[Trip Report] Three weekend of car-camping

Previous I wrote (or more accurately ranted) about the whole what is or is not “overlanding” debate.  Truth be told, I’m not opposed to calling a spade a spade when in fact it’s actually a spade.  In this case, I spent the last three weekends of October car-camping.  Was it “overlanding?” No, not really.  Does it matter? Of course not. Was it a series of fun adventures? Yes, yes it was.

Is it overlanding? Is it car-camping? Does it matter?
Truthfully, “East Coast Car-Camping Adventures” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The first of the three trips was a much needed weekend away with the girlfriend.  For a belated birthday gift she booked us a camping spot near the PA Grand Canyon during what we hoped would be the peak of the changing leaves.  The following weekend I was down in Virginia for the first ever Rooftop Tent Rally at James River State Park.  I finished out the month camping at Rausch Creek Off Road Park and taking the Jeep out on the trails for some long overdue rock crawling.  All in all it wasn’t a bad way to spend three weekends.  Read on for details…

Weekend #1: PA Grand Canyon

Somehow I lucked out and found a girlfriend who’s into this kind of thing as much as I.  With plans to camp for the weekend with her and her two dogs I knew the LJ wasn’t going to work.  I played musical vehicles and swapped Jeeps with my mom trading the Wrangler for her Liberty.  Yes, a Liberty.

The Liberty does (surprisingly) well pulling the Poor Man’s Teardrop.
Doesn’t look half had either.
Home for the weekend.
It’s a nice location because it’s within walking distance to the PA Grand Canyon overlook.

Once we were loaded up he set our sites north for the PA Grand Canyon.  Despite having lived in Pennsylvania for the vast majority of my life (off and on over 30 years) I had never been to the canyon.  If I’m honest I knew it wasn’t going anywhere and always thought I’d get there eventually.

You know I have a map fetish.
The level of detail in the Purple Lizard maps is amazing.
Their Pine Creek map is a MUST if you ever visit the canyon yourself.

The campground was nice and luckily our spot was at the end of the line giving us a little room to setup the ARB Awning and Deluxe Room Kit Bomber Products had set me up with.  Once that was good to go it was time to break out the Skottle for some camp meals.

She’s so much better on the skottle than I am.
Looks better in the apron too (stay tuned).

Trying out the new LT Wright Knives Camp Kitchen Set
Stay tuned for a full product review.

Don’t tell Jerry we cooked without the skottle.
Sometimes you just want a good ol’ fashioned foil pack meal cooked over a smokey fire.

And this is why.
Two packs of seasoned veggies and two packs of steaks over peppers and onions.
Nom Nom Nom.

Sadly the peak of the changing leaves has come and gone.  That didn’t stop os from taking in the sites, doing a little hiking, and checking out some of the local area.  Even got a little dirt on the tires which was nice.

I think I might do a CCC themed “No Highways Tour” book.

A sunset view.

Sadly all good things come to and end and since the girlfriend has a real job (glad at least one of us does) she needed to go back to on Monday we packed up and headed home.  For me thought it was on to the next adventure.

Weekend #2: Rooftop Tent Rally

James River State Park in association with Blue Ridge Overland Gear, Mountain State Overland, and myself planned the first ever Rooftop Tent Rally.  Adam (of BROG and Overland History fame) gets credit for the name and John from James River State Park gets credit for the event idea.  MSO helped with promotion, and my role in the whole deal was handling the education side of things.

CJ the Adventure Dog came along as copilot for this trip.

With only about two months of lead time our expectations weren’t really all that high.  Honest expectations were between two and three dozen rigs.  By the day of the event we had 70 rigs and around 200 people.  All in all it was a great success and I’m sure there will be future RTT Rallys.  Can’t wait.

A foggy morning for the RTTR.
As you can see it was a mix of RTT’s, ground tents, and travel trailers.

I setup camp with John (@newhorizonsoverland) and Rodney (aka @overland_medic) and settled in for the weekend.  The common theme for our camp was food.  With three skottles, two veteran skottle chefs, and one eager novice skottle chef it was a fun filled weekend of multi-skottle cooking.

E’reyday we’re skottling
(See, told you she looked better in the apron than I do)
Chicken Alfredo and broccoli

Putting those LT Wright knives on KP duty prepping some potatoes for the skottle.

Breakfast on the skottles… yes, multiple skottles.

The personal highlight for me was the two workshops I facilitated.  The first was on trip planning and logistics.  The second was titled “Essentials of overlanding” which was based off my two part overland adventure preparation series.  The workshops were very interactive and the feedback from both experienced overland enthusiasts as well as novice enthusiasts was welcome.  This (spoiler alert) might lead to some ECOA workshop weekends in the near future.

Another highlight of the weekend was movie night with Mountain State Overland.  With a projector and portable movie screen setup near the vendor fire pit they played some videos from their recent season up in Vermont.  Always a plus to watch videos with the people behind them.

Raffle time.  Thank you to all the vendors and sponsors that helped make the VA-RTTR happen!

With the Rooftop Tent rally a brief event, I packed up mid-day Sunday and set my sites north for PA. There was still one more adventure to be had.

Photo-op with New Horizons Overland before rolling out.
Jeeps + Off-Road Trailers = Winning!

Northbound and down… on to the next adventure.

Weekend #3: Rausch Creek Off-Road Park

One of the unique things about my LJ is that it was built as a triple threat.  It’s one part daily driver, one part overland adventure rig, and lastly one part rock crawler.  One of the things I love to hear is people telling me, “that’s a small Jeep for a rock crawler.”  They’re not wrong.  I usually quip back something along the lines of, “yeah, but it’s big for an overland rig.”  I’m not wrong.  In most ways the LJ is over-built for an overland rig and under-built for a rock crawler.  That’s part of the fun for me.  It does great at all three things.  I can drive it around town, on the highway, down a fire road, or up a rocky trail.  By no means is the best rig out there, but it hits most of the benchmarks I set forth which is ultimately the only thing I care about.  But I digress.

Rolling into Rausch with Phoenx (aka @adriftatlast)

Both Friday and Saturday I would be playing trail guide.  Friday would be with the WMMR “Day off in the woods” with Jaxon’s Jeep Club.  For that group I’d be on a mix of green and blue trails.  Saturday was my third year with Disconnected Offroad and their annual “Rock the Clock” event.  This was my second year guiding green trails with them.

Early morning. Time to air down and disconnect the swaybar.

Flexing out

Phoenix getting a little air under his tires.

One of the things I love about being a trail guide is paying forward all the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated over the years.  I’ve done some pretty stupid things behind the wheel of my Jeeps.  As a guide I can preach the classic “do as I say not as I’ve done” mantra.  As much as I love wheeling in the wild, off-road parks like Rausch Creek provide a more controlled environment.  The trails are rated (green/easy, blue/moderate, black/difficult, red/insane) which helps mitigate getting in over your head.  It also allows someone like me a way to reassure a novice driver that their Jeep will do fine on a given trail and that they will be surprised how capable their stock or near-stock Jeep really is.  Having a modest rig (for a rock crawler) is also a way for me to show people you don’t need to buy your way down the trail with one-tons, 35’s, and a bunch of lockers.

Me: Am I stuck?
Phoenix: Yeah. You’re stuck.
<cue flashbacks to “Taco Stand” this time last year>
Me: I guess Pizza Rock is now… uh… Pizza Stand?

Putting my Warn 9.5xp and Epic Recovery Kit to good use.
Also practicing safe closed system winching with my Custom Splice synthetic rope and Factor 55 FlatLink-E

Friday’s Group

Saturday’s Group

Luckily no one broke both days and the only person to get stuck was me (I really need to tummy-tuck the LJ).  The best part of the weekend was looking back in my mirrors and seeing a father and son riding in a nearly new stock JKU smiling ear to ear all day.  That’s why I guide.  It’a also why I do this blog and teach workshops at things like the RTT Rally and Expo.  I love seeing the smiles from eager adventurers who are excited to get out there and explore the world.

The funny thing about playing Trail Guide is that foreboding sense you’re always being followed.

“What about ME?” You ask…

I’ve never wanted ECOA or the No Highways Tour series to devolve into a narcissistic “read about me playing with my toys in the woods” thing.  That’s why my preference is for the educational and encouraging articles.  That said, these trip report articles are a way to demonstrate a little bit of “street cred” (if you’ll indulge me).  If all I did was sit back and write about stuff without actually going on any adventures of my own you’d probably question my credentials and the accuracy of my information.  On the other hand if all I did was write about my own adventures I’m sure you’d eventually lose interest in the blog.  The trick on my end is finding that balance.  So here’s your opportunity.
Socializing around the campfire is always a highlight of any camping weekend.

I’m opening the door (not that it was ever closed) to some constructive criticism from you – my readers – as we look ahead to 2018.  Let me know what you think of ECOA and the articles.  Are there topics you’re interested in that aren’t being covered?  Are there some topics I’m covering that you’re not interested in?  What do you think of the trip and event reports?  Obviously I know I can’t please everyone all of the time.  That doesn’t mean I won’t take your feedback to heart anyway.  In the end I stand by my mission as ECOC to educate, encourage, and inspire.  You can leave a comment below, message me via the ECOA Facebook page, or shoot me an email.


If you would like to be a part of helping ECOA fulfill our mission to educate, encourage, and inspire by attending events like the Rooftop Tent Rally 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.  The 2018 Patron Support Team will be forming soon.  Don’t miss your chance!

0 thoughts on “[Trip Report] Three weekend of car-camping

  1. Every blog entry makes me want to jump in my truck and hit the trails. The only problem is that there are not many here in South Jersey. Still I look forward to seeing a new blog every few weeks. If you ever decide to run a ECOA guided trip, sign me up!!