Last week, we were fortunate to attend the 2nd Annual Laurel Highlands Jeep® Jamboree in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Deep within the woods and forests on the 2,000-acre Nemacolin Woodlands Resort grounds, Jeep vehicle enthusiasts converged to take on the mud and hills, all while doing what Jeep fans do better than anyone else: have fun.
The two-day event began early on a Friday, out in the parking lot of the resort’s Adventure Center. Jamboree attendees excitedly mingled and checked out each other’s rigs. One thing was certain: no two Jeep vehicles were alike. In the parking lot, amidst the hissing of dozens of tires being aired down, were stock vehicles and heavily modified Jeep vehicles. Old CJs sat next to new models, like the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland.
The crisp 65-degree temperature warmed throughout the morning as we tagged along the Money Trail. If you’ve never been to this part of the country, taking on these trails is a different kind of experience. The woods are thick, the brush dense, and the trails narrow. Frequent water crossings and mud ruts – oh boy, those mud ruts – greet you around bends and at the bottom of uncountable hills.
If you don’t pay attention, the picturesque foliage can give way to some seriously slick stretches of sulfur-rich mud (and if you wait to wash your mud-splattered clothes, well, you’ll have permanent Dalmatian-like spots to show as your personal battle scars the next time you wear them). One particular long stretch of Money Trail is what was affectionately known as “Mogul Hill,” a fairly long series of turns and slight ups-and-downs with mud ruts at the bottom of each one. Money Trail was only rated a 3, but it proved to be quite a lot to handle for some drivers. Needless to say, there’s a reason that this Jamboree mandates that each vehicle have a tow-strap. Many came ready with winches and we saw a few being used during the event.
The people who made the whole event run smoothly (or slick, as it were), the Jeep Jamboree Trail Guides (wearing the yellow shirts in our photos), volunteer their time for the benefit of everyone in attendance. They’re at each obstacle, rut, and tricky corner, ensuring that every participant can successfully navigate the trails. You might watch the guides work, directing a vehicle’s tires this way or that way, telling participants to keep momentum or stop – over and over – and think, “these guys have the patience of saints.” Here’s a dirty (muddy?) little secret, though: they love it, and we love them for it. Without their enthusiasm and passion for Jeep vehicles and off-roading, an event like the Jeep Jamboree could never happen.
This year’s attendees represented almost 20 states and Canada, many of them fortunate enough to be experiencing the finest mud that the Keystone State has to offer for the first time. We had a blast meeting and talking to everyone and witnessing firsthand, again, why Jeep fans are the best and most fun people out there.