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An Aussie Overland: Troy Bignell Visits the FJ Summit

Everyone enjoys a good reason to get away from it all.  To get away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to travel the world or go on long trips, but there are excellent alternatives. There are of course plenty of possibilities from heading for a night under the stars by yourself, or attending a preplanned event such as the FJ Summit.

I took the later of those options recently and drove out to the FJ Summit in Ouray, Colorado. This was the final destination for myself and Paul May from Equipt before we parted ways at the end of our Alaska to Colorado journey. Rocking into town after one of our shortest drives, we felt a touch out of place in the 4Runner, but we soon found the “show grounds” and it no longer mattered.
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As this is the 8th year of FJ Summit, it is an event executed to a very professional standard. There are three nights with vendors and sponsors exhibiting their FJ parts and accessories.  The final of those three nights culminating with a raffle, the total prize pool worth over $40,000. It is a great opportunity for all FJ enthusiasts to find parts and accessories to add to their well-loved trucks, or for the newer folks on the market to see what is available.
While these are all very enjoyable diversions and give everyone a chance to see what is available for their favorite rig, the most enjoyable part of the event is the chance to experience the area’s legendary trails. Over the few days we were there, Paul and I completed a number of the local trails. It was a great introduction to this part of Colorado, a veritable overlander’s dream.

 

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Ouray itself is already high by Australian standards, in fact it is higher than the highest point in Australia by ~ 480ft (150m) and Imogene Pass itself is at 13,114ft (3,997m) making it one of the highest passes in the US. This made it a bit of a struggle for me running around trying to take photos, however I still got a few to give you an idea of what the trail is like.

 

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Due to the time of year the whole area was a field of colour with all the wildflowers beginning to bloom. We also saw plenty of abandoned mines and valleys that went as far as the eye could see. Even at this time of year there was still snow around, particularly once we got above the tree line. Terrain like this I had seen very little of in my lifetime.  I’m much more accustomed to deserts and arid plains but, it was certainly worth the drive.

 

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While the FJ summit had plenty of planned day trips, they didn’t run any overnight or camping outings, so we took it upon ourselves to do one. Friday night Paul, the team from Expedition Overland, and myself, went out for a night’s camping. This gave us the real Colorado experience.  Heading up Corkscrew gulch we camped just below the tree line at around 10,200 ft. This made lighting a fire incredibly difficult but after a great deal of effort (and a snow peak flame thrower) we did get one going so the rest of the night was spent around the campfire. The best thing about camping somewhere like this was that the sky was pitch black. This meant that we could see plenty of stars. To further enhance that, Ty, who was travelling with the EO team, pulled out a pair of night vision goggles. While it makes all the stars look green, it is amazing to see how many there are. The following day we hit the track again heading up and over Corkscrew pass and down onto the adjoining Californian Gulch. We continued to see spectacular scenery and breathtaking views.

 

 

 

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Ouray is one place I will not forget from my trip, it is an amazing destination and there is plenty to do, not only out on the trails but also in town. Pubs, breweries, and hot springs are all found in town and if you feel like venturing further, there are plenty of small towns within an hour’s drive. So consider it for your next adventurous get away. Lastly, I have to say a special thanks to Expedition One and Equipt for enabling this trip for me.