covered an All-4-Fun Week at the Poudre (‘poo-der’) River in the early ’90s. These annual events, organized by the club and sponsored by prominent 4WD industry manufacturers, attract attendees from all over the world. The club celebrates its 45th event July 30th-August 6th 2011 near Salida, Colorado. (For more information on All-4-Fun Week, click here!)
Having grown up at rural Western Nevada, with access to a Jeep CJ-5, the Rubicon Trail, high desert country and rock-strewn mountain passes, I readily bonded with the club members. We appreciated the same kind of four-wheeling and shared common values and interests. Had the club not been based more than 1,200 miles from my home at the time, I would have asked for a membership form!
The club’s mission statement reads:
“THE PURPOSE OF THE MILE HI JEEP CLUB OF COLORADO IS TO UNITE ADVENTURE LOVING PEOPLE IN WORTHWHILE 4-WHEEL DRIVE ACTIVITIES; TO EDUCATE ITS MEMBERS IN THE PROPER MANNER OF ALL ROAD DRIVING; TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE THE NATURAL BEAUTY AND TERRAIN; TO PARTICIPATE, ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS, IN SEARCH AND RESCUE AND OTHER HUMANITARIAN MISSIONS AS THE COMMUNITY NEEDS; TO SHARE GOOD FELLOWSHIP WHILE OPERATING OUR VEHICLES IN A MANNER SO AS TO PRESERVE AND PROTECT OUR LAND FOR ALL GENERATIONS; AND TO EXTEND THE COURTESY OF THE OPEN ROAD TO ALL.”
Although associated with the stellar ‘All-4-Fun Week’ events, the Mile-Hi Jeep Club has much more to offer. In addition to running some of the most spectacular trails in Colorado’s ‘Fourteeners, the club’s members are adamantly committed to community service.
This distinguishing quality has made the MHJC a joint-venture participant with Federal and State of Colorado land use management agencies. A mutually beneficial relationship, their projects involve the restoration of fragile backcountry environments. Such efforts help assure continued access to designated 4WD trails.
“Sometimes, opening a trail for the season means encountering sudden storms at higher elevations! We had finally gotten above tree line (about 10,500 feet) when this storm rolled in.”—Tom Hester
The Mile-Hi Jeep Club serves as a model for others. Sharing a hearty appetite for challenging four-wheeling, coupled with family recreation and community service projects, this group strikes an optimal balance. For 4WD enthusiasm, a sense of adventure and generosity toward the community, the Mile-Hi Jeep Club’s challenging trail runs and wide range of outdoor projects say it all!
“This truck was left abandoned after the owner tore off part of the suspension on the trail. It sat on the trail for almost two months before vandals got hold of it, rolled it and left it in a meadow. The U.S. Forest Service asked for our help removing it.”—Tom Hester
“We used a Hi-Lift and chains to attach the truck to the back of a Cummins-powered M715 and dragged it down the mountain to a Forest Service trailer. We also cleaned up the spilled fluids and other debris left behind and restored the meadow to its pristine condition.”—Tom Hester
Boulder Reseeding Project
A recent, devasting fire swept the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado. The wildfire burned several homes and charred thousands of acres. Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) (see http://www.wlrv.org) and Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado (VOC) http://www.voc.org contacted the Mile-Hi Jeep Club for assistance.
These outdoor groups needed help hauling supplies to various points in the burn areas. MHJC members helped reseed the area to counter erosion. They hauled 45-pound bags of seed as well as tools, hardhats, buckets, water and safety gear to multiple staging areas along the work route. During the day, MHJC helped replace broken tools, restocked supplies and ran volunteers to porta-potties.
“MHJC volunteers distribute supplies and seed in our recent reseeding project. We worked with other volunteer organizations over several weekends to reseed burn areas around Boulder, CO. The MHJC volunteers hauled bags of seed to various drop-off points and helped distribute rakes, shovels, and other supplies. We also helped move volunteers from other organizations. The Trail Ridge Runners from Longmont, CO also participated on this project. MHJC had over 200 volunteer hours!”—Tom Hester
Club members stood ready for sudden weather issues and other emergencies, fully prepared to get volunteers back to the staging area. At the end of each work day, MHJC collected tools and supplies then hauled trash out. MHJC accrued 200 volunteer hours reseeding the burn area, joining ranks with members of the Trail Ridge Runners from Longmont, Colorado.
Mile-Hi Jeep Club is a member of FEAT (Fourwheel Emergency Assistance Team), a Colorado Association of 4WD Clubs venture. FEAT works with the Denver Office of Emergency Management (OEM), supplying emergency transportation for essential personnel during blizzards. As FEAT 4WD volunteers, MHJC members support the police, fire departments, dispatchers, doctors, nurses and others deemed “essential” by the OEM. FEAT volunteers also assist a number of dialysis centers and in-home caregivers.
FEAT started in the Denver Area and has since grown nearly statewide. The Colorado Association of 4WD Clubs and its member groups provide 4WD community service wherever it is needed. The Mile-Hi Jeep Club does its share!
Christmas Caravan for Kids
MHJC contributes to the annual USMC Toys 4 Tots Christmas Caravan For Kids at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. Groups of four wheelers meet at various points in the greater Denver Area then caravan to the fairgrounds to donate toys to the Marines. Local vendors show off new products and offer Christmas season specials. Recently, the club filled two 7-ton trucks with donations!
“The Christmas Caravan For Kids is our way of giving back to the community. Every year on the first Saturday in December, 4WD enthusiasts meet at various locations throughout the Denver metro area and caravan to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. Local vendors are there with holiday specials, and we provide a small lunch for everybody. The USMC is on hand to collect donated gifts, and we usually fill at least two 7-ton trucks! We have one of the largest single-day donation drives in the Rocky Mountain region.”—Tom Hester
Denver St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Each year, around thirty MHJC vehicles enter the parade. Where permitted, a couple of Jeep 4x4s drive up each other’s tires to show off for the crowd. MHJC won the best Auto/Motorcycle entry for the 2011 parade!
“We also are active in the community, and for several years we have participated in the Denver St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In 2011 we were awarded the ‘Best Automotive/ Motorcycle participant’ award. The crowd loves it when we climb on each other’s tires, but the parade marshalls limit when and where we can do this.”—Tom Hester
Land Use and Grants
MHJC has received several grants for projects in recent years. Working with local counties and land management agencies, the club has helped improve trails. This is one sure way to keep trails open!
Bird’s Eye Gulch
The club received a grant to install fencing and re-contour the road. Additionally, MHJC fixed the mud bog area that was considered an eyesore by the Forest Service.
“This area used to be a mud bog that the Forest Service considered an eyesore. MHJC Patrol 14 teamed up with the Clear Creek Ranger District to secure a State Parks grant, which we used to hire a contractor to re-contour the bog. We reseeded and built buck and rail fence to narrow the road to it’s original width.”—Tom Hester
Bill Moore Lake
MHJC received grant funds to fill in the mud bog and adjust the drainage. (A contractor performed the drainage work.) The club installed buck and rail fencing where the mud bog had been and along a hill climb area. They reseeded areas behind the fencing to restore vegetation.
“These photos are from another portion of our Bill Moore Lake grant project. We hauled fencing materials up for the Forest Service and constructed about 300 feet of buck and rail fence to close off illegal spur roads. Even the kids got involved! We hauled about five large truckloads of materials to build this section of fence. Not seen in these pictures are the additional signs and trail markers that have been added.”—Tom Hester
“This photo show the nearly completed buck and rail fence. You can see how the road gets much wider from people going around the mud. We were able to convince the Forest Service to leave the rock accessible for us to climb on.”—Tom Hester
Iron Fens Project
MHJC installed fencing to preserve the Iron Fens area outside of Georgetown, Colorado. The fence helps protect this area from damage due to misuse.
MHJC contracted a backhoe operator to fill in an erosion area with gravel, as approved by the U.S. Forest Service. The club also helped clean out a squatters’ cabin, which the Forest Service later razed. The members built fences and blocked off illegal spur roads.
Every year, MHJC opens this pass for the Forest Service. The club adopted this trail and makes sure it is clear of any deadfalls. There are a few “snow-busting” days to get the trail open. This keeps early users on the existing route. They have no reason to drive around the snow drifts and widen the road.
“MHJC opens several trails for the Forest Service every year. These pictures are from our opening of Red Cone. As you can see, we frequently encounter downed trees and remnants of avalanches that have occurred. Opening this trail is definitely a team effort! Once we break through all the snowpack and have cleared the trail, we contact the Forest Service to let them know the trail conditions. Some years have taken up to four weekends to get the trail open. Other years are done in a day.”—Tom Hester
Spring Creek Trail
MHJC currently works with the U.S. Forest Service and the county to keep this trail open. The plan is to install signs, clean up trash and help protect and preserve this trail. Improvements will also be made if the club can get grant funding.
MHJC has been awarded a plaque on this hospital’s “Wall of Outstanding Contributors”. The club sponsors the Children’s Burn Camp. They raise money through raffles and other events at All-4-Fun Week.
Colorado Brings Out the Best in ‘Wheelers!
When you finally reach a Colorado Rockies summit, the view is spectacular! Artifacts from the mining era ghost towns dot the landscape.
The Mile-Hi Jeep Club is a proactive group. Each season in the Colorado high country brings challenges, and these 4WD owners rise to the challenges. Beyond the endless opportunities for recreational four-wheeling, the Mile-Hi Jeep Club members enjoy the satisfaction of volunteerism and community service projects!
This says much about the club’s membership. These ‘wheelers could easily spend their time playing, yet the scope of club activity has always included community service. At Colorado, a 4×4 is part of the landscape. The Mile-Hi Jeep Club proves that when four-wheelers come together, good things happen!