Big Bear Jeep Jamboree

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I look back now at the discussion we had in the Barlow’s office before our respective May trips. As we determined who was taking which Jeep where, I smugly stated “I’m going to Big Bear where they don’t have any big rocks–I’ll take Alex.”  I would come to regret those words. Alex is currently a stock tan 2011 JK Rubicon who would earn the name “Cream Puff” by the end of the Jamboree.

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Big Bear, California is the original summer mountain getaway for residents of Southern California. At over 7000 feet in elevation, summer temperatures only reach an average high of 80ºF while temperatures in the inland valleys surrounding “the mountain” soar to over 100ºF. The geology is breathtaking with the prominent San Gorgonio Mountain as a backdrop at 11,500 feet, and the expansive vistas over the Mojave Desert to the north and east. The mountain tops offer Rubicon-like granite boulders for crawling up to spectacular pine-shaded vistas, while the desert canyons provide quartz-laced pie-wedges of boulders that like to move around in the sandy wash floor–what I call “rocks with commitment issues.”

Once a haven for the indigenous Serrano people, Benjamin Davis Wilson (known as “Don Benito” to the Serranos) is the first white man reported to have “discovered” Big Bear. Wilson was an industrious fur trader and later became mayor of Los Angeles, a California Senator, and great-grandfather of General George Patton. A gold rush brought settlers to the Big Bear area in the mid 1800’s. The first dam was constructed in 1884 to harness the springs and creeks of the Big Bear area to supply water to the orchards of Redlands in the valley below. The resulting lake quickly attracted tourists, and the area transformed into a resort community in the early 1900’s. In the 1930’s, winter also became attraction with the opening of the first ski areas.

Today, Big Bear offers innumerable idyllic and cozy lodges and cabins to snuggle up in and outdoor recreation opportunities abound: hiking, 4-wheeling, kayaking, jet skiing, pontoon boating, waterskiing, and fishing; and, of course, snowboarding, downhill and cross country skiing. You can rent equipment in Big Bear to do most of the above, except Jeep rentals.

Speaking of Jeep rentals, back to my brand new near-stock JK Rubicon, complete with Barlow Jeep Rental decals: When I checked in, I made the casual remark that I would like to try out my new rocker guards. The inspector at the Jeep Jamboree registration, Randy, took me seriously and assigned me to “Red Group”—the super-modified class for Jamboree runs. I was the smallest Jeep in the line-up, by far. Both to my delight and dismay, I was to learn that they actually do have large rocks in Big Bear!

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