Getting “all stoved in” with Maine’s Premiere Overland Group
Nestled deep within Maine’s vast North Maine Woods is a seemingly endless supply of lakes, dirt logging roads, overgrown trails, bears, moose, beaver dam washouts and hungry black flies. It’s tough country. It’s off the grid. The winters are tough and the accents are tougher.
I’d like to introduce you to the fine folks from Northeast Overland, who have explored & braved these wilds for years and will probably only intensify.
Founded in 2012 by Chris Woodcock and Jareb Dyer, Northeast Overland is a group of dedicated individuals who not only enjoy off-roading, but do it in an area of the world where it’s rarely a jaunt up the road. Trips around the North Maine Woods aren’t always a single day long and the weather can often include all four seasons in one day.
Northeast Overland has several events every year but the one we’re going to talk about in this article is called “Moose on the Loose” or as we shall abbreviate; MOTL. Moose on the Loose is an event that is best labelled as a navigational land challenge. It is Northeast Overland’s signature event.
There are two this year: June 14th to June 17th and August 16th to August 19th, 2017
If you want to get in on the fun, the bottom of this article has the links & other information you’re looking for.
Navigational Land Challenge?
Pay attention, overlander. Wipe the powdered sugar off the front of your Triple Aught Design hoodie, put down your titanium spork and read closely; out loud if you have to. It’s okay to move your mouth with words, we won’t judge!
Four days. Off the grid. Endless washboard. Destroyed, washed-out and overgrown trails. Most of it navigated with map & compass (though electronic apps have come up to speed in the last couple of years, so don’t panic!) Help would probably require a helicopter, so you can’t fool around. This isn’t a jaunt to your local off road park or state forest. You’re (relatively) on your own; other than for your friends, other teams & event staff. You’d better “have it together” because whatever you break, you have to fix. Whatever bleeds, you have to stop from bleeding. If you have to leave it up there, it might not be there when you get back – so you & your vehicle had better get back home in one piece.
As an attendee since its inception, of course I’m biased and a huge fan. That’s what inspired me to write this article after all. The overland community has a gem in it, in the form of an event. That event is Moose on the Loose, and if you’re a traveler/adventurer of any salt, you need to get your four (or six) tires up there.
I’d attended for the last three years. The first year, I was fairly well prepared – if not over-prepared, but I got a great schooling in what wasn’t touched and what I needed three of.
The dust up there is like an endless smoke screen. Friends of mine who attended the event, and were in the service overseas in desert areas remarked they had never seen dust of this sort. Air filters go to the North Maine Woods to die. Pre-filters are something that I underestimated and now go prepared with. Having spare filters, as well. Even cabin air filters, if your vehicle has them, are good to bring spares of. If it’s dry, and you’re travelling in a group of one or more vehicles, you quickly learn what a snorkel is really for; to raise your intake higher off the ground. So needless to say, a snorkel *and* a pre-filter is a really, really good idea.
You’ll be on washboard roads all day, and this can be broken up by taking optional challenge trails. The options are nice, because if you’re mildly built you can enjoy the event but if you feel like you want to dig in, there’s plenty of room for that. Therefore, you have to self-guide yourself to an extent. This is by no means a guided event.
To dwell on the washboard roads a little; IFS (independent front suspension) vehicles are going to sail through no problem. Solid axle folks, you may possibly have a rough ride. It affects everyone differently. For me, my elbows and wrists seem to fatigue quickly on those roads. Sometimes you’re gripping the wheel white knuckled and wide-eyed. Others complain their backs take a beating. Others complain of knees. Good seats matter! Get comfortable and buckle up. Stop, take breaks, walk around and stretch. It all helps.
These roads are beat on by the elements & logging trucks. Potholes can be a small bump or large enough to eat a 35” tire and all the suspension components connected to it. Therefore, radio communication has to be tight and the driver should have a co-driver/navigator. The vehicles behind you can’t see you, or the road, very well in the dust. The wide roads often suddenly present a one-lane bridge. Being able to warn them of a pothole or bridge becomes the leader’s full time job. Teamwork & communication is a must here. One wrong move, and it’s a hard wreck or worse; missing a one-lane bridge at 40mph in the dust cloud can be fatal. Steams, ravines and washouts can be anywhere from ankle deep to hundreds of feet deep. Don’t miss a bridge! This isn’t a place you want to have a yard sale.
Logging trucks have right-of-way. They’re the big boys out there. They can get moving fast. Stopping a fully loaded tandem logging tractor-trailer on dusty, dirt washboard roads doesn’t happen on a dime. You have to stay alert and be conscious of where you are on the road. The logs on these trucks are often piled so high that they lose a few logs off the top on corners. You’ll often see piles of logs on the corners; yes, that’s how they got there. Needless to say, that’s not where you want to pull your little 4×4 over.
Whatta ya bringin?
In regards to camping gear, we have tried hammocks in the past and they worked out so-so. The areas we camped in were either too open, or the trees surrounding them were a bit thin for a hammock. Most of the time, we ended up tying the hammocks from vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-tree.
Last year, we tried the ARB Awning Room, which worked out well in terms of comfort but increased our setup/breakdown time. Setup/breakdown times are important, because it seems in the morning everyone is breaking down and leaving for the next waypoint at the same time. We’ve had the best experiences being the first ones out, or the last ones out. Going with the crowd creates some traffic, which is not only bad for us but any locals that see the spectacle must scratch their heads at the chaos.
My wife/co-driver/navigator will pack out enough food for two people for a week, which generally leaves some extra for a friend in need or the inevitable burnt dinner. Hey, it happens!
We carry 5-9 gallons of water (depending on if there’s a shower) and 5 gallons of gasoline in jerrycans. You can find gasoline in some of the remote towns, but it won’t be cheap. Water is just as easy to find, and at worst you can buy some gallons of spring water at the gas station and dump them into your jerrycan. We also carry some backup water, but generally we avoid bottled water because we pack out all our trash.
Generally, our meals are pre-prepared at home. We make a generous batch of breakfast burritos, wrap them in foil and freeze them. They thaw quickly over the coals from last night’s fire or on the defroster – we’ve done it both ways. If your engine block is so inclined, you could warm one up there, too! This idea was picked up on from a friend and I’m happy to pass it along. It made packing up in the morning much easier.
We also freeze cooked meats for dinner meals in portions. Whenever possible, if we pass by a local store up there, we’ll grab something fresh. This has the added bonus of adding a few bucks into the local economy. We’re still tourists after all, and we appreciate the local culture & economy of the places we visit. Spending a few bucks in a local store is a great way to represent our sport & community, believe it or not. The locals love to look at the vehicles, ask questions, talk. Cash is king; it will get you further than plastic, especially if you’re stranded and need a hand from one of the locals.
Our ARB 50qt fridge has been a faithful friend. Those long days on those roads can be fatiguing, and having some comfort food at the end of the day is not only relaxing for the mind, but gentle on the body. Dehydrated & canned foods are carried as a backup, though we’ve never had to use them.
In 2016, our third year running this event, we finally decided to lug along a solar shower and the water to go along with it. That dust gets into everything, and it was nice to clean up after a couple days of it. You can be comfortable, or you can be lightweight – but you can’t have both! Carrying the extra weight was something I mulled over for a while, but it was good to try it out, see how it went.
Pack in/pack out; a Trasharoo is an important part of our setup. One trip like this and you immediately want one. If you have one, you’ll use it. If you drink beer, you’ll fill it quickly!
An Interview with a Founding Member
Chris Woodcock, a founder and event organizer, was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the event, the group and stuff in general. Some of this will follow an interview form, with some interjections and smart-ass comments. Because, you know, Northeasters are raised on smart-ass comments… and Maine is no exception to that rule.
Rich LaRusso: What type of event is Moose on the Loose?
Chris Woodcock: This event is considered a Navigational Land Challenge, with additional features that we try to incorporate every year to create more challenge and variety.
RL: What was the initial vision of this event?
CW: We have always stayed tried and true to the original goal of this event which is to place people and their rigs in a vast area that has no cell service, no gas stations and certainly no parts stores. This combined with the mandate that people use (paper) maps, compasses and every bit of navigational expertise that they have at their disposal to make it to each days campsite, creates a challenge unlike any other.
RL: How has the event changed since its inception?
CW: MOTL’s core values have stayed the same since its inception and we know that as long as there are participants, there will always be a MOTL. We have listened to current and past participants and worked on creating an event that tries to encompass many of the “wants” that are suggested by these individuals, to create a one of a kind event. This is a massive challenge in and of itself, but we believe that with these additions we can continue to produce a quality event that caters to many individuals tastes, all while staying true to the initial concepts of MOTL.
RL: How many miles/km does the event cover?
CW: Years range from 275 to 400 miles every year. And that’s only from the pre determined “route” that is given to all the participants.
RL: How much of that is off road?
CW: Generally 70% or more. This varies from year to year, but never lower than 70%.
RL: What types/brands of vehicles do you see, and/or how has that changed since the beginning?
CW: At MOTL, we see everything from mild to wild and every kind of vehicle in between. All of our rides have required and recommended equipment, which dictates a lot of the types of driver’s and vehicles that we have showing up for the certain events. Currently, the majority of vehicles for MOTL are Toyota’s and Jeep’s, but a few Land Rovers and domestics are speckled in among the crowd. MOTL is currently our most challenging event we put on and the participants are riddled with the constant reminder that the event can take place upwards of 200 miles from the closest parts store or gas station. This, combined with the navigational challenge, means we are seeing a slightly larger wheel base vehicle such as 4DR Jk’s, 4DR Tacomas, FJ Cruisers, etc. The slightly larger vehicles allow for greater comfort and less space constraints when trying to appease the balance between weight, space and capability. Thus far, we have seen no significant change in the vehicle’s themselves, but rather changes to the items brought along which made the use of time setting up camp or fixing items in need of repair more efficient.
RL: What’s in store for the future of MOTL?
CW: We are seeking to expand Northeast Overland into a larger entity. This expansion will allow for greater challenges in our events, longer distances, and increased connections in the industry, which will greatly benefit our participants. Due to the overwhelming popularity of MOTL, we have decided that we will have two MOTL events planned for 2017. Additionally, we believe that expanding our ride range into the rest of New England will allow participants to experience the best of what each state in New England has to offer for Overlanding.
RL: Where can someone find out more information about MOTL and/or Northeast Overland?
CW: Moose on the Loose and any information on additional rides we put on throughout the year can be seen at NortheastOverland.org and our forum NortheastOverland.forumotion.com
That’s the end of the interview section. Thank you for taking a few minutes to answer questions, Chris!
I’d like to throw a shout-out to the past & present Northeast Overland staff, in no particular order:
- Chris Woodcock
- Jareb Dyer
- Niall Johnson
- Jason “Muffin Man” Hunt
- Mike Brown
- Adam Welch
- Greg Auger
- Steve Booth
- Scott Ackley
Thank you all for your hard work & dedication. You guys are great and doing a great thing!
For our readers, get it together and get up there! You’re missing out!
Follow Northeast Overland on Instagram @NortheastOverland and like us on Facebook at Northeast Overland to have the most up to date information on upcoming rides and events!
Jareb and Chris can be directly contacted for questions or comments via our email: NortheastOverland@gmail.com
To sign up for the event, become a member of the Northeast Overland forum and look for this thread:
Richard LaRusso is an FJ Cruiser aficionado, certified I4WDTA trainer, Tread Lightly Tread Trainer and is known to make a heck of a cup of coffee. He spends his spare time exploring the beautiful United States of America and helping with the Toyota Trucks and Trails podcast.