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Eaton/Detroit Locker Trail Tour - Oregon: Land Of Adventure

Posted in Events on September 1, 2007
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There still exist places in this country where outdoor vehicle adventure has not been outlawed. Recently, we found ourselves on trails deep within Oregon's spectacular rainforests and on the state's coastal sand dunes enjoying recreational land that, surprisingly, is still open to the public. We never expected to find the amazing kind of adventure we did on trails that wound their way through dark and mysterious moss-covered forests and sand dunes along the state's rugged coastline. This was our first adventure in Oregon, and what we found surpassed any expectations we had of the Beaver State's recreational lands.

This is the third year of the Eaton/Detroit Locker Trail Tour. This small, private event is really just a gathering of close friends in the four-wheel-drive aftermarket industry. We're quite sure that you're familiar with Detroit Locker, as the company is one of the leading manufacturers of dependable aftermarket vehicle-traction components. The event started as a way for the group of us to get together for some adventure and a well-needed break from business. It has turned out to be a week-long adventure each year in some very cool locations around the country. In most cases, our little event is held in areas the average four-wheel enthusiast can enjoy. So you could, in a sense, pack up your Jeep and hit every trail and dune we explored on this Trail Tour. Last year, we invited a couple of readers along for the adventure through a contest in the magazine. This year, unfortunately, we were unable to hold the contest due to logistics and scheduling.

Oregon's expansive mountain ranges, rugged coastline, and deserts offer an exciting array of four-wheeling terrain not found in other parts of the country. We first found ourselves threading our Jeeps through the trees in the heavily wooded Callahan Mountains west of Roseburg. Roseburg is situated between the North and South Umpqua Rivers. If you are into salmon fishing, this place is heaven. Driving these trails was very challenging, and in some cases the larger Jeeps had little or no room on either side of the vehicle to pass through the trees. Throw in some extremely sticky mud and steep inclines, and we had the perfect combination for trail fun.

The deeply rutted and muddy trails in the Callahan Mountains are as challenging as they are unpredictable. In some instances, we found our wheels and tires buried up to the fenders with zero traction to the ground. In areas that looked easy, we found vehicles flopped on their sides. The ruts and tank traps were filled with some of the thickest and stickiest clay mud some of us had ever seen. Other sections of the trails contained soupy, quicksand-like mud. Some parts of the trails' two-track ruts went as deep as 3 feet. The challenge was to either ride in the ruts or straddle the tops of them. If a driver decided to stay in the rut, it took skill, horsepower, and inertia to maintain the Jeep's forward momentum. If there is the perfect place to test a mud-terrain tire, this is definitely it.

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The trails in this area don't see that much year-round use, and in some cases are the remnants of old logging paths 50 to 60 years old. This leaves an abundance of low-lying and overhanging obstacles to negotiate. At some points, the trails narrow down so tightly that there is hardly room for a Jeep to squeeze through the trees.

The forests in this area are spectacular, with groves of Douglas fir, Pacific Madrone, and alder trees. In most areas, the forest floor is carpeted with lush vegetation of ferns and clovers. These woodlands are so thick that in some areas you can't walk more than a foot in any direction before you run into a tree.

The rugged coastline of Oregon is dotted with quaint coastal towns and fishing ports and literally hundreds of historical points of interest. In between Florence and Coos Bay is a sea of sand dunes called Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. We've never thought of Jeeps as sand cars, but running them through the dunes this year was well worth it. Our Jeeps performed exceptionally well on the sand, but that performance may have been due in part to the damp, firmly packed consistency of the sand - visiting Oregon during the end of the rainy season was definitely the right thing to do. Blasting the Jeeps through sandy bowls and steep dunes was tremendous fun.

Oregon is a fascinating place to visit and explore by four-wheel drive. Excellent hunting, fishing, and camping are just a few more of the many outdoor activities to be enjoyed here. The state abounds with Old West history as well. In the 1840s, traffic on the Oregon Trail really started to flow and emigrants marched west to seek their fortune and a better life. The trail was really the only practical route to the West because it bypassed the hotter southern deserts. Numerous trails from that era can still be explored by four-wheel drive.

Most of you, our readers, use your 4x4s as a means to an end to get out and relax and to enjoy the company of friends while doing something adventurous. Most of the people who participate in the Trail Tour are hard-working business owners and industry professionals. Even though we live, breathe, and work four-wheel drive, it's not often we get to take a break to hit the trails for any extended period of time. This is still a difficult concept to deal with for those who started as enthusiasts and wound up aftermarket four-wheel-drive parts manufacturers. Thanks to Scott Fray of Eaton/Detroit Locker, week-long adventures like this one are now possible for us at least once a year. We would like to thank Scott and our Oregon guides, especially Randy Rubin, for guiding us on another great Trail Tour.

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