Ranger Rescue with Bronco Nation and Bronco Wild Fund at Celebration West
Updated: Feb 5
Only a special kind of someone enjoys the struggle of extracting an old, abandoned Ford Ranger from the forests of the Colorado Rockies, but it’s those kind of extraordinary folk who attend the annual Super Celebration West event, hosted by Bronco Driver Magazine in Buena Vista, Co.
Last September, a small group of the more than 200 Bronco enthusiasts at the event spent one day trekking eight miles into the wilderness of the San Isabel Nation Forest to retrieve a derelict pickup in a joint effort organized by The Bronco Nation, National Forest Service, and The Sons of Smokey, a federal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization aligned with and partially funded by Ford’s Bronco Wild Fund, dedicated to removing trash from public lands. In the past four years, The Sons of Smokey, in partnership with The Gambler 500, is responsible for removing over one million pounds of debris from public lands. With the aid of the Bronco Wild Fund, The Sons of Smokey has previously organized volunteer trail clean-ups at the King of Hammers, the Mint 400, the Easter Jeep Safari and Gambler events across the world.— where they drag hundreds of cars and boats out of the desert—so it makes sense that before “Super Cel” West, the local Forest Service field office reached out to The Sons of Smokey and asked for help with a left-for-dead Ranger.
(Photography by Cooper Pierce)
Two members of the volunteer extraction team were Ford Bronco brand manager, Esteban Plaza-Jennings, and operations lead at The Bronco Nation, David Liebmann, who says, “We hadn’t seen the Ranger, so we didn’t know how recoverable the vehicle was and had to guess at how we’d get it out.” With the help of a few others from the Bronco community, they crowdsourced everything needed for the recovery, including a winch, a car trailer, and a Super Duty for hauling duties. Jennings says, “The trail was really rocky, so it wasn’t great for a dually with a car trailer, but it was no problem for the all-new Broncos that we took along for the trip.” As the team came to a clearing in the pines, they got their first glimpse of the blue Ford Ranger, with its bed full of garbage, its windshield shattered into tiny pieces, and its body spattered with bullet holes. “But at least it had four wheels and flat tires, so it was in better shape than I expected,” Jennings jokes.
Easter Jeep Safari
While the Forest Service pulled the trash out of the vehicle, the volunteers attempted to air up the tires with a portable compressor, but the old rubber wouldn’t hold, so then they figured out how to winch the pickup into a position that would allow them to drag the Ranger on to the trailer. The return trip down the trail proved extremely difficult for the Super Duty, so a few of the volunteers made it a bit easier by walking in front of the dually and clearing boulders from its path. Eventually the team rejoined the Forest Service, which had removed two truck beds full of trash found inside and around the abandoned pickup, and the volunteer extractors followed the rangers through neighboring towns to a municipal holding yard, where it found new life being used by a local fire department for training purposes. It was a long, hard ten-hour day for those volunteers but by the generosity of The Bronco Nation, The Sons of Smokey, and the community of “Super Cel” West, that rotten Ranger is no longer tarnishing our beautiful public lands. Jennings says, “Bronco as a brand is very motivated to give back to the outdoors and make it a better place than we found it for future generations, which is why the Wild Fund exists, and The Sons of Smokey is a natural partnership. We want to be responsible and preserve our public lands ... tread lightly, stay on the trail, leave it better than you found it.”
Find out more about the Bronco Wild Fund: ford.com/bronco-wild-fund/
by Chris Nelson
Gambler 500, Sons of Smokey and the Bronco Wild Fund in action at over 100 events a year.