It was, in a word, GRRRREAT! I'm trying to sound like Tony the Tiger there.
(I just read this post before posting. Sorry it's long but I hope the info is useful for you.)
I had no idea what to expect when I arrived Saturday morning. Would there be only 5 or 6 rigs and one or two instructors? When we pulled up (the wife is my co-pilot), there were many rigs lined up, dozens of club members all wearing their red polo shirts with ED4 club patch, vehicle pre-inspection stations, check-in desk (bring your registration and proof of insurance), and so on. Very organized, quite impressive.
We were in good hands the whole day. Weeks before the class they send you an info packet explaining what to bring. The packet even says to bring a first aid kit, and I tossed some band aids, gauze and tape into a plastic bag as my "kit", but they didn't screen for that when we arrived. They did check for reg & insurance, like I said, and they performed a vehicle safety inspection for battery tie down, spare tire, jack, etc. It's all in the packet they send in advance.
The gathering point is a group camping area of Hollister Hills ("Area 5", IIRC), where there are flush toilets with sinks for washing hands. Not just outhouses or pit toilets - the wife appreciated that. Well, I did too, and that's no lie. There's even showers, other running water, and electrical hook-ups. Many camped out the night before, but I don't think many, if any, of the students camped out. It was a big club event.
The class has a capacity of 40 rigs, and this class was full. They said the May class usually fills up, while the September class usually doesn't. They line your rigs up in four groups of ten, with each group color coded by a strip of plastic that you tie to your antenna or door handle, wherever. With my 2014 JGC, I tied it to the tow hitch's loop for tow chains, down low in the back. We don't have stock antennas on our JGCs. They lend you a small hand-held FRS radio if you didn't bring one.
Most of the students' rigs were new (or almost-new, or late model). Mostly stock suspensions; a few were lifted but nothing ridiculous (okay that's a relative term, so maybe some had 2" or 3" lifts, but not many). There were many Jeep Wranglers, of both the 2- and 4- door flavors. Only one other JGC besides mine, and both of ours were stock. A Chevy Colorado pickup, a few Toyota FJ Cruisers. Pick ups and 4Runners. Maybe even a Suburban/Yukon. I don't recall seeing even one Land Rover or Range Rover in the group -- after they slept in, those drivers went to their Saturday afternoon pedicure appointments.
For the morning they shuttled us all over to the classroom, maybe not quite a mile away, for a few hours of discussion, demo, slides and diagrams led by 5-6 club members. They talked us through responsible off roading, tricks and tips, how to spot, winching, equipment, and some What Not To Do's. Several times they told us that Jeep means Just Empty Every Pocket, with all the equipment you'll buy if you get into serious wheeling.
At noon they shuttled us all back to Area 5 where we broke up into our four groups for a bring your own lunch, and meet-and-greet.
Then comes the fun part. After airing down and tuning the FRS radios to each group's channel, we headed out to the trails. The four groups rotated through four 'events' -- two different trails, a tire placement and hill lesson, and the O-course (obstacle). We spent the entire afternoon driving. Our group had ED4 club members as the lead, a chaser, and one in the middle, all on radios with the entire group. I think each group had this. Again, a well-organized event.
The trails were decent, with some decent challenges. For the challenging parts they had spotters there to help with your tire placement, throttle control, and managing momentum. The tire placement and hill lessons were good skills to develop.
The O-course was impressive, and by far the most fun. Impressive, in that I was very impressed by what my stock 2014 JGC could do! When I walked some obstacles like "Frame Twister" and "Stair Stepper", I was very skeptical that my JGC could do it. Especially Frame Twister. But the ED4 spotters/coaches were competent. At Frame Twister the guy there said he'd been spotting folks for 15 years on that obstacle, and when he looked at our rigs he said every one of them could do it.
My rig was parked last in the line, a cherry less-than-2-months old white JGC. When we're all standing around Frame Twister after they explained it, the guy asks, "OK, who wants to go first?" Lots of hesitation from the Wrangler pilots in the group. So I jumped in and said, I'll do it! Was I being confident? Or dumb? With the spotter there, as long as you follow his instructions, you're golden. My run was clean, no scrapes or bottoming out. I'm still shaking my head as I write this now, because when I walked the obstacle I had a healthy dose of skepticism that my JGC could do it.
Once I went through and the others saw it, then everyone ran through it just fine. I went back and did it again. Fun!!
(In this image results,
frame twister hollister hills - Google Search
the silver Subaru Brat at the top is trying to negotiate Frame Twister.
During the day they made it clear, on a couple occasions and by a couple members, that if at any time you didn't feel comfortable with doing any of it, you could just pull aside, watch others, and choose to do it later. Or just go around. So, low-key, no-pressure, good coaching and constant reminders to stay within your limits.
After the day, are there any battle scars on my JGC? My skid plates are now christened. On some trails, my low ground clearance led to some mild scraping. On an obstacle or two, too. But not on Frame Twister or Stair Stepper. Those runs were clean, and I did both at least twice each. I haven't crawled under the car yet to look. I have 20" rims and low profile tires. Far from ideal, for wheeling. I aired down to 20psi for the day. There are now a couple of very minor, mild scrapes on the rims. Barely noticeable. I don't mind, it's a Jeep. Other than that, my new JGC is still in pristine condition. My JGC is stock but I do have the Quadra-Lift air suspension, and I ran most of the day at its highest setting.
Glad you are going in September, I think you will really like it. I'm thinking of doing it again! I'll let you know if I go.
Enjoy your JGC,