There are few brand names more synonymous with off-roading than Jeep, and there are few figures in the off-roading community that have been more influential in making off-roading a popular recreational pastime in North America than Mark A. Smith. Smith led the first Jeep Jamboree expedition on Northern California's legendary Rubicon trail in 1953. Smith died on Monday at the age of 87 at his Georgetown, California, home near the Rubicon trail.
A retired Marine, Smith led numerous off-road expeditions, including the Expedicion de las Americas in 1978, in which he led a team of 16 across Panama's Darien Gap linking Panama and Colombia. Over 30 days, the team crossed the rugged Central America jungle terrain and pioneered the use of ladder systems to cross waterways, a method since adopted by U.S. Special Forces.
Smith was an early advocate of trail conservation and preservation and is credited with leading efforts to clean up the formerly littered Rubicon Trail, making sure that visitors didn't leave any litter or debris on the trail or campsite. This practice continued for numerous Jeep Jamboree events held each year around the country and is a philosophy adopted and espoused by Tread Lightly.