1953 Mark A. Smith and a small group of Rotarians and
friends figured out a way to draw visitors to their town,
Georgetown, California: stage an annual Jeep vehicle trek
across the Sierra Nevada Mountains by way of the old Rubicon
Trail. The event has run continuously since then and Smith’s
business has grown to host numerous Jeep Jamborees through
out North America. In addition to organizing the events
Smith has traveled the world by Jeep and is recognized for
his exploration by the Explorers Club of New York.
Smith was born in 1926 in Arizona. His father a mining
engineer moved the family from Globe, Arizona to eastern
Nevada where Smith grew up. The young Smith had his first
glimpse of a Jeep during news reel at his local movie
theater. He knew from that first big screen sighting that he
had to have a Jeep of his own some day. He drove his first
Jeep while serving in the United State Marine Corps in 1944.
He and his wife Irene, moved to Georgetown, California in
1951. In 1952 Smith purchased his first Jeep to further
explore the area. He knew he had world class Jeeping right
out of his front door. He recognized the opportunity to
share the trails with others while providing a boost for the
local economy. Along with some friends and local Rotarians
he hosted the first ever Jeep Jamboree. 155 individuals
attended the first event. In 1954, Willys Motors, the
manufacturer of Jeep vehicles at the time became involved
with the adventure. The event has run every year since then.
Smith is by nature a person who seeks to explore the world
and find adventures. He led the 1978-1979 Expedicion de las
Americas, a 20,000-mile, 120-day odyssey from the bottom of
South America to the top of North America, crossing the
infamous Darien Gap. The Darien Gap is the section of land
between Panama and Columbia where the Pan-American Highway
has yet to connect through the jungle. The area is dense
road-less jungle, which has only been traversed successfully
by vehicle in a joint effort of the British Military and
Columbian Military in 1972. Smith’s group of 16 North
American’s is the only organized private group to traverse
the distance. Smith’s group worked with the indigenous Choco
and three Columbians to traverse the Gap. It took them 30
days to work their way through the jungle and by the time
they had made it through the path they had cleared at the
beginning of their journey had already grown over.
Smith’s adventures have gone beyond the tips of the
Americas, he has driven a jeep on every continent except
Antarctica. He organized and headed the 1987 Camel Trophy in
Madagascar. The event pitted drivers against numerous
challenges from swamp running at night to climbing nearly
impassable steeps. He scouted trails around the world in
places such as; Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Australia,
Europe, Egypt, China and South Africa. His exploration
behind the wheel of a jeep has led him to a membership with
the Explorer’s Club of New York.
In 1982 the Jeep brand of the DaimlerChrystler Company,
recognizing Smith’s expertise with their products, offered
him a consulting position. The position led to the expansion
of the Jeep Jamboree event into a national tour. While the
Rubicon Trail Event, still the cornerstone event, became
part of a series of Jeep Jamborees throughout with stops in
every major geographical region in the States. Beyond the
events Smith has overseen the construction of numerous Jeep
training and testing courses, helping to re-create the
difficult conditions which Jeeps are designed to travel
through. He has designed training ground for the Marine’s at
Quantico and a test course with features similar to the
Rubicon Trail at Jeep’s headquarters in Auburn Hills,
Michigan at the Chelsea Proving Grounds.
Smith has contributed to the education of numerous Jeep
drivers. He actively participates in the Tread Lightly
principles. He has worked towards education the participants
in his Jamboree’s the importance of landscape which they
have come to explore. He has also been instrumental in the
training of U.S. Military Special Forces and Law Enforcement
agents throughout the country in the handling of four wheel
drive vehicles through a series of seminars. For the every
man he has published a glove box sized handbook, Mark A.
Smith’s Guide to Safe, Common Sense Off-Road Driving.
Today Smith is still working with the Jeep Jamboree program
along with his daughter Jill and her husband Pearse Umlauf.
The Smiths other three children, Mark, Gregory and Patti all
have actively participated in the family adventure business.
Smith, Mark A. 2004. Driven By A Dream, Mark A. Smith’s
Journal. Georgetown, CA.: Mark A. Smith Off-Roading, Inc.
Mark A. Smith http://jeepjamboreeusa.com/aboutus.htm
Interview with Mark A. Smith, July 2006.