by Chris CordesPhotography by Chris Collard, Chris Cordes, Christophe Noel, Sarah Ramm, Scott Brady

Well, it has certainly been one crazy year. Twelve months ago we were still scrambling to plan our adventures for 2016, and now in what seems like an instant they’ve come and gone. We took on South American jungles, cruised African back roads, made multiple trips to the Arctic, and somehow managed to find time for weekend trips in between. It was a year packed with new vehicles, fun reviews, and most importantly new friends. So now as we move forward and begin to plan again, we’re taking a look back to appreciate where we’ve been. We hope you enjoyed the past months as much as we have, and we’d like to wish you a very happy new year, and an adventure filled 2017!

 

– The Overland International Team

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Peru

Most people to visit Peru get fixated on the country’s star attraction, Machu Picchu. The mountain lover than I am, I had my sights set on another amazing destination, the Cordillera Blanca. The second highest mountain range in the world, their ivory peaks are massive in scale and uniquely beautiful. The region is also festooned with cultural sites thousands of years old, predating the Incas and their colorful epoch. – Christophe Noel

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Living Legend Tom Collins

January found Overland Journal Editor-in-Chief Chris Collard spending time in Colorado for an interview with Living Legend Tom Collins (Spring 2016 issue). Tom represented the Untied States for the 1987 Camel Trophy in Madagascar and was the U.S. team trainer for 10 years. You can find this 10-page feature in the spring 2016 issue of the Journal.

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Winter Fun

The Winter Fun Festival, which takes place each January near Grass Valley, California, is an annual event for Chris Collard. Trail rides range from historic treks through the Gold Country to headlight-deep snow at the Sierra Nevada. If you are there in Friday night you might find Chris serving dinner with his 4WD club, the Sierra Treasure Hunters. This year’s event is January 13-15.

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Pacific Crest Overland Route

In October Chris Cordes set out to drive from the Arctic Circle to the Mexican border on as much dirt as possible. The final route took him past ghost towns, National Parks, historic landmarks, and some of the most beautiful terrain the western United States has to offer. The full story will be published in an upcoming issue of Overland Journal, along with a track in Hema’s Explorer Application.

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Return to Camel Trophy

Having been an ardent follower of the Camel Trophy since the 1980s, Chris Collard headed to San Francisco, California, for the Return to Camel Trophy event presented by Triple Aught Designs and the Land Rover Club of Northern California. Highlights of the evening included original Trophy vehicles, loads of memorabilia, and a special presentation by Duncan Lee, event manager from 1982 through 1993. Also on hand were U.S. team member Dave Simpson (1994 Argentina-Paraguay-Chile) and Trophy consultant Jim Slade.

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Hanging Out

In the spring Chris Collard, a previous BOD member for the Outdoor Writer’s Association, was in Auburn, California, for their annual conference where he dangled on a thread to photograph students of a local rock climbing school.

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Easter Jeep Safari and Lion’s Back

The Easter Jeep Safari has been an annual event for Chris Collard since 1995. This year, in addition to providing commercial photography for Jeep and Mopar’s 2016 crop of concept vehicles, he worked with their film crew to document the first ascent of Lion’s Back in more than a decade. The fleet included a 75th Anniversary Edition Grand Cherokee and 2-door Wrangler, and a limited edition 4-door Red Rock Wrangler. They were driven by Jeep’s vehicle development manager Jim Repp, chief designer Mark Allen, and Wrangler brand manager Tyler Ruby. Check out the two video links below.

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National Parks

This year marked the 100 year anniversary of our National Parks and to commemorate the occasion I set out to visit as many of them as I could. The biggest push was in June when I traveled to most of the major parks along the western edge of the Rocky Mountains. From the first inducted into the Park inventory, Yellowstone, to the ancient ruins of Mesa Verde, we saw nearly all of them. Most importantly, we did more than just view them through a windshield. The most spectacular parts of these wild places are best seen far from roads and away from the throngs of tourists. – Christophe Noel

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Ram Power Wagon Drive

Rather than taking the paved road to Flagstaff, Arizona, for Overland Expo, Chris Collard joined the crew from Ram Truck for a more interesting drive through the Crown King area. The fleet included the latest iteration of the Power Wagon and Hemi-powered Ram Rebel.

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NORRA Mexican 1000

A few years ago Chris Collard helped legendary desert racer Rod Hall and his team at Samco restore Rod’s championship 1969 Ford Bronco. In April Chris suited up and climbed in the passenger seat to navigate for Rod during his 50th 1,000-mile race down the Baja peninsula. After 4 days and nearly 1,300 miles they landed a 2nd place podium finish. The team extends big kudos to BFGoodrich, Fox Racing, KC HiLiTES, and the other vital sponsors that helped make it happen. Check out the restoration video here.

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Baja Adventure

After the NORRA race Collard spent a week with his chase team exploring the Baja peninsula while making their way back to the border. Nothing like camping on sandy beaches, dining on fish tacos, and plenty of cold cerveza to help you chill after a long week of racing.

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New Mexico Back Roads Gila Legends Expedition

When the opportunity to test a new Duramax Colorado presented itself, Chris Cordes knew just where to take it. He skipped the test tracks and threw the truck into a week of dirt roads and rocky trails with NMBR. The truck was surprisingly capable, and he wound up having a blast cruising through some of New Mexico’s most beautiful back country.

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BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM3

In April, Chris Collard was in Utah with six other industry experts who were invited to evaluate prototype versions of BFGoodrich’s new Mud-Terrain KM3 on dry traction surfaces. They spent two days testing the KM3 at the Utah Motorsports Campus as well as on various trails near Salt Lake City.

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General Tire X3 Launch

As tire technology reaches new levels, manufacturers have gone back to the drawing table to produce tires that are not only great off-pavement, but also run quieter, are tougher, and provide greater longevity. Chris Collard headed to South Carolina for a 2-day evaluation of General Tire’s new X3, a crossover between an all-terrain and a dedicated mud-terrain.

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Northwest Overland Rally

The Northwest Overland Rally, held near Plain, Washington, in the Cascade Mountains, is the region’s premier overland event. Chris Collard was on hand to join in on the trail rides, workshops, and driving competitions. This year’s event will be held June 15-18.

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AEV in the Arctic

Scott Brady along with the crew from American Expedition Vehicles set out for the Arctic early this year. Their convoy was comrpised of AEV Jeep JKs and their new Prospector RAM trucks. What a combo!

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Sierra Trek

Chris Collard attended his first Sierra Trek back in 1984. Since that time he has volunteered to work on just about every committee, and for a decade he was the event’s Trail Coordinator. He still guides the Thursday run on the Fordyce Creek Trail with his club, the Sierra Treasure Hunters. He’ll be back this year for Sierra Trek’s 50th annual event (August 10-13 near Truckee, California).

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On Rubicon with Webasto

After the Sierra Trek Collard headed to the Rubicon for a photo shoot with Webasto, a long-time provider of refrigeration and heating products for marine and overland applications.

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Ecuador 

Sometimes Scott Brady just needs to take a detour to Ecuador

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Continental Divide

There are few trails as diverse or beautiful as the Continental Divide, and in July Chris Cordes had the opportunity to complete the portion which runs from New Mexico to Northern Colorado along the spine of the Rocky Mountains. It was a whirlwind trip driving sun sup to sun down every day, but the experience of seeing this region from the back roads was definitely worth it.

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Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Edition on the Rubicon

Jeep has a long-standing policy that all seven-slot grille vehicles are “trail rated” on the Rubicon. Chris Collard was on hand with Pearse Umlauf of Jeep Jamboree USA to witness the Trailhawk in action on one of the most difficult trails in the country. Don’t believe us? Check out the videos!

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Uganda 

Scott Brady is known to have a love of adventure, and of G-Wagens, so it came as no surprise when he took off fro Africa to drive a tan Entdecker.

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Australia

ARB, renowned for quality Outback-tested gear, celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2016. To mark the occasion they prepped four vintage vehicles and invited a select group of journalists join them on an epic (and soggy) trek across Australia’s Simpson Desert. Chris Collard was on-hand for the adventure. Look for this article in the 2016 Spring Issue of Overland Journal. ARB has released about a dozen videos on the trip, which you find on their YouTube channel here. 

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Red Rock Odyssey

October found Chris Collard traversing 800 miles Arizona and Utah’s most breathtaking backcountry during General Tire’s Red Rock Odyssey (Lost River Expedition #3). You can find a full write-up on the trip in the 2016 Winter Issue of the Journal.

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Annual Traveler’s Gathering

The 2nd annual Traveler’s Gathering was an impromptu night of sharing fine tequila and tales of adventure with world travelers that happen to be in Northern California last fall. Collard hosts the affair and this year’s crew included Gary and Monika Wescott (The Turtle Expedition), vagabonds Ned and Kat Bacon, and world citizens Pablo and Anna Rey.

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Gear Tests and Reviews

Chris Collard continued Overland Journal’s tradition of performing the most in-depth no-gloves gear tests in the industry. The first was technical review of the best headlamps on the market (Spring 2016). Next, he sourced recovery gear kits from the top manufacturers. After several days of field-testing in northern Nevada he flew to a certified rigging lab in Florida and proceeded to stretch straps, tree savers, and synthetic winch lines to the point of failure on a 50-foot test bed. You can find this test in the 2017 Gear Guide.

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Storage Options

Collard also reviewed the best storage case options for overlanders. Products lines included those from Front Runner, Alu-Box, Zarges, Pelican, and Rubbermaid.

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Hump N Bump

After walking miles of isles at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada, Chris Collard headed out to the Valley of Fire OHV for the 35th annual Hump-N-Bump trail ride, presented by the Vegas Valley 4 Wheelers.

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Baja 1000 with Rod Hall Racing

Collard can’t seem to get enough of Baja and racing. In November he was south of the border again working with a film crew on a documentary on the life of the winningest American off-road racer of all time, Rod Hall.

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Christmas Toy Run

To assist in brining Christmas cheer to underprivileged children in Northern California, Chris Collard led a group of Expedition Portal members on a “snow” run up to Georgetown and Uncle Tom’s Cabin for the 3rd annual El Dorado Jeepherder’s toy run. It was raining cats and dogs at Uncle Tom’s (5,000 feet elevation) so they headed for the high country. They found snow…and more rain, which caused major snowmelt and flooding. Everyone got soaked, but at least they delivered a Jeep load of toys for the kids.

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Death Valley

In addition to the several thousand mile trip from Prudhoe Bay to the Algodones, Chris Cordes met up with the Hema team to map out Death Valley early in the year. Although they only spent a few days there, the experience left a lasting impression on all who attended.

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Grand Canyon

There are an untold number of places in the world where wheels simply cannot go. I have always had a love of these pristine destinations and the one dearest to me is the Grand Canyon. To launch a new series of editorials we’ll be featuring in the coming year, I spent three solo days in the Big Ditch. You can read about that and other adventures that take place––Beyond the Truck.  – Christophe Noel

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Alaska

I was fortunately to once call our 49th state home. That was more than a decade ago and this fall I finally had an opportunity to return. It was a chance to visit old stomping grounds, rehash cherished memories of adventures, struggles, and moments spent in a northern paradise. We are extremely fortunate to have these unspoiled places left to explore. If you have a chance to do so yourself, don’t squander the opportunity. Take your time and drink it in. – Christophe Noel

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Weekend Adventures

Not every adventure is to far off foreign lands. We’ve packed in plenty of trips right here in the good ol’ US of A, and we’d be lying if we said they weren’t among our favorites. Here’s a brief peek into the last year of North American getaways.

Photos by Sarah Ramm

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Photos by Chris Cordes

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Photos by Scott Brady

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A Look Back at 2016

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About the Author: Chris Cordes

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, for college in 2009. While working on his business degree in the Embry-Riddle undergraduate program, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. He fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, which led him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. Chris was immediately hooked by the concept of overlanding, which combines the excitement and adventure of flying with his affection for cars and trucks. After receiving his degree, Chris did a summer internship with Overland International before accepting a full-time position on our team.