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Jeepers Jamboree Rubicon Jeep Fest

Posted in Events on January 1, 1999
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Photographers: Rick Péwé

Traversing the Rubicon is one of the most exiting experiences to be had, and we don't mean the river in Italy that Caesar had to deal with a zillion years ago.

The Rubicon trail in the High Sierras of Northern California is probably the most famous trail in the world-though there are more difficult ones. The Rubicon is steeped in legend and lore and is without doubt a challenging trail, combined with some spectacular scenery. The granite slabs and boulders lie amid rocky streams, crystal-clear lakes, and pine trees.

The Rubicon trail was originally the only route from Lake Tahoe, California, to Placerville, California. It began as a wagon road, then eventually carried motorized traffic. After U.S. 50 opened, the trail gradually fell into disrepair and was virtually abandoned. The famous lodge at Rubicon Springs had long since fallen into disuse, and only die-hard Jeep fanatics used the trails in the area during the early '50s.

Crossing the Granite Bowl requires that you pick your way across some deep cracks that can lift tires to the sky. While the glacially scoured basin looks smooth from a distance, quite a few vehicles have rolled on these ridges, which stray away from the main trail.

About that time, a group of individuals from the local area started the Jeepers Jamboree, and 1998 marked the 46th time the event has been held. The well-known event, held at the end of July, attracts over 1,000 participants from around the world. To raise awareness about the trail and the Jeepers Jamboree, the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, in conjunction with the Jeepers Jamboree and the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, hosted a media run during the Jamboree. With over 35 neophyte journalists strapped in members' rigs, the Jeeps crept across the granite slabs and rocky terrain to Rubicon Springs before heading up Cadillac Hill.

Snow melting during the spring is usually a sign that there'll be a fairly dry time on the trail, with few serious water crossings. This year, the snow was still around and melting fast in the middle of July. That caused large pools and bogs that had to be carefully negotiated. Piling all the gear on top of a rack keeps the floorboards ready to accept the wet stuff.

The trail is still a county road, but it's not maintained. There's legal access through the area, most of which is on National Forest land, and rangers regularly patrol the trail on dirt bikes. The popularity and open access of the area spur many different organizations and individuals to cross the 'Con.

If you'd like to participate in the Jeepers Jamboree, you can contact the organization at Dept. JP, 6275 Main St., Georgetown, CA 95634, 530/333-4771. More information is also available from the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, Dept. JP, 1725 23rd St., Ste. 220, Sacramento, CA 94296, 916/324-5801.

Minor modifications to the axles, such as adding locking diffs, help on this trail, and the spring-over-axle suspension conversion shown on this Jeep is increasingly popular. The extra clearance from larger tires and the elimination of springs and hangers under the axle make for less scrapage on the bottomside.
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