2004 ARB American Outback Series British Columbia
In 2003 ARB held its inaugural American Outback Series Trip across 600 miles of Oregon. The event was such a success that ARB decided to make it an annual event. ARBs Western Sales Manager- Chris Wood was in charge of organizing the event and this year I was lucky enough to hitch a lift on the adventure.
Participants met in Seattle Washington on Sunday 20th June. As this was the first time most of had met each other we took time to check out all the various trucks and introduce ourselves. Of the 14 vehicles present [2 more Jeeps were to meet up with us in Penticton B.C.], there were 4 Land Rovers, 3 Toyotas, 2 Suzukis and 5 Jeeps. The Land Rovers consisted of a 1987 Range Rover Classic driven by Eric Voss of Eurowest Inc [my chauffer for the trip]; 1997 Defender 90 driven by John & Cliff Miller of Oregon Search & Rescue; 1996 Discovery I driven by Gordon & Anita Longhitano of Inland Rovers and a 2003 Discovery II driven by Dave Caouette of Land Rover Mission Viego.
Our first day out was to be a relatively relaxing day with all travel being on bitumen. Our trip took us from Bellevue on the eastern outskirts of Seattle north then east into the magnificent Cascade Mountains. We were also to pass through the edges of the Okanogan National Forest before heading north into Canada via the Osoyoos border crossing. Luckily only one of our group needed to have a full vehicle inspection at the border so our trip was not overly delayed. Our destination for the day was the Apex Mountain Ski Resort just outside of Penticton B.C.
Our second day started with the knowledge that we were to start the off road portion of the trip Albert Vandervelde and Ann Jackson, both Canadians, joined us in their respective Jeeps to guide us for the rest of the trip. We started with a demonstration by Chris Wood of ARB on winch equipment and techniques then headed straight out from the Ski resort into the maze of trails that lie behind the mountain. These trails are normally not open to the public, however we had permission to traverse them. The first obstacle for the day was a fallen tree over the trail. Given its size and that we only had a small chainsaw we chose to drive over the tree. Unfortunately the first vehicle to get stuck was the Range Rover. The Rangie was quickly helped and we were on our way again. Our next challenge was a steep ascent past 7 switch backs following a slippery loose track. All vehicles made it up to the last section when some winching was required to get the D 90, Discovery II and several of the Jeeps up. This area eventually led out to Nickel Plate Mountain and Mine.
We then headed south east back to the main road passing the Chuckwayha Indian Reserve. At the junction with the main road we had our first mishap. Al Vandervelde in his highly modified Jeep had pulled off to the side of the road to turn around, this was when his vehicle began to slide off the edge in loose soil, almost rolling and finally coming to a halt at the bottom of a ditch. Not a big issue but it certainly made everyone aware about stopping in precarious places. After towing him back onto the road the group headed off to Princeton to refuel and re-provision for the 2 nights of camping ahead of us.
To the southwest of Princeton lay our overnight stop, in the Whipsaw Creek area. The main Whipsaw Creek Fire Service Road is quite easy as it ambles South West past Mount Kennedy and Friday Mountain. This trail also crosses one of the major walking trails of the area known as the Dewdney Trail.
We awoke on our third day to yet another magnificent sunny day. Little did we know that the majority of this day would be spent breaking through snow drifts. After departing at 8.15 am we were lucky enough to see a number of Deer as well as ground squirrels and various other indigenous wildlife for the area. Cougar tracks were easily visible along with bear droppings. Alas a sighting of a bear or a cougar eluded us. Because of the lingering snow and very moist ground conditions the high mountain fields were covered in native wildflowers including Anenomies, Mountain Buttercup, Alpine lilies and Solomon seal. Not being an expert in the field any naming error complaints should be directed to our trip guide Ann Jackson who was understandably very passionate on this topic.
Because of the snow we were the first 4WDrive group through on this trail for the season. Up to this point there had been a lot of friendly rivalry between the various makes of vehicles about who would get stuck and who would get through. It is good to report that Land Rovers seemed to do the most recovery work of other vehicles and were in the minority when it came to being stuck in the snow. Unfortunately the low ground clearance did not allow for a completely faultless running of the terrain. Our route for the day took us past a well know camping area called Wells Lake Recreation Site which lies on the eastern edge of the Cascade Recreation area.. This is a destination well worth a return trip for further exploration or merely lounging around in a deck chair with a few drinks in quiet contemplation.
We camped at the end of day 3 at Lodestone Lake Recreation site. This campsite is on the edge of a nice trout filled lake just west of Lodestone Mountain. It is a small lake at 5,948 feet above sea level with loads of trout, crystal clear water surrounded by a semi open forest and several camping spots. It also has a pit toilet making life just that little bit more comfortable.
Day 4 started with John Miller of Lane County Sheriff Office Search & Rescue Office [and Defender 90 owner] giving the group a training session on things to carry with you when venturing into more remote areas. It was an interesting seminar which pointed out some very commonsense things we all should be aware of. For further information I suggest that you contact your local police search and rescue office to get advice and reading suggestions from them.
Unfortunately this day was to include a lot of hard road commuting which saw us travel through Coalmont, Tulameen, then up the Coquihalla Highway to Merritt, west to Spensers Bridge, South to Lyntton following the Thompson River then North to our overnight stop in Lillooet following the Fraser River. A tip that came out of todays travel was that many of the smaller townsshops are very helpful in providing area specific maps for camping fishing and the like.
We had been somewhat concerned about entering Lillooet as they were experiencing major bush fires in the area for the past week. We had been advised that the entire town was on a 1 hour evacuation alert. Since this was the closest major town to where we were going we just had to take a chance and go. Luckily the efforts of the fire fighters had reduced the risk to the town prior to our arrival.
Departing north out of Lillooet on Day 5 we drove up the north side of Carpenter Lake. This man-made lake is approximately 45 kilometers long and very narrow. Whilst we did not get the chance to go fishing locals advised that it is a great spot for a variety of fresh water fish types. After reprovisioning at Gold Bridge which is located on the western tip of Lake Carpenter, we backtracked some 9 kilometers to head North up along Tyaughton Lake Road. This is predominantly a hard packed dirt road however it does lead into the Mud lakes area.
To spice up this part of the trip we took a diversion off the Mud Creek Fire Service Road. Unfortunately [or fortunately depending upon your sense of adventure] this detour meant tackling a fairly steep and off camber creek crossing. At this crossing our first major break down occurred. Christo Slee in his immaculately decked out Lexus broke a CV joint whilst attempting the obstacle. This necessitated a major recovery which was completed with ease by our trip guides. Given ARBs desire to ensure we had both a safe and enjoyable trip the group was turned around to find a bypass to ensure that no other vehicles had trouble.
Slightly further on Cal Stewarts 60 Series Land Cruiser started having power difficulties. The problem was traced to a blocked fuel filter and once repaired we were on our way again. As with the Whipsaw area, we appeared to be the first group through for the season as we were required to chainsaw and remove a number of trees.
The Holy Grail for the trip [at least for me] had been the desire to see a Bear. We were getting closer as fresh bear tracks and droppings were everywhere on the trial in front of us, but alas no actual sighting.
Camp for the night was to be in the Mud Lakes Recreation Site. The local guide books suggest that access into this area is difficult, however our group had no difficulties whatsoever. The Mud Lakes area is a great place to camp with 2 pristine lakes for swimming or fishing.
Due to the difficulties of the previous day, both the Lexus and 60 Series Land Cruiser chose to leave the group before day 6s adventure. Our last day was to see us travel North from Mud Lakes towards Poison Mountain before heading South East along the Yakoum River and back into Lillooet.
The trail up past Swartz Lake was very picturesque, albeit easy driving. This area is dominated by Beaver Dams. Our group gave up trying to count them as there were so many. It is amazing how such a small creature can drastically change the environment to suit its own needs.
Unfortunately when we approached the top of Poison Mountain Erick Voss [our groups intrepid Range Rover owner] became ill. He displayed all the common symptoms of altitude sickness. This seemed strange as we were only at approximately 6,000 feet above sea level. For safety sake it was decided to get him down to Lillooet Hospital. At this stage I took off with Erick in his Range Rover heading back to civilization. I had been waiting for the past 5 days to see a bear and yes the group saw 2 black bears in the time I was gone.
Well the trip was finished. ARB and in particular Chris Wood and Buddy King need to be commended for organizing a great easy medium tour through parts of British Columbia.
Land Rover Driver Bios
It always helps to get to know what people have done to their Land Rovers and why. Here is a brief run down on the Land Rovers on our trip.
Erick Voss 1987 Range Rover
Erick proudly owns a 1987 Range Rover. The first model bought into the USA by Land Rover. It has no ABS, No Airbags and was completely stock standard until purchased by Erick He was originally looking for a 109 11a when this Rangie came on the market. He has installed Old Man Emu Springs and 2longer springs to improve overall suspension ride and height.
The suspension has been mated with 265 75 R16 Bridgestone, Dueler M/Ts for good road and strong off-road ability. An ARB front bulbar is fitted along with a warn 8000 winch and Amsteel blue synthetic winch rope. To give extra storage space Erick has fitted a Wilderness Rack which also holds his Hi Lift jack, axe and shovel. 4 IPF 900 lights are fitted to the wilderness rack along with 2 more on his bull bar.
To power the Rangie Erick installed a yellow top optima battery which comes in handy as he also carries a 42 liter ARB car fridge. To keep in contact with his fellow travelers a COBRA 40 channel CB is installed. To protect vulnerable parts of the Range Rover the following protection covers are fitted: Southdown diff cover, steering cover and gas tank guard. Trailmaster rock sliders are also helping protect the Rangie.
As most would be aware the 3.5 liter V8 engine is getting a little tired these days so Erick has upgraded to a new 4.0L Discovery engine with a 4.2L CAM, some work to the heads, a custom exhaust. Overall a nice package for a 17 year old vehicle.
John Miller 1997 Defender 90
John bought his 1997 Defender 90 SW used with 62K miles on it some 2.5 years ago. He bought it over a different vehicle as he had previously had a J#%P [his words not mine] and wanted to upgrade to a Defender or Series truck.
Suspension has been upgraded with heavy duty springs on the front and medium duty on the rear giving an overall lift of 2 inches. John purchased the Old Man Emu springs 2 years ago, and the OME shocks just recently because of fit and price. BF Goodrich Mud Terrain 255X85X16 tires have been fitted as they are what John considers the right size for what he likes to do. As you know, there are as many opinions about tires as there are tire sizes and brands!In snow, mud, and some rock, the BFG MT's in this size are both tall (clearance) and narrow ( mud/ snow). Aired down, they work well for the Defender with the 2 inches of lift. The tires spec out at a bit over 33's! Taller than the 265 series.
Rover accessories provided the rear bumperettes. They stick out a bit but again, meet Johns specific needs better than other brands that provide better departure angles. He can stand on them for added weight and they are a good "last step" when descending the ladder. They also supplied the heavy duty tow hitch/ pull point. A Mantec spare tyre carrier is also fitted to save space. The roof rack is fitted with a custom made 2- twin-pack 20 liter jerry can holder.
A warn, M8000 is fitted to the ARB bull bar. He considers it big enough but not too big. Rovers North rock sliders are used to protect the door sills and a Brown Church full roof rack is on the roof to provide more storage space for longer trips. A front differential guard is also installed to help protect that delicate front end.
Warn dual beams on top with hella floods on each side are fitted for off the side viewing. Driving lights in the bull bar with IPF headlight upgrade to 100/80 watt provide the lighting upgrades for good night driving.
An ARB airlokcer is fitted to the rear. John used it 3-4 times on this trip and found the locker very helpful. Until now he was an open diff man believing that lockers tend to put the advantage in a mechanical form and open diffs cause you to practice driving skills and learn them. When you have learned much using open diffs, then you can go to lockers!
John wants to have a set up for dual batteries but currently only runs a single yellow top optima for accessories. He was running a car fridge but lets just say he had a Coleman and it failed the second day. He is now going to ARB for one of theirs as soon as possible!
Johns choice for CB is the Cobra Model 75 40 channel CB radio. He had no trouble communicating with everyone for the whole trip.
He chose to buy a stock truck and build it up from scratch rather than buy someone else's creation.John also likes to work on his rigs and only take them to the shop as a last resort. His truck is his mistress!
Gordon & Anita Longitano 1996 Discovery
Gordon and Anita have owned the 1996 Discovery 1 for about 4 years. They bought it over any other vehicle as Gordon had been a long time Land Rover dealer technician and was very familiar with the vehicle and the diversity of on and off road modifications available.
Since purchasing the vehicle they have fitted 3"custom heavy duty springs, along with Foxx external reservoir shocks with Inland Rovers custom valving. Inland Rovers custom shock mounts and drop kit, Inland Rovers bump stop drop kit to match the suspension lift. Yes Gordon does own Inland Rovers.
Custom rear chromolly trailing arms with custom heim mounts to replace factory bushings have been used to relieve stress on the arms when articulating. Inland Rovers rock sliders are used to fit Gordons own needs. He says that if I want to rock crawl I
can, if I want to blast through the desert it is also possible.
BFG M/T 265/75/16 tires are fitted as they are not too big for on road and not too small for off-road. An ARB front bull bar is matched to a Safari guard rear bumper with skid plate. The front bumper holds a Superwinch x9 9000lbs winch for aiding recovery.
A purpose built Inland rovers half basket roof rack holds IPF 900 lights with custom wiring harness for use with factory light switches.
An ARB front locker with ARB compressor and custom mounting bracket is mated with a TruTrac in the rear differential. Gordon also carries an ARB freezer fridge and a Cobra CB all in 1 hand held.
Dave Caouette 2003 Discovery.
Dave has owned his 2003 Land Rover Discovery for 14 months and put 40,000 miles on it already. He purchased it for off road capability and on road comfort. Old Man Emu springs and shocks are fitted. The rear springs-constant100kg w/ firm shocks, Heavy front springs w/ firm shocks, ROC129 spacer kit rear, an Old Man Emu steering damper rounds out the suspension changes.
The new ARB Air bag compatible front bumper is fitted with a warn XD9000 winch. IPF 900 MSR lights are attached to the bumper for improved night driving. To help keep air intake clean and out of harms way an ARB snorkel is used. Yes Dave is another proponent for the ARB MT45F Freezer fridge. Diff and Pinion guards front and rear help protect vulnerable parts along with the Kay-Mar rear bumper and tire and fuel can swing arm. The Discovery is shod with Firestone 265x75x16 Destination mud terrains and a Midland CB radio is used to keep in touch with everyone.
Maps & Guidebooks
When doing some preliminary pre trip research I found it difficult to locate good Four Wheel Drive oriented books on British Columbia. I suppose I had been spoilt somewhat having access to books such as those written by Charles A Wells for Colorado and Utah and a number of other similar books. There appeared to be lots of general books on fishing, hiking and the like but nothing for my specific Four Wheel Drive needs. In the end I found Mussio Ventures Ltd who produces the Backroad Mapbook series.
Their books are more tailored for the Fishing, hiking and camping enthusiast but do offer some value to the off roader. I purchased the Kamloops / Okanagan; Chilcotin and Southwestern BC books from their series. These all held 1: 150,000 scale maps which included most of the trails that we passed in the respective areas. Given the levels of logging, private land etc that we went through I was not surprised that not all trails were on the maps. I used the hard spine versions, they were the cheapest, however they do offer the books and maps in both a ring spine and digital editions.
If you are going up to British Columbia and want maps with off road trails then the Backroad Mapbook series is certainly a good start. Check them out at www.backroadmapbooks.com