Category: Trips

Take Your Dog on the Trail!

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

Thinking of taking Fido with you on the Jeep run or backcountry vacation? Many of us consider our dogs as our children and travel everywhere with them. However, there are some special considerations for Jeeping or overlanding with pets.

Aside from the usual concerns about plenty of nature stops, food, and water, having a safe and secure place to ride in the vehicle is of special concern on rough and steep terrain. Many people recognize that all human occupants in the vehicle should be wearing seatbelts, but consider what happens to Fido when you start down a steep descent or bounce over a rocky crossing. We have seen dogs get launched off the back seat and actually crack the front dash components on impact—extremely unpleasant for the dog, I am sure. And since many of us like to take our top and doors off, it adds an extra level of danger to your fur baby. Consider the dynamics, but also consider your dog’s behavior. I had a dog who would launch himself out of the Jeep if he saw a rabbit, whether we were moving at 5 or 50 mph. We learned to travel with the windows on with him. Pet experts recommend that if you don’t travel with your dog in a crate, large dogs should be restrained in a doggy seatbelt harness, while doggy car seats are ideal for small- to medium-sized dogs.

Continue reading “Take Your Dog on the Trail!”

Overlanding 101: Eating, Sleeping, Pooping

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

The term “overlanding” is quite the buzzword these days. I would say the difference between “overlanding” and “camping” is determined by your primary intention for setting up camp: Are you setting up a camp to just squat around a fire and drink beer in one place all weekend, or are you exploring cross-country and you need a place to sleep each night on your journey? Whether you are “camping” or “overlanding,” the bottom line is that there are three simple things that one must do in the great outdoors: eat, sleep, and poop. Here’s a quick look at how I do it when I’m overlanding or camping.

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Heads-Up: Tips For Better Trips

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

When venturing out on the trail, most of us take at least basic precautions to deal with some common trail mishaps. We carry tools, emergency supplies, and a first aid kit. But those things only work if you use the most important piece of equipment—your brain. The ability to pay attention, recognize problems as they develop, and calmly utilize available assets are the best tools you can have.

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Overland Expo West 2017

Friday, May 12 - Sunday, May 14

If you are planning to attend Overland Expo in Flagstaff next weekend, catch Nena at one of the following:

Friday, May 12:
11:00 - 11:50 am: Ram Trucks presentation at Ram Trucks display
7:30 PM Ladies Night at the Roundtable Pavilion, hosted by the ladies of Overland Expo.

Saturday, May 13:
11:00 - 11:50 am: How to Rebelle, presented by Nena Barlow and Emily Miller at the Roundtable Pavillion
Discussion on skills for the Rebelle Rally: navigation and driving, teamwork tips, keys to competing effectively, how to get over the helmet thing, and more.

Sunday, May 14:
1:00 - 2:50 pm: Rollover demo and recovery with the Nena Barlow and the Camel Trophy teams at the Recovery 2 area.
See Candy, the yellow 4Runner, do what she does!

Rubicon Trips FAQ

1. Do I need a lot of 4-wheeling experience to drive the Rubicon?
Even though the Rubicon Trail is one of the most difficult trails in the US - novices will do just fine. Our experienced and knowledgeable guides will show you everything you need to learn to successfully and safely drive the Rubicon Trail.

2. Is it really that difficult?
Yes. Very. Really.

3. How big is the group?
About four vehicles, including the guide Jeep. We keep our groups small to maximize guide time with each guest and minimize trail impact.

4. How far in advance do I need to make reservations?
Rubicon trips are custom designed and priced for the needs of your group. The further ahead reservations are made, the better the trip can be planned and the more likely you will be to get the dates you want. Our guides do a limited number of exclusive trips each year so don't wait too long to contact us.

5. Are there any dangerous wild animals out there?
Not really. Black bears can be a nuisance but are generally not dangerous to humans.

6. How is the weather?
Fantastic! Plenty of sunshine with daytime temperatures in the mid 70s to low 80s (24-29ºC), clear, starry nights in the 40s and 50s (7-13ºC).

7. Will it rain?
Unlikely, but not impossible. At 6,000' above sea level, brief summer thunderstorms can develop quickly. Best to be prepared with a light rain jacket or poncho.

8. What should I bring?
Not much other than clothes and a few personal items. See our What to Bring post for a general list.

9. Who can participate?
Drivers must be 25 or older with a valid driver's licence and proof of full coverage auto insurance. The Rubicon is a county road and all California state driving laws apply. No underage drivers please! Passengers may be of any age unless otherwise restricted by a specific trip.

10. Are there health restrictions?
Participants should be in good health. No one with heart conditions, previous seizures, or high blood pressure or other potentially life threatening illnesses, please! All events are held outdoors with lots of time both in and out of the Jeep. Some walking over broken, uneven terrain is required. This is the backcountry and medical help is far away.

11. What if we break down or get stuck?
You will get stuck! Learning to get un-stuck is one of the skills you'll aquire from our guides on the trail. Breakdowns are another matter. Even well-maintained vehicles sometimes breakdown and AAA does'nt come out this way. Some light repairs can be done at Rubicon Springs but in most cases we are on our own. We carry the tools and expertise to handle most problems but a serious mechanical issue can cut a trip short. This almost never happens, but refunds cannot be provided for trips cut short due to mechanical issues.

12. What if I damage a Barlow's Jeep?
We all make mistakes from time to time, and occasionally, one of our guests has an unplanned encounter with a rock, resulting in a dented bumper, damaged skid plate or mangled fender. This kind of damage comes with the territory and our Jeeps are insured against it.

Acting recklessly or against the guide's instructions is another matter, however, and guests may be held liable for any damage that results. In such a case, most guests choose to submit a claim to their auto insurance company to cover the cost.

Most importantly, we want everyone to be safe and have fun. Jeeps are replaceable, you and your family are not. We build and maintain our Jeeps for the utmost in safety and capability.

13. Is it cool to smoke and drink on the trail?
No. The Rubicon is a county road and drinking while driving comes with severe penalties. The trail is regularly patrolled by Eldorado County Sheriffs. Due to the extreme summer fire hazard in the Sierras, and as a courtesy to our non-smoking guests, there is no smoking allowed in any Barlow's vehicle. Depending on seasonal fire restrictions, smoking may be allowed at camps outside the vehicle. Moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol at camp is acceptable.

14. What about environmental concerns?
We take every step to conduct our trips in an environmentally sound manner. Barlow Adventures is a member of and advocate for the US Forest Service's Tead Lightly! program and works to educate the public on safe and responsible 4 wheel drive practices.

15. Are there bathrooms along the trail?
In remote areas you may expect bathroom stops to consist of thick patches of trees or shrubs. You may wish to carry toilet paper in a ziplock bag in order to pack out used paper products. Please keep our forests and trails clean—pack out your trash!

What Should I Bring on a Rubicon Trip?

Pack Light

Space is limited in a Jeep so we encourage our guests to pack light, fitting all of your personal gear in one sturdy duffle bag if at all possible. Here's an idea of what should be packed:

  • Shorts and long pants (warm days, cool nights)
  • T-shirts (or other comfortable, breathable shirts you don't mind getting dirty)
  • Sweatshirt or fleece
  • Windbreaker or packable rain jacket
  • Sturdy shoes: hiking boots, Teva-style sport sandals
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and bug spray (we can also have these available if you cannot carry them on your flight)
  • Tums, Advil, Imodium--basic things to help keep you comfortable
  • Any medication that you take regularly
  • Towel, flashlight, lighter/matches
  • Sense of humor and a smile!

We've Got You Covered

If you book a custom guided Rubicon trip through Barlow Adventures, we provide meals during your time on the trail. Pack your own favorite snacks, and any beverages you want besides water for after each day on the trail. We can also provide clean, quality tents, pads and sleeping bags for our guests, upon request. Restrooms are porta-potties along the trail. There are no showers, though you may find the lakes and rivers suitable for swimming. 
 
Our guide Jeeps carry tools, first aid, a emergency communication and recovery equipment for unexpected breakdowns and sticky situations along the trail. Every Barlow Jeep is outfitted with a fire extinguisher and other emergency equipment. When you book with us, we'll give you a rundown of any other basic safety equipment you might need to carry in your vehicle.

Aside from all of the gear and equipment, our experienced and knowledgeable guides will provide spotting, recovery, 4x4 instruction, and information about the trail and the spectacular country it traverses.

How to Prepare Your Rig for the Rubicon Trail

Can My Rig Handle the Rubicon?

Rock rash, mechanical failures and body damage can and do happen on this trail and any driver intent on bringing their own rig should be aware of the risks. If you think you can get through the whole Rubicon trail without a scratch of any kind anywhere, you should probably NOT go on this trip—scraping and scratches happen with even the most skilled drivers.

Not only should your rig be in top-form maintenance, but if your vehicle doesn’t have the following MINIMUM requirements, we will not even consider it for a Barlow Adventures guided trip. We have developed these minimums for the general capability and comfort for a long trip to be enjoyable by the majority of clients. Can a lesser vehicle make it through? Yes, but it will take considerably more time, with a much higher risk of damage. Even if your vehicle does have these, we may still decline to accommodate your vehicle based on other factors, like gearing ratios versus driver experience, vehicle condition concerns, or safety worthiness.

Minimum Vehicle Requirements for the Rubicon

33' or taller offroad tires (35" for wheelbases longer than 105")
"Offroad" means three-ply sidewalls with tires in good working order - no dry cracking, sufficient aggressive tread depth and pattern, full size working spare. For most vehicles, this also involves having an adequate suspension lift to accommodate full articulation and turning of larger tires.

Rocker panel protection
Unless you don't mind body damage, you need some side protection, not only for the occasional slip off of a rock, but also for jacking and recovery purposes. The factory Jeep Rubicon rocker guards are barely sufficient, but they are better than some cheap aftermarket tube sliders (ask us for recommendations).

Skid plates
Factory Wrangler plates are okay - protection for your transmission pan, transfer case and gas tank are adequate on factory Wranglers, but we recommend protection beyond the minimum - see more under "Recommendations" in the linked PDF below. Other vehicle makes often have varying protection by trim package.

Traction device
At least one locking axle differential. Both front and rear lockers are better. Limited slip, locking center differential and traction lock are NOT the same as axle lock.

Recovery points
At least one frame-mounted recovery point in each the front and the rear, rated for 5,000 pounds or more. Yes, factory Wrangler hooks are sufficient. No, the 3/8" transport loop is not.

Read and download our PDF guide below for a full rundown on vehicle requirements for the Rubicon.
How-To-Prepare-Your-Jeep-For-The-Rubicon

How To Survive The Rubicon Trail Your First Time

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

“Sure, you can drive a stock Jeep through there—that’s what they’re made for!”

“I crossed the Rubicon on 31-inch tires and no lockers!”

“I did the whole trail in 8 hours!”

Mention the name “Rubicon Trail” in any four-wheeling forum and you are bound to hear some boasting, unsolicited advice, and tales of “back in my day…” However, that doesn’t answer your question: What do you really need to do the Rubicon Trail?

Regardless of your wheeling prowess and tire size, there are a few inarguable facts about the Rubicon Trail that you need to take to heart before you leave home:

It changes every day. Just because your buddy with a similar Jeep cruised through Little Sluice last week does not mean you will do so this week. Rocks move every day. Weather varies widely. Trees fall.

There are much tougher obstacles on other trails than you will encounter on the Rubicon Trail. The Rubicon beats you with stamina. It slowly wears you down one rock at a time, increasing the odds of making a bad decision due to mental and physical fatigue.

It’s narrow, it’s busy, and it’s dirty. Passing is difficult. Popular camping areas are loud on weekends. You will be scrubbing dirt out of yourself and your Jeep for days afterwards. Bottom line: Driving the trail isn’t the only challenge with which you will be dealing.

As for your Jeep, it should be in top-form maintenance. Parts and labor are significantly more difficult to acquire on the trail than at home. Steering component, motor mount, axle, and driveshaft failures are the most common breaks. Starting with good basic equipment is key.

It should have at least one locking axle differential. Both front and rear are better. Limited slip and traction control are not the same as a locker.

At least one frame-mounted recovery point (rated for 5000 pounds or more) should be mounted on each front and rear bumper. Yes, factory Wrangler hooks are sufficient, but while bumpers won’t make or break your ability to run the Rubicon Trail effectively, the odds of factory bumpers surviving the trail are slim to none. We call that an “unplanned upgrade opportunity.” You can choose whether to do it before or after the trip.

Factory skidplate protection for the transmission pan, transfer case, and gas tank are adequate on factory Wranglers, but we recommend protection beyond the minimum, especially on your gas tank and diff covers. If you really want to enjoy the trail and minimize stress, consider these aforementioned upgrades, as well as lower front control arm mount protection, 33 to 35-inch tires, and suspension upgrades to allow for those tires, real rocker guards or “sliders,” and better gearing.

Can a lesser vehicle make it? Yes, but it will take more time, with a higher risk of damage. That can create more stress than fun for you and anyone else on the trail that day (oops, some trail-etiquette preaching almost slipped in there). Do these upgrades now—not two or three weeks before your trip. The worst thing you can do is to install a bunch of new stuff on your rig right before the trip and use the Rubicon trail as the “shakedown” run.

The single most important piece of equipment to bring is your brain. Use it before, during, and after the trip. Degrade its proper functioning as little as possible while on the trip. No drinking and driving, wear your seatbelt, pack out your trash, and check on current fire and sanitation restrictions before you depart. Leave the trail for all to enjoy.

One of the most commonly smashed/broken components of the Jeep Wrangler is the lower front control arm mount. Adding a lower control arm skid is an inexpensive way to eliminate the problem. Parts are less than $50 and pay a professional 4×4 welder an hour’s time to install them.
Your tire sidewalls and wheels will get “scrubbed” throughout the trail. Three-ply sidewalls with healthy tread are a must, as is a full-size working spare. A minimum of 33-inch or taller (35″ tall for wheelbase longer than 105”) will help work around all those differential-grabbing rocks. Taller tires also involve having an adequate suspension lift to accommodate full articulation and steering degree of the larger tires.
Unless you don’t mind body damage, you need some side protection, not only for the occasional slip off of a rock, but also for recovery purposes. The factory Rubicon rocker guards are barely sufficient, but they are better than cheap aftermarket “side armor” aka “mall crawler steps.”
We recommend a minimum crawl ratio of 55:1 for automatics and 65:1 for manual transmissions. You will find the constant slow rock crawling of the Rubicon trail much more enjoyable with a vehicle that is geared properly for it. With an automatic transmission, one can compensate for higher gearing with some good left-foot braking, but this gets tiring after all day (or three or more days) of crawling over rocks. With a manual JK, you and your clutch are going to work extra hard without at least a 65:1 crawl ratio. Many people try to compensate for shallow gearing by overusing the clutch—a burnt up clutch is the last thing you want to have on the Rubicon Trail. You can accomplish low gearing with either the transfer case gears (like the factory 4:1 Rubicon t-case), so that your rig only crawls when in low range; or with axle gears, which give you more torque at the wheels all the time.

More Fall Color: Mingus Mountain

Mid-October is usually prime color on Mingus Mountain, and though some sporadic color may be enjoyed from the highway and some of the hiking trails, by far the most spectacular color is only accessible by Jeep or other high-clearance 4x4.

We enjoyed a jaunt up Mingus Mountain this past Sunday, October 18, and it was definitely in that perfect 10-day window of the most vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and golds.

The trail starts in Cottonwood, Arizona from Mingus Avenue. Take Mingus Avenue past the airport and stay on it as it turns to bumpy dirt and gravel road. This is now FR 493 in the Prescott National Forest. Follow 493 as it winds up the mountain and gradually gets narrower, steeper and rockier.

Pass the Copper Chief Mine (be careful to stay on the main forest road, not wander onto private property--respect signs and gates), which was a very rich copper mine from the turn of the century until the mid-50's, but gets very little historical note due to the fact that the much bigger and richer Jerome lies just over the rise. With the rise of metal prices, this mine has recently been reopened and you can see signs of more modern mining amongst the historic footing of the old operation.

About 5 miles up, you will come to a T at FR 413, but not before the trail tests your resolve with a half-mile of extremely rocky trail. This last 1/2 mile before FR 413 is the toughest part of the whole trail and definitely requires a high-clearance 4x4 with tough tires and a driver who knows how to pick a line. Experienced Jeepers in well-built rigs will walk right through this section without much thought, but a novice in a stock SUV will gasp at the sight of 12-16" rocks sticking up in the narrow trail.

In addition to gorgeous flora, visitors are also rewarded with expansive views of the Verde Valley and the red rocks of Sedona.

 

 

For the best color, turn left (southeast) on FR 413. The red and orange maples and yellow walnuts will cluster in the canyons for the next few miles as the trail winds southeast and climbs gradually toward the top of Mingus Mountain.

Follow FR 413 all the way to the pine forests on top of Mingus Mountain. As you get closer to highway 89A, note many great campsites in the area. Come to a T at a (sometimes marked) road, where left takes you to the highway, and a right takes you to the Mingus Mountain overlook and hang glider launch area.

About 18 miles total, from Hwy 89A in Cottonwood and back to Hwy 89A on the top of Mingus Mountain. You climb 4000 feet in elevation, from 3500 to 7500 feet above sea level. Allow 3-4 hours with stops. This trail is not recommended in wet weather and is usually closed at the top in the winter.

Happy trails!

 

Fall Color in Northern Arizona

11 October 2009, Flagstaff AZ - Fall Color is here! Golds, coppers, and reds contrast the green pines and blue sky for spectacular scenic drives throughout Northern Arizona. Aspens, oaks, and maples are in full swing at the highest elevations (north side of the San Francisco Peaks), with color expected to carry through mid-November at lower elevations (Mingus Mountain, Oak Creek Canyon).

Yesterday's excursion ventured to the Flagstaff area to visit Lockett Meadow, then around the north side of the San Francisco Peaks. This area always presents the earliest autumn color, with its higher elevations and cooler, northerly-facing slopes. Apparently, the secret is out, as we passed hundreds of other motorists out for a picturesque country drive as well. Note: Lockett Meadow is busy on weekends, especially a holiday weekend!

The road to Lockett Meadow is easily passable by any truck or SUV, though we did see many adventurous (or careless?) folks in sedans, many of which we witnessed bottoming out in ruts or changing a flat tire. Expect ruts, washboards, baseball-sized rocks, and some mild wash-outs. It is plenty wide for any single vehicle, but can be interesting when you encounter a vehicle coming the other direction--watch for wide spots. The road is also completely devoid of any guard rails and does follow a steep, shelf section for most of the three miles of the Lockett Meadow spur. If heights bother you, this road will get your attention!

 

Lockett Meadow is the caldera for the San Francisco peaks--the heart of the (dormant) volcano. There are campsites and hiking trails available in the area. Please stay on the established road and use existing pull-outs and parking spots--Arizona meadows are very fragile.

To get there: (See map below) Take Hwy 89 north from Flagstaff, and travel about 10 miles north of the mall. Watch for the entrance to Sunset Crater & Wupatki National Monument on the right--turn left onto the Forest Access road directly across from the monument entrance, near mile marker 430. Follow the Forest Access road approximately 1 mile to the T. Turn right onto FR 552 (sign says Lockett Meadow and FR418 to the right). Approximately 1 mile further, note FR 418 to the right--you may want to return here later to follow the road around the north side of the Peaks. Just past this, FR 552 Lockett Meadow turns right. Follow 552 another 3 miles to the meadow--the next 2 miles are the narrow shelf section! Once you reach the meadow, the road makes a 2 mile counter-clockwise loop of the meadow, with a side road to the bathrooms, and hiking trails and campsites all along the way.

Return the way you came, or for a slightly less-traveled road, go back to the bottom of the hill and follow FR 418 around the north side of the peaks. Once you turn onto FR 418, it's about 20 miles to Hwy 180. Spectacular views northward toward the painted desert and the Coconino Plateau, and many sunlight-dappled stretches of road that offer patches of fall color.

About 8 miles in, you might want to turn left to the trailhead for the Abineau or Bear Skull trails--there are numerous 4x4 side roads for more private picnic and/or camping spots.

About 11 miles along FR 418, the road splits and becomes FR 151 in White Horse Basin. Take it right (north) for a short 2 mile drive to Hwy 180, or left (west) for more scenery back to Hwy 180 and come out just 3 miles north of Snowbowl Road. The left route is my favorite because it wraps around the northwest side of the peaks, for more of those breathtaking meadow vistas, with the peaks as a backdrop--great for wildflowers in the summer, too!

Allow about 3 hours for a casual roundtrip from Flagstaff. Remember to take plenty of water, and have a good spare tire and jack on board, just in case. Cell signal is weak (if any) for most of the trip.

Once you get to pavement, turn left on Hwy 180 and drop into downtown Flagstaff for a refreshment at one of the fine local pubs or coffee houses.

Happy trails!