The Jeep Jamboree is a nationwide event held in different cities, but this is an adventure in the Arizona desert. Just recently, I had the pleasure to attend of attending the Phoenix event. It ran from March 5th to the 7th at the Bumble Bee Ranch in Bumble Bee, Arizona. The ranch was where the main camp and programs were held.
There were planned trips scheduled each day to different locations throughout the Table Mesa Recreational Area. I talked to several participants which told me some of the locations they traveled on the previous days. Some of these trails I have been on with the different 4×4 clubs here in Arizona, and enjoyed.
The Table Mesa Recreational Area has several locations to rock-crawl and four-wheel. On the day I went, I was able to get with a group heading to the Predator Trail. Our trail leaders were Allen Connor, Mike Tomlinson, and Brian Gonzalez, all members of the Copperstate 4 Wheelers. The Copperstate 4 Wheelers was the host club representing Arizona during the Jeep Jamboree and guiding the participants on the trails.
On the Trail
Our group headed out around eight o’clock in the morning. It was about a five-mile drive from the ranch back to the freeway. The group drove down Table Mesa road to the Little Pan staging area, where drivers aired down their tires. It was then time to head out into the back country.
On the way to our outback trail, there was a water crossing. I remembered traversing it back in January with a group of four-wheelers. There was some major changes within the two months, mostly due to rain. Rain also changed several roads and minor landmarks.
We finally made it to the trailhead and were ready to start the Jamboree. This was where I got out and started hiking the rocks. Connor took to the rocks first to mainly show the other drivers the best line. Once he was up the trail, Connor walked back to help drivers with wheel placement. Next, Gonzalez came up from the back to aid, while Tomlinson traded off or, if needed, winched someone out.
The Predator had several obstacles which tested both drivers and vehicles. Some were mild, while others required spotters to guide drivers over. It was the kind of place where the wrong placement could lead to some body paint removal. In the past, this trail has claimed taillights and fenders; having a great set of rockers was essential.
Our group reached the turn for the start. The trail dropped into a small run-off, and then turned into the wash. From this point, there was a first set of rocks – a little zig, then a zag.
This formation started off by coming in straight at it. Once the front wheels were on top, the driver had to turn to a hard right, or else he chanced see-sawing his vehicle and possibly rolling over.
Afterwards, there was a hard left to the step up. On this day, it wasn’t as hard as in the past. Heavy deposits of sand made it a shorter crawl. On this day, it was only half the tire height; in the past, it could be two-thirds or more.
The Halfway Point
The next formation was an off-camber one while hugging a big rock. Then there was a dip down and back up with the off-camber to the right. A few of the longer wheelbase vehicles lifted on the right as they climbed the chunks of rocks.
While the next set of rocks was not as bad due to sand deposits, there were more chunky rocks. On one of them, a driver had a blowout after a rock sliced through a tire’s sidewall. Thankfully, his friends brought power tools to quickly change the tire.
The trail favorite was the V notch; I am not sure anyone knows the true name. These rocks have a solid wall, with some of the wall protruding just enough to snag some tire on the one side, while on the other side is a cluster of rocks. It became a test of skill. Drivers had to maintain composure, all while watching the guide and trusting the tire to do its job. In some cases, articulation was not in one’s favor.
Back to Camp
Given the number of vehicles in our group, it took several hours to run the entire trail. The overall wash is about three-quarters of a mile. There are a few more rock formations to get through, but those are better for modified buggies.
After the Jamboree, everyone got back safe and sound. After commiserating and sharing some laughs, the group headed back to Little Pan to air up before returning to the ranch. Once back at camp, most people were breaking down their tents, while others just relaxed until dinner.
The ranch had a big venue to handle cooking large meals. On the menu was a steak cooked over a fire pit, which is always my favorite meal. Served with it was salad, corn on the cob, beans, and for dessert, a chunk of brownie topped with a scoop of ice cream. This was an ideal after-trail meal.
After dinner, Copperstate 4 Wheelers club president Chad Chaney presented a few awards. Two of them were the youngest licensed driver on the trail and farthest traveled to the event. And this Jeep outing wasn’t complete without the sponsors dropping a few parting gifts, like a tow strap, or even a new soft top.
In the coming months, Jeep Jamboree will be holding other events throughout the United States. Check out their website for more information.