With Southwestern Virginia being an unexplored (for us) part of our own back yard, we jumped at the opportunity to join Mountain State Overland for a weekend of trail driving and camping in Jefferson National Forest a couple of weeks ago.
We found out about Southwest Virginia/West Virginia-based Mountain State Overland while surfing the web and were immediately interested in what they were doing- especially their focus on local exploration. MSO’s goal and vision is to explore and preserve Appalachia through film by sharing their adventures and the stories of people they meet. MSO invited us to help them film Episode 4, covering our joint weekend overland adventure (you can find it right here).
Mountain State Overland consists of Jason, Jamie, and Jeremy, or as I liked to call them the 3 J’s. All I can say is that we were lucky that only Jason and Jamie were able to make it for the trip because we had a hard enough time not confusing their names as is. Like us they’re weekend warriors who work a regular 9-5, but when the weekend rolls around they’re out on the road looking for the next adventure.
We were also joined by Rick Stowe who is a
gear junkie like us contributing author to The New Artemis and an accomplished backcountry explorer. Traditionally Rick is an ultralight backpacker and he showed up with all of his gear packed in his backpack making us all feel like lesser men with our truckloads of kit.
Maria and I left early Friday morning for the 3 hour drive down to Roanoke where we linked up with the rest of the crew. Ben and Becca joined us on Saturday so they missed out on our first day of fun and Jamie’s awesome cooking.
We loaded up all of our gear and hit the trail – Jason had planned for a pretty long day of driving. We quickly left pavement at the first trail. With all of the recent rain and snow we encountered quite a few water crossings.
The weather was phenomenal, it was the first time Maria and I had seen temperatures over 65 in who knows how long, so when we found a good spot to let the pups out we had to take it. This is also the perfect time for me to introduce Murphy who is probably the most relaxed and laid back dog you’ll ever meet. She easily put both of the DirtRoadTrip pups to shame.
We covered a lot of ground on Friday but were still running behind schedule because of a few closed gates that caused of to have to reevaluate our route. We drove late into the night but we found a perfect camp site about 100 yards off the trail (we definitely got lucky with campsites this trip), we settled in for the night and enjoyed some of Jamie’s good cookin.
We woke up after a long night of
drinking getting to know each other and as Ben predicted we were pretty late in meeting up with him and Becca. We linked up a few miles from out campsite and immediately continued down the trails. All of the rain made for some pretty muddy conditions and a lot of fun.
We spent most of the day doing some pretty heavy filming since we finally had all of the trucks in one place, but we still found some time to enjoy the great views.
After a few hours on the trail (and a great riverside pita lunch – thanks Jamie!) we arrived at the Big Walker Lookout Tower which is the “oldest privately owned scenic attraction” in Virginia. I was more interested in the butter pecan ice cream, and Ben was almost tempted to add a “Viet Cong Hunting Club” patch to his collection – but thought better of it.
About 6:00 we rolled into another great campsite on top of Walker Mountain and setup for the night. Jamie prepared another one of his epic meals (Jamie really made us look bad in front of the ladies and really lifted their expectations of camping food with his camp culinary feats). I don’t think anyone went hungry – we had everything from sausage and biscuits to chicken quesadillas (my waist line was not grateful but my stomach was).
As far as camp kit goes, there was no shortage of gear to go around. Jason finally got to break out his new Oztent Foxwing (which is the epitome of luxury awnings) while on the opposite side of the spectrum Rick decided to go “ultimate man style” and just slept under a tarp. We broke out our comfy, cavernous (and heavy) Oztents, and impressed the group with the Oztent’s super fast setup time. We shared stories by the campfire for the rest of the night enjoying some great food and even better company.
I’m glad I had my buddy heater because we were greeted with a layer of snow when we unzipped the tent. I don’t know how Rick survived under his tarp in just a sleeping bag, but I’m pretty sure it’s because Murphy kept him warm through the night.
We planned on having a pretty quick trip down the mountain but our luck had run out. Today would be the hardest day by far. We ran into tight trails, downed trees, and some technical terrain – things we definitely were not expecting. Luckily for us Jason had the foresight to bring a chainsaw along so we were able to make quick work of obstructions on the trail, and finally get back onto pavement.
We have to give a big thank you to the Mountain State Overland guys for taking us out on the trail with them and letting us be a part of their awesome web series (not to mention feeding us). We also need to thank Rick Stowe with The New Artemis for showing us some great gear and sharing all of his insight on back country camping.
Overall we covered over 150 miles over 3 days, but I can comfortably say that we all walked away more confident in our capabilities and with some great new friends. Overlanding attracts some great people, and this trip was no exception. We can’t wait to link up with Mountain State Overland again and tackle the next adventure.
Photo Credit: Rick Stowe and Mountain State Overland