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To cel­e­brate 75 years of Jeep, we wanted to fur­ther un­der­stand that deep rooted cul­ture and take part in a typ­i­cal day in the life of a Jeep owner. And what bet­ter way to do that then take the 75th an­niver­sary Wran­gler Un­lim­ited Sa­hara edi­tion – one of eight spe­cial com­mem­o­ra­tive mod­els re­leased this year – on a trail run.

As we gath­ered at Dewd­ney Moun­tain lo­cated in east-cen­tral On­tario's Peterborough County in Buck­horn, the spe­cial 75th unit was the star at­trac­tion: dressed in a mil­i­tary colour called Sarge green, a rare four-door with a soft-top. It stood out from the crowd of Ru­bi­cons, not just for its G.I. Joe colour, but for its bronze-ac­cented seven slot grille and head­lamp in­serts, steel bumpers, bronze tow hooks in the front and rear, 18-inch bronze alu­minum wheels, Ru­bi­con rock rails and bronze badg­ing that fea­tured a vin­tage il­lus­tra­tion with the year 1941 on the in­side and out.

“I would like to get a pic­ture of that one,” said Ray­mond Prince, Pres­i­dent of the Lon­don & Area Jeep Own­ers club, who came along this trail run.

The en­thu­si­asm shown by the Jeep own­ers was con­ta­gious. They had smiles plas­tered all over their faces, lick­ing their chops at see­ing how this spe­cial edi­tion would fare. The big­ger the rock; the more steep the in­cline; the mud­dier the sit­u­a­tion. That all equates to a great day, and this one was go­ing to fall in that cat­e­gory.

“I'm glad we set this up, as it got me to hit the trail,” says Chad Kalbfleisch, our lead tour guide from Jeep­out­fit­ters. ca be­fore we head into the woods.

Kalbfleisch tries to hit the trails when­ever an op­por­tu­nity arises, and for him, it never gets dull. For some, it's an op­por­tu­nity to es­cape for a few hours from their lives; for oth­ers, a day to hang out, have fun and chal­lenge what you and your ma­chine can do. Own­ing a Jeep is not like a reg­u­lar car – it's a sport. An ac­tiv­ity that brings fam­ily and friends to­gether, re­gard­less of what Jeep you own. There's no clique, no show­ing off.

“If I feel like a chal­lenge that day, I will go for it,” adds Kalbfleisch. “Own­ing a Jeep is all about con­fi­dence and I know there's al­ways some­one watch­ing my back. It's a team sport.”

It's that team sport men­tal­ity that has helped Jeep en­dure through rough patches in its his­tory, due to var­i­ous own­er­ship changes and eco­nomic down­turns. Cur­rently, Jeep is nes­tled into the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fold as of 1987, and even that ar­range­ment hasn't been with­out its own own­er­ship changes.

Af­ter learn­ing about Jeep cul­ture through word of mouth, it was time to hit the trails and see it first hand. I've been off-road­ing be­fore, but this day would be more dif­fi­cult as my Wran­gler Un­lim­ited is fit­ted with a six-speed man­ual gearshift – a more chal­leng­ing balanc­ing act when climb­ing hills and re-ad­just­ing up large rocks.

The good news for that quandary is 4-LO. It be­comes my saviour in this bat­tle with na­ture, sim­i­lar to elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol in a car. On more flat ground and in first gear, it al­most be­comes im­pos­si­ble to stall, even af­ter push­ing down hard on the brakes. The Wran­gler con­tin­ued to crawl, along with an uptick in my con­fi­dence level.

We by­pass trails that have been named through word of mouth: the wall, the crack, ele­phants bay and ea­gle rock. At first, they all give rise to doubt, but the Wran­gler Un­lim­ited proves time­and-time again how im­pres­sive it is. Ev­ery­thing goes smoothly un­til we hit an up­hill path that's filled with un­usu­ally shaped rocks of all sizes. It's these sit­u­a­tions where you feel the need to fo­cus ahead, but you must be cog­nizant of ev­ery­thing that sur­rounds you. As Kalbfleisch puts it, “Al­ways be look­ing 360-de­grees.” And he's right. I had my eyes fo­cused on the rocks of hor­ror ahead and al­most clipped a tree to my right. Luck­ily, we work in packs and some­one points the tree out well ahead of an un­nec­es­sary night­mare.

Lit­tle did I know, the night­mare would come from some­thing else, and it wasn't the two sharp-edged rocks, but another one that was con­ve­niently placed in an awk­ward po­si­tion di­rectly in front of me. I crawled on top of the rock, but the Wran­gler had trou­ble clear­ing

it. Per­haps, it was me be­ing late on the clutch, but it forced me to re-ad­just my po­si­tion. Af­ter a lit­tle re­vers­ing ac­tion, fol­lowed by a throt­tle push for­ward, the rock showed its stub­born na­ture and wouldn't let me pass.

It took a few tries, but I fi­nally made it up with as­sis­tance from my band of broth­ers. It's that guid­ance and watch­ing out for each other that brings the whole ex­pe­ri­ence to­gether. Kalbfleisch's en­cour­age­ment kept me level headed and on point. No mat­ter your off-road ex­pe­ri­ence level, these sit­u­a­tions oc­cur all the time, and it even hap­pened to some of the more ex­pe­ri­enced own­ers on this day.

The key thing I ab­sorbed was the ex­cep­tional ca­pa­bil­ity of the Wran­gler, far greater than one would think, and def­i­nitely su­pe­rior to my new­bie off-road­ing skills. It's nat­u­ral to feel all sorts of noises, whether they're cracks from cracked branches, scrapes from large rock sur­faces or shriek­ing coils com­press­ing and axles ex­tend­ing – it's all part of off-road­ing. Just take a deep breath and as­sess the sit­u­a­tion be­fore do­ing any­thing. With more prac­tice, these ma­noeu­vres will be like clock­work, help­ing you un­der­stand what you can and can­not do.

This trail run with the Jeep Out­fit­ters folks showed me the strong spirit of Jeep cul­ture and why this brand has lasted for 75 years. No doubt, some con­sumers may look at the Jeep brand's rel­a­tively poor re­li­a­bil­ity record in var­i­ous sur­veys and high fuel con­sump­tion fig­ures (es­pe­cially for the dated Wran­gler) and won­der whether its in­tan­gi­bles out­weigh these fac­tors, though Jeep's soar­ing sales fig­ures sug­gest they do for many buy­ers.

In the end, the Jeep ap­peal is all about a sense of ad­ven­ture, not about com­pe­ti­tion or who can achieve the riski­est stunt – it's about go­ing at your own pace, gain­ing con­fi­dence in your abil­i­ties and mak­ing friend­ships along the way.

As the say­ing in the Jeep com­mu­nity goes, “Slow as pos­si­ble. Fast as nec­es­sary.”

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