Joshua Tree to Big Bear with Overlanding USA….

We were lucky enough to receive an invite from Overlanding USA for their next trip to film episode 4. At first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it because the rig was still with Mercenary Offroad having the custom front bumper made but as luck would have it he finished the bumper a couple of days before we needed to leave. With only days to prep for the trip we went into full prep mode going through all our gear to make sure we had everything. On this trip my lovely wife would be joining us for her first overland trip without any kids! Anyone with young kids will know how awesome and rare this is haha. I was excited to show her the overland lifestyle.

Our original plan was to leave on Friday evening after work and meet up with the Overlanding USA crew just outside of Joshua Tree but with the concert at Coachella that same day we decided to just leave early sat morning and avoid the possible 5hour drive in traffic. With the truck packed and ready to go we enjoyed another night of sleep in our own bed and set the alarm for 0500.

0500 came very quickly and we headed out to the rig to wait for Danny from Xterra performance who would be caravanning with us. The best part about waking up so early is watching the sun rise as it crests over the hill.

 We made excellent time and before we knew it we were at the coordinates for Friday night’s camp site. 

After some brief introductions, we headed out to Joshua Tree to find our first adventure. This was our first time visiting Joshua Tree but it will definitely not be our last. Austin (our lead navigator for this trip) decided to forgo his original choice to hike up Ryan Mountain because of the difficulty rating with kids and decided to take us to Baker Dam instead. The hike through baker dam is very easy and will lead you to the first POI which is the actual dam. It’s been many years since the dam actually held water but it was originally built by cowboys to water their cattle in the early 1900s. Continuing on this loop trail will lead to a small cavern with some pictographs right before the split back to the parking lot.

After some much needed lunch we packed up our rigs and headed out of Joshua Tree in route to the trail we would be taking up to Big Bear. Once at the trailhead everyone aired down and did a last minute once over on their rigs before heading up the mountain.big-bear-trail For the most part I would rate this trail a beginner trail that anyone in a stock 4wd can do. There are a couple of sections that could get tight in some fullsize rigs but overall not difficult. This trail took us from around Joshua Tree to Big Bear in about 20 miles. Once on pavement we made one final bathroom stop before heading up to the second trail that would lead us to the super secret camping spot.

We arrived to the secret camping spot code named “The Chimney” with just enough light left in the day to set up camp. The sunset was amazing and made for a perfect end to our day. sunsetWith the sun almost completely down everyone got into warmer clothes and started dinner. After some light conversations around our lantern camp fire(camp fires still restricted in SoCal) we headed off to bed.  Now we were expecting mid to low 30’s but it ended up getting in the teens sometime in the night.  I had prepared for this by bringing my portable heater but since my truck was not sitting perfectly level the heater would not allow me to light it because of the anti tip safety feature built into it.  I don’t mind the cold too much but my wife hates the cold.  It was by far the coldest night she has ever had. 


We were both very excited when we started to see the sun hit the tent warming up the air enough so that we couldn’t see our breath anymore.  We laid there for about an hour warming up and trying to get the courage to get ourselves up and get dressed.  By 0700 I was up and making some coffee to warm myself up.  From everyone’s expression I could tell that we weren’t the only ones that were cold all night.  After breakfast, everyone started to pack up and get ready for the final trail that would take us back to the road.  This smaller trail was more challenging than the previous day’s trail even though it was smaller. we had some steep loose hills to climb and one very rocky decent that required a spotter.  With the help of my buddy Danny I was able to get the Overland F150 down with ease with only one scrape on my passenger side lower arm.  After everyone was down safely we continued down the rest of the trail which was mostly a dirt road.  20 min later and we were back on pavement airing up our tires and conversing about the great trip we had just had. airing-down Everyone else was heading back into town to hangout for lunch but my wife and I had to get home to our kids.  We said our goodbyes, shook hands and took some final pictures before we departed from the rest of the group.  The whole way down the mountain we just kept reliving the awesome views and places we had visited and wondered when we would be able to go again.  In the end we traveled (blank) miles and created lasting memories that my wife and I will always remember.


Big thanks to the Overlanding USA crew for the invite and for helping make my wife’s first Overland experience a good one. Until next time…….



Monache Meadows Trip Report

My Friday morning started out how most of my trips start – a little nervous and excited at the same time.  It doesn’t matter if it’s somewhere new or somewhere I have visited many times.  After going through my gear for the 100th time I started to throw everything into the truck.  Always wondering if I’m forgetting something.   I tend to over pack but have been getting a lot better at slimming things down.  It doesn’t help that the Overland F150 can handle pretty much anything I put in the bed so weight is never really an issue.

On this particular trip my oldest daughter, Jasmine chose to come with me.  I’m not sure if she really wanted to spend a weekend with her super cool dad or she just wanted a day off of school haha.  At about 0700 I had all the gear loaded in the truck so I went into the house to go wake her up.  To my surprise she was already up and ready to go.  starbucks imageAt around 0900 we headed up to one of our local Starbucks to energize our morning but to also meet up with my buddy Kevin (red Jeep) who would be caravanning with us up to Monache Meadows.  Once everyone had their drinks in hand we sync’d up our CB radios and headed out.

Fortunately for us there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic and we started making pretty good time.  Red Rock canyonThe Monache Meadows trial head is approx. 3.5-4 hours away from us here in Ventura County.  One of the things I love the most about going on trips is the drive to our destination.  The drive to Monache is a beautiful one.  One of my favorites is passing through Red Rock which you can camp at if you so desire.

2 hours into the drive you will reach one of the last gas stations located in Pearsonville just before heading up.  You will want to fill up and grab any snacks. shell station Fair warning: during the summer days it gets very hot.  When we stopped it was a blistering 115 degrees.  We stopped to wait for Kevin’s friend Jake and his son that would be joining us to Monache Meadows.  It is always fun to see the type of overland vehicles you find at a gas station in the middle of nowhere… We saw a few with RTT and one jeep with an Ursa Minor top that was heading to the bishop/ mammoth area.  After Jake arrived we fueled up and headed up the mountain.

The road headed up to Monache Meadows from Hwy 395 is very steep for a good 35 minutes.  After the initial steep ascend it flattens out to some beautiful valleys with cabins and trees….wp-1473347312848.jpgFrom the looks of the clouds and the wet road it had probably just rained which allowed us to drop down our windows and enjoy the cool 75 degree air.  By the time we reached the Black Bear Ranger station it was a nice 65 degrees… We always stop by the ranger station before we head inland to not only get our Fire pass (which you need for propane stoves) but to also introduce ourselves and let them know where we are headed.  wp-1473347339722.jpgWith no cell reception it is always good for the local rangers to know who is where in case of an emergency.

After about another 25 min drive up the mountain you will reach the turnoff that leads you to the Monache Meadows entrance.  The trail is fairly easy with only a few sections actually requiring 4wd.  We were lucky to get there right after the rain storm that rolled through which kept the dust down and allowed us to have our windows open.  Now if you own a fullsize rig like myself the trails can get pretty tight not to mention some of the low hanging branches from the trees.  wp-1473347258868.jpgluckily I did not add any new stripping on the side of my rig but did end up rubbing some branches with my RTT.  After the initial “offroad” section going down you will reach a small bridge that will take you to some open valleys.  Slow down and enjoy the views…wp-1473347234289.jpg

The trail will take about 1.5 hours before you reach the Monache Meadows camp grounds.  Once you reach the camp grounds continue down and go across the Kern River.  We were lucky enough to get the campsite all the way at the end, a mere 15ft away from the Kern river.  After all 3 vehicles were situated in their parking spots for the weekend we started to set up camp.  With the help of my daughter I was able to set up our CVT MT Rainer Summit Series tent in a flash. wp-1473347279658.jpg This was going to be her first time in the new tent.  Nothing left to do but to grab a beer and relax but before I did I made sure to send my wife a text letting her know we were ok with our new Delorme In Reach (review on this to follow).  The rest of the evening was uneventful so after some dinner and some chatting around our lantern campfire we headed up to bed.

Not sure what it is about camping but it I generally never sleep in.  I was up at 0600 just in time to see the sun starting to peek through the horizon.  As I laced up my boots the cool crisp air reminded me to grab my flannel.  After I made my coffee I strolled around down to the river with my chair and just sat and listened to the running water, birds chirping and the wind through the trees. wp-1473347289499.jpg It is very hard to put into words what this actually sounds and feels like but its breathtaking.  A short while later everyone started to get up and get breakfast ready.  Well everyone but my daughter that probably could have slept until noon.

With everyone’s belly’s full from breakfast we decided to go on a small hike down the river to see how many more campers there where.  To our surprise other than 2 more campers at the other end of the camp sites we had the place to ourselves.  We hung around our camp the rest of the morning all the way through lunch.  After Jasmines nap we went on a longer hike up the mountain to do some slight bouldering.  I’m not one for heights but the views were amazing.

Unlike Friday, the temperature was a nice 75 degrees with mostly sunny skies.  The few clouds we did have made for great pictures.  We were out for a good hour and half before we decided to go back to camp.

It was my turn to cook dinner so I busted out the Tembo Tusk Skottle to grill up some Carne Asada tacos. Skottle My kitchen setup has changed a lot throughout the many years we have been camping.  I have found the Skottle to be one of the best overall cooking/ storage setups around.  After everyone was fed the grown ups indulged in some adult beverages while hanging around our lantern fire.  Being that this was going to be our last night we stayed up longer than we normally do but in the end we prob were still in bed before midnight.

Our last morning…..

Its always sad to wake up on the last day.  I was up pretty early as usual going through my normal routine.  After everyone was up and fed we started packing up.  We broke camp in record time and was ready to head back to civilization by 0900.  The ride back to the main road was very dusty unlike the day we came in.   For the most part it was pretty easy with only a couple of spots that required 4wd because of some loose dirt/rock on a steep incline.  Once we arrived to the main entrance we parked all three vehicles for our traditional Picture.wp-1473347239466.jpg

In the end it was 3 days, 2 nights and a total of 560 miles round trip.  Fun times was had by all who attended.  For me…. Camping trips are always about making memories with my kids than the actual trip.  The highlight of the weekend for me was hiking with my oldest daughter Jasmine.  Spending alone time uninterrupted by electronics or the day to day grind will always live in my heart……Jasmine and I at Monache Meadows


Once again……Monache Meadows never disappoints.