Oregon Back Country Discovery Route: Part 1
Oregon Back Country Discovery Route: Part 1
This trip would be Offtrak Expeditions' longest adventure for 2018. A round-trip expedition of 1800 total miles beginning from our home north of Seattle and covering 1000 miles from our first trail along the southern coast of Oregon and ending five days later in Northeastern Oregon.
A trip like this requires a bit more planning than your weekend trip to a familiar trail and we began the preparations 6 months prior. The first step was to figure out where we actually wanted to go. We all work normal jobs during the day and had to use vacation time wisely, which put international trips and anything further than Nevada out of the picture. We had already completed the Washington BDR many times from when we were running adventure bikes and a few day trips in the Land Cruiser or JK. So we knew we wanted something with that PNW feel, but it had to be completely new to us. That's how we arrived at the decision of traveling through Oregon.
The Oregon BDR was the first route ever created under this idea. There are now 12 BDR routes across the U.S. It is developed, maintained, managed and even fought for by the Oregon Off-Highway Vehicle Association(OOHVA). I highly recommend visiting their website to learn about the history of the route and what that group has gone through to provide everyone with a great place to explore.
The vehicles we would be bringing are the Land Rover LR3, Toyota Landcruiser (LC100) and the Toyota Fj Cruiser. The nice thing about planning ahead with multiple vehicles is that you can assign vehicle roles and this trip was no different. The LC100 would carry heavier tools and supplies such as the Hi-Lift Jack, chain saw, spare parts, extra firewood and water. Also some of the larger camp niceties like the skottle grill that my brother made himself instead of buying the pre-made version. The LR3 has light equipment, such as dry food, clothing, a solar shower(more on this later) and the new Husky/Heeler puppy named Griffin. The OE Fj Cruiser used it's fridge to keep each nights dinner frozen, medical supplies, navigation equipment and lighter daily supplies.
Each vehicle also needed to be individually outfitted for the longer trip. Yes, we could have done it with what we always have, but we wanted to be completely self-sufficient and keep away from main roads and stops as much as possible. We also wanted to ensure that our vehicles could withstand the 5 days of off-road driving without killing the trip a day or two in.
All vehicles we're outfitted with brand new CB radio systems, new roof racks from Front Runner and ARB and tool kits to replace just about anything. Both the FJ and the Land Cruiser had new ARB compressors installed to minimize the time spent in-between off-road sections. We also mounted a Dometic CFX-40 fridge in the back of the FJ, a water system on the roof, dedicated navigation system and a new Front Runner roof top tent.
The FJ Cruiser is an amazing vehicle that has been adopted by many as their choice off-road ride. But it definitely lacks useable storage space compared to the LR3 and LC. We add to this by daily driving it for work and carrying our dog in the backseat. So our useable space is the back area of the FJ and the roof.
One of the best tips for loading your vehicle is to keep everything low and over the axles. Unfortunately I have been forced to do none of this with our limitations. But before the trip we did mitigate the risk as much as possible. The Front Runner RTT is one of the lightest on the market at about 80lbs. Our wolf packs stored only light base camp equipment and clothing. And we packed very lightly and small using our knowledge from hiking and Adventure bike riding. If you can pack a Triumph Tiger full of gear for a few days, then you can pack an FJ very comfortably for 5.
Our essentials included, water, extra fuel, tools, medical equipment and food. We knew these HAD to come with us. These are some of the basics that you should take with you even just on a day trip and there was no way we would leave for this kind of an adventure without them. Looking at each vehicles strengths and equipment, we decided on the loadout for each one. The FJ carrying the frozen food and main water tank. The LC and LR3 carrying extra fuel. All 3 vehicles carrying some sort of quick accessible medical and emergency equipment and the LC with the heavy tools.
To round out the vehicle setups, all 3 vehicles received full maintenance. Replaced axles, hubs, lubed suspension, oil changes and diff services. Remember when I said we had to use our vacation time? We didn't want a simple item to cut our trip short for the year.
As we prepped our vehicles we also had to prep the route and schedule. The Pacific Northwest can be a difficult place to plan a long route. Too early in the year and you will be blocked by snow, downed trees and landslides. Too late in the summer and you will be stopped by wildfires, which can be very frustrating or even deadly as they can pop up without warning. Each year is different and you have to look at the previous years snowfall to guesstimate (Yes, guesstimate) when the snow will be gone in the higher elevations.
We made the final decision in February, as we could generally see how the winter and temps were trending. This was a bit risky as most of the trails may not have been cleared quite yet. But weighing route clearance and snow against a wildfire...I'll choose the snow any day.
Gaia ended up being our navigation app of choice. The FJ would be the lead vehicle and we installed a 10" Ipad on a swivel RAM mount to the dash to run the app. This mount has been a very useful addition on all of our adventures. Allowing the passenger or driver to access navigation, entertainment and emergency information. We also opted to pay the extra fees for more features in the app. Which I would highly recommend as it was much more accurate once we got into areas of no service versus the other two vehicles. The LC was a single driver with no navigator and the LR3 would have dog duty. Leaving the navigating up to Alyssa and I as the best option.
The Gaia app is incredibly powerful. With multiple types of maps, overlays and route planning features. You can even customize your display with important information at the top and record your routes. Once we knew the time and overall location my brother began plotting our route using the app. This was based off the trail maps provided by the OOHVA. Which are bit pricey for all sections, but completely worth the investment. You can easily take a wrong turn or get lost in the Oregon back country, so having a hard copy of the map and accurate GPS points is incredibly important. Compared to the WABDR, there are numerous turns and side roads you could get sidetracked on. When you purchase the maps through the OOHVA, they send you printed and bound hard copy maps with all of the BDR sections on them. They are well organized and include GPS points and POI (Points of Interest). My brother spent many late night hand selecting and typing GPS points from the physical maps into Gaia. That way we could export them as a KML file into all 3 portable devices. This is a great way to share routes with your clubs and groups as well, that way everyone can see where they are going in case of an equipment breakdown or separation.
Our route began to take shape and you could feel the excitement build everyday leading up to our departure date. Vehicles being outfitted and worked on, meals being planned and GPS points being entered. By the time the route was mapped out, we could see the final mileage. Almost 1000 miles off-road from the coast of Oregon to the Washington border. Add in the travel down to Coos Bay and back from Walla Walla would mean we would cover about 1800 miles in 7 days.
Basic math told us we would have to have a pace of about 200 miles everyday starting on Monday if we we're to reach our goal and exit the BDR on Saturday. This was a very ambitious goal, but if we planned our trip correctly and the conditions were correct, we could definitely do it.
The last phase of preparation was to test all of the new equipment. Alyssa and I loaded up and went to our favorite local spot. Mountain Loop Highway. This is not by any means a difficult area to get to with the most intense views or driving. But it's a great place to go if you live on the North end of Seattle and just want to get away for a night or two. We found a nice spot near the river and began setup. The roof top tent was unfolded quickly, and the awning placement was perfect to cover the rear area. Our arrangement is a bit different than most FJ's with the RTT opening as far forward as possible and the awning in the back. This is to cover the cooking, working area and to mate up nicely with other vehicle awnings.
The fridge kept our food cold and it was nice not to have to deal with ice. Our stove, a small Camp Chef, fits perfectly on the fold down table, but we quickly realized this will need to be relocated as the grease all over the rear door. Other than a few stumbles on where the poles go for the tent and the stove location, it was a huge success. Organization between boxes needed only small tweaking to be efficient for a week. We both agreed that we were ready and the equipment did it's job.
The Saturday before our departure finally came and the vehicles we're loaded up with all of the equipment so we could leave first thing in the morning. Everything felt solid, our maps we're set, food was frozen and supplies topped off. The grins on everyone's faces showed the excitement. After 6 months of vehicle preparation, learning, late nights and busted knuckles it was finally here.
That's it for part 1. We hope you enjoyed it and subscribe to be notified of when part 2 drops!
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