As the sun rose over the painted rocks, participants gathered again, this time just over the border in Big Water, Utah. It was time for the first drivers meeting of the 2021 Overland Adventure. Ken Brubaker, Editor of Four Wheeler magazine gave a hearty welcome and introduced the smiling face who would be behind the glass of Sparrow, the Firecracker Red Jeep Gladiator Rubicon: Nena Barlow.
After reminding the group of trail etiquette, sunblock usage, and the difference between 10100 and 10200 rest stops, Nena passed the floor to Curtis Cole. Curtis was a participant of the inaugural 2019 Overland Adventure and returned to give a helping hand from the righthand side of his Land Rover 110. Nena was joined by Paul Stapell. As a fellow Barlow Adventures employee, International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers’ Association member, and flatfender Jeep afficionado, Paul was eager to help navigate, tell stories, and provide an extra pair of gloves for any trailside hiccups.
Overland Utah: Climbing the Grand Staircase
After the parade of vehicles departed the drivers meeting, it was just a few miles before we left the tarmac behind and aimed toward Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Cottonwood Canyon was our introduction to the types of scenery to be expected for the week. The canyon followed the Paria River for some time and was bordered by spectacular formations on each side. One formation was called the Cockscomb, named after its resemblance to the colorful “comb” on a rooster’s head. Navajo and Dakota sandstone as well as Tropic shale could also be seen. We paused to take in the splendor of Grosvenor Arch. The arch (looking closely reveals it’s actually a pair of arches) is named after Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, the first fulltime editor of National Geographic magazine.
As the trail wound us nearer to the town of Escalante, Utah, the track narrowed, and we began to climb. Trees reached inward toward roof racks and abundant washouts slowed our pace. Lunch was had atop a ridge where we stopped to marvel at the now white soil beneath us, and the vistas in all directions. After winding through the tightest canyons of the day and fending off overheating issues, we spilled out into more wide-open country as the sun splashed the mountains in its late-afternoon glow. We made camp nestled in a mountain alcove where the red rocks glowed to our east and the treelined ridges from whence we came made up the horizon.
Campers spread their individual sites out across the meadow and before long, the bell sounded for supper. BBQ was the flavor of the night and after almost 100 miles of dirt, appetites were in full swing. Excited voices soon turned into clinks of cutlery in the sunset. One by one, campfire circles were built and populated, and laughter faded into the night beneath the constellations. With many more miles of dirt on the horizon the following day, most retired to their bunks early to rest up.
Where to Next on This Overland Trip?
This is only the first day of the 2021 Four Wheeler Overland Adventure Presented by Jeep, and the participants have much more ahead as they journey through the Utah backcountry, with Moab as the final destination. The group explores deeper into the Grand Staircase, they make tracks in the lunar-esque clay hills around Factory Butte, and drop into the awe-inspiring landscapes surrounding Moab and the Colorado River.
Overland Adventure Coverage!
There’s loads of coverage of the 2021 Four Wheeler Overland Adventure Presented by Jeep at:
Here you can read about all the Overland Adventure participants as well as updates from each day of the event!
Views of Cottonwood Canyon from the ground and above. Note the geologic layers that can be seen jutting out from the ground.
Brit Mansell from American Adventure Lab shows off how easy trailside cooking and cargo area organization can be with the company’s Modular Adjustable Storage System, tailgate-mounted, fold-down VersaTable for the JL Wrangler, and more.
Rogue Overland’s supercharged and solid-axle swapped 2002 Nissan Xterra has been outfitted for extended travel off-grid and was on hand to demonstrate the 3/8-inch NexGen PRO Gator Jaw synthetic shackles and the 7/8-inch-diameter, 20-foot Power Stretch rope from Bubba Gear.
Falken tires are purpose-built for adventure, whether it’s through mud and rocks, gravel and sand, or the bits of pavement in between. Falken’s Jeep Wrangler Unlimited sported a set of the company’s Wildpeak A/T3W tires, which were well-suited for the terrain of Overland Adventure.
Brad Goodfellow, of Warn Industries, loaded his JL Wrangler with a number of Warn products, including a front-mounted Warn VR EVO 10-S winch and a rear-mounted AXON 55-S winch. Both can be controlled by the company’s HUB Wireless Receiver that turns your Bluetooth-enabled smart device into a winch controller.
Aaron Paris, representing Midland Radio, pulled an Opus Off Road trailer with his Toyota Tacoma. When Aaron showed us around the cab, we were excited to hear that in addition to the Midland MicroMobile MXT275 and MXT475 two-way GMRS radios, Midland will be offering a 50-watt MXT575 GMRS radio.
Ryan Thurston piloted REDARC’s Toyota Land Cruiser throughout Overland Adventure. You know REDARC for its high-quality off-grid power management equipment, but one feature of the Land Cruiser that’s harder to spot is the Tow-Pro Elite trailer brake controller. The controller features braking modes for both highway and trail conditions and replaces the “knee knocking” package of traditional brake controllers with a convenient and easy-to-mount control knob.
Eric Evans from OnX Offroad covered ground during Overland Adventure in the Jeep Gladiator Wayout concept. The OnX Offroad app is a versatile tool while traveling in the backcountry, displaying boundaries between private and public land, highlighting trails near your location, and offering features like route tracking and saving maps for use when you’re beyond the reach of cellular reception.
Jeep was the presenting sponsor of Overland Adventure and Tyler Hoover, the Jeep Gladiator Brand Manager, was behind the wheel of the Farout Jeep Gladiator concept. From the number of Jeep owners among the Overland Adventure participants to the innovation and dedication to enthusiasts evident in the Jeep concept vehicles, Jeep has made it clear that the company is dedicated to building the Jeep brand for the off-road and overland communities.
Turns out, the G-Class looks better parked in the wilderness than outside the nightclub. Kirby Gonzales’ 2003 is no exception, rocking a 2-inch lift, King shocks, and a Bush Company Alpha rooftop tent, among other things.
Take a look at the camp seating options alongside Tim Jackson’s 1973 Highboy and have a guess as to which state he calls home.
Reyna Guzman and Robert Marquez enjoy some above-ground fire pit vibes while LED lights twinkle, hanging from their 2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland.
BJ Kohlleppel’s 1967 Kaiser Jeep M715 looks ready for extreme duty on the outside while the inside of the service box is outfitted with bedding, air conditioning, and cavernous storage spaces.
Kimberly and Mike Burleson’s 1950 Willys Jeepster pulled a 1946 Bantam TC3 trailer that is outfitted with custom woodworking, ample cooktops, space for an electric fridge, and yes, the kitchen sink.
Despite sorting through some underhood wiring and cooling issues on the trail, Jason Helbig and Ryan Burdette got the 1986 Jeep J10 back on the move and made it to the first night’s camp.
This is the Jeep-and-trailer combo Marco Hernandez (@OVERLNDX on Instagram) uses to log trail miles and stew up backcountry meals.
Anna and Bruce Davis wanted to streamline the process of getting camp built when they arrived at a destination—enter the Ursa Minor J30 Pop Up Camper fitted to their 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
Holly York rowed the gears of her Centerforce-clutch-equipped 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited while pulling her TAXA Outdoors TigerMoth Camper. Who was beaming from the passenger side the whole time? That was her father, Gary Humphreys.
Monica and Mike Hilbrandt can take their 1992 Toyota Hiace just about anywhere and they’re fine with getting there slowly. The fire truck was a step up from their Subaru and it allowed them to travel farther and be more self-reliant.
Brent Stanley’s “heavy overland” build involved a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, a quintet of 40-inch Falken Wildpeak M/T tires, 1-ton axles, a Warn winch, and a rooftop tent.
James Schmidt and Duke Newport cruised through Overland Adventure in this clean 1988 Land Cruiser. What you can’t see is the 5.3L LM7 under the hood that sends power through a 4L60E and eventually to the 35×12.50R15 Falken Wildpeak M/Ts.
It might look unassuming as it flexes through this washout but Chris Fehler’s 2010 Ram 1500 has a TopperLift camper in the bed that raises to turn the cargo area into a sleeping space with more headroom.
Doug and AJ Hart brought their engine-swapped 1994 Geo Tracker down from Oregon to join Overland Adventure. The night before stepping onto the trails, the Tracker’s timing chain gave up the ghost, rendering the rig immobile. Thankfully, Lance Blair’s 4×4 Transit Quadvan had room to spare, and the three new friends completed the trip together.
Lance Blair’s 2019 Ford Transit Quadvan runs around the trails on a set of 255/80R17 Falken Wildpeak A/T3W tires and when it gets to camp, spreads out its awning and raises its Sportsmobile pop-top for maximum shelter space.
Barb and David Rainey traveled in their 1970 Jeep CJ-6, which pulled a homebuilt 1952 military trailer. Between the three axles, the setup rocked seven Falken Wildpeak A/T3W all-terrain tires and the CJ has maintained its original V-6 with 225 cubes.
Aneta Zarzycka is no stranger to NY-to-out-west travels in her 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport, which she’s covered in armor and outfitted with a Smittybilt rooftop tent.
Glen Stanley’s 2011 Ford E-350 has been converted to a 4×4 high-rise mobile apartment with a U-joint Offroad 4WD conversion kit, a pop-up-style sleeping space, and a suite of backcountry travel tools.
Maria and Derrik Sanford travel the country in a 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Their recipe for off-the-grid living includes an Ursa Minor J30 camper, Falken all-terrain tires, a rear-seat delete, about five inches of lift, and more.
Robert Peters and his son Braylen set up camp outside Escalante atop the bed of their 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 Trail Boss.
Sean P. Holman is the Content Director for the Motor Trend Truck and Off-Road group, self-proclaimed “not-a-skinny-backcountry-chef,” and the helmsman of the American Expedition Vehicles JL370 “ADVJP.” If you stop by his campsite and leave hungry, it’s your own fault.
You can usually find Brad from TrailRecon on YouTube, but this week he joined us on Overland Adventure with his EcoDiesel-powered Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.
Preston Gladd’s 2017 Ram 2500 Mega Cab is a recreational vehicle that moonlights as a heavy duty pickup truck. Three things to note—37-inch Falken all-terrains, coffee for any woodland occasion, and a cavernous Snap Outfitters Treehouse Overland Canopy.