By Bruce "bruzter" Minney
After a lot of planning on the part of Mike Aaron and Steve Crase and many emails back and forth on Topica the Gilespie Gulch Spooky Night Poker Run was set to go off on October 20th. Meeting place was Gateway Park on North 28th Street in Boulder at 5:30 pm. The run included several pumpkins, a poker drawing, weenies and samores around a campfire in the lower section of the trail and an ascent to the top of Nugget Hill for those who dared.
A good turnout included trip leader(s) Steve and Suzy Crase and their dog Nell, in Steve's '89 FJ62. Our intrepid Cruise Director and trip organizer for the run, Mike Aaron and his two dogs Bogen and Murphy in Mike's '78 FJ55. Jeff Zepp and friend Linda (her first time wheeling) in Jeff's '97 HZJ75, Scott Yoder in his 2000 4Runner, Ige Gustavson and friend in her FJ60 series, Bruce Lawson in his 60 series wagon, Mike Koons in his FJ40, Bruce and Heather Westlund in his '69 FJ40 "Jethro", Rob (didn't get the last name) in a heavily modified 40 series, and last but not least, yours truly accompanied by Knik the dog in my '64 FJ40.
Steve led the group out of Gateway Park and proceeded to Jamestown and the trailhead. Meanwhile Mike Aaron had been busy setting out five inventively carved pumpkins at points along the trail where the group was to stop and draw a card from each one, attempting to put together a winning hand for the top prize, an Optima Yellow Top Battery courtesy of Kevin "Uncle Ben" Ehrlick. A tow strap, courtesy of Cool Cruisers of Texas (provided by Jeff Zepp) was to be the second prize. A snatch block was donated as the the third prize.
The group continued up the mild lower portion of the trail, stopping at each pumpkin to draw our cards. After a glorious fall sunset followed by the view of a new moon gliding in the October night sky we came upon Mike Aaron who had graciously provided a campfire and display apropos to the spirit of the run. An unfortunate "jeeper" had fallen victim to a hi lift jack failure under the front tire of Mike's 55 and a billboard cautioning the uninitiated was also in evidence.
Cruiser talk (it's a Toyota thing, you understand) and general discussion about the upper portion of the trail was accompanied by weenies, samores and soft drinks followed by the drawing in which the winning hand (a pair of Aces) held by Jeff Zepp walked away with the Optima, while Rob took the strap with another pair and Mike Koons won the snatch block.
Steve asked if anyone was foolhardy enough to try finishing the upper portion of the trail. Several people elected to go, including myself, Mike Aaron, Scott Yoder and Rob. With the hour getting late those with better sense stayed near the security of the campfire while the less sane gathered their rigs for the spooky ascent to the top of Nugget Hill.
The upper portion of the trail revealed some interesting steep climbs and knarly but doable obstacles none of which resulted in winching, strapping or breakage for the well prepared and capable rigs and their occupants.
We stopped at the infamous Slaughterhouse Gulch cutoff near the top and Steve recounted the tale of an unfortunate full size pickup that had been rolled and trashed there just prior to the previous years club run up Gilespie Gulch. The lights of Rowena twinkled below the particularly nasty looking obstacle, and it was agreed by all that daylight would be the best time to tempt the jaws of that particular rock beast so we continued our ascent. Upon reaching the upper end of the trail, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the night lit front range from Longmont to the north down to Boulder at the southern extreme. Mike oriented us and pointed out some of the more distinctive features of the view, and we then reverse ran the trail and picked up the cards and pumpkins on our way out, heading our separate ways upon descending into Jamestown.
This was a great family run, with the lower section of the trail being doable by any stock rig while the upper portion offers some moderate challenges for the slightly more set up rigs and experienced drivers. Special thanks to Mike Aaron for all the extra effort he put into making this run so much fun. I had a great first time night run on this trail. Knik had a blast too.