Almost anyone who has ever held the steering wheel of a Jeep in their hands has heard about the Rubicon Trail, and the Jeepers and Jeep Jamborees. These Jamborees are two of the premier trail events in the country (and possibly the world), and they are, in our opinion, one of best ways to experience the challenge of the “Rubicon.”
Which one is best for you? The two words that best differentiate the events are “party” and “family.” The Jeepers Jamboree will be in its 65th year for 2017, is more of an adult atmosphere, and sees higher attendance numbers (more than 400 rigs and over 1,000 people in 2016). The Jeepers Jamboree is actually two events in one – a three-day and four-day trip that overlap during the same weekend. The Jeep Jamboree (2017 will be its 39th year) is a much more kid-friendly event with activities planned in camp just for them, is a three-day event (drive in, camp, drive out), and experiences a smaller crowd (about 120 rigs and 400 people in 2016).
You can decide which event to attend based on the experience you desire, however, they both go over exactly the same rugged and challenging terrain. Either way, you will have “done the Rubicon.” We did the “party” in 2015, so decided to check out the Jeep Jamboree in 2016. We had just as much fun, got to tackle the Rubicon Trail one more time, had no headaches in the morning, and saw many dozens of future Jeepers getting a taste of and falling in love with the “Rubicon.” Here are our top 10 reasons you too should get to a Jeep Jamboree. For all the registration info, contact Jeepers Jamboree & Jeep Jamboree, Inc., 530/333-4771, jeepersjamboree.com.
1: Stupendous Four-Wheeling
Let’s just begin by saying that the Rubicon Trail is quite possibly the most challenging Jeep trail in existence. Sure, there are other trails that can easily be placed at 10 on a 1-to-10 scale, such as Hell’s Revenge/Escalator (actually rated an 8 by the Moab, Utah-based Red Rock 4-Wheelers), or Black Bear Pass Trail in Colorado (not officially rated, but none-the-less very dangerous in its own right for the inexperienced or ill-equipped), or some of the short but rock-strewn trails of Johnson Valley. However, for the sheer number of obstacles and challenges per mile combined with its length, there is nothing that surpasses the Rubicon Trail. After all, you are crossing the spine of the Sierra Nevada.
2: Awesome Rigs
One of the best parts of participating in the Jeep Jamboree (or Jeepers Jamboree) is to check out the other Jeeps. This well-built flatty had a 350 V-8 under its hood, and drew a lot of attention from participants. Of course, your rig should be very well prepped, equipped, and built sturdy as steel to handle the rugged terrain. However, you will see all sorts of setups, builds, new equipment, and mechanical ideas from which you can pick and choose concepts to apply to your Jeep. With hundreds of rigs to ogle, you will definitely come away from a Rubicon Trail trip with lots of new ideas to better your own Jeep.
3: Breathtaking Scenery
It’s the Sierra Nevada for crying out loud! This is the same place you’ll find Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks. You’re in the Desolation Wilderness and the majestic scenery, skyscraping granite peaks, forests of pines and firs, and abundance of wildlife are staggering. When you’re not zeroed in on the terrain so you don’t screw up and bash or break something on the VW-sized boulders, you will be rubbernecking at the tremendously beautiful scenery surrounding you.
4: Delicious Food And Beverages
How do ribeye steaks, corn on the cob, scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes, pastrami sandwiches, and a long list of other culinary treats sound? Who cares how they sound, they taste wonderful. This is what we enjoyed in camp and what you can expect to enjoy as well. The cook crew are a group of volunteers who whip up delicious meals for you three times a day when in camp. There was an ice cream parlor, too, where you could get ice cream sundaes with nuts, whipped cream, strawberry or chocolate topping (or all four) added. For the adults, the bar is open with a variety of beers and other adult beverages available at a much lower cost than at your local ballpark – no $12 beers here. Non-alcoholic drinks are available for the kids, too.
5: Really Nice People/Mechanics
The Jeepers/Jeep Jamboree staff members are incredibly friendly and easy to deal with but as anybody that’s part of the Jeep community knows fellow Jeepers are normally a very casual bunch. We have met people at these events who have become fast friends and continue to be so decades later. And in the event you do have mechanical problems, not only will people stop and help you out on the trail, but once you’re in camp at Rubicon Springs, you can head over to the mechanics’ camp where you can get repairs done by skilled and experienced Jeep wrenchers. You have to bring spare parts with you or buy them (some common spare parts may be available), but labor charges are on a “tip” basis. Suggestion: Tip well. You want these guys to be your friends.
6: Your Kids Will Love It
Kids who are 14 years and older can attend the Jeepers Jamboree, but the age limit is much lower for the Jeep Jamboree. Kids who are 6 years and older are allowed on the Jeep Jamboree, and this event is really geared more toward families. The Jeep Jamboree featured kids-only events such as an RC car (Jeep) trail ride around some of the rocks in camp, an ice-cream eating contest, and a crawdad catching contest. The Rubicon River that lazily flows beside the camp is filled with them (and trout in case you’re of the angling bent), and the girl that won the crawdad catching contest hauled in 62 of the little buggers, one of which was nearly 5 inches in length. BTW, the river is also a great spot for all ages to swim in and float around on, so be sure to bring swimsuits, towels, and your inflatable floaties.
7: Helpful Trail Spotters
You really should have some Jeeping experience before doing the Rubicon, but even a novice can successfully navigate and enjoy the Jeepers/Jeep Jamborees. That’s because at almost every tough spot, there are “rock rollers.” These are men and women with off-road-trail driving experience who can help guide you through the most challenging obstacles. These extremely helpful people will “spot” you through a tough section, and if needed roll rocks into place to assist your safe passage through a challenging obstacle. Having cookies to share with the rock rollers to say “thank you” as you go along is not a bad idea at all.
8: Live Music
Yes, there is a bandstand and dance floor in Rubicon Springs. A band and its equipment is Jeeped in by staff members and volunteers, and the band plays every night to entertain Jamboree participants. This year, it was a group called Tragically White, and they cranked out some good old-fashioned rock ‘n roll on Friday and Saturday evening, performing two sets for a total of about two hours of live musical entertainment. Adults and kids boogied to the beat, and all had a very good time.
9: Camping Is Cool
Who doesn’t love to camp out? I mean really, it’s as much a part of Jeeping as all-terrain tires. The Rubicon Springs area is a thin little valley that stretches for about a mile through the forest. It can accommodate hundreds in some very comfortable and scenic, albeit primitive, camp spots. There are porta-potties, and even showers if a dip in the river isn’t enough to clean off the trail dust, so it’s certainly not barbaric for those who are shy about “potty-time in the woods.” By the end of the first day, when everyone was off the trail and in “the springs,” more than 100 brightly colored tents dotted the landscape, tucked in between tall timber, large boulders, and vehicles. While there are no individual campfires allowed, the bonfire in camp is the perfect place to make ‘smores.
10: Bragging Rights
When it’s all over and you’re back on pavement, you will have “done the Rubicon.” Even if you don’t buy the T-shirt, you can wear that accomplishment like a badge of honor. There are not many Jeep trails (if any) that hold the allure and reputation for challenging off-road driving that the Rubicon does. Sure, you can do it on your own or with a small group of buddies and their Jeeps, but then you won’t have the fun and feeling of camaraderie that comes with driving this famous (or infamous) trail during an event such as the Jeepers Jamboree or the Jeep Jamboree. It’s sort of a “bucket list’ thing. So get your rig and yourself ready, and sign up for this ultimate Jeeping adventure.