One of my bucket list items, the Alvord Desert has always intrigued me. The desolation. The harsh environment. The wide open spaces. The hot springs. So this year, we finally went to explore it ourselves.
After loading up the Land Cruiser, we hit the road for the 7 hour journey ahead.
Today I joined my offroading friends for a day of wheeling in our “back yard” trails. It was a big day for me and my rig, as it marked the first time I was meeting up driving a Toyota. This group of friends had grown and bonded over our common JKs – build parties installing coil overs, and offroad/camping trips in Moab, the Rubicon, and elsewhere.
So it was a moment of truth for me – was selling my JK and buying a 25 year old Land Cruiser a good choice?
After the initial ribbing and airing down was over, we hit Archer’s Firebreak. This was an awesome trail choice – Archer’s was my favorite trail in the JK, and one I led every year for the Jeep Jamboree. So I had a lot of history with it and knew it well. However, I had never wheeled it in anything other than the JK. Now I was in a Toyota. And an automatic.
The biggest difference for me this time, was that I would bypass the burly stuff. I was without rock rails, skids, and confidence in the new rig.
Oregon has a lot of hidden gems when it comes to campsites. I recently found a canyon on Google maps, where the road closely followed the Deschutes river, and dead-ended. Being an early season shakedown run this seemed like a great option.
So I called my buddy Jesse and his overland-ready Dodge Ram, and we hit the road.
We drove from Mt. Hood through the town of Maupin and made our way to the BLM access road that would wind along the river, going deeper and deeper into the canyon.
The road is dotted with many little campsites. We slowed at each to see which one would lend the best experience. We wanted something off the road yet close to the water. We were surprised as we rounded a bend, to have a herd of cattle in the road.
We ended up arriving just as the sun set behind the canyon walls. After a quick camp setup, we broke out dinners and planned on some epic stargazing.
The next morning was very chilly and damp, thankfully the tent heater kept us plenty warm as we prepared for the day. My wife began her breakfast routines (Field Roast maple sausages and hot Black Rifle Coffee) and my son and I set off to explore the area we couldn’t see well in the dark.
The canyon’s walls were mush steeper than we expected, and they trapped in the morning fog.
The beavertail campground was an awesome landing spot. It was serene, and peaceful, save for the BNSF freight train that rumbled through in the morning. I can only imagine once fishing season is in full swing, that these campgrounds are chock full of people.
I ended up flying the drone for a bit, for a peek of the area and a view above the canyon (see the featured image).
We ended up breaking camp later that day and exploring the local towns, having lunch and enjoying a cold brew before the drive home to the mountain.
This year’s Rubicon trip would be unlike any other we have ever taken. Maybe it was the seemingly countless trailer flops. Or maybe it was the legendary campsite. Or, the fact we started in Wentworth Springs instead of Loon Lake.
I am finally home in the foothills of Mount Hood in Oregon, after a long week in Daytona Beach.
I actually learned a TON during my time away. Primarily, I learned to never stand behind a man swinging a hammer at an exhaust tip (Phil, you are a great new friend – but I did warn you I would forever taunt you about that!). I learned that if you party with Rebel Off Road, be prepared to throw down (those guys DO NOT mess around).
But last, I learned about how awesome the Jeep family truly is.
The morning started off with the beautiful Florida sun peeking through the blinds. The smell of sunscreen and stale beer rang throughout our condo, signalling yet another day of Jeep Beach.
We headed to the Daytona International Speedway to hang out and meet vendors, and to take my friend Phil’s 1989 restored YJ out on the infamous obstacle course that was set up in the massive Daytona infield.
First things first, we hit the obstacle course with Phil’s YJ. Unfortunately his transfer case did not engage into 4WD properly and when he bumped some logs, he ended up snapping the front driveshaft yoke. So, we hobbled his rig off the course and ordered the parts from the show. Tomorrow morning, I will attempt a fix right on the Daytona infield.
The rest of the afternoon was spent meeting and greeting the various companies that my Jeep is made of (or that I plan to order from).
I had a great chat with Chris from SpiderWebShade and learned a bit about his fascinating company. They started in 2006 as an upholstery shop and made a few mesh screens for friends’ Jeeps. They started making 50 units per month, and now are at 5,000+. It is a VERY cool product and I look forward to giving it a full review on this site soon.
I also spent some time with Mike from Factor 55. His company makes some amazing winch/recovery points and I will also get on a review of their new FlatLink shackle thimble. I am really looking forward to testing it out in Moab next month and will also provide a full review.
At the end of the day, I met people from ACE Engineering, Rebel Off Road, Rock Krawler (have you ever held their control arms!?), Poison Spider, Rugged Ridge, Carolina Metal Masters, Bruiser Conversions, and many many more.
We retired to the condo to rehydrate, relax, and check out all the goodies we bought today, as well as formulate a plan to get Phil’s rig back on the trail tomorrow.
Tonight is also the VIP Tiky Party! Hope to post more on that later, beers providing 🙂
Today culminated one of the biggest achievements yet of Jeep Beach 2014: Completing the scavenger hunt.
We drove around between A1A and US 1, checking off an interesting list of hidden secrets such as the “mysterious” ruins of New Smyrna, a lighthouse in Ponce Inlet, and a manatee named “Cookie.”
But perhaps the most interesting thing we encountered was the “Tomb in the road.” According to the site “Weird Florida,”
“[Douglas] Dummett sent his son to school in the North and in 1860 when Charles was home from school, he was killed while on a hunting trip when his gun accidentally discharged. Douglas Dummett buried his son on the spot where he was killed. For the past century this area has been developed into a residential neighborhood, but Charles Dummett’s tomb still sits on a little island in the middle of Canova Drive.”
Pretty cool history off the beaten path.
After we completed all the items on the list, we headed back to the condo for some sun and some R&R before cruising out to the first “meet n greet” of the week.
The highlight of the meet n greet was roaming around the parking lot, checking out all the amazing rigs from around the country.
Here are some of my favorites:
After the drool-fest was over outside, we headed inside for some mingling, dinner, and drinks (the hotel made me a special vegan dinner of penne, fresh garlic marinara and garlic bread – super good!) but the drinks we pretty meh.