Trip Report: Shake Off The Dust

The plan was to map something useable. Something we could use as a training route for people new to overlanding. Training and experience type events are down the road still, but I like planning ahead. The plan for our shake off the dust trip did not go according to plan.

Our Friday meetup in Cadillac went without out a hitch. We spent about an hour and a half in the Meijer parking lot talking and walking rigs. Sometime around 6:30 – 7 we gathered up, discussed the plan for the night, and moved out. There wasn’t going to be much daylight left so we made a beeline for camp.

The first hiccup came running down M55 and getting to a closed road. Now, this is the part where I say I should have just listened to my wife and gone through. But of course, I didn’t. We diverted around and attempted to get to the campsite the back way but ended up at a creek that wasn’t able to be crossed.

We pushed on, back on the main roads and made it in to camp with a few hours of daylight left. The spot was a wide open area that easily accommodated the 11 or 12 rigs we had. In fact, we could almost have fit double that if we had too at some point. Everyone set up camp and started working on some dinner. After cracking a few beers and having some dinner, everyone did the obligatory walk around camp and chat.

Eventually we got a fire going, did some more BS’ing before finally calling it a night. At some point around midnight, I started to hear rumblings of exhaust in the distance. Sure enough, someone was out for a late night ride and felt the need to stop at our campsite. Of course they also decided to run their engine before finally taking off down the trail.

Morning started out a little chilly but by the time we broke camp it had warmed up to a comfortable temperature. After a quick brief on what we would be attempting we got everyone rolling and to the road. Our first drop in was just a short pavement drive north.

We pulled off the road and made sure we had everyone before proceeding north along the trail. Our initial drop in was pretty easy going. We stopped a short distance in for anyone who wanted to capture some video or pictures. At this point, Mike, who we were expecting to meet up with further north, had managed to catch us on the trail.

We moved on until we hit a clearing to stop for lunch. Turns out we ended up losing about half of the group at some point. Eventually we had everyone rallied in the clearing, made some lunch, and then continued on. This is where things started to go south. The next section of the trail was pretty much blocked every 50-100 feet by downed trees. We did our part and cleared everything as the trail become more and more narrow.

Eventually we hit a large enough tree that we could not clear. After consulting the map, it also turned out that the last 100 feet of trail cut through the middle of someone’s property. Whether the tree was deliberately put down to block access or not, we still had to back everyone up and turn back round. We trucked back the way we came to the clearing before realigning and heading to where we were supposed to come out and back into the woods.

This put us at the the northernmost loop of the route. We dumped in to the trail, making our way along until we were supposed to hit a turn to the north. Unfortunately, what showed in the satellite was no longer there. The current route we were on looked like it hit a dead end, but we decided to move on anyway.

The trail turned into this really cool valley for a short distance. It would have been great for it to continue through, but it ended at a pretty awesome campsite overlooking a river. Which, unfortunately was full. We marked it for another time and once again turned around, heading back the way we came.

I made the decision because of the time to head back to camp for the evening. We were camped in a spot that had a good amount of trails around it for anyone who wanted to partake. The rest of the evening was highlighted by sitting around the fire and BS’ing late into the night.

Sunday morning there was no real rush to get moving. Breakfast and coffee was made before we packed up and decided to find some trails. At this point we were lighter by about half of our group with only 5 or 6 of us left. I decided to hit the middle line of the planned figure 8 and make our way back to the Cadillac area. We hit a good amount of fire and dirt roads but did get into some tight trails.

Eventually, we parted ways with the group around noon and headed back for home. Despite the weekends apparent failure (to me at least) I did get to meet some of the people I’ve interacted with online. As I might have stated before, that’s what I get enjoyment out of. Meeting other people who enjoy overlanding and getting outdoors.

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  1. Next time I’m not missing the first day! And I wonder next trip if it would be advantageous / practical if I were to go up a day earlier to maybe recon the proposed route, & report back issues or things to see. Depends on my schedule of course, but I’d imagine that 1-2 vehicles running recce can easily cover the same area in a day that 10+ vehicles enjoying the view would in 2 days.

    This trip was a much needed getaway for me personally, & from what I heard that day I was not alone. Even if the route didn’t go as well as imagined, it’s still a win in my opinion. Establishing & improving the lower peninsula routes throughout the year will be challenging for sure, but an opportunity to learn as well. And I would think it would do well to prepare everyone for doing the same upstate!

    Communications seem to get more & more important as the group size increases, which I think puts more stress on the convoy leader than necessary. I need to crunch the numbers yet… but I wonder if it would be worth building a dozen / half-dozen kits of inexpensive Baofeng handhelds, magnetic roof antennas, stretch cords, & suction-cup mounts. Program them all the same, so they can just be handed out to anyone short on comms. They may only be 5-10 watts, but they blow away anything that’s comparably priced or as easily plug-n-play (as far as I know).

    My lifted Subaru did as well as I’d hoped on the trip, no problems or past issues rearing their ugly heads. Really glad I got it together in time to at least catch up with the group halfway! Not the first time I’ve been turning wrenches on a vehicle just moments before leaving for a trip. While it performed to my expectations, it did however shift around the priority of several things on that project’s to-do list. Raising it’s computer up from the floor, finishing the 2-meter radio install, further trimming the front wheel well, & building a skid-plate are up at the top now.

    My passenger & I took the “scenic route” on the way home towards Grand Rapids, via the Lincoln Hills ORV trails which thankfully weren’t too crowded. We had a great hour or so of ripping thru the loamy sand that lined the twisty high-banked trails like it was a rally stage… or at least as much as you can while avoiding a full clip around blind corners & crests. Turned out it was lucky that a spontaneous decision to run trails slowed down our way south away from the group. Because we got a message just as we pulled off the trail to take a breather from barely clearing several mud trenches & putting the snorkel to work on a few sketchy water crossings. The message was a relaying of a mayday from one of our group that ran into some similarly arduous crossings while running trails on his way back. Since we were by far the nearest at that point, we peeled off to the north & received coordinates to his bogged location, which as we were getting more info seemed to be a flooded creek. We were already having some hilarious issues navigating since my passenger was completely new to doing so with little to no cell service. So unsurprisingly it wasn’t the easiest thing to track him down while both driving & guiding my codriver. The whole time imagining his vehicle shorting out electrics up to his dashboard in scummy creek water. When I was getting frustrated I tried to remember the Land Rover motto to just drive “As slow as possible, as fast as necessary”. After longer than I’d like we did finally narrow down which branch of a mess of little 2-tracks (that looked like a plant’s random roots) he was caught in & find he was right up to his seats in water. He was so calm about it that he was all but camped out along the bank of the creek his vehicles exhaust was bubbling in. I think the relaxed demeanor took the edge off what I was hyping up in my mind. Because of course on the way there I was imagining the worst since neither of us had a winch or all that much torque on tap to extract a badly high centered vehicle. I would’ve much preferred to pull him forward, since he was so close to pulling up & out of the other side of the bank. His vehicle was only a few feet from exiting, caught up along the center, with all 4 tires hanging freely in deep ruts. I’m sure I could’ve made the crossing with my vehicles clearance, but there was no chance of me getting around him & across to his front without doing a bunch of unnecessary trail damage. So after a bit of swimming we had a recovery strap properly connected, just long enough for me to keep my car’s nose out of the water & on relatively stable ground. We quickly found the weakness of larger tires without regearing… I just did not have the power to static pull him back. While not ideal, we had to resort to slacking the strap & tugging with a decent reversing speed. A dozen or so pulls & it wasn’t looking good. I’m sure my transmission wasn’t happy either. My hacked center diff switch was locking things together & the oversized fluid cooler I installed was doing it’s best to keep the torque converter from going nuclear. We didn’t want to give up though, so we just kept pulling & eventually it started to budge ever so slightly. An inch at a time we pulled it back off the rise that was holding up the center. Once his vehicle dropped of it enough to get traction we both throttled as hard as we could & out it came! A half hour of bailing out the water from his footwells & cleaning up as best we could & we were out of there!

    • I concur on running the route first before a group is sent through and it will probably be the norm going forward. The plan for June is to go up early Friday morning (at least myself) and do exactly that so we don’t run into the same issues as last time.

      Comms was a slight issue as well for me. I think because of the crappy antenna I have and trying to reach back 12 vehicles. Part of that is on me to fix. If we were a better funded organization I’d be all for having the handheld setups and giving them out for trips. It’s something I’d still consider in small doses depending on the cost for a full setup.

      Glad you had a good time Mike! Your I put into what we do is always valuable ?

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