Day 4 of the 2015 West Coast JK Experience
Nitto Tire’s JK Experience is more than just a ‘wheeling trip. At times, it actually feels like a summer vacation with a group of friends. Spending the night in the Stanley (one of the most haunted hotels in America) was a real treat. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the rattling pipes and creaking floors were enough to make you want to sleep with the lights on! Shortly after waking up Tuesday morning, we grouped up for our daily drivers meeting. Today’s agenda we learn will have us traveling to extreme elevations and ‘wheeling an awesome trail in Colorado’s backcountry. With the sea of Jeeps gassed up for the day’s adventure, we left Estes Park, Colorado, and headed southwest. Our hour-long highway jaunt would eventually lead us to the Rocky Mountain National Park.
What makes Rocky Mountain National Park so unique is that the 415 square miles of park is home to Trail Ridge Road. Completed in 1940, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continual highway in the United States.
While there are a few places to hike to higher in elevation, such as the climb at the Alpine Visitor Center, the maximum height of the road is 12,183ft.
We’re told that there are more than 800 Big Horn Sheep roaming the park. Just in our short drive, we spotted a few dozen.
After navigating through the picturesque park, we arrived in the small town of Kremmling, Colorado. It would be here that we’d air down and get ready for the dirt. Our ‘wheeling destination would be the Sidewinder Extreme 4x4 Trail. At only 0.8-miles in length, it’s a short, but very tough trail.
It didn’t take long before trail leader Mel Wade got his EVO-Lander JK twisted up in this deep gully. After some careful winching, he was able to get the Jeep out of the near-rollover situation with no damage.
Between the railroad ties, large rocks and steep climbs, Sidewinder is non-stop action. Dave Ehlers ‘09 Wrangler Unlimited got hung up temporarily on this boulder patched, but was able to navigate out after a little repositioning.
Northridge 4x4's Oliver Crane wasn’t afraid of pushing his ‘08 JK to its limits. Here, he uses momentum and a slightly high line choice to get him through the obstacle.
Spotters play a significant role on the trip. Since many of the ‘wheeling destinations are new to the participants, having an extra set of eyes outside of the Jeep is critical.
Despite having 12 inches of vertical wheel travel with the EVO Manufacturing bolt-on coilover system, the 2015 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon belonging to Jack Sobelman still managed to carry a wheel through this portion of the trail. Thankfully, the lockers made up for the lack of rubber on the dirt.
Chris Achey’s 2012 two-door toted its 37-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers a time or two. Thankfully, he was a skilled wheelman and kept the JK moving without trouble.
JKS’ Pete Williamsen was right at home in the rocky terrain. Throughout the day, he threaded the heavily-modified two-door through the trail with ease. And for those wondering, that’s a tent on top of his roof.
We’re seeing more and more 40-inch Trail Grapplers under Jeep Wrangler Unlimiteds than ever before. The 116-inch wheelbase and large wheelwells make them a great fit. The fact that the tire is still just an over-grown mud-terrain radial means it can still roll smooth going down the road.
If anyone had the right to gripe about a big Jeep on a small trail, it was Discount Tire’s Mark MacGuinness. Thankfully, this isn’t Mark’s first time behind the wheel of the company’s massive four-door pickup Wrangler. He was able to twist up the portly JK with ease and had no trouble letting the LS V8 loose when he needed.
It’s hard to beat the picturesque backdrop that comes with of Colorado ‘wheeling. Mine Drafting owner Erik Ames was one of a handful of sponsors that are fortunate enough to call Colorado home.
As is the case with JKX, we move from one amazing location to another. Leaving the trail, we got back on the road for a twisty drive down the mountain and into the Ripple Creek Lodge in Meeker, Colorado. The beautiful retreat is an outdoorsman's paradise. They offer plenty of hunting, fishing, and horseback activities and complete multi-day packages for those looking for the ultimate getaway.
This would actually be our dinner stop for the evening as we still had plenty of miles to travel to our final stop for the day. The mess hall remained silent as the food was top notch.
Reluctantly, the group got back in their rigs with bellies full. We hit the road once again and as the sun set, we put another 70 miles or so on the odometer. Our final rest stop of the evening would be Rangely, Colorado. There waiting for us was the NITTO Tire truck, happy to lend air, tools and light to those who needed it.
Rangely Hospitality The town of Rangely is very small, but full of absolutely wonderful people. They were excited for us to be coming through and put together an elaborate gift basket, which was raffled off. Filled with some of Colorado’s finest whiskey, an assortment of clothes and more gift cards than we’ve ever seen in one place, the locals' hospitality was greatly appreciated.