Tag Archives: overlanding

Re Post: Babes in the Woods

Video: GPS for Confidence Building
I wanted to repost this since–my “Babe in the Woods” has been promoted to a cadre position on my team…


Lighting a fire in wet conditions, and not rescuing from the failures is tough…

I have never been a fan of the notion everybody wins. When coaching youth roller hockey in San Antonio, I had one of the few, and eventually the only program that still kept score in the YMCA portfolio of sports programs.

I believe that you need to give kids a realistic view of their performance, but done so in a way that you leverage their strengths in whatever evaluation you are doing. I don’t believe in sugar-coating the feedback, or playing with soft gloves. I also don’t believe in being harsh on them either.

In all my workshops, coaching endeavors, or training I do with kids, military leaders, new adults to the woods, etc is the same… I define the conditions and expectations, allow them to perform, allow them to self evaluate, and then provide guidance and feedback.

The other aspect is tough. I don’t rescue. I allow failure as long as safety is not compromised. Nothing is learned if I am constantly helping a participant to a point I am completing the task them.

Let’s discuss two situations where I have to guide a participant differently.

The first is a fire building scenario. The participant has a good grasp of the concept, understands how to use flint and steel, knows the type of tinder and has been highly successful in starting fires in the past. But this has all been in controlled conditions when it has been fair weather and dry materials.

Survival fires though are most often needed when conditions are wet and clammy. To really test skills, I have to put the participant into real conditions so they not only have the ability to start fires and get warm when most needed, but to have the confidence to do so.

Most fail in getting the fire started in these conditions. Many times, I fail. It is a difficult test to complete. But the real learning is through the debrief with the participant and allowing them to do it again.

Watching a participant unnecessarily expending energy to grab materials, using the wrong materials, standing by and watching the fire not start can be irritating and the desire to jump in can be powerful. But I have to let them fail. This is because the participant has acquired a level of mastery in controlled conditions that can lead to over-confidence which is just as dangerous as not having the skills at all. Here you have to have the tough love and not jump in, allow them to identify their own mistakes, and then provide guidance.

In the other situation, a participant who is new to GPS navigation. In this scenario, the participant is just learning, and allowing them to fail outright as they work to program coordinates, follow the gps to a target, and try to find the best path to get to the target can be overwhelming. In this case I will work closely with the participant and provide constant coaching and working them to success. I still use the same debrief techniques of “what, so what, now what” that I have discussed in the blog and podcast in the past.

Building a solid toolbox of skills is an on-going exercise. As a team, constantly work on our skills to either keep them sharp or learn new techniques. It is also what helps us in communicating with each other and building our team and our families to a tighter cohesive group.

I am not a fan of the everybody wins philosophy. In the back-country people die. There is no second place with mother nature, just a body bag.

Original article: http://waukeefamilyymca.blogspot.com/2011/09/everybody-plays-everybody-wins.html

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3 Horse Ranch



Smoked trout made this a great experience!


With a tasting room that is open and friendly- you feel right at home to ask questions about the great wines they offer


Continuing our dirt road love fest

So let me start of by saying I am not a wine expert. Except for very special occasions I really don’t drink alcohol. I enjoy brewing beer- but about 99% of that goes to friends who say I do a pretty good job at it. So to understand the world of wine is a stretch.
Combining our quest of finding dirt road destinations and my desire to do something “fancy” for my bride, the 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards was an automatic choice. I wanted to let Melissa feel like a princess for the day. I wanted her to have the option of coming out of hiking boots and shorts, put on same make-up, discard her baseball hat, and feel pretty. With me in my Mountain Khakis and a t-shirt, we decided on a tour of the west valley wineries. 3 Horse was selected for three reasons…open on Sunday, had a food menu, and of course it was on a dirt road.
IMG_0596I had never been to a tasting room, and upon learning this, we were given a great education on how tastings work and what to expect. I immediately liked the fact that we were not belittled since we both were new to this experience. The tasting room isn’t stuffy either, it’s like hanging out in a friends well done kitchen while they prepare a meal and entertain.
The tasting included a small snack of smoked trout and cheese with a baguette. We sampled several wines and were encouraged if there was not something we like, to pour it out. Each wine was explained in very non-technical terms. For fun, we were taught the how and why to swirl the wine in our glass.
The winery is located just outside of Eagle, Idaho where they take full advantage of the growing conditions and incredible soil content. They are even certified as organic. Very friendly and proud of their product- you can quickly learn about how it is made and the best ways to serve. This is a must-do for you and a date.
For more information checkout the website at http://www2.3horseranchvineyards.com/press/ and of course we will do a podcast- and perhaps we can get them for an interview.


Organic vineyards cover the dusty landscape on the way to the tasting room

Idaho Overland Expedition (Part 1)

Driggs to Jackson to St Anthony Sand Dunes

Quick set-up: Living Overland will be doing a full trip report. Until then I will refrain from many of the specific references to roads, GPS coordinates, trail names, etc. This trip was planned and organized by Beau and Christa and its up to them on the specific route they wish to share…

750 miles, over 600 on dirt. Three guys and a pre-teen girl would travel across every type of terrain that Idaho has to offer. A trip that would begin in Jackson, Wyoming and end in Jordan Valley, Oregon that would include tents, flyfishing gear, and great views along the way.

How do you describe the expedition of a lifetime? How do you explain the beauty seen from the cab of your rig as you blaze down both common and many not-so-common paths in the back country of Idaho? How do you tell others about the comrade built between total strangers as they traveled together through mountains and deserts? What words describe the feeling as a team jumps in to solve a problem like broken parts on a rig, a flat tire, or setting up a camp? You ramble in several segments like I am about to do…

Our trip began when we met up with the team in Driggs, Idaho. Team member Chad had set up a crash pad for us. For $20, my daughter Abby and I had a room to our selves, access to showers, and even a Jacuzzi. When we arrived we had a chance to meet Chad and his wife and their beautiful little girl. We made small talk while Chad repacked his Toyota FJ. Chad and I both share military backgrounds, a love for the outdoors, and an interest in expeditions. Chad is also a great photographer.

It wasn’t long before Lance showed up. A financial analyst and fellow adventurer we quickly took a liking to each other. The immediate commonality was his XTERRA. I love the Nissan XTERRA as an expedition platform and often lament that my 2003 was not 4WD. We also shared the brotherhood of diving. Both of us trained in the military and civilian life. Plus, he is just a great guy. His experience in running for state senate would pay off, as he used his charisma to quickly break the ice and get great conversation going.

Not long afterwards our team leader Beau showed up. Beau has been planning this trip for over a year and I think we all wanted to do what we could to support it, while being very careful about stepping on any toes. I teach leadership development for a living, and in moments I could not help falling into the evaluation role. I was immediately impressed with Beau from the beginning. After small talk about vehicles in the driveway, we soon over a great Italian meal in downtown Driggs, Lance, Beau, and myself with Abby in tow, discussed expedition financing, previous expeditions, goals and strategies for our own expedition companies, etc. Chad couldn’t join us and was out shooting great photos of an amazing moonrise. Getting to know each other of dinner was a great idea and we sat inside probing each other for new nuggets of advice.

The next morning after hitting the sack late, we departed on time from Driggs to Jackson Hole. Chad made the tough decision to drop since this would be his daughter’s first expedition at 7-months old. After topping off our fuel tanks in Jackson we picked up Andy and Claudia who were joining the expedition for only a day. They both work in the local area and could show us some great places on our way to St. Anthony.

Our convoy moved through Jackson, to Teton National Park and then Yellowstone. On the way to our dirt road launching site we had close encounters with a couple of Moose that Andy calls “Lucky”, since they have yet to be hit by a car in spite of lingering in roadways in the local area.

Taking a break near a ranch area Beau and Andy were familiar with, we were within viewing range of a Buffalo heard as well as a half-dozen Antelope following along. Getting through the ranch area was already providing us with the cool stuff you often think of in expeditions—including water crossings, dusty roads, and great views. Andy gave us a special treat of a river walk in the area that doesn’t get much traffic and though there were people along the route, the side trail tour he gave us was void of anyone else.

After lunch we proceeded on to St Anthony Sand Dunes to camp for the night. The plan was to watch fireworks from the dunes. With the threat of wildfires in the area, the town of Ashton had cancelled the show. Instead we stayed up for awhile and talked more about gear. Lance brought out a Kurig coffee machine and successfully blew out both mine and Beau’s inverters. An inverter is a device used to convert AC powered appliances (like those in your house) to DC current (like your car battery). No coffee for us. But amazing sunsets…

St Anthony is a “dry camp” area meaning no facilities including water. This was the first place our Scepter water cans paid off.

Scepter was cool enough to provide us with water and fuel cans for the trip. The water cans hold a little more than 5 gallons and are virtually indestructible. We knew we would be passing through hot desert areas later in our trip and the only water we would have would be what we carried. With canisters strapped both inside the Jeep as well as the rear rack, we were well prepared. I prefer the heavy duty plastic that Scepter uses compared to metal cans. Metal cans are not forgiving, can rust, and more likely to have a leak in the seam. In addition, the NATO style can by Scepter uses a far superior plastic than other companies. I have had water canisters fail on me- I was not going to have that happen. In addition, the fuel canisters they provided have more flex than metal. As you drive down bumpy roads and have the variance in temperatures, fuel cans expand and contract. Too often I have seen metal cans from discount hardware stores fail under these circumstances. Our trip would take us in to several extremes of temperatures.

The St Anthony Sand Dunes is a 10,000 acre area of clear white quartz sand that is constantly shifting. Driving into it from Ashton was a great experience. We found the loose sand laden roads not only a blast to drive, but also the views had a unique beauty. I really wish I would have packed our kites due to the winds in the area. Geologically speaking, the Prevailing winds carried the sand from the Snake and Teton Rivers to once active volcanic vents pouring, thus creating the dunes. You can still see signs of the vents that poured great depths of lava over the area.

Abby and I quick set up our tent and her privy. We used a privacy shelter and a Luggable Loo mounted to a 5-gallon bucket. The bucket was double lined with heavy duty plastic bags.

The area provides great sunsets and as Abby and I settled down with our backpacking meals, we watched Lance and Beau create some amazing concoctions for dinner. Lance showed how he could easily create an Indian based dish using microwavable rice, and Beau displayed how pre-cooking items and then freezing is a much better alternative- and less messy than preparing everything fresh.

We chose to use backpacking meals at the last moment. As I was trying to get our part of the trip organized I found that adding a small table, cast iron pans, cleaning supplies, cooking utensils, etc was taking up more space than I had planned. In addition, I was trying to treat our packing plan as if we were a backpacking trip on 4-wheels. This resulted in us having a really big cooler that held 4 blocks of ice, a dozen sodas, a block of cheese and a few packs of meat and tortillas…while all our dinner and breakfast meals were stowed in a backpack. While testing some of the new meals from Mountain House and Camp Chef were on the list this summer, we would have been much better off preparing fresh meals. I admit one of my concerns were bears once we got into the Challis, Sawtooth, and Boise NF areas, still I think we would have saved space by packing fresh meals.

Day one ended with good conversation and a visit to Abby’s privy set up…

The next morning I woke before everyone and started getting our stuff packed. I never factored in how much of an anti-morning person my 11-year old is and struggled throughout the trip finding a balance of motivation, compassion, and @$$ kicking. She often acts like an adult so much, I forget that she is not even a teenager yet. This is also where I had the first wrestling match with the privy shelter we set up. Will have to post a video on how this thing is supposed to “easily” pack away…

The trip out of the sand dunes brought us through more beauty and dust. Dust was our main dilemma throughout the trip. To keep is cooled off I opted to travel with the ½ top on the Jeep and a cargo net across the back. Because I had one of the two ham radios it made sense for me to be in the rear of the convoy. We found that we needed to back off a few hundred yards in the morning, while in the evening we would drop back in some cases to more than a mile while the dust settled. We also found the Ghotra, the scarf often seen in Arab countries, was great at keeping the dust out of lungs. I admit though, Abby and I both had black boogers at times. The Ghotra or Shemag can be wet with water to help filter as well as placed on the back of the neck to cool. I even placed it on my head during the afternoon to protect against the heat of the sun.

With the trip begining, there is so much to learn about each other, our skills, our quirks, and how to deal with sdversity. The next day Abby and I would have another encounter with Moose and other wildlife!

Firepuck Demo and Review

As many of you know—I have been burned (no pun intended) by survival products I have purchased in the past. Sometimes the concept is great, works well in the lab, works well in limited field testing, fails when you really need it.

I am also conscious of where I spend my hard-earned dollars. Sometimes though I have to be aware that there are guys out there that may not have the same experience as me, so I have to think about the guy or gal who is new to the woods, is cold in the woods, or the person who pulls up to a camp site and has to get it quickly situated.

Okay, enough of the prelude, let me tell you about a product we strongly endorse… Firepuck.

This is by far one of the coolest things (there is that pun thing again) we have tested in a long time. I can start fires with everything from shotgun shells to belly button lint. If you have been to one of my seminars we do just that. I will still carry a couple of these. This is a great way to get a fire started whether you are a survival expert or the guy who has to start the fire pit in the backyard.

Starting with the stats, this thing burns at 1400 degrees.  To get a fire going you need oxygen, fuel, and heat. If your fuel source is wet it is going to be difficult to light. Put yourself in a situation where you are hypothermic and all sources are wet, you are in deep trouble if you can’t get a fire going. I won’t matter how many cotton balls you can light with flint and steel, wet fuel source means trouble. The advantage of the hot temps produced by the Firepuck is that not only does it provide quick ignition of your fuel source, it actually dries your source.

For our test I soaked seasoned pine in a 5 gallon bucket for approximately 60 hours. (I had intended to do it for only 48 hours, but got side- tracked so the wood stayed submerged and extra day.) I then used a modified Tee-Pee build for the fire with no other kindling. Please check out the video for more perspective.

The Firepuck is easy to use. It has a friction based ignition system integrated into the cap. It took me three attempts in the video to light it…this is because I was a pansy and was over-cautious. In reality, like all of you laughing at my failure in the video.  I was impressed with how concentrated the flame source was, a feature you want in high wind conditions. Unlike all those cotton balls I fill with petroleum jelly, this product is petroleum free.

One of the points made about the product is that it is not water proof. Honestly, there are not a lot of products that are truly waterproof that are this easy to use when it comes to fire starting. This can be made water proof though by using either a Mylar bag also sold by Firepuck or a Zipper style baggie. I am currently testing one in a zipper baggie with two small moisture tabs (designed to pull moisture out) and will test that next week. They are sitting in a backpack in the downpour we have been receiving off-and-on the past few days. They show no signs of taking on moisture at all.

What I like about this product is that you don’t have to be an expert to use it. It takes the guess-work out of staying alive. I would ensure that I don’t use it at the back end of my jeep, in doors as a gag, or substitute it for birthday candles. I also like that it does not leave residue like a road flare would, and for the same size of a flare, I can carry six of these.

I will be carrying these in my EMT/ Wilderness Rescue bag, survival bag, and in my vehicles. If you buy anything new to go into your survival or camping kit, this should be first on the list. I would also include this on a list of something to keep on hand for those back yard parties where you have a firepit. This is a no hassle way to get a fire going for your guest.

Checkout the video on YouTube

 Be sure to check out Firepuck at their website for more info.

Desert Rat

Over the next few weeks you will see a shift on the Facebook page, the trip reports on the blog, and maybe a video of two on youtube with a concentrated effort on the desert. Honestly this is nothing new. We live in and on the border of some of the most facsinating deserts, I grew up in Arizona and then Texas- both famous for its deserts, I am drawn to notional parks like Big Bend, Zion, Canyon Lands, and other places where water is scarce, navigation can be difficult, and help is out of cell phone reach. Early on in my military careerI focused on desert survival and warfare when the trend was Soviet invasion in Europe. I love the desert for its beauty,its harshness, and its complexity.

For me, of all the environments, the desert is the most unforgiving. Here you better know your stuff and keep your head together. You may go out for a day, but should be ready to spend three. I have dirt biked and ATV’d in remote locations on hot days, only to have a sudden thunderstorm come in and make the trails home impossible. Blown radiator hoses, flat tires, and sink holes can extend your stay. Its difficult to navigate and at times possible to communicate. If you go out on Sunday, make sure your boss knows that if you don’t show up for work on Monday, you are in a jam somewhere. On the kitchen pass from your spouse, be sure to list where you are going and stick to the plan.

This last weekend we had the opportunity to visit Winter Camp. Thijs was a small homestead in the Bruneau Desert. After a 30-mile trip down a gravel road and then a few miles in on a not likely to ever be improved road, we were met by the land owners.

Many of the pristine homesteads still sit on working ranches and are only available through the cooperation of land owners. We went out with the Owyhee County Historical Society and the trip was led by Steve Silva. Steve has written a few books on the Owyhee area and is not only an expert in the history, but is an avid biker and knows every little trail from Eastern Oregon to Western Idaho, and for kicks, throw in Nevada as well.

I will do a more indepth trip report on Winter Camp after I have a chance to double check and verify my notes. I mainly wanted to point out the availability of these adventures as an opportunity to get out and explore….safety in numbers. I also wanted to provide some guidance before you venture out on what to take along.

Water. Those little bottles you picked up at the store are not enough. Don’t think in terms of ounces, think in terms of gallons.

Fuel. Even with a group going to a known destination I carry two 5 gallons cans of fuel plus I top off at the last known stop.

Small tool kit with extra parts. I worked with Carl from the local ATV club who has extensive experience on extended range travel in this area. Last month when we changed belts and hoses, I kept the old parts as spares. I also have two gallons of coolant and two quarts of oil with me. Jumper cables and tow lines are also their weight in gold.

Communication. Cell phones rarely work. I have a ham radio, cb radio, and aircraft radio. Be properly registered and qualified. In fact I highly recommend a ham certification.

Keep survival pack in the rig. As a rule I look at how many people (and pups) you rig will hold. Since I know I will max out at 3 people and two dogs, my kit will work for all of us for three days. I also carry my own personal survival bag in case I need to start walking and others have to stay put. Know how to use the stuff and train with it. In the next few weeks I will include this in one of my postings.

GPS is great but know how to read a map.

I keep two first aid kits, well three if you count the small one in my personal survival kit. Let’s focus on the two in the rig. The first sits behind the passenger seat. Its small and made for those little cuts and abrasions. Easy to get to and doesn’t require a medical degree beyond what mom’s do to take care off boo-boos. The second is a full blown EMT bag. Everything short of a heart by-pass is included in it. In addition, we are trained to use everything in the bag. I highly recommend the NOLS Wilderness Medic Course. This will train you to keep someone stabalized until either help arrives or you have to transport. I sent a few of us through both the NOLS course and the Red Cross course a few years ago. The Red Cross version was pathetic at best. Go with NOLS, theyare used to sending people into the back country on a regular basis….including third world countries where you just might be the best medic. Stay current on CPR and other courses, and check your kits. I do mine everytime we bounce between daylight savings and standard time.

That is probably just the start of it. As I set here in the desert, one of those storms is moving in and its starting to pour on me. I left this morning with a 20% chance of rain, and most of the day it has been in the 90s.

The last thing is join and participate in forums such as Expo Portal

There is so much to see out there. Remember to tread lightly which keeps the outdoors in good condition for all of us. If you get opportunities to visit private lands, be sure to thank the owners, respect their property, leave stuff alone. Never venture on to land you are not sure of.





I Got Some Fab

When I picked up my Jeep Wrangler one of the first things I sought out was a rear swing bumper for spare tire, gas cans, and tools such as an off road jack. I bought my Jeep completely bumper-less. I am an inexperienced welder with equipment that really isn’t up to par with what is required for a solid build. Fabricating mounts for lights, tool racks for a trailer, even mounting hardware for the on-board info systems…sure. A good set of bumpers and hardware to carry gas cans and other off road tools…well no.

I first went to a local fabricator listing his services on Craigslist. My first clue to the quality should have been that he was 30 minutes late meeting me at his “fab shop”. The dirt floored shop behind his house littered with tools, his air wrench was a 3 gallon electric compressor that had to be constantly recharged with air (I literally used a hand powered socket set on a set of screws faster than he did with his air powered tools), and he wasn’t using washers on any of the bolts when he put the bumper on.

In a few weeks the bumper through all the vibration started tearing out of the frame. My buddy Greg and I welded in support plates, but it never really stopped the vibration issue. In the end, I wound up putting my old tire carrier on and using just the bumper.

Using my bumper as a base, they rebuilt everything, increasing strenght and durability

I then took my project Jeep into the guys at Get Some Fabrication in Boise, Idaho. They quickly diagnosed the problems, pointed out the flaws in the design of the swing gate set up, and we set out together to build a new swing gate.

Finished project--- just needs paint

They used my existing bumper for the build, in which they reinforced it. You want a good solid platform on the bumper, not only for the tire and gas cans to be supported, but this is what another rig is going to hook into when you get YANKED out of a ditch at some point. Using larger section of steel they modified my current bumper.

After that, and through some back and forth decision making, they built a new tire carrier for me and made custom gas can holders. We opted to not place the hi-lift jack on the back since I travel allot of washboard trails. It’s not that they can’t build for that, it was more of a “why put it there” when I have plenty of space on my hood for it, which is really where I intended to move it. They also pre-built a space for a rear safari rack above the tire.

I am very pleased with the work that they have done and through a week of testing with full gas cans up and down the trails (all are washboard as a minimum right now) there is almost no vibration or excessive noise.

I highly recommend these guys and so glad they stepped up for this project. Going back to them to have a front bumper built, an overhead safari rack, rock sliders, and suspension work done. Located on Franklin Road in Boise, they can be reached at (208) 888-3565. You can also check out some of the cool stuff they have built on their website.

Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway

I woke early Saturday morning with unknown plans for the day. The threat of weather forecasters about the doom and gloom of snow coming in canceled the plans that my buddy Travis and I had made to explore the Oregon Trail Main route going from Glen’s Ferry to Boise- a back country trail. So when I awoke to partly cloudy skies and Travis sleeping in- I headed out the door to my back-up plan. With both dogs in the Jeep, electronics and survival kits tucked in their spots, a guide from department of transportation, and a cup of coffee we headed out the door for the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway.

The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway technically spans more than fifty miles in Southwest Idaho. I did just over 150 miles for the day. I enjoy this area because it reminds me much of what  early pioneers would have seen when they arrived to create a new life for themselves in the sage brush covered valley. Today’s rich agricultural lands and the small towns found along the byway are the legacy passed down to us by those early Idaho pioneers. I love the legacy for all of us to discover and enjoy as we drive a travel.

I did several side trips and strayed from the actual path recommended by the Idaho Department of Transportation. The first of these stops was to the Sawtooth Winery. I enjoy wine history. I think this is because when living in Europe, I had the opportunity to tour local monasteries that produced local unknown and unlabeled wines. I am by no means a wine guy, but I do love interesting stories surrounding wineries. It was closed.

Not to be dissuaded I continued south on Idaho 45 and just before the crossing at Walter’s Ferry I ventured over to the Idaho Western Heritage Byway and then to some back country trails that skirt the Snake River. I figured this would be a good place to let the dogs go play for a bit.

The trails were passable and we had the place to ourselves. We were also rewarded with the first of several Bald Eagle sightings for the day.

After the pups had a chance to run around a bit, it was time to go connect with the byway. Since I was also ready for lunch and wanted to keep the Jeep fueled, I headed to Dan’s Ferry, an old Phillipp’s 66 station where they serve some of the greasiest, yet best tasting chili in all of Idaho.

Next we traveled North and hit Map Rock Road for the beginning of the byway. We made several stops to explore along the way. Map Rock and Trapper’s flat are some of my favorite areas to stomp around in. These are better known for fishing and camping spots, but I like to hit them for rabbit hunting.

One of the attractions of the Snake River Scenic Byway is the number of orchards, vineyards, and wineries in the area. There was a particular one I wanted to visit since it was new. Located on Chicken Dinner Road is Huston Vineyards. I pulled in to have a look around. I enjoy the atmosphere of wineries, specifically when they are doing tastings. There is something about the social experience that is inviting.  Since I am driving my participation is at the observer’s level. But I do have light conversation with one of the owners, very friendly people, buy a bottle of wine for a co-worker’s birthday (a wine expert) , sample a great tasting Thai salad, and head on my way. Highly recommend visiting Huston Vineyards when you out that way.

Back on the road I observe more reflections of the past including the old Huston School building, which I couldn’t find any history or records of. Dotted throughout Southwest Idaho are buildings like that are abandoned.

The amount of wildlife can vary on this route. In fact I would be cautious if driving this early morning or late evening due to deer on the roadways. I was blessed with several hawk observations and highly recommend taking a good set of binoculars and birding book with you. Photographers take your better lenses for distance and a tripod along. I saw my second bald eagle on the route after leaving Huston perched right above an old barn. Beautiful.

After making my way down to Homedale, I took another side trip to a BLM area we call “Spanish Charlie” this is a set of trails I have done on ATV but had never ventured out on with any of my Jeeps. I love these trails because there are times in the year you can find yourself completely alone. They also take you over into Oregon, and for some reason I still find crossing the boarder in the middle of nowhere very cool. Must go back to my military roots.

The byway starts off at Walter’s Ferry and ends in Nyssa, Oregon. Since I spent the majority of the day on side trips and tours, it took me longer than the recommended time of 2 hours to complete. In fact I would make this an all day affair. I never made it to Nyssa, and instead opted out in Caldwell since it was late and I needed to get back. The guide that I ordered for free is a good starting point, but recommend a detailed map as well. For a quick look at the location of the area, check out the Idaho Byways site.

The Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway is a well woven tapestry of the things that make Idaho great including places, people, and scenic lands that encompasses the spirit of the west. Rich agricultural lands dating back nearly 4 million years ago are still found today along the byway. These were created by the fire of volcanoes that once dominated the area. In addition, there is evidence of mass flooding 15,000 years ago demonstrating the power of water as it reshaped the land from Idaho to Oregon via the Snake and Columbia River. Truly a great day trip, and when coupled with all the exploration that can be done here by linking several byways and back country trips could be an interesting 3-5 day self-supported adventure.

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Video of this trip

Lewis and Clark (Roots of Overlanding Series)

This summer we are going to begin an annual routine to follow the Lewis and Clark Trail. Admittedly we are not going to follow any kind of order that really makes sense- except that we will dedicate as many days as we have off to doing the journey. My daughter is fascinated with Sacajawea and I am an early American History nerd, so this is an easy way to get her to read and study and give us something in common.

This year our Lewis and Clark trip begins

The Corp of Discovery is the first true overland expedition that took place in the US. The challenge undertaken in 1804was equivalent to sending a man to the moon in the 1960’s. It was a vast undertaking that required a monstrous amount of planning and  preparation. Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition and outlined the mission’s  goals. Their objectives were primarily to look for a trade route to the Pacific for economic needs. Included was both its scientific and commercial value, to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and to discover how the region could be expanded economically. Not only was the trade route necessary, but also the ability to lay claim to lands west, set up trade with the Indians, and send a message to Russia, Brittan, France, and Spain the intentions to one day occupy and fortify the North American West.

There are volumes about the expedition so I don’t want to provide a history lesson here. Instead I would encourage yo to read Undaunted Courage by Steven Ambrose. My point is to merely outline how this adventure is similar and provides an early outline to the art of overlanding.

Like Lewis and Clark - finding "mojo" with the locals is a good thing. I love how kids flock to new adventurers. All these kids got candy bars, crayons, and coloring books.

Every time I read a journal entry, a synopsis of the trip, or see a movie – I am reminded just how intense this trip was and how it compares to the modern overlander. The Corp of Discovery traveled by several means, horse, watercraft, and foot. In the modern age we often times find ourselves traveling by aircraft (either to a jump point- or even midway through an adventure), loading our rigs on a barge or ferry, and even walking around some remote ghost town.

Like the expedition of 1804 had trade items such as beads, knives, face-paint, etc…who among us who has traveled in 3rd hasn’t taken chocolate, hats, t-shirts, pencils, patches, etc to trade or give as “gifts”. Overlanders tend to have their own currency they travel with.

like our Overlanding forefathers I have had to recruit not only team members for the expedition, but to hire guides and interpreters to get to where I was going or get help I needed. Lewis and Clark often found themselves negotiating these needed services.

When I read the account of the expedition for the first time several years ago I was blown away by the amount of provisions and equipment took along. Books, desk, barrels of food, grease, and whiskey, trade goods, scientific equipment, a blacksmith shop, pots and pans, etc. Then I look in the back of my rig with its shovels, jacks, air compressor…then the the front with radios, maps, gps gear. So glad my iPad is a more compact version of Lewis’ information system.

Years ago Melissa and I took a Wilderness First Aid course through NOLS. We were fortunate that the instructor in the course had a background in extended wilderness travel and had even served as an expedition medic in traveling to third world countries. Often times when in the backcountry or abroad- you are your team doctor for any kind of ailment or injury. Today’s equipment is much more advanced than what was carried by the Lewis and Clark team, but none-the-less, it is still highly valued and takes up a considerable amount of space in the rig.

Finally, not to drone too long on a subject of comparison I love- but navigation. Clark was an extraordinary map-maker and highly valued on his team for his use of celestial navigation aides. I have numerous maps, two-GPS devices, and years of experience in navigation in the wild. The tools may change, but the competencies to be a great navigator never do.

I love studying the similarities and each time I venture into my own Terra Incognita, I am reminded of these brave explorers and feel a special connection to living completely self-supported as they did.

Roots of Overland Adventures

My wife is still confused.

When I come home and babble for hours about overland adventures, spend hours of the evening combing through bits and bytes of internet data on equipment, routes, and travel diaries, spend the weekend modifying our expedition vehicle….she cuts me to the quick with the words, “car camping”.

OK– maybe my elitist soul is creeping in and I wear my adventure persona on my sleeve a bit much. But “Overlanding” is by no means “Car Camping”. To me “Car Camping” is something a guy who wears black socks with tennis shoes and Bermuda shorts does on on the weekend. By gosh– we are Overlanders! We don’t have a station wagon and would never be caught asking a park ranger any embarrassing questions.

When Theodore Roosevelt led his expedition through South America to discover uncharted rivers did people say, “Oh yes, Teddy the fine gent is camping this week in some remote location”. Or when Lewis invited Clark to take on a quest only equaled later in history to lunar exploration say, “Hey Bill, wanna go check out the trails?” No these were all examples of Overlanding.

Here is basically how I have tried to describe it to others

  • It is an expedition- the exploration and pure enjoyment of adventure based travel
  • It typically takes a weekend to several weeks, maybe months, if I get to win the lottery…years.
  • It takes place in remote, seldom traveled areas (Big Bend, Moab, Transatlantic Trail, Canada to Mexico on the CDT, etc.
  • Required extensive planning for all situations including environment, terrain, even politics
  • Camping- mostly dry or self-sustained camping although in extreme situations or where the adventure crew needs rest- an occasional hotel or established camp ground.

Still when I present this as a guideline I am met with the rebuff of “car-camping” by my tormentor, err…wife…

So in an effort to set the record strait for my un-enlightened soul mate, my poor counterpart who is uneducated in the ways of expedition, who just doesn’t grasp the lifestyle, I have decided to devote a series of blogs (not on any regular schedule) to the roots of OVERLANDING.

This will include examples and stories from some of the great overlanding expeditions including Lewis and Clark, the Westward Expansion, African Campaign (WWI and WWII), Continental Divide Trips, etc. My hope is that she will take to heart this legacy of great travelers who were self sufficient in everything and did not have the comforts of maps, roadside diners, or a KOA. Trips done by bicycle, dual-sport motorcycle, jeeps/trucks/uni-mogs, and canoe. My dream is to create fellow fanatics and for my wife…well bring her into the lifestyle with me and for gosh-sakes—-don’t call it CAR CAMPING!