Updated: Sep 17, 2020
A few weeks ago my wife and I were having post-dinner drinks with some friends when my buddy Aaron posed a question that would ultimately change my 2020 goals. The question was simple, "do you want to go overlanding in a few days?" Without hesitation I looked at my wife searching her body language for the slightest approval. She quickly gave a slight nod and soft "yes" confirming our two-day / one-night trip was okay. As a smile developed I responded to Aaron telling him "I'm 200% in" (a theme I'll get to later or in another post). Looking back on this moment the funny thing is that I really didn't know what overlanding was. Well, I had an idea, I had heard the term before but that was about it. At this point in time my working definition or understanding of overlanding was travelling offroad in your vehicle and camping. Part of me thought it was a spicy new way to say "offroading," a term I was quite familiar with.
Once we got home the excitement was still flowing through me, engaging "Mike Research Mode" which included a few hours of watching YouTube videos, reading online blogs, and other Google rabbit holes I could find. This is pretty typical for me -- I typically cannon-ball into the deep-end, learning as much as I can and not realizing it's 2 or 3 am and I have to work the next day. Luckily, I was still on vacation from work but I didn't have the luxury of sleeping in the next day either.
I'm going to skip past the few days of planning, testing equipment, packing, and driving to the trail so I share the moment I started learning what Overlanding is really about -- the first time I hit a mud pit and got air in my Jeep Grand Cherokee Trail Hawk.
Slideshow above going through large water/mud pit. Jeep (me) | Lexus (Aaron)
Now I realize I only got 4-5" of air and that's really not that impressive, nor is overlanding about getting air in your vehicle, or hitting mud pits. What this moment does capture is the adventure and experience we were having exploring the outdoors -- and the theme of this post -- the journey is the goal. To me, that's what Overlanding is about; however, Overlanding Journal has a much better and deep definition that I want to share:
"Overlanding describes self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal. Typically, but not exclusively, accommodated by mechanized off-highway capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping; often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and often spanning international boundaries. While expedition is defined as a journey with a purpose, overlanding sees the journey as the purpose."
Overlanding is about exploration, rather than conquering obstacles. While the roads and trails we travel might be rough or technically challenging, they are the means to an end, not the goal itself. The goal is to see and learn about our world, whether on a weekend trip 100 miles from home or a 10,000-mile expedition across another continent. The vehicle and equipment can be simple or extravagant - they, too, are simply means to an end. History, wildlife, culture, scenery, self-sufficiency - these are the rewards of overlanding."
Understanding what overlanding is and what it is about will hopefully shed some light on why I enjoyed the trip so much and why my 2020 goals have changed. I'll share my full 2020 goals in a future post, but I'll give you the sneak preview and let you know more overlanding is going to be in store and a big objective for me. Why? We'll here are the things that really resonate with me about Overlanding: Self-reliance, adventure, remote destinations, exploration, and learning and see our world.
Quick sidebar: It's funny and occurred to me as I'm writing this that the values about Overlanding that resonate with me the most are the same values that initially got me into Photography -- I was searching to explore the world through adventure and photograph those memories. Photography opened up a new way for me to see the world, and it's funny to me as I think about the parallels to Overlanding. Yet, I've only been once, so I'm not here thinking I'm an expert as I have much to learn.
Our trip in summary covered ~45 miles over ~5 hours at 10-13 mph as we ascended/descended ~5,000 ft in the George Washington National Forrest. Thanks to Gaia GPS for all the tracking data and giving us the ability to record our entire trip -- the map above shows the two segments of the trip -- segment 1 in purple and segment 2 in red, along with our campsite.
Although segment 1 was more of a highlight from an Overlanding perspective -- the terrain overall had a lot more opportunities to explore including: stream crossing, mud pits, and rock crawling -- segment 2 offered a best-in-class campsite (not shown on the map above, sneak peak below) that we can't wait to go back to. The best part about finding this campsite is we just stumbled upon it when we decided to make a wrong turn and "see where it went." This to me is the essence of overlanding and a great example of why the journey of exploring is the goal.
Even if our next campsite is already figured out there will be plenty of opportunities to explore the various trails we did not yet get to go down, or further improve our campsite, which quickly became a theme at camp -- must always improve camp was a frequent thought for both Aaron and I. As the day came to an end we kicked back to relax in front of the fire with some camp drinks -- my favorite old fashioned -- and great food. More on our campsite in the future, but for now I'll just share some images that highlight a few of the essentials.
Images above of Day 1 campsite.
Overlanding is kind of like the first time you eat really good pizza -- you can't just have one slice and before you know it you've had the whole pie, but still want more. If you've never had really good pizza that probably doesn't make sense (and you should get the best pizza in your area ASAP to treat yourself), or it might just be a poor analogy, but you get the point. Now that I've had a taste of Overlanding I want more of it. I can't wait for my next trip and my goal in 2020 is to get in as many trips as possible. Ideally it will be great to get in trips with the whole family, so I'm really looking forward to being outside around the campfire with Christine and Izzy in the future.
See you out there,