25th Jeep Jamboree on the Rubicon Trail
It felt weird.
After hiking out to long-term parking at Denver International Monday night, it felt weird to be in a short Jeep again. Short is relative; I have a 2" Rubicon Express Budget Boost and 30" BFG All-Terrains on my Cherokee but had spent the weekend in a much larger Cherokee courtesy of Rubicon Outfitters.
The trip was limited to 350 vehicles. I don't know if it was full, but there were definitely a few hundred Jeeps around. Almost all of them were various CJs or Wranglers representing almost all years and models produced, from a 1948 Willys to a 2003 Rubicon TJ with temporary tags. There were a handful of Cherokees and even a lifted and rock-rashed 2000 WJ Grand Cherokee in the group too.
As we neared the Springs in the late afternoon we noticed rain closing in. While it did a great job of keeping the heat and dust down, many of the rocks started getting slick at this point. Of course, rain is where Cherokees have a distinct advantage. While the Wrangler and CJ crowd busied themselves throwing tarps over their gear (and themselves), we rolled up the windows. Life is good sometimes. For the most part I had no problems with the rain and wet rocks, but there were a few times when the only traction came from one stubborn tire lug clinging to a corner. With the rain and trail crowding, it took almost 13 hours to make the trip into the Springs, arriving at about 8pm to set up a tent and grab a late meal.
Saturday opened up with more rain, and although we did a quick recon out to Cadillac Hill, most of the Jeepers spent the day either at the bar, or napping between meals. A few guys with remote-control cars entertained the masses with their skills at doing donuts and jumping volunteers, but otherwise it was pretty slow. I've got to say the chow was great though. Saturday night brought an excellent steak dinner to celebrate the 25th Jeep Jamboree, followed by a hypnotist who kept us all rolling until the giveaways started. We had taken a few boxes of Rubicon Outfitters product so they could be given away. Additionally, there were other Jeep-related prizes including gift certificates, a winch, various lift items and a number of cargo racks. One lucky winner had his name chosen to win a 1997 TJ Wrangler with an RE 4.5" lift and 35" XTerrains along with other upgrades. He was two vehicles behind us on the way out Sunday and couldn't stop grinning. It turns out that although this was his fifth time at the Jamboree he was always a passenger and never owned a Jeep until that drawing.
Sunday morning dawned clear, so after drying out as much as we could the gear got stashed in the Cherokee and we hit the trail. We made it almost 1/2 mile before the first traffic jam. The next stop was about 100 yards past that, setting the tone for the day. Apparently there were a few breakdowns ahead of us, and the mud from the previous few days wasn't helping matters. In all, it took us almost three hours to make the short trip from Rubicon Springs to the base of Cadillac Hill. The XJ did a great job of putt-putting through all the obstacles even though the dirt had been churned into mud by all those who went through ahead of us. Once we made it to Observation Point, we could look over the entire valley floor and realize that it took two days to get from the far side to here.
At the Point there is usually a mid-day snack but apparently the BBQ meat went missing, so we ended up with water and Mrs. Fieldís cookies. While at the top we hooked up with a couple from Florida in their YJ and another couple in a sweet '74 CJ5 on the way out, since they knew the route. That is my only gripe about the trip, the assumption that everybody knows where they are headed and that they automatically know which (in)famous obstacle was just conquered. I didnít realize I was on Cadillac Hill until halfway up, and never pinpointed exactly where Big (or Little) Sluice was or whether we actually went through either of them.
Once in Lake Tahoe we were treated to yet another excellent meal at the Homewood Resort, exchanged emails (which I promptly lost...sorry) and head our separate ways, although all of our plans involved a hot shower. Overall this was an excellent trip, and I thank Rustin and Rubicon Outfitters not only for the opportunity to make this trip, but also for supplying the gear needed to make it.
I AM going again...somehow. Someday.