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Hello Mother, hello Father: Letters home from Camp Jeep - Day 2

Jeepsters on Parade
Jeepsters on parade!

Even a Disney ride couldn't be more beautiful.
Even a Disney ride couldn't be more beautiful.

Jeep prepares to 'ford' stream.
Jeep prepares to 'ford' stream.

Jeep's new Liberty takes the hill.
Jeep's new Liberty takes the hill.

From the author's point-of-view.
From the author's point-of-view.

Map & Compass instructional hike.
Map & Compass instructional hike.

Field testing the instructions.
Field testing the instructions.

Off-road expert Moses Ludel conducts seminar.
Off-road expert Moses Ludel conducts seminar.

Charlottesville, VA: "Wait a minute, it stopped raining…" and so on, as the old Alan Sherman comedy song goes. Friday morning at Camp Jeep began on a somewhat sunnier note, with patches of blue sky and comfortable low-humidity temperatures. Although it did cloud over as the day progressed with the humidity rising slightly, things remained dry. This meant that camp was in full swing and a beehive of activity.

Certainly, the biggest draw for many of the campers is the opportunity to participate in one or more of the organized 4X4 off-road trail rides. There are twelve different trails to choose, which range in duration from two to three hours. In reality, due to the inevitable log-jams along the way, the trips can take quite a bit longer; but no one minds one bit: Jeepsters and their rigs have traveled from all parts of North America, and they just can't get enough. They want bumps; mud; water crossings; precarious, precipitous climbs; and they want more, more, more. They're a high-spirited, good-humored bunch: hootin' and a hollerin' at every turn. Needless to say, the variety of vehicles is as diverse as the people driving them. To a first-timer, like me, watching the endless number of motorcades is just as much fun as any Mardi Gras or Thanksgiving Parade.

In the afternoon, I jumped in a sporty looking copper-colored Wrangler and joined several of the other media-folks for our own off-road adventure. Our trail took us through some spectacularly beautiful forested areas, with a couple of really exciting water crossing spots. Because the group was comprised of journalists carrying every type of film, video, and digital camera imaginable; every crossing was subject to a flurry of directorial and photographic requirements: "Wait, wait, wait, I'm not in position yet"; "Okay, this time give us a bigger splash"; "Can you do it again, I missed the slide"; "Now try it in reverse". Even this was great fun because it was filled with testosterone-induced one-upmanship camaraderie.

Earlier in the day I availed myself of one of Camp Jeep's excellent hiking-technique courses. I do a fair amount of hiking every year, especially in the high desert of California. However, I've never learned how to use a compass and map correctly (I look at a map, look at a compass, shrug my shoulders and follow footprints and trail markers). The Camp Jeep Compass & Map course provided a very simple-to-understand explanation of how to use the two devices in tandem. Now I can't wait to get back to Desolation Wilderness and shoot me some azimuths. The instructors were two highly likeable and qualified guys: one a retired 30 year "Special Forces" veteran, and the other a still-active 20 year "Special Forces" man. On Saturday, I'll be taking a GPS navigation course. While I'm sure that that course will also be informationally valuable, there's something about the concept of using a compass that I really like.

The rest of my day was spent picking up tips on cooking and golfing, watching campers participate in the various performance courses, and listening to Moses Ludel's Off-Highway Adventures seminar. Mr. Ludel is a well-known off-road journalist and author of the "Jeep Owner's Bible". With about 500 different events taking place over the three days, it's hard to make up your mind as to what to do next. It seems to me that if Jeep made future Camp Jeeps a week long, it would still be difficult to do everything you'd like to try.

Like any good little camper, I was pure tuckered out by 6PM. I hopped into my cushy, comfortable Grand Cherokee Limited and breezed effortlessly back to Charlottesville.

That's it from me for now. Tomorrow I'll tell you about the big finale here at Camp Jeep, which includes the start of Jeep Jamboree and a concert by a special guest star.

Marc J. Rauch Exec. Vice President & Co-Publisher