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The OE Blog

Adventure 006 - Travel Alberta, Part 1

Trips like this don't come along often. We've been talking to our friends at Treeline Outdoors via email for a year or so, and Andy Best and Ryan Abernathy only through Instagram. When we reached out to plan a trip to Canada, we couldn't imagine what was to come.

We all dream. And the dream of traveling to Alberta had been festering for quite some time. In the summer of 2014 it was decided that we would make something happen, somehow. We would go to Alberta, even if it meant sleeping in a rental car for just a weekend. We reached out to our friends Chad, Andy, and Ryan to see if anyone was up for a trip to Alberta in September. All three said yes.

Then, a couple weeks later Craig Hensel (@thecraighensel) got in touch about having Overland Empire put together an adventure. An Instagram Influencers kind of trip. Since we already had something in the works, we figured we could try to blow it out a little more. That's when we reached out to Travel Alberta (@travelalberta). Before we go any further, it must be told that we're not afraid to get in touch with people. 99% of the emails we send aren't returned, but the few that are have resulted in some pretty special relationships. Travel Alberta absolutely fell within that 1%. Special people indeed.

After we worked out the details and set the date, we gathered our crew and made the plans. Chad and Erin from Treeline (@treelineoutdoors) were an incredible help, arranging our rental car (a tricked out Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with a Treeline rooftop tent), arranging our camp location, cooking food, and so much more. Truly couldn't have done it without those guys, and we'll be forever grateful. 

The week before we left, Canada got hit with a major snowstorm. In early September. It was a whiteout, with inches upon inches of snow. And we were supposed to be sleeping in tents. We got a call from our friend at Travel Alberta, worried about us Florida boys freezing in the Alberta snow. We said that was part of the adventure. We were bound to visit Canada, come hell or high water. Or a few inches of snow. So we moved forward.

We arrived in Calgary on a balmy Thursday afternoon, met up with Craig, then made a stop at the camera store and MEC to gear up. Then it was out for dinner and beers at Craft Beer Market before a night in a hotel prior to setting off for the outdoors. We woke up way before sunrise to make the drive out to Turner Valley to meet up with Chad, Erin, and Andy Best (@andy_best). There's always a bit of nervousness when meeting up with new people for the first time. Especially people you'll be spending a few days with in close quarters. However as soon as we walked in Chad's house we knew this would be awesome. We hit it off right away, and felt like we'd known each other forever. What an amazing feeling and a great start to the weekend. We didn't know it, but that moment set the tone for what was to come the rest of the week.

We loaded up the Jeeps and left Chad and Erin's house still before sunrise, en route to Waterton Lakes National Park. A few miles down the road the sun popped above the horizon and painted the mountains pink, a welcome to Alberta like no other. 

After stopping to marvel at the sunrise, we kept driving. We had a three-hour drive to Waterton to make the 10am ferry to hike the Crypt Lake Trail. On the drive we saw a giant moose jump a fence a few yard from us, a coyote run across the road, and endless miles of fields and mountains. Beautiful countryside. We stopped a few miles outside Waterton to stretch our legs and take a break, and spent the time talking about fishing and whatever else. 

From there we made it into Waterton, changed and packed our hiking bags, then met up with Ryan Abernathy (@cruiserlifestyle) and Jeffrey Spackman (@namkcaps). We boarded the boat that would shuttle us across Waterton Lake to the trailhead, where we would embark on our 10.8 miles hike to Crypt Lake and back. Getting off that boat and stepping into the evergreen forest at the start of the trail is like being transported into another world. Especially if you're from Florida. Or plenty of other places, no doubt. The smell of the evergreens, the different flora and fauna, it's so much to take in at once, and it's almost overwhelming how you can travel to somewhere like this in a day and feel completely new.

We hiked along the trail, shifting places and talking to new people within our group, each getting to know each other along the hike. 5.4 miles one way, the trail takes you from evergreen forests through deciduous trees then out into fairly open land between mountains, with the ground underfoot changing from hardpack dirt to stone to gravely rock. It's rad how much the landscape can change along the hike, giving you new vistas to see along the way. So we hiked, and talked, and made friends.

One of the highlights of the hike is the cave towards the end—it's a tight cave you have to climb a small iron ladder to enter, and then when you exit you're on the side of the cliff with the most amazing mountain views. 

That's all for now. Part 2 to come.

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Adventure 005 - St. John USVI

We recently got away to the Caribbean for a little Summer adventure. Read another write up of the story on the Filson Life blog here.

Our trip to St John in the US Virgin Islands was born from a video assignment. We were hired to shoot a video for a local artisan, and we quickly made arrangements to extend our stay in order to satisfy our need for adventure.

A grueling full day of travel had us leave the house at 3am and take two planes, one boat, and two truck rides before arriving at the house in St John by 7:30pm. We made fast friends with our hosts as we poured a few rounds and shared stories. Like-minded in ambition and spirit, we realized early in the night that we would enjoy our week in each other’s company. There’s something about travel that brings people together—the host and the guest, the native and the visitor. One proud of their home and surroundings, the other excited to experience it. This is why we seek adventure, why we travel, why we get away: to see the world with new eyes and to make new friends along the way.

The week fell into an enjoyable routine: shoot, explore, swim, and then have very late dinners and drinks accompanied by plenty of conversation and laughter. It was easy to get used to and hard to leave.

St John is an incredible island. Expansive views from almost every turn in the road, protected white sand beaches with clear turquoise water, lush green mountains, and random donkeys, goats, and iguanas scurrying through the streets. Sea life in every cove. We swam with sea turtles and encountered octopus, squid, and more.

As the sun goes down here the beaches somehow get abandoned. Maybe it’s that the tourists are scurrying back to St Thomas to catch their cruise ships (there’s no port in St John, thankfully). Or perhaps it’s that the locals can go whenever they want. Whatever the case, it was amazing to have a stretch of coast all to ourselves. Perfect for starting a fire on the beach and grilling our lobster and kabobs, relaxing by a mound of black boulders as the setting sun turned the sky and sand purple.

So as the week went on our skin got darker and our hair a little salty, and we knew we would be back. That this would be one of those adventures we would be dreaming of between the other adventures. For when we’ve had our fill of cold weather or sleeping in tents, we’ll be thinking about sitting in that pool looking out across the Caribbean, wondering what life has in store for us next.

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Citrus WMA

It's sort of a confession to admit that not every adventure can be a full-blown weekend getaway replete with amazing food or nights spent under the stars. At times it can be an accomplishment just to be able to sneak away for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and get some dirt under the tires. When a new friend reached out to join us on an upcoming adventure, we decided to make an afternoon run up to what ended up being an off-road paradise of sorts—Citrus WMA, in the hills just north of Brooksville, Florida. For only being a couple hours drive, it felt like we were in another state. Just the kind of backyard expedition we needed.

Citrus WMA is one of Florida's many Wildlife Management areas—an area managed for hunting and conservation. You may remember our dual sport trip through another one of Florida's WMA's, Green Swamp. We're fortunate to have these dedicated lands at our disposal, otherwise we may find the urban sprawl of Florida taking over most, if not all, of our public land.

So we headed north on a cloudy Saturday, meeting up with our friend and his Defender 110 at around two o'clock at one of the campgrounds in the area. We immediately set off to explore the woods, with no map, no plan, no thought other than to just drive around. One of the best ways to spend an afternoon. We drove through soft sand, standing water, some mud, and red clay—the clay being a nice change from the white dirt roads we find close to home. The elevation of the area also helped make us feel farther away than normal—Florida is usually so insanely flat, any change in elevation is welcomed.

For a good while we didn't come across one other vehicle or person. After setting down a certain trail with a good swath of mud, we met up with some Colombians in a couple FJ80s, an FJ Cruiser, and a converted Chevy Tahoe. These guys were well equipped and having a great time in the mud, apparently trying to get stuck or come as close as possible. They were excited to see the Defender 110, and all posed with it for a couple pictures.

They followed us through the trails until we reached a fork in the road. Straight ahead was about 30 or 40 yards of standing water, at least a couple feet deep. To the left was a nice clay incline and no water. We decided to go left with the Land Rovers—neither one of us wanted to get flooded with water—but we knew the other guys would go through the water, so we decided to park and stick around for the show. The lesser built of the FJ80s attempted the water crossing first, getting about two-thirds of the way through before getting stuck. So the built FJ80 backed in and pulled him out. Three times. After the last time the stuck truck opened his doors to allow an inch or two of water to find their escape. Exactly why we didn't want to go through.

We continued through the trails, taking turns at the wheel and behind the lens. There's nothing like sharing moments like these with friends—being with guys (or girls) that enjoy the simple joys of being outdoors. Summer in Florida is so hot that these overland expeditions are a perfect way for us to get outside, have adventures, but not have to deal with the miserable heat or unbearable mosquitos. So we drive, and we enjoy every minute. 

Before long we come upon a fun little area with some climbs that will challenge our driving. The Defender goes first, climbing a tight incline with not much of a problem. 

Next we take the Discovery up the same incline, and it takes it with ease. We take turns driving, and we have a great time. We almost get the Disco stuck going up one of the climbs, but after a little advice and thinking, we bounce right through it. These Land Rovers are incredibly capable machines.

After some fun in that area we keep driving. There are caves somewhere around here, and we'd like to find a couple. So we drive and search, and never find any. That's ok, it gives us an excuse to come back. As if we needed one. We'll be back for sure. This place will be perfect for a night or two of camping, some amazing food and drink, and plenty of time to explore the trails. An Overland Empire adventure if there ever was one.

So as we look forward to bigger adventures—multiple days and nights, food and friends, and epic stories—we remember how important it is to get out for any adventure we can, even if it's a long afternoon not too far from home.

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The Gentlemen's Adventure Club x Overland Empire

It's always a good feeling to find like-minded people out there. People who love adventures, telling stories, and talking shop. We found just that type of relationship with the guys at The Gentlemen's Adventure Club (TGAC), who took an epic journey from Scotland down to South Africa in a Land Rover Defender 110. Our kind of guys, for sure. We're happy to be a part of it, even if it's just to help tell the story. As we all know, putting an adventure into words is a pretty tough endeavor. "You had to be there" is an old adage that certainly fits when explaining an adventure or expedition, and absolutely when trying to tell the story of one that spans a couple continents and many countries. That said, here's the story from our friends at TGAC.

Six months after returning from our African adventure and we still haven’t found a kebab as good as the ones we ate in the little town of Arsuz near the Syrian border, whilst we waited for the seemingly mythical ferry to take us to Egypt. Neither have we found negotiating busy London roads as stressful or thrilling as weaving our way through traffic in Cairo with a malfunctioning satnav. In fact, we’ve not really managed to recapture any of the excitement of life on the road. For example, since moving to London none of us has seen even one of the Big Five, we haven’t been held at gun point by the police, and we haven’t negotiated any border crossings into a recently divided country ravaged by civil war. 

Back in June 2013 we were gathering in Turkey to set off on the adventure. Cal had driven the Landy out there with his girlfriend and Dunc and Rich had managed to stay just about sober enough not to be turned away at the check-in desk for the flight out to Turkey. Excited and happy to be reunited for the start of the trip in earnest, the three of us decided that a good manner in which to kick things off would be to don our Indianas (hats) and go in search of a big Turkish feast. Being new to the game and slightly delirious at the reality of our situation, we were probably fleeced for our meal but we were so content and pleased with ourselves that it mattered little. Using some of the gear generously provided by our sponsors, we slipped into our thermals and bedded down for the night next to a petrol station at the side of the road. Not quite the camping one might imagine on our trans-African adventure, but there was plenty of that to come. 

The next day we set off for Iskenderun, the port town from which we would be getting the ferry to Egypt. Rich and Dunc were excited to get behind the wheel, feel how the car was driving with all the kit on board and hear from Cal about how things had gone in Europe, the people they’d met and the story so far. After 3 years of university, it felt great to know that we were all free, with nothing but the 3 month road to Cape Town stretching before us.

We spent a week relaxing on a beach which we had entirely to ourselves, swimming in the sea, cooking food together and testing every bit of kit we possibly could. It was remarkable how easy it was to spend the day reading, making coffee, sunning our peely-wally, Scottish, sun-starved skin and, of course, satisfying our minor addiction to the local kebabs. Before long though, we had to snap back into adventure mode as we were told to get ourselves down to the port tout-de-suite – the ferry taking us to deepest darkest Africa was ready to depart. Before long on the ferry we had befriended a couple of Swiss newlyweds on their Honeymoon drive down to Cape Town, with a 3 month stop on the Red Sea for the kite surfing season. Luckily for us Gianni and Fabi had a rather well stocked larder compared with our less luxurious supplies based around chopped tomatoes, tuna and rice. Besides their friendly and fun personalities, we reasoned, this made them ideal candidates for the role of travel companions.

Surrounded by Syrian bullet-damaged cars, pilgrims on their way to Mecca, other tourists and lots of dodgy characters, we were eventually released into Egypt proper, after having spent 2 days with customs in Port Said at the mouth of the Suez Canal. First stop was Cairo, and this, in a lot of ways, was when the adventure became much more real. Seeing the pyramids in the distance as we hopelessly weaved in and out of traffic in Cairo produced a moment of realisation which will stay with us. That realisation was astonishment; where we were and what we were doing was the product of almost two years of preparation. It felt awesome.  

Waving goodbye to Gianni and Fabi, whom we’d become very fond of, we donned the Indianas once more and set off into the desert…

Driving through the White and Black deserts we saw some incredibly beautiful things. There is next to nobody around on some stretches, and often a few wandering camels would be the only signs of life. The wind-blown rock formations in the Black Desert and the mud-brick citadel built next to an oasis created a sense of serenity and peacefulness which was abruptly disturbed by the news, delivered to us by one of the desert checkpoint guards, that we were in bandit country and would not be able to continue driving that night. What followed in bed on the roof that evening were a series of probably quite ridiculous conversations, centred around how we would beat up the armed bandits and teach them that nobody messes with the boys from TGAC! We slept with a spade in between our sleeping bags. 

From Egypt we crossed into Sudan by land, making us the only officially recorded private group of civilians to cross that border by land since at least the 1950’s. Sudan was a gem of a country filled with uncommonly nice people and some incredibly picturesque desert. The driving there was ridiculously fun, we made the most of it but our Teedy (the car) was the worse for wear coming out the other side. Patched up, we pointed Teedy towards Ethiopia; a transition which confused the body and the mind as we climbed to great altitude, felt our first rain in a month and suddenly found ourselves surrounded by people, everywhere. And we mean everywhere.

From green, lush Ethiopia onwards into Kenya. We had earmarked this stretch of road – from Moyale to Marsabit – as one of the hotspots for bandits and danger. We chose to face danger head on, driving through the night and blaring out a mixture of Scottish bagpipe music and ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ to ward off any would-be assailants. We’re not sure that this is exactly recommended in the guidebook, per se, but it certainly worked for us! We arrived at the luxurious, pristine Sirikoi Lodge in Lewa Downs, unwashed, unshaven and unannounced. We’re sure you can imagine the look on the manager’s face when we explained we’d be staying for a week…

After an unrivalled week of decadence, comfort and whisky-fueled fun, we were once more off on the whacky races. Happily, it turned out we’d timed our trip perfectly to witness the wildebeest migration from the Serengeti into the Mara. In true TGAC style, and choosing not to notice the rules which prohibited free camping, we did just that. A sleepless night was spent listening in awe to the lion pride roaring at us from 100m away under a large Baobab. 

Tanzania flew by, and we slightly regretted that we weren’t able to spend more time getting to know the country. However, in some ways it was the most adrenaline-filled part of our whole journey; half-way down the country and on the road through the virtually empty and undeveloped central-west, we were mistaken for bandits and approached by a pick-up full of armed policemen. After the misunderstanding had been resolved, we were escorted by the police to their station where we were housed/imprisoned for the night. Dangerous bandits, it was explained to us, had been intercepting commercial vehicles on the road and stealing all the loot. The police insisted on driving us out of what they aptly, and slightly comically, dubbed “the danger zone”. Feeling pretty fortunate, we sped onwards to Malawi.

After nursing Rich back to health from his week-long bout of tropical disease (mammoth hangover), and getting some well-deserved recuperation at TGAC fan-member Gary Saunders’ house in Lilongwe, we were ready to press on to Zambia. This point in the trip was symbolic in that Zambia marked the breaking of the fellowship; Rich had to fly back to London to start work. Feeling the need to spoil ourselves and celebrate the happy 2 months we had spent together, we lived in the lap of luxury in Lusaka. You’ll be glad to read that, despite feasting on burgers and sipping on beers by the pool at a hostel, we resolutely decided to sleep on the roof of the car in the compound rather than climbing into soft beds. Parting ways with Rich was an emotional experience. TGAC don’t express emotions easily however, so we shook hands, concentrated on the pattern of our sandals and then Cal and Dunc put on a Harry Potter Audiobook and headed for the Caprivi Strip. Nae tears.

Caprivi was beautiful, empty, teeming with game and, though we accidentally almost crossed into Botswana instead of Namibia, we arrived at the Namibian border feeling relaxed and cheerful. Sad though it was, we very much felt at the beginning of the end. As the roads became more reliable and the buildings taller, we pulled into the very Western-feeling city of Windhoek, where we met our next set of travel companions. There was another Defender in the car park which we naturally gravitated towards, this turned out to be 4 English guys doing the same trip as us and with a similar timescale for the rest of the journey. We spent the rest of our time in Namibia with them, free camping in the famous Sossussvlei, eating the food prepared by one of the English boys who turned out to be a chef, and being serenaded by the Brazilian hitchhiker we picked up. Namibia left its mark on us. Nowhere else on our trip did we get the chance to enjoy the land and the road with so little interruption from other people. The other great thing about Namibia is how cheap the beer is, how plentiful the biltong is and how well that combination goes together.

We managed to break the shocks and suspension coils several times in Namibia. We’ve refrained from filling this tale with details of our various quick-fixes and mechanical incompetence because, though it can be interesting, it’s never much more than a distraction. Rolling into South Africa felt oddly like making it home after a long journey. Cal and Dunc treated themselves to many celebratory beers and cigars upon arrival in Cape Town, on a grey evening in early August. After a commemorative photo against the backdrop of Table Bay, we sat back and congratulated ourselves on our somewhat miraculous arrival at the end of a wonderful journey.

As we mentioned at the start, since moving to London we haven’t quite managed to do any of the adventurous things we did whilst we were away. What we have done is long for the feeling of a little too much sun, a few lucky escapes and a couple more stories to tell when we’re old and frail. In short, we’ve been dreaming up the next adventure...


Learn more about The Gentlemen's Adventure Club on their site, here. Until next time, gentlemen. We'll be happy to go on adventure with you anytime, anywhere. We're also happy to just help tell the story or provide some OE gear for your next trip.

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Adventure 004 - Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail holds a certain mystique. With so many people spending 6–7 months hiking from Georgia to Maine (or vise versa), it's easy to see why. It's a rite of passage for serious backpackers. Since we don't have the means to take 6 months off work, we have to opt for a short section, something we can do over a long weekend. So the plan was a 32 mile trek, walking south from North Carolina into Georgia.

We got a later start than planned, leaving town at 10pm instead of 8. Not a huge deal—a minor setback in a weekend of major setbacks. It's about a nine hour drive from home to Hiawassee, GA in the middle of the night at good speed, including much needed bathroom breaks. A few hours of sleep in the truck—not too easy when we're packed three wide in the back seat and the front. But we manage as best we can. We make it to the small town of Hiawassee by about 7am on a Thursday morning and scan the town for a little mom & pop diner. No chain restaurants for these folks. This will be our last real meal for a few days, so we want a good one.  We settle on the perfect little country diner and waste much time ordering a mix of coffee, eggs, hash browns, bacon, and country ham. Pretty sure there was a steak in there too. After breakfast we make a quick stop to fill our hydration packs with fresh water, then it's off to drop off a truck at our planned stopping point in Georgia. After that we make the drive up to North Carolina to the start of our trail, quickly gear up, and head off in single file.

The air is cold at first, but we quickly warm up as we walk, soon shedding our jackets and knit caps. It's March and there's still snow on the ground—a welcome sight for a crew of Floridians. We hike for a couple miles on a side trail before finally coming to the Appalachian Trail.

We walk for a couple more miles before stopping at a fallen log to take a break for lunch. The first of many shelf-stable meals to come. Today I opt for a tortilla with tuna salad and mayonnaise, seasoned with a couple spices. Besides that it's just a couple handfuls of granola and flavored water. We pick up continue walking south toward Albert Mountain—about a two-hour walk from our lunch stop. The climb up to Albert Mountain is tough with a 30lb pack, climbing roughly 1000 feet in a third of a mile. We take a good break at the top, enjoying the views on the Appalachians and North Carolina from the top of the fire tower.

The descent south of the mountain isn't too hard, but seems like it would be pretty tough if you were headed north, as most people are. The descent again has amazing views of the surrounding countryside.

We walk a few more miles on day one, through a little snow, along rocky mountain sides, and through shaded forests. Our packs weigh heavy on us this first day, our bodies not yet accustomed to the weight and the walking. By the time we make camp at our planned stop we're tired and sore. We set up by a creek for fresh water, cook our RTE dinners (Chicken teriyaki with rice for us), and all of us are asleep before the sun goes down.

Little did we know that this first day would be our best. During the night it starts to rain, and it won't stop for the rest of our time on the trail. We wake up Friday morning, eat breakfast in our tents, then pack up in the rain. Packing up a tent in the rain is not fun. Packing a wet tent into a pack you'll be carrying all day is even less fun. It's depressing. But we all pack up and head out of camp, trying to keep our spirits up. On this our second day we hike an impressive 11 miles, making great time through the rain. Probably because there was nothing worth stopping for besides lunch. Any scenic outlooks are white from the clouds and the rain, with zero visibility.

We stop at the top of Standing Indian Mountain, making our camp in the rain. Again, not too fun. We manage to build a fire, and the rain subsides for a brief while. We enjoy our dinners and dry out by the fire as best we can. Then it's off to bed, where it will rain all night.

By Saturday morning—day three—everyone is pretty miserable. Some don't have any dry clothes, their packs getting wet from the driving rain. Still we pack up in the rain and set out. Some of us all but run down the mountain, ready to get out of this rain. We walk for a few miles through Black Bear territory, but even the bears are smarter than to venture out in this awful weather. After a few miles we come to something none of us thought we would find—a road. A way out. An early exit. One of our crew runs drops his pack and runs ahead to find two members of our group that went on ahead. He find them and brings them back to leave with us. After some discussion we decide which way is correct and start our hike out. It ends up being a five mile hike on this forest service road until we reach a highway. Five miles in the driving rain, and we're soaked to the bone. When we get to the highway the first truck stops for us and one of the guys gets a ride back to our truck while the rest of us sit and wait. We're a sad sight, seven of us balled up under rain jackets and ponchos, cold and wet, finding no respite from the rain that's coming down on us in sheets. 

It's only about 30 minutes until the truck comes back for us, and it's more than a welcome site. We ditch our bags and wet shoes, pile into the truck and head back to the second vehicle, dropping off two of our northern brethren that met up with us for the trip. After that we drive a half hour or hour south to Helen, Georgia, where we'll get a couple hotel rooms, clean up, have a huge German dinner with plenty of beer, then have the best night's sleep in three days.

In all we have an incredible time, the driving rain only taking out some of the fun. We'll definitely be back to continue our journey, the Appalachian Trail adding a few more devotees to it's roster.

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Adventure 003 - Overland Empire x Sanborn Canoe Co.

While we work hard during the week and most weekends, we dream of adventures and quick getaways. So we got away to Orange Island in Florida's Canaveral National Seashore for another canoe adventure while the weather was still cool.

We teamed up with our friends over at Sanborn Canoe Co for some killer paddles to use on our journey, so after paddling in to our camp on Orange Island we spent the weekend fishing, canoeing, cooking great food, and enjoying the outdoors. 

We hit the weather perfect—warm enough to wade in shorts in the middle of the day, cool enough not to sweat through the night. You've gotta love Florida in the early Spring. 

It was an easy paddle on the way out, with calm waters and barely any wind. It doesn't take long when you're out on the water—with dolphins swimming a few feet from the bow of your canoe—to feel far from home. After hitting land we made camp, built a fire, and started preparing food. Then we hit the water to freshen up on our fly casting and explore the area.

After a good amount of paddling and exploring we came back ready for dinner, and prepared an overland feast of maple-glazed pork chops, grilled artichokes, roasted potatoes, and corn on the cob. All grilled over open flame, the way food was meant to be cooked. It's a good feeling having cooked an amazing meal outside, and it's why we put in that extra effort and load the canoes with a little more food.

After dinner it was off to paddle and fish more, of course shooting photos and videos the entire time. Once it got dark we stoked the fire, started fooling around with some time-lapse to catch the full moon move across the sky, then decided to start a batch of chili to enjoy on day two. This wasn't chili from a kit either. Sliced up steak, coffee, cocoa powder, onions, black beans, and a mess of other guessed and hand-measured ingredients made for a chili that surprised all with how good it was. We kept it warm over the fire and broke into it the next morning. Break a fried egg over anything and you can call it breakfast. 

After that it was more shooting, more canoeing, and more eating. We know how to have a good adventure.

Check out more photos on Sanborn's Scout Field Log.

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Adventure 002 - Dual Sport Ride

We've always had a love for two wheels. While you can bring everything you need for comfort in a car, SUV, or truck, nothing strips you down to the bare essentials of adventure like riding a motorcycle. Especially an offroad motorcycle. This adventure was taken on to prove that even in an area overcome with urban sprawl, adventure riding could be found just miles from home.

To get off the paved road and explore dirt roads is liberating. It transports you to a time and place that may only have existed in your imagination. But it's there, and it's real. And it's right in our backyard. No traffic, no red lights, no trains. Only dirt, blue sky, and endless possibilities. This is what we came for. To get away and yet to be right here.

We aim for something more than a Sunday drive. Sure, it may be as easy as getting on your bike (or in your truck or jeep) and going for an exploratory ride, but we like to take it up a notch. To plan a route worth photographing, worth slowing down for, and one that will literally take us all weekend. The planning can be consuming—hours spent clicking through Google Maps, more hours scouting and coming across dead ends, private land, and locked gates, and still more hours preparing gear and equipment.

Then there's the food. For us, food is the tie that binds. An impromptu cookout after a scouting session rather than dinner out. A legitimate hot lunch on the trail rather than a granola bar or pre-made sandwich. Great food is such a tremendous part of our lives. We grew up in households anchored by a home-cooked meal, and that is one legacy we each pass along to our families. A scratch-made meal is always worth the extra effort, be it at home, at camp, or here on the trail.

And so we now find ourselves huddled together on a particularly frigid Saturday, going over our route and plans in the dark space between night and morning. While a vehicle-dependent expedition can be had with only the necessities required for your length of adventure, we decided early on that we would have a support truck. The video needs required to meet our critical eyes, along with the food and equipment involved in putting together meals worthy of sharing, helped make this decision a rather simple one. Now as we stand and eat homemade pop-tarts and bulletproof coffee, we laugh about how we get excited over a good break of pastry, or the perfect mug for a photo. Six men with a unified purpose—to have an adventure worthy of pictures, and pictures worthy of an adventure.

After a delicious and protein-rich breakfast we quickly load up and ride out, a race for the rising sun. Two motorcycles and a truck, all off-road ready and built for this type of adventure. There's an excitement to setting off on any sort of journey, much less one that's been anticipated for weeks, even months, on end. An excitement that can barely be matched, and we feel it immediately. We drive a carefully planned route from one of our homes, driving back roads North towards our destination. The planning pays off in spades. Almost zero traffic, easy navigation, and picturesque vistas that remind us of the aforementioned goal—to enjoy an area less developed, before time and growth catch up to it and spoil it for good. So we pass country homes, pastures full of cows, and beautiful groves full of peach trees just beginning to blossom, and we make sure to enjoy it.

The cold cuts hard through our clothes, and the sun does little to make a difference. Thankfully there is only one stretch of road that requires highway speeds, and we get through it quickly. By the time many are just wiping the sleep out of their eyes we've reached our first waypoint, our destination for all the dirt roads we can handle: a Wildlife Management Area consisting of 50k+ acres that crosses three counties. And it's our home for this portion of our adventure.

When many hear the words "Wildlife Management Area" they may immediately think of deer hunters and tree stands. And they would be correct. As we enter this area on the last day of general gun season for deer, we see our fair share of rifles and blaze orange. However we're the ones that receive the odd looks today, "hipsters" in our funny clothes. We get a laugh from the looks we get, but we know many are well deserved. It's not everyday you see a guy with a GoPro on a four foot pole strapped to his back. Now we roll off onto this leg of our trip, feeling the dirt beneath our tires. We explore the forest, finding a lake, smoking trees, and yes, plenty of hunters. We drive until we find a spot for lunch, a grassy site with plenty of sun and a break from the wind. We set up our temporary camp, with our field kitchen and cooking supplies, and quickly set to work on making a hot lunch. Homemade vegetable soup, made from scratch right on the trail, along with Shao Bing chicken sandwiches and some much needed beverages. We enjoy our break together, standing in the sun to get warm, telling stories, talking shop, and just being guys. We also have a good time making fun of ourselves, imagining the conversations in passing trucks as they see a bunch of dudes taking pictures of each other. A strange world indeed.

After lunch we're off to lay tracks in the dirt, enjoying the sky above our heads and the dirt 'neath our feet. There are few things in life so simple as this, to enjoy our surroundings, the Earth as it was made. As we traverse our route, making wrong turns, dead ends, running out of gas, and burning leather on hot exhaust pipes, we grow stronger in our ties. These adventures of ours become our signature, an inscription of our time on this planet and our lives together. For as much as one can accomplish alone, we know of our strength in numbers. Our wisdom lies in our collective skills. Friends joined by purpose, bonded by story and adventure, and clear in intentions. As society hurtles on in progress, gobbling up our land and open spaces, we are sure to enjoy what we have around us, while we have it. Be that the outdoors, friends, or family. In our case, it's all of those and more. Nothing can replace our time together, our time doing what we enjoy.

So while today's road takes us to a remote lake house where we'll meet up with family and enjoy a delicious dinner spent around a campfire, tomorrow the road takes us somewhere completely different. And that, our friends, is why we do this.

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