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rough-skinned-newt

In honor of Halloween, here’s a spooky but true tale. In the 1950s three Oregon hunters went missing. They were discovered, weeks later, dead, around their campfire. There were no signs of foul play. Nothing had been taken from the camp nor did any of the hunters bear signs of injury. The only odd thing investigators found was rough-skinned newt, also dead, at the bottom of their coffee pot.

The case remained unsolved for about 10 years until a biologist named Butch Brodie discovered that the newt’s skin produces a toxin called TTX, a toxin 10,000 times deadlier than cyanide.

Apparently though these rough skinned newts don’t just go killing everything they touch. They only produce toxin when they feel highly stressed or threatened, like being scooped up from a stream in a coffee pot and boiled alive. In those kinds of situations, they arch there heads back as a warning and then let the toxins flow…

To read more about this, and to learn how these newts got so toxic in the first place, check out the links below.

Links:
Discover: A Beautiful Web of Poison Extends A New Strand : The Loom

Mental Floss: Silence of the Newts

Here’s a five part video from YouTube user Mark Doiron about their 2011 trip through Moab, Utah, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Part 1 (Ridgeway, CO to Murphy on White Rim Trail in Canyonlands NP)
Part 2 (Murphy to Caineville, UT)
Part 3 (Caineville, UT to Batty Caves in Grand Staircase-Escalante)
Part 4 (Batty Caves to Lake Powell)
Part 5 (Lake Powell to Grand Canyon north rim)

See the rest of the post for the all the videos.

Read the rest of this entry »

via WCXCPhoto: Joshua Ashcroft

This summer our friend Josh from Portland headed out on the Barlow Road, just south of Mt. Hood with friends for a bit of overlanding. The Barlow Road served as the last portion of the Oregon Trail.

They managed plenty of river crossings and found an amazing looking campsite on an island mid-stream. Josh’s friend Michael posted about their trip on Medium.com. See the link below.

View the rest of the post for a ton of photos.

Links:
Wikipedia: Barlow Road

Medium.com: Barlow Roading
Read the rest of this entry »

Oregon Dunes, WCXC
Greg out on the dunes. All photos: Nik Schulz

WCXC is back, albeit on a very limited basis while I make a living and write a book about spending a few months living on a mile-wide British island. (More on that later.) Still, adventures are being had and it’s time to get some photos up.

A few days ago, Greg, his wife, Abbey, and I, went to the Oregon Dunes in southwestern Oregon. See the photos after the jump. It was nice camping there, if a bit noisy.

Link:
Oregon Dunes

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Hollister Hills • WCXC
Photo: Nik Schulz

In early April WCXC got together for a day at Hollister Hills OHV near Gilroy, California, for a couple of days of camping and trail skills practice. It had been raining so the trails were pretty muddy. Still, we had a good time driving the obstacle courses and playing in the mud.

Given all of the rain, and that this was our first outing as a group, we decided not to head down any of the intermediate difficulty trails. After we had our fill of the two obstacle courses, and were on our way back to camp, a ranger asked us if we wouldn’t mind helping a guy out that had not been so cautious and had gotten stuck on one of the intermediate trails. We said we’d go have a look and see what we could do.

What we found was a full-size, crew-cab 4×4 pick-up on 80 psi street tires, that had slid completely off the trail, down a slope that led down to a small ravine. It had sunk into the mud up to its door sills. Mas had a winch on his truck and we offered our help. About two hours, 3 or 4 winch pulls, and a rain and hail storm later, we had the truck back on the road. As the rain picked up I got concerned that he—and we—would be able to get back out (as his truck blocked our exit). He got his truck turned around though, and we all made it out. Sheesh. It was a little more than we bargained for.

Still it was a great trip. Here are some photos from that day. Read the rest of this entry »

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A big thank you to Greg, Mas, Bryan, Ismael, Jesus, and David & Sadie, Lola, and Bee, who all came out to Hollister Hills for WCXC’s first trail day. It was great to see everyone enjoy the food, camping, and a day on the trails.

We had fun despite the rain checking out the various obstacle courses and working on our driving skills. Then, as we headed back to camp, the day took as serious turn when we learned that a man and his small boy had slid off the mud-slick trail and had gotten their full-size pick up seriously stuck. A full report soon.
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California-Nevada Border • WCXC
Photo: Nik Schulz

What’s your favorite overlanding moment? I’d love to hear about them. If you send in a brief description and some photos (1400 pixels wide), I’ll publish the best ones here on the blog.

OK, I’ll start. My favorite overlanding moment was on our Twain trip. Natalie, Greg, and I were in the Sierras, close to the California-Nevada border, about 15 miles north of Bridgeport. Maybe half an hour earlier we had been lost in open country. The map for the obscure road we were on (Forest Road 067) had an error, and we weren’t able to find our way through the mountains. Every trail we tried faded into nothing. Then someone on an ATV pointed us in the direction of a steep, rock-strewn hill, saying something like, “That’s where you need to go, if you can make it up that hill.”

It was 067, the road leading to Bridgeport, our next supply stop. It was pretty loose and fairly steep but not only did we make it to the top and now know where we were, we were rewarded with stunning views to boot. Here are some more photos.

What’s your favorite moment? Send ’em in to westcountyxclub. I’m on gmail.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Link:
Overlanding in the Land of Twain, Part 3 Read the rest of this entry »

OVexpo

Overland Expo West is in about seven weeks. It will be held this year from May 16–18 in Flagstaff, Arizona. You may know that Overland Expo is the big event on Overlanding calendar. Classes, exhibitors, and about 6000 people, are expected to converge on Mormon Lake Lodge this year.

Registration is $270 per person (including one vehicle) for the Overland Experience package. A day pass is $15 per day plus $10 to camp. The difference, for the most part, is the classes. With the Overland Experience package, you can register for classes. With the day pass, you can’t. Exhibitor and vendor booths are open to all.

For those of you on the East Coast, Overland Expo is branching out to Ashland, North Carolina, on October 3–5 of this year. Registration will open in April.

Links:
Overland Expo Details

Overland Expo Registration

Rookies on the Rubicon• WCXC
Photos: Caleb Knight and Jeremy Knight. Story editing: Nik Schulz

This is an multi-part post written by Jeremy Knight about his 2013 adventure on the Rubicon as a first-timer.

Rookies on the Rubicon, Part 7

Cadillac Hill

The sound of rain shook me awake. It was just after 1am and I was immediately hit with panic. Cadillac Hill in the wet! A feeling of dread hit me in the pit of my stomach. For two-and-a-half days I had been beating this gnawing fear into submission and now rain was falling on the polished-rocks of Cadillac Hill. All of my vehicular, and driving-skill, inadequacies popped back into my mind.

We had stayed up rather late, enjoying Erik’s birthday and explaining things like “Juice” and “Barter Town” to young Caleb, who didn’t understand the Mad Max movie plots at all—he thinks that post-Apocalyptic means zombies. So when we retired for the night, we left the camp in a bit of disarray. I knew that my camera was out, and maybe some other things, so I scrambled down the ladder from the roof-top tent to grab things that I shouldn’t have left out in the rain. Read the rest of this entry »

Rookies on the Rubicon• WCXC
Photos: Caleb Knight and Jeremy Knight. Story editing: Nik Schulz

This is an multi-part post written by Jeremy Knight about his 2013 adventure on the Rubicon as a first-timer.

Rookies on the Rubicon, Part 6

The Big Sluice

The run through the Big sluice was going to be our “short and easy” day. It was Erik’s birthday and he was spending it on the trail. Pretty cool. I cooked a birthday breakfast frittata, overland-style: baby potatoes, sweet onions, bacon, eggs, and cheese in a Snow Peak cast iron pan, on my Partner Steel folding stove. I was so happy that we were finally getting this done. What a privilege, what an experience!

So we got off to a lazy start, not really expecting much trail resistance, though I’m not clear why. I think we figured we had seen the worst of it until Cadillac Hill, which we’d hit the following day.

Most of the research I had done about the route, talks about Cadillac as being pretty stressful, but really doesn’t show many pictures or video. The blog “Last Great Road Trip,” sort of apologizes for not having many pictures. “With no room to negotiate, other rigs on my heals, and the thought of tumbling down the hill buried deep within my subconscious, pictures are a bit scarce of Cadillac Hill.”

I knew that the “Hill” is polished slick rock in some critical places, deep and narrow in others. I’d also heard two pieces of relevant wisdom: “Better stay left,”  and “Don’t do it when it’s wet.”

Today we weren’t expecting much, just an easy day to relax at Rubicon Springs, go for a swim, grill some birthday steaks, watch a movie, and enjoy the last night of our adventure. Low pressure, no stress.

I felt extremely blessed. We had been challenged beyond what we had expected but hadn’t gotten stuck or broken anything. Sure, my skids and sliders had paid the price, but that’s what they’re there for: peace-of-mind. Erik’s Jeep had performed well beyond his expectations. He had done a great job preparing it. I was very impressed. He was driving well beyond his experience, and didn’t realize that he had the ability. He would understand better by the end of the next day. My brother is a natural. Read the rest of this entry »