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Our First Trip, Part 1

by Brandon

May 15, 2022


Brandon is a software quality analyst for Garmin and on the board of directors for the non-profit organization Missouri Hunting Heritage Federation. In his spare time, he enjoys getting out on hikes with his wife, Sarah, and their two dogs, Gunner and Ember.

If you’ve read our previous posts, you’ll know we are not experienced campers or off-roaders. I know Sarah grew up camping with some of her extended family, but from our discussions, it was not a favorite activity for her. My previous camping trips mainly happened while I was in Civil Air Patrol, and most of those weren’t exactly a time to get out and enjoy just being outside.  I did take a hiking and camping trip to The Grand Canyon with some college friends, and we had an amazing time. 

For our first trip, we knew we wanted something that would be easy and give us some good momentum by having an enjoyable trip. We would have at least one other couple joining us for this trip—a couple that were headed out for their first trip too. We met them a few months prior through some mutual friends and we just both happened to be getting into overlanding.

Since we didn’t want to get in over our heads, I reached out to a local overlanding group and asked for an easy route that would have some decent camping spots. Within a couple hours, I had a response with what looked to be a very fun and, more importantly, an easy route. We spent the next few weeks planning what we would need, getting our gear together, finding the right trailer to rent, and we reserved a spot at the Chadwick OHV Park—just to make sure we had a place to stay our first night. 

Ember enjoying the ride to camp.

We were ready, but I’ll admit a bit nervous, for our first trip. As we pulled out of our driveway to grab lunch, top off gas, and grab just the last couple items, I was sure we’d have a good time, but there was always a little memory sticking out about how bad of an experience our first off-road trip was. Little did we know that our expected 3.5 hour drive to get to our camp spot would come close to doubling the drive time. Like any adventure, there’s bound to be some unexpected turns—in this case, we just found our intended route blocked… twice.

Between the weight of the Wrangler 4xe and the trailer, we are sitting about a total of 8,000 pounds. Being that we are a combined vehicle, could we have safely made it over? Most likely, but it’s not something we are willing to risk when we can easily find another route.

We were about 30 minutes out from our first camp spot when we came up to a bridge with a 3-ton weight capacity. Since DogJeep isn’t built to handle the weight of the trailer yet, we had eDogJeep with us on this trip. Not that it would have mattered at this point in time, but eDogJeep comes in at roughly 5,300 pounds before adding in weight of occupants and gear. The trailer (a Campinawe named “Yoda” that we rented from VanLifeKC) adds another 2,000 pounds—again before any gear that loaded up. That means we are pushing close to 8,000 pounds for our setup, and while we are a combined vehicle, I’m not about to try and calculate if we are actually overweight and just assumed that our 8,000 pounds is heavier than the bridge’s 6,000 pound rating. We got our setup turned around, quickly found a new route, and started making our way toward that night’s camp. About 45 minutes later, we came up to our second roadblock. This time there wasn’t anything to think about, as there’s no way we could have safely crossed. Over the previous month, the area we were driving through had a lot of rain—to the point there were a lot of roads completely closed due to them being underwater. Not only did we find one of those, but the water over this road was moving fast. There was just no way we could safely cross. At this point, we pulled out the Garmin Tread Overland Edition, and started really looking at the maps. It was beginning to look like the only way we could guarantee that we’d make it to camp was to go all the way back and take the highway to our first night’s camp spot, so that’s what we did.

With all the backtracking we had to do, we were ready to get into camp and have some dinner. As I said earlier, we booked a camp spot our first night, and we are definitely glad we did after hitting the couple snags that pushed us back. While we found a couple dispersed camp spots along our way, I hadn’t checked if they were on public property, so I can’t say that we would have easily found a place to stay our first night. When I booked the spots, I looked at the map and tried to find a couple spots close together but far away from anyone else that might be there. When we pulled up, we were greeted with some pretty awesome scenery for our first night out. Since the park doesn’t allow anyone on the trails after dusk, we came in after quiet hours had started and had a really nice evening. 

The water here was moving incredibly fast. We were worried it would catch the trailer and pull us downstream. Again, it’s safer to turn around a find an alternate route.

We immediately got our trailer ready—which one of the benefits of a trailer is that the setup process doesn’t take very long—and waited for the other couple to get to camp. After they were all set up, we started to figure out what we wanted for dinner. Sarah got to work on some tacos: vegetarian for her and chicken for me.  Camp food had been one of the barriers to camping for Sarah — hot dogs and deli meat sandwiches don’t work for a vegetarian! Only after she had seen a few videos from Marco Hernandez, as well as picking up his cookbook, did she know there were ways to create awesome vegetarian meals while being on the trails. After dinner, we were all a bit tired, and it was getting a bit late for most of those in our party (I’m really the only late-night person). Black bears have been making a comeback in the area—which is awesome to hear—but that also meant we needed to make it less likely we’d encounter them at night. After dinner we made sure to combine all our trash and find a good tree away from ourselves or any other campers. Once we had a good spot, we hung the trash so it couldn’t be accessed by anything that might want an easy meal and headed to sleep.

The next morning, Sarah was up before and had coffee already going. After some breakfast (egg, onion, and red/green pepper burritos), we talked with our friends to figure out that day’s plans. They needed to run back to town to grab some forgotten supplies, and we thought it would be good to grab some local firewood—so we wouldn’t need to scavenge for some at our next spot. After that, we cleaned up camp and headed out. 

To be continued… 

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