The concern going into the 9th Annual Land of Lincoln Jeep Jamboree was that it was going to be a repeat of the 8th Annual, i.e. dry weather and dry trails resulting in trail ratings not living up to their billing. All fears of such a repeat performance were extinguished Thursday evening when the skies opened up, dumping over an inch and a half of rain in less than an hour.
The next morning the trail leaders warned that the trail ratings were now understated and that the challenges would be substantial. Forewarned is forearmed, but sometimes it is just forewarned. Those on the trails Friday were just forewarned. The trails they would face would be difficult beyond their expectations. It was the perfect condition to learn the remarkable abilities of their Jeep vehicles while learning from experienced trail leaders how to attack such obstacles.
The trail leaders for Thursday's edition of Murphy's Law were, of course, Murphy, (our landowner host), and Graham, the "Mad Brit." A collection of TJ's, YJ's, a tricked out CJ and a group of experienced Grands took to the trail that morning. The grassy fields were still slick with rain and wherever dirt once existed, mud now prevailed. It took all of 10 minutes before the first vehicle needed to be pulled out of our very first culvert crossing. It was the first recovery experience for both the rescuing driver and the rescued party and was successful on the first attempt.
The first major hill climb proved to be impossible for all except one blue Grand Cherokee, who then had the honor of towing the handful of others who attempted the climb. As the morning progressed, so did the challenges. Hills and mud began to slow down the progress. It was at this point that driver experience became the most important factor, followed very closely by tire design.
At lunchtime, Murphy assessed the performance of the various vehicles, noting that the Grand Cherokees were performing at about 85% while the Wranglers were scoring barely 50%. Those statistics would be reduced significantly as the day went on.
The afternoon saw even more difficult trails. The highlights included very twisting muddy trails followed by muddy hill climbs. The combination rivaled the best roller coaster rides! The trail wound down with a rocky creek ride. The afternoon proved so challenging that two vehicles had to be escorted out of the trail. Unfortunately, there was no easy way out. To leave, they had to cross back over the very portion of trail that convinced them not to go on!
What was to have been a "5" rated trail seemed like an "8" at times. For many it was their first off-road experience and many of those learned a lot about recovery techniques. They also learned that off-roading is more than just speeding down a dusty road like on T.V. They learned why the more serious vehicles are lifted, the importance of lockers and why God made mud tires. Those who made it to the end were relieved and impressed.
As much trouble as we had the first day, the second was 100% better. The sun was out, the trails dried, and we all had a heck of a good time!