We will be posting tons of photos on www.JeepTales.com
by this weekend!
After our first Jeep Jamboree in Arkansas last year, we were excited to hit the road again for our second Jeep Jamboree in Utah. This would be the acclaimed Arch Canyon Jeep Jamboree with Mark Smith which was located in the four corners region of southeast Utah.
Breathtaking could easily describe the area of southeast Utah. With snow-capped mountains, deserts, canyons, and forests, there is a natural beauty to this place which is unmatched. We arrived in Blanding, Utah about a week in advance to make a feeble attempt at exploring the area before the Jeep Jamboree began, but were thwarted by the huge area and endless list of activities and destinations available to us. However, we made the best of our time and spent the days exploring several canyons, deserts, and ancient Native American ruins.
On Thursday evening, we arrived at the Lamplighter restaurant in Monticello, Utah eagerly anticipating registration and the “welcome dinner” as promised in our Jeep Jamboree Itinerary. As usual, a various assortment of Jeeps littered the parking lot and it is always fun to make comparisons and admire everyone’s rigs. The Thursday “welcome dinner” allowed everyone to get to know one another prior to the trail rides the next day. This would be good example of one of coordinator Chris Timms great ideas which would contribute to another successful Jeep Jamboree. Dinner was somewhat of a surprise to us since we weren’t sure what kind of meal to expect in such a small town in the middle of nowhere. But basically, the food was outstanding, and would just be a “taste” of the great cuisine we would experience over the weekend.
Several people headed out to camp at Arch Canyon, but others were wary of the upcoming chilly weather and opted to stay in town. The Ute tribe was gracious enough to allow us to camp near the entrance of Arch Canyon and we appreciated being able to wake up to all the wonderful scenery.
Friday began cold and clear, but would soon warm up temps in the 70s. Two trails were available at this Jeep Jamboree: Arch Canyon road, rated a 3, and Hotel Rock road, rated a 9. We were a little worried about tackling a 9-rated trail because we had a stock vehicle, but Chris had assured us that if we would “follow the guides exactly” we would all make it through undamaged. We opted for the Arch Canyon trail on Friday to warm us up. Arch Canyon’s road was highlighted by the Native American ruins and cliff dwellings, the several stream crossings, and the canyon scenery. A special thanks to the BLM personnel who were happy to escort us into the canyon and give us a guided and informative tour of the ruins. The scenery was outstanding and it was fun watching the stock Liberty and Commander (driven by Mark Smith himself), negotiate the trail obstacles. A special treat on Friday night were the Native American drummers who entertained us with their songs, stories, and music. This was a moving event which really helped us to connect with the setting and the Native American history of the area. Afterward, a meal of Indian tacos culminated the spirit of the evening.
On Saturday, those of us who had driven Arch Canyon the day before began our ascent to Hotel Rock. The Hotel Rock trail was exactly the opposite of the Arch Canyon trail. While Arch Canyon was mostly a scenic and a relatively easy jaunt down a Jeep road, Hotel Rock was a technical endeavor which required the close supervision and direction of the trail guides. With the expert spotting of our trail guides, even the stock vehicles were able to successfully negotiate the hardest spots with zero damage. Our efforts on the road were rewarded by our arrival of Hotel Rock and the near-pristine ruins which nestled into the side of the peak. A quick scramble up Hotel Rock offered the best views of Southeast Utah anywhere.
After a day of scenic Off-pavement driving, we looked forward to steak and fresh halibut catered by Scott Laws and his wonderful crew from the Lamplight restaurant. We weren’t disappointed. Eating a first class meal in a wilderness setting was the proverbial icing on the weekend cake. The traditional Jeep Jamboree prizes were given out and we were also lucky to have the San Juan county commissioner, Lynn Stevens, give a talk on the area. He emphasized the importance of keeping Jeep roads open and how his county supported using the land for motorized recreational activities. Finally, a word from the famous Mark Smith himself highlighted the evening.
The rumor was that this would be the last Arch Canyon Jeep Jamboree due to some controversies surrounding the canyon. However, all of the organizers assured everyone that they would do their best to see that this event happens again. If this was the last Arch Canyon Jeep Jamboree, it would be a shame. This was a spectacular event which was very well organized, with excellent food, and outstanding trail guides. Thanks to Chris and his expert trail guides, Tom White and Ray Pledger from Jeep Jamboree, the BLM, George Wells and the Ute Tribe, Scott Laws and the crew from the Lamplight, and finally, Mark A. Smith, for a great weekend and fantastic Jamboree. Hopefully, we’ll see you again next year!
I’ll see you on the trail soon,