Rain relief finally visits the Texas Panhandle
Just in time for the Palo Duro JJUSA!
IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘m sure, IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘m not alone on this oneĂ˘â‚¬Â¦ during the past few months IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ve been watching the area newsĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s with particular interest to the weather. For over 200 days the High Plains of Texas have been in the strangle hold of a brutal drought. However, my plans to come back to The Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree were set in stone before I ever pulled my first tent stake from the 2005 event. I had to remind myself not to worry about just the Jeep Jamboree, as I watched the devastating wildfires on the news claiming well over 1,000,000 acres in West Texas Panhandle grasslands was the truly important storyline. What were the more significant stories was the ranches, farms and familiesĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s land scorched by the unforgiving flames and high winds. I might have said a silent prays for them, I might have also begged for Mother Nature to save the vicinity around the canyonĂ˘â‚¬Â¦. For those of you who have been to the area IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘m sure you know that if there were ever a wildfire in the canyon there would be no effective way to battle the inferno and the firefighters would have no choice other than to use the canyon for containment.
As Mark Toye and I pulled into toward the Canyon Rim some 20 miles southwest of Claude, TX on Thursday evening we were astonished to learn the area was still under a strict county wide burn ban. We were surprised because after the 10 hour Drive from San Antonio we had seen lots of lush grass several swollen creeks and rivers as far north as Lubbock. One of the other Jeepers who know about my passion for cigars cautioned me that the Fire Marshall had issued a warning; anyone seen smoking outside their Jeep would not be allowed to finish the event and be escorted to the county line.
We took down our tent early Friday morning so we could venture into the canyon we noticed all our gear was damp from dew, the air was cool and incredibly humid, while ominous clouds hung low in the enormous West Texas Sky. We staged our Jeep and packed trailer near the first gate so we would have a good spot in line near the trail guide host club Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Jeep Exclusive Inc.Ă˘â‚¬Âť members and also to not have to walk too far to get to the breakfast line ourselves.
As we eagerly waited for the event to get started; from our vantage point it was an impressive site as we watched as 111 Jeep, lots of RVs, tow rigs and trailers pull on to the ranch from the road. We noticed all the smiling divers and passengers with loads of camping gear moved into the canyon rim camping site dropping off extra gear as they worked their way to the starting line by the gate. I was particularly astounded to recognize so many Jeeps and Jeepers from last yearĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s event, apparently a lot of folks make this event a regular pilgrimage to the Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree. As we said our greetings to one another at the edge of the canyon in the breakfast area just before starting our canyon decent it began to sprinkle lightly. Not to worry, it was not wet enough to affect the quality of our Dutch oven breakfast bisects and cream gravy.
After a brief DriverĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s safety meeting we began rolling towards the bottom, of the canyon as it started drizzling on our caravan of Jeeps. Once we made our way to the lower camping areas we dropped our excess gear at our home away from home, campsite then made our way back to the principal staging area. Mark and I had elected to take the doors off my Rubicon and leave them by the trailer in at our campsite. Later, this would prove to not be the best decision I ever made. During the day the rain began to fall from time to time just as light sprinkle other times it was coming down hard in a hammering downpour. I must point out at this time that during the 18 year history of the Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree it has never rained in the canyon during the event. There was one year when the rain forced a day two start but it did not rain on the Jeepers while they were in the canyon that year.
One major benefit to this weather was the fact that it helped to keep the dust down. The residual effect of the rain helped to dramatically change the trails and obstacles adding on a new layer of muddy difficulty and excitement. The drivers in our group found themselves developing a new echelon of respect for the spotters and guides who selflessly stood in the pouring rain to make sure all the participants could safely traverse the obstacles. The timing of the storms could have been much worse; we did get sprinkled on Saturday morning at breakfast but we had pockets of no rain for all of our other welcomed hot meals. The only thing missing from this Jeep Jamboree over last year was the noticeable absents of thousands of stars normally twinkling in the Texas sky now replaced by cloud cover and fog. However, Mother Nature did provide a spectacular rainbow off in the horizon Saturday evening to help make up for the shortage of stars.
I for one have never been to an event where it rained this much during the wheeling IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘m not sure how much rain fell over the weekend, but I did see a Ă‚Âľ full plastic wine glass placed on the bumper of a TJ that served as a makeshift rain gauge. Despite the showers and a few leaky tents all of the Jeepers I talked to all had a wonderful time. The Ranch staff lived up to its legendary Cowboy Cooking and West Texas Hospitality, all of the meals went off with out a hitch. The weather in the canyon enabled us to witness a side of canyon life most of us have never seen. If tickets for the 2007 Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree had been on sale as we came out of the Canyon on Sunday morning after our Dutch oven cinnamon roll breakfast IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ll bet most folks would have said. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Sign me up againĂ˘â‚¬Âť. Earlier this year I predicted that the Texas Spur Jeep Jamboree would sell out by Christmas. After this weekend IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘m also predicting that the Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree sells out next year too.
On a personal note; IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘d like to wish a heartfelt Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Thank YouĂ˘â‚¬Âť to: Jeep Jamboree USA, Figure 3 Ranch Staff, JeepTales Sponsors, Our guides - Jeep Exclusive Inc. both Marks and Rachel for helping me with the collection of photos and video, Tom & Corina as well as all the other Jeepers for making this such a memorable weekend and sharing your photos. I hope to see you all again at the Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree in 2007. Perhaps a few of you and I will cross paths on the trail sometime soon. Also, Thanks to those of you that let me know the JeepTales.com website was useful to you for planning this trip or assisted you in remembering last years Palo Duro Jeep Jamboree, thanks for letting me know our little website was helpful to you. Please enjoy the photos & video we collected this year.