It all started at a meeting hosted by Mark Smith at his Georgetown house to discuss a way to boost the small logging town's economy. Of all the ideas he and his friends tossed on the table, the one they all liked most was a trip across the Sierra Nevada from Georgetown to Lake Tahoe by way of the old Rubicon Trail. Harold Krabbenhoft created the name "Jeepers Jamboree," and they all decided it was the perfect name for the event. Mark Smith, Ken Collins, and Harold Krabbenhoft presented their idea to the Georgetown Road and Gun Club, along with the Georgetown Divide Rotary Club. Both organizations liked the plan and agreed to finance the venture.
Mark Smith and Ken Collins then began contacting everyone they knew who owned a Jeep and invited them to attend the first Jeepers Jamboree. The first event was held in August of 1953, with 55 Jeeps and 155 people in attendance. The promotion and marketing went so well that the Jeepers Jamboree has been held annually ever since. More than 94,000 happy Jeepers have attended the Jeepers Jamboree throughout the years, with the 50th marking the largest attendance ever. The golden anniversary event saw more than 800 vehicles and 1,800 people.
As usual, it all started Wednesday on the main street of Georgetown. This is where the vendors set up their booths to show all of the Jeepers their new products. It's also where you check in for the event and grab dinner. After the night's festivities are over, it's time to prepare for the trip in the morning.
The group leaves from Georgetown on Thursday morning, traveling to Loon Lake and the entrance to the Rubicon Trail. After everyone is staged at the Loon Lake trailhead, they shift into Low range four-wheel drive and begin the journey to Rubicon Springs. Going from Loon Lake to the base of Walker was just a matter of picking the correct line on the trail or having the Rock Rollers guide you through the rocks. From the base of Walker to the Little Sluice was a little more challenging, thanks to Mother Nature's winter modifications. About halfway up Walker there was a large boulder with a hole just on the other side. Quite a few eyes were opened by a little tipping, but everyone made it safely through to the top with the help of the Rock Rollers.
We took a break at the Little Sluice for some trail repairs and snacks. Due to the size of this event, the Little Sluice was closed. Those who decided to go play in the obstacle did so at their own risk. After watching a couple of rigs play in the Sluice, it was time to hit the trail and travel the next leg to Buck Island. The rocks were a challenge, as usual, as was the off-camber run down the slabs. But by early afternoon, we were at the Buck Island repair station. It was then time for another break and a quick swim in Buck Island Lake to wash off the trail dust. After we were refreshed, we hit the trail. The last leg of the trail on Thursday took us down Big Sluice and into Rubicon Springs and the main camp for the next couple of days. We arrived in camp by late afternoon and set up our tent by the Rubicon River, along with about 1,500 other people.
Friday and Saturday were spent hanging around camp relaxing, fishing, swimming, or hiking. Jeepers Jamboree helicoptered the country western band California Cowboys into camp for the evening entertainment, and on Saturday they were joined on stage by Nashville singer-songwriter Tommy Barnes. The crowd at the main camp greatly enjoyed both nights of entertainment.
As for the meals at this event, they are always first-class. This year marked Bob Springer's 47th year of cooking with the talented volunteer cook crew. The food is brought in by helicopter and prepared on site by the 60-member crew. This year, the crew in charge of supplying three meals a day for more than 1,800 people - no easy task in a normal kitchen, let alone a mountain kitchen. The crew worked around the clock, though, and kept the meals moving.
On Sunday morning, we woke to a great sunrise. It was then time to pack the gear and hit the trail for the final leg of the trip to Homewood Resort, near Lake Tahoe. The trail starts by climbing up Cadillac Hill. Again, the Rock Rollers helped everyone get through this challenging portion of the trail successfully. From there, it was a simple matter of traveling the trail to the top, where the lookout is located. After reaching the top you can take a view from the lookout and look down on the Rubicon Springs camp area. What a sight! From there, it's all fire trails back to the pavement and Homewood Resort for dinner. The trip is a grand total of 22 miles, and you never go more than 3 to 5 mph the whole time!
Whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned 'wheeler, this is one of the best events you will ever attend.
The Rubicon Trail: A History
1844 - John Fremont finds Lake Tahoe while leading the U.S. Army's first official exploratory expedition across the Sierra Nevada into California using the Rubicon Trail. His personal journals brought Tahoe to the attention of the Western world.
1850 - Rubicon Springs is discovered by early trappers, explorers, and survey parties traveling the Georgetown/Lake Bigler Indian trail.
1853 - Joseph Calhoun "Cock-Eyed" Johnson and an anonymous Placerville Herald correspondent break trail from Hangtown up the Rubicon Gorges south to Lost Corner, then drop down to Meeks Canyon to the creek. They are met by a band of 70 friendly Digger Indians (probably Washoe). The bay is filled with speckled trout. The Indians tell them tales of how Lake Tahoe was formed.
1867 - John and George Hunsucker fell pine trees and build their cabin just south of Rubicon Springs, at the foot of the large granite gorge known today as the base of Cadillac Hill.
1877 - The Hunsuckers add outlying shacks and a corral for their stock at Rubicon Springs. Hunting was reported to be excellent.
1880 - The Hunsuckers begin bottling the spring water and selling it in Georgetown. They have a difficult time meeting demand. Health seekers from Nevada now begin coming to Rubicon Springs.
1886 - Mrs. Sierra Phillips Clark, AKA "Vade," buys Rubicon Springs from the Hunsuckers and adds Potter's Springs 1 mile away, establishing the resort. She convinces El Dorado County to turn the trail from McKinney's over Burton's Pass into a one-way road.
1889 - Vade builds a two-and-a-half-story hotel at the springs, complete with curtained glass windows, 16 small rooms, and a parlor with horsehair furniture and a foot-pedal organ. She also begins a four-horse, six-passenger wagon service, hauling people from the Rubicon Springs Resort to McKinney's in Meeks Bay. It takes two-and-a-half hours to cover the nine miles.
1901 - Vade Clark sells Rubicon Springs Resort to Daniel Abbott, who replaces the friendly signs with those reading "Enter at your own peril."
1904 - Vade leases the Rubicon Springs Resort from Abbott for four years.
1908 - May Ralph Colwell of Moana buys the Rubicon Springs Resort. Vade leaves for good. In October, flash floods cause the Rubicon River to rise 8 feet overnight. Mud and water rush through the Rubicon Springs barn, nearly ripping the hotel and outbuildings off their foundations.
1922-1926 - Rubicon Springs begins losing its appeal as a resort because it is not as easy to reach as others in the area.
1923 - Vern Ford, the owner of Auburn Studebaker, drives a '23 Studebaker through the Rubicon County road - into the springs and out!
1930 - Colwell sells Rubicon Springs to the Sierra Power Company.
1940s - With World War II looming, the Rubicon Springs Resort continues to suffer. At the end of the 1940s, the land is sold to a company in Texas. By the end of the war, the road into Rubicon Springs has become impassable due to lack of use. In the early '50s, the resort is washed away by flooding from the Rubicon River. All that remains today are the foundations.
1953 - Jeepers Jamboree is started by Mark Smith and friends. The first event draws 55 vehicles and 155 people.
2002 - The 50th Jeepers Jamboree draws more than 1,800 people and more than 800 vehicles.