'95 Okanagan Jeep Jamboree

Author: Robert Bryce

Well, I just got back from the Okanagan Jeep Jamboree. Here's my report:

Place: Osoyoos, B.C., Canada, right on the border between the U.S. and Canada.
Dates: June 8-10, 1995
Jeeps: Lots, I took my Jeep Comanche, 4.5" custom lift, 4.10 gearing, rear lockright.


I drove up with a friend of mine, Mac, on Wednesday, June 7, to get in a day of prerunning. His Cherokee wasn't running healthy, so instead of driving his, he played copilot. I hoped to go up on Tuesday to get 2 days of prerunning in but had to go to a beach party instead. Priorities. We pulled into the campground, and Rob Matthews, the guy who runs the Canadian Jeep Jamborees, walks up to the truck and greets us. He seems to recognize us from last year, which was a good surprise, considering how many people he just see over the course of a year. We take our time setting up camp, sipping on a few cold ones, and talking about the fun we hope to have in the coming days. Dale Chaudiere (nice CJ5) and Don Graham (nice YJ, front ARB, rear lockright), past members of this list, were already there. Chris Sutton with his flat fender had dropped some stuff off, but didn't show up in camp 'til Friday. We were hoping for nice weather, and we got it, until Sunday, on the drive home.

Dale and Don couldn't go prerunning - something about doing the family thing and keeping the wives happy. Hm. Priorities...

The schedule said to show up early in the morning Thursday to go pre- running. So we did. After helping them set up a large tent used to feed us over the Jamboree, we turn around to find out one group had already left for the trails! Damn. Ah well, Mark, a guy with a really tricked out YJ - 35's, dana-60 rear axle, spring-over lift, etc. said another group led by him would be leaving for the trails in an hour or so. That gave us time to make a mad dash back to the campground, get cleaned up, etc. Because of a washing machine which took twice as long as it said it would, we got off late to the meeting place. Pull in to the Husky 5 minutes late, and no Jeeps. Damn. Must have left. Well, we knew the route to get to the trailhead, so off we go foot-to-the- floor to try to catch up to them, while Mac is scanning the CB channels to try to find out where they are. Well, after going 12km the wrong way, we get contact, only to discover they are running the trail back- wards! Well, after a quick U-turn and 25 minutes later, we catch up to them about 5 miles into the trail all crowded around one YJ.

The YJ was bogging at the higher elevations - I guestimate around 4000 feet. He ended up turning back. That leaves six of us to prerun this trail. I'm the only Comanche, the rest are lifted YJ's. A few more miles, and we make a sharp turn up into a clearing in the bushes. Driving by, most people wouldn't have seen it. Anyway, off we go. We come across a bit of snow here and there until we come to a hill with about 2 feet of snow, or more. Mark with his 35" tired YJ gets up the hill, as do a few more. My Comanche with its tiny 31's has a bit of trouble, and off we go to the next big snow bank. The snow here is about 3.5 feet deep, and centered on the road, with steep banks into the bushes on either side. Mark decides to drive straight up and over but the YJ has other plans - it decides to slide sideways. The only reason he didn't roll it is from the snow that the tires took with it while it slid down! The pictures I've got show the Jeep just past rollover angle! Well, we winched him backwards, and most of the Jeeps took a slightly different path to get through. I didn't - I got further over into the bushes so I didn't have to slide sideways.

Well from here, we come to another snowbank much the same. This had a hard crust so the Jeeps were all able to just drive over without digging down and getting stuck. When I went over I heard someone say "well we know who'll get hung up if anyone does!". Gee, thanks. I've got more ground clearance than a YJ with 31's! About the same as one with 33's. Just not the approach, breakover, and departure angles, or turning radius. That's all.

The next obstacle was a downhill snow section. It steadily deteriorated until the second last vehicle just got pulled in. We had to push him down a hill you could hardly climb up, walking!

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. We proceeded to the end of the trail. Decided to look for more hard stuff, but never found it, so headed back around 4:30 to get cleaned up for registration, etc.

Friday:

The first official day of the Jeep Jamboree! Of 5 trails to choose from, 4 were rated either 4-5 out of the 1-10 Jeep scale. The 5th was rated an 8, which he said was really a 7 but the trail wasn't groomed. Guess which one I took. Well, off Mac and I go with 11 other Jeeps on the tough run! Dale, Don, and Chris take a different route which promised great views. We quickly climb out of the Okanagan Valley on reserve land and come to a nice spot to take pictures of the Valley. As we continue on, we come across some wildlife. Nice to see. The first section of this trail was quite easy - the only real obstacle was taking a bypass around a washout in the road. No big deal. So off we go to climb Mt. Baldie.

The road we take is an old access road to the tower. Going up, it's a steady climb with a few difficult spaces for the shorter wheelbased vehicles. We were afforded a great view from the top of the first part of the climb.

Having a 10ft wheelbase can help - I just walked up these sections! The holes dug by other vehicles were just so it caught YJ's but not the only Comanche on the Jamboree. In fact, in one hard spot I walked up, one CJ-7 with a propane-powered 350 got one wheel in the air a couple times! That same CJ ended up breaking an axle shaft from his custom Ford 9" on the next obstacle too. After towing him off of the trail, the group continued while he and the tail gunner took his hurt CJ back to camp where it would stay until the trip home for him.

We again find snow, and finally come out to the lunch spot. It's a great view looking over another valley, where you can also some ski runs, now uncovered. After having a brief lunch, we came to a long series of very deep snowbanks. The trail leader, Rob Matthews, just walks his 33" rubbered YJ through there - the trail was broke by him the day before with a few other vehicles. The next vehicle which tried it was a Grand Cherokee, who quickly backed out of the way to let a lifted Cherokee try it. After some heavy throttle and a short winch, he was through, but it was easy to tell it would take a lot of work to get the next Jeeps through there.

After 2 or more hours of winching, tugging, revving, shoveling, swearing, and pushing, I was ready to try it. Everyone up to this point had been heavy on the throttle, including some relatively stock YJ's. And everyone needed winched. I figured with my 31's - larger than what the stockers had it, I'd get more clearance at the diffs and should be easy. After taking my time packing down the trail as I went, I was able to walk through the trail hardly spinning a tire, without going over 1500 rpm! Yes! That sure felt good. After that, the remaining vehicles went through with equal ease.

While we are fighting with the snow, our tailgunner, Mark, rejoins us, but is stopped with a break of his own. The U-joint on the driver's side front axle broke and took the yokes with it. We continued on while he did a trail fix, and he later joined up with us again.

The next obstacle was only about 200 yards from there. More snow, not quite so deep, where you had to turn right, climb a little bit, squeeze between a tree and a large rock, make a sharp left over a fallen tree, and out onto a main road. Well some vehicles had trouble with clearance, etc. I didn't have that problem. My problem was turning. All the YJ's had no problem making the turn. I had to drive through, back up, and finish turning. By the end of the Jamboree, I was famous for my 9-pt turns! (this one wasn't but others were)

Well, everybody was having so much fun it was a unanimous vote to continue on to a canyon rather than returning to base camp, even after spending so much time digging vehicles through the snow. The canyon had some real fun hill climbs and stuff. Mark, who was the tailgunner for the trip, caught back up to us somewhere along the way, and on the last hill he had more problems. Since he lost a U-joint before, he was down to 3-wheel drive (he's got a front ARB, if I remember right). Well, he managed to break the rear U-joint on the rear driveshaft! Down to 1-wheel drive, so we towed him up to the level where he could fix it. Well, that was enough fun for one day for everyone, and it was dinner time, so we all headed for camp where there was food waiting to be eaten.

That night, we watched video tapes while Osoyoos' rock-n-roll mayor provided us with some excellent music, including a song he wrote that morning during an "important" town meeting, called 'Jeeps'.

Saturday:

The previous night, they showed video tapes of all the trails, including my Comanche handling the tough one with ease. Either everyone figured "hey, if that long thing can do it, my YJ/ Grand can too, or it looked like so much fun, they wanted to as well, but somehow we ended up with a train of 32 Jeeps heading up to the tough one on Saturday, myself, Don, Dale, and Chris included. Rob Matthews promised more goodies on the tough trail, and I didn't want to sign up for anything easier. Oh, BTW, Don didn't seem to mind having a 23yr-old gal riding with him all day long - she was the passenger in the CJ which broke the axle shaft the day before. Dammit, she was going to ride with me 'til Don offered her the passenger seat!

Much of the trail was the same as the day before, on the way to the lunch spot. The Grands and YJ's were having troubles in the same spots as before. But a higher percentage was getting through without problems. And I was idling through it as before. Rob Matthews and his crew did a truely amazing job getting that many Jeeps threw there as quickly as they did, including lots of stock vehicles.

I was starting to get a little cocky too, being really happy about how the truck was performing, saying how it had never been hooked to a winch before, etc. I knew that as soon as I started doing that, something would happen during the day - tempting fate, you know. Well, a sink-hole emerged on the trail where there wasn't one the day before. We think it's from melted snow. And one YJ had an inexperienced driver with 33" MT's who dug up the surface of the hole - through the crust. Well guess who was next. Yup. Me. Here's how it went:

"ok, I have to drive to the right, by the looks of it. Looks slick, but wasn't a problem yesterday. Easy on the throttle, Rob, like you did the day before."

"Hm. Don't remember the front tire sinking yesterday. Better use more throttle to try to pull myself through here just in case."

"Hm. I'm stopped. Ok. I'll just back out"

"Damn, the back end is sliding towards that rock."

"Oh well, didn't matter. I'm stopped, stuck."

"Can I rock this thing out? Nope. Just going deeper. I'll stop and wait for a tug."

The front and rear driver's side tires disappeared! First, we tried to yank out the Comanche, to no avail. The truck seemed content to just plow itself in deeper. By this time, my front bumper is about half-way into the mud. I've *never* been this stuck before! Wow! Cool! Ok, let's get me out now.

So, for the very first time, after 177500km, lots of offroading, 3 sets of tires, etc., etc., I finally had to have a winch hooked to my truck. A Warn 8000# winch. We did the pulley thing to double the pull to 16000 lbs, and that barely pulled out my truck - it was ready to stall at that! I was happy to see that my grill guard with home-made reenforcing held up. I feel a lot more comfortable about hooking up to it now.

So, to avoid doing that for the following 25 Jeeps, we fill in the mud hole with rocks. The area was about 8 feet long, 6 feet wide, and we piled in about 3 feet of rocks! Then, after a couple vehicles drove over, another foot of rocks!

From here, we continue to a few more mudholes, nothing really trouble- some, but still a lot of fun. These mudholes looked a lot more threatening than they were. Plus I took them faster than I usually do since my confidence in mudholes was virtually gone after getting that stuck.

Well, we headed back and had a great steak dinner with lots of extras, watched that day's videos, including me getting stuck, everyone had their turn jibing me about it , and exchanged a lot of addresses. Lots of people told me they were concerned about me taking such a looooong truck on a Jeep Jamboree - being able to make corners or not, getting high- centered and stuff. But it worked out in the end. Made some good friends, I'm thinking. I had 3 trips in the works before the Jamboree, and it looks like I have a couple more now, before the summer is out! Happy.

All during the Jamboree, the rain held off, but it couldn't hold off any more. It rained, I think, off and on all night. I found out my new tent has a small leak, but did ok. We loaded in the rain, cleaned out my brakes in the rain, and headed for home, convoying back to Vancouver with some new friends.

Breaks? For me, I blew out the seal on the short side of the front axle, so it was leaking gear oil on the way home. I also need new upper control arms - they've been banging for some time now, and it's only got worse. And one bent tow hook from that hard tug. So I consider myself lucky when looking at what other people broke.

What did the trip cost? For 5 days, including registration, gas, meals, extra snacks on the trails, campground fees, washing, ferry costs (I'm on Vancouver Island), and developing 90 pictures, it came to $450Can. Not bad, I figure, for a full-fledged vacation. Will I be back? Yep. I want to go to the Rocky Mtn one in 6 weeks, but that's a bad weekend for me, so I guess I'll have to wait 'til next year and try to talk Rob Matthews into moving it to another week in the following years. By then, let's see, more lift, 33's, winch?.... Can't do much about those 9-pt turns, I guess.

--Rob


Robert Bryce ([email protected])