Jeep Jamboree - 19th Tennessee Mountains - 2023
It was not the first Jeep Jamboree at Windrock Off Road Park, but it was my first opportunity to participate in the Jeep Jamboree there and see the incredible 73,000 acre private off road park. It did not disappoint. For the last 19 years, the crew from Jeep Jamboree and all the volunteers have made their way to the beautiful Smokey Mountains making Windrock their home for the weekend. Just outside of Oak Ridge, Tennessee I made my way down a small winding black top road. Houses soon turned into rental cabins with Jeeps and ATVs in the driveways like highway markers promising I was on the right path to a weekend of outdoor adventure. The large parking lot just past the Windrock Welcome sign confirms this is no ordinary place, and it seems I have been missing out on the fun.
Jeep Jamboree participants came from all over and lined up Thursday night for check in and trail signup. I signed up with Jeremy and Chris in the Brown Group. With a dinner for the guides, and last minute reminders, everyone made their way back to hotels, camps, and cabins for the night. The weather forecast was looking better and better.
Friday morning, we gathered at a large field, splitting into groups, and anxiously awaiting the kickoff for the day. After the drivers meeting, we headed to our groups then started the procession into the park. I was looking forward to the day out in the park and seeing the trails I had heard so much about.
We started into the park and up the mountain on a partially paved road that soon turned to dirt. The slower pace on the trail gave me a chance to take a deep breath and enjoy the best part of owning a Jeep, a ride through the forest, windows down, top off and lots of fresh air. We made it to the top of Windrock to enjoy the breathtaking view and take a Jeep group photo. Our group suffered a few minor equipment issues but with each one helping hands and tools came out of nowhere to get us back to moving.
Our second morning started off with the most spectacular sunrise with the brightest pinks and purples. Thankfully, I was up and about early enough to see it. Both days we were on trails that were mild rocky, to large water holes, to some challenging obstacles. Thanks to our great guides and support from the group we all came through, each one with big smiles and cheers. After all the Jamboree’s, it is still fun to watch a group of people from all over become fast friends simply with the common love of Jeeps and the outdoors.
The event was wrapped up with awards and many thanks to all the volunteer guides that made the event possible. There is a lot of work put in by the guides to make sure the event is a success each year.
The Windrock Off Road Park really is a spectacular place and worth the visit. It is easy to see why Jeep Jamboree has been coming back here for 19 years. The Jeep Jamboree is an excellent introduction to the park and all the miles of trails available, so make sure to sign up for next year’s trip. Places like Windrock are becoming fewer and fewer it is important that we all support and help protect them by respecting the park guidelines, communities around them and Always Treading Lightly.
- Jodi Phillips