2014 Big Bear Jeep Jamboree
Enjoying the John Bull Trail with 99 others
Why would 100-plus Jeep owners each pay an organization several hundred dollars to lead them around on trails that are free and open to the public? Good question. We headed up the hill to Southern California’s Big Bear Mountain in June 2014 to see if we could discover a few answers.
Jeep Jamborees have been around for 62 years (since 1953), and they are growing bigger and bigger every year. Just that fact alone tells you there must be an attraction to these events that’s pretty strong. As we drove around the trails of Big Bear following our trail leaders, we kept hearing a refrain over and over again. It’s the camaraderie.
The Jeep Jamboree pulls together a great bunch of guys and gals who really know the area and the idiosyncrasies of the various trails. Each run (you have the option of several different runs based on your rigs perceived capabilities and your desires) has a trail leader, someone who stays mid-pack, and a tail gunner who always stays at the back to collect any stragglers.
With near constant CB radio chatter (CBs are required), the group is always well aware of any problems, challenges, or desires of the participants. Heck, we found our leaders to be as pleasant as can be. And smart. They know the best lines, but they’re completely open to you trying a different line. They might offer some advice in the process, but they never make anyone feel like less of an off-roader.
One guy brought a brand new (we’re talking paper plates here) Jeep Cherokee to the event, and he took it on some pretty tough trails. He didn’t have extensive off-road experience, and he figured coming to a Jeep Jamboree would allow him to learn the limitations and capabilities of his new four-wheel-drive family vehicle. He was right, and we noticed a somewhat similar desire from quite a few other participants. Many on this trip were relatively inexperienced for the level of trails they were attempting. That’s why they wanted the safety net of the Jeep Jamboree. Nearly 40-percent of the attendees at any Jeep Jamboree are newbies. The event offers good advice, experienced spotters, help if their Jeep breaks, and a whole bunch of other people just like them to make the experience more pleasant. The rules mandate that you must be driving a street-legal vehicle with a license plate, no body or suspension lifts over six inches combined, no tires over 37 inches, and open top vehicles must have rollbars. The last rule includes older models like CJs, Scramblers and Willys.
Yes, the camaraderie is a big part of the Jeep Jamborees. They separate you into groups and then assign you a color (the Blue Group, for example). After all trail riding is finished, there’s a damn good meal for the crowd (ours was held at the Elks Lodge in Big Bear), and each color group gets their own table. A friendly rivalry develops among the groups, one that is actively encouraged by the Jeep Jamboree staff and some of the more enthusiastic trail leaders. The witty banter and incessant “Team Blue, Team Blue, Team BLUE, Team BLUUUUUUUUE” goes on for a couple of hours.
So does the raffle. People love to win stuff, and at the Jeep Jamboree, there’s a lot to win. Winches, tires, nets, and all sorts of Jeep-related paraphernalia can be had if they pull your winning ticket out of the hat.
After all the partying, you get up and do it again the next day. The two-day event gives participants the option of taking a tough trail one day and a scenic trail the next, Or double up on the Black Diamond trails. It’s up to you.
The safety net of having a crew along with you for your trail experience is the most useful reason for attending a Jeep Jamboree. Being with like-minded others for a weekend is another strong reason to attend (nothing but Jeeps on this trip), and that camaraderie is extremely powerful. New friendships that last for years form at every one of these events. For a lot of people, it’s much better than just driving along a trail by yourself or with a couple of buddies. For more information and to check out the schedule, visit jeepjamboreeusa.com.