Although the original plan for my trip to NC for the Appalachian Rendezvous and Overland Expo East this year was scrapped, it still managed to pull off a two week trip to one of the most beautiful states on the east coast.
|Even though Vol 2 of the 2017 No Highways Tour was postponed,
I still embraced the NHT philosophy on this trip.
May not be able to take a dirt road, but I can always take a backroad.
Unlike in years past (looking at you 2015) the weather was absolutely near perfect for the entirety of both events. I say “near perfect” only because for a few days it was hot. Very hot. It was also dry. Too dry. Not saying we need a repeat of Hurricane Joaquin (again, looking at you 2015) but a small bit of rain would have been nice to cool things down and mitigate some of the dust. At any rate, read on for a full trip report…
Southbound and Down
Although the fall No Highways Tour was axed I figured I’d still embrace the NHT philosophy for the trip to NC. Rather than just roll all the way on I-81 (again) I opted to snake some backroads starting in Front Royal, Virginia. In 2015 I started Skyline Drive in Front Royal and rode the ridge of the mountains all the way south into NC. I also did something similar last year on my way to NC when I bounced along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This time around I opted to stay in the valley.
|Stopping for lunch at a favorite spot in Front Royal, VA
Love repurposed old buildings like this mill turned restaurant
From Front Royal I rolled through Bedford to stop at Blue Ridge Overland Gear to say hi, hang out, and crash for the night. A good dinner, a few beers, and a night’s sleep later I was back on the road the next morning headed toward North Carolina.
|Camping at Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina|
|Hiking around the lake|
|A few from below the damn|
Before hitting Uwharrie for the Appalachian Rendezvous the plan was to hit up Hanging Rock State Park. I had passed by it in 2015 and 2016 and promised myself I wasn’t going to pass by again. Sadly about this time I realized I was getting sick. With a combination of congestion, fatigue, and crankiness I opted to forgo my original plan to hike the actual Hanging Rock trail. I did take some time to explore the park and was glad I chose it as a layover. I really hope to stop by there again sometime soon.
|Well, that certainly puts things in perspective|
|The first waterfall.
Well worth the morning hike
|For being a remote trail, it is well built and well maintained|
|View at the lower falls was obscured, but still a fun hike|
|Revitalized downtown Danbury
The following morning I was feeling a little better so I opted to do an easy hike down to some waterfalls. The morning was relatively cool and it was an overall refreshing experience. From there I bounced into the town of Danbury. After that stop I know I really need to get back down there. There is a lot of history there with old mills, historic buildings, and other things worth checking out. Once I had my fill it was time to head to Eldorado in Uwharrie National Forest for the Appalachian Rendezvous.
2017 American Adventurist Appalachian Rendezvous
This year marks my third time attending the Appalachian Rendezvous (past reports: 2015 and 2016) put on by American Adventurist. Each year has been better than the year before. My only regret has been missing the first rendezvous in 2014.
|A far cry from “Camp Humble” in 2015|
Once onsite I quickly went about the task of setting up a basecamp. From there it was a night of food, beer, and socializing. It’s always a pleasure seeing old friends again as well as meeting some new ones.
|Socializing around the campfire is the best part of any event!|
Friday was spent on the trails in the Big Creek OHV area. I had done some trails in there in 2015 as a passenger and last year with the LJ rolling on some borrowed tires. I was looking forward to finally putting the new Cooper Tires through their paces. Once that was over it was back to camp for more beer, more food, and more socializing.
|A cool foggy morning in Uwharrie National Forest, North Carolina|
|Making the rocks look easy in a well built Jeep. It’s what I do.
Cooper S/T Maxx had great grip and the front Aussie Locker pulled me right up and over
|If you’re going to get stuck, it’s best to do it among friends who are going to pull you out|
|Contrary to popular belief, not everyone wheels a Jeep or a Toyota|
Saturday was honestly a lazy day. I was tired and still a bit under the weather. It was also nice to just have a day to relax knowing Expo was coming up next. Saturday night is also the potluck dinner, Dutch Oven contest, and raffle. All things worth being well rested for. My contribution this year was some seasoned potatoes cooked on the Skottle. I also threw in some books, stickers, and patches into the raffle.
|Only thing better than campfire smell, is the smell coming from these two Dutch Ovens|
|Good people + Good food = Pot luck time!|
|Time for some raffle prizes!|
Although the event was officially over with the conclusion of the raffle, that didn’t mean I was going to waste a perfectly good day. I ventured off into Uwharrie National Forest to wheel the Jeep on some of the more technical trails. Since I wasn’t on borrowed tires this year, I was excited at the opportunity to try my hand at Dicky Bell Trail once more. Sadly we were co-opted along the way and I had to play tow-truck-driver for an XJ with a busted driveshaft. Hopefully I added a little to my karma bank helping a fellow Jeeper out of a sticky situation.
|The LJ is built to crawl, but it tows to.
This time it towed a busted LJ for about 5 miles up some pretty gnarly terrain.
|Dicky Bell Trail is pretty gnarly. These pics do not do it justice.|
|A hill like this is on tackled head-on.|
|Shameless poser shot|
Once back at camp it was one last night around the campfire before packing up and rolling out on Monday towards Asheville. Along the way I stopped at a YMCA for a much needed swim and an even more needed shower and a quick stop at UJoint Offroad to check out their factory floor.
Onward to Overland Expo East
In Asheville I met up with John from New Horizons Overland. We were both volunteers this year and opted to roll in together. From there the show kicked off in a blurry haze of chaos. I logged a record 130,000 steps during the week of expo. Needless to say, between volunteering, socializing, eating, sleeping, and teaching I didn’t get too many photos this year.
|Linking up in Asheville with John of New Horizons Overland|
|Dinner and brews at a local place…
… that has no roof?!?
|Doing work during setup day for Overland Expo|
With that in mind let me mention that I’m not sure I’ll be doing too many event coverage photos from here on out. With the emphasis on education my time at events like Expo will be focused more on teaching and networking. In years passed under the 4Low Digital Labs banner all I did was walk around and take photos. In some respects I miss it, at least the photography, but in many others I don’t. Contrary to popular belief photography isn’t easy. At least good photography isn’t. As such I am going to leave the event coverage to those who do a much better job at it than I do. So stay tuned into the Facebook and Instragram feeds for some links to other media people I know that do an amazing job at covering expo. In the meantime, I’ll continue focusing on the education angle.
|Sunny weather means good weather for solar power!
That Overland Solar 150watt panel did a great job keeping the fridge cold.
|Our Skottle game is STRONG!
Now with aprons.
|Getting ready to teach a class on DIY storage
The real reason for all of this.
As for the classes themselves, they went well. This year I was on deck to teach my two-part visual storytelling class again. I also was able to teach the ever-popular DIY storage class. All of the classes were well attended and I was able to do my part to educate, encourage, and inspire a lot of fellow adventurers.
|Great times with great people at the AT Trailers and Equipt Post Happy Hour Happy Hour|
|How many overlanders does it take to pour a beer?|
All in all this was the best Overland Expo East yet. The event leadership and core staff do a great job trying to improve where they can. That said, the quirks of hosting an event like this at a place like the Biltmore Estate will often overshadow the good things. Camping and parking continue to be an issue as does the logistical nightmare of entering the Biltmore property itself. I digress. The event is continuing to grow and get better each year. Hands down the best part has always been, is, and will always be the people. Between the vendors, campers, volunteers, and staff the people always make the events. The classes are a great medium to share information. Campfires are a great way to share stories. And of course a little liquid social lubricant in the form of a good beer or two doesn’t hurt either. Till next year…
|After a long week of volunteering, teaching, and networking
it was nice to end Overland Expo East 2017 with a great group around the campfire!
In case you’re still hungering for some east coast overland events, check out the Roof Top Tent Rally later this month:
If you would like to be a part of helping ECOA fulfill our mission to educate, encourage, and inspire by attending events like Overland Expo in order to facilitate quality hands-on workships, please considering joining the ECOA Patron Support Team. Not only will you help take ECOA to the next level but you’ll get access to patron exclusive items like hardcover copies of the No Highways Tour books as well as a 10% discount at the ECOA/NHT online store on cool swag like patches and stickers.