As some of you may know, there's no better time to hit the trail in the state of Maine than in early fall. The days are perfect. It's not too hot, the evenings are crisp and great for camping, and there is still enough water on the ground to keep the mud slippery.
This past fall, Browne & Ware Overland decided to hold its first official outing and hit Mount Abbot in southern Maine. We were asked to document the event. The call went out to all of BWOverland's customers, and the response was great. As fate would have it, though, both Jesse and Matt, co-owners of BWOverland, spent most of spring and summer setting up their new shop in York, Maine. By the time the day of this event actually rolled around, they hadn't been on the trail in a while. Like so many others, they discovered that the best way to ensure that you never get to go four-wheeling is to open a 4x4 shop. Needless to say, they were eager to hit the trail again.
The turnout was comprised of a wide array of vehicles. There were stock and modified TJs, old-series Rovers, late-model Rovers, a Land Cruiser, and three of the Rock Dog tube buggies. It's always interesting to see trail rigs of such wide-ranging abilities get out in the rocks and mud and then observe how they all perform in the real world.
The chosen course on this particular weekend was Mount Abbot, a beautiful place to go 'wheeling. It's almost like a miniature ski slope. There aren't really any trails going up the mountain, though. What you'll find instead is more like a web of green-circle runs and black-diamond slopes crisscrossing and winding their way up to the summit. Nearly every inch of the way, old granite steps are interspersed with small sections of loose muddy dirt. Some of the steps are small, while others are much larger. This turned out to be a perfect mix for the variety of trucks and skill levels of the group. Drivers were able to pick their own routes depending on their desired pucker factor and taste for body damage.
Sometimes, it's a luxury to walk a trail and not have to worry about driving. If there's a good mix of vehicles, you really get to see just how things work in relation to one another. For example, the FJ60 is great with its long wheelbase and large cargo capacity, but its leaf-spring suspension leaves the driver wanting when he tries to follow the Range Rover Classic. You can really see just why you might need an antisway bar disconnect, might need to use coil spring retainers, or how a roof rack can be a drawback when 'wheeling in the woods. One nice surprise was watching just how amazing the Rubicon can be right out of the box. With the factory lockers and low gearbox, it's hard to find a place it can't run.
The day went very nicely, and the BWOverland team did a fantastic job of leading the group up the mountain. Most vehicles made each obstacle without incident, and just around lunchtime, the group reached the summit. After a nice little barbecue, the group started back down the mountain.
It was on the return trip that some of the day's most interesting action cropped up. One vehicle in particular, a Defender 110, provided some really exciting moments. Now, it's pretty rare to catch a glimpse of a D110 because only 500 were imported into the United States. It's even rarer to see one modified, but this BWOverland D110 has been well built. It sports 37-inch tires, a 5-inch lift, front and rear lockers, and so on - you name it
Well, the owner, Jesse, had been following closely behind the three rock buggies in the group, and we suspect he had gotten a little tired of watching them quickly master every obstacle they came across. So when it came his turn to descend one of the granite ledges that the buggies had just crawled down, Jesse pointed the nose of his Defender right at it and headed in.
His front tires made it smoothly down the rock wall, only chirping slightly. He then eased the tires into the rutted dip at the bottom of the ledge, and for a moment, it seemed like everything was set and the action was over. All that remained was for the long-wheelbase Defender to drag itself off the ledge and drive away. It was about this time that we noticed the front driver-side tire. It had come down off the rock and been turned up into the hill face. With such a large tires, it's often hard to keep them tracking straight. And sometimes, they seem to have a mind of their own.
Not realizing what was about to happen, Jesse slowly let off the brakes and began to bring the rear axle off the rock face. As soon as the rear tires came off the edge of the rock, it was all over. In a split second, the combination of rolling momentum, 110 inches of wheelbase, and the uncontrollable tires put him on his side. What was most astonishing, though, was that the truck rolled so gently. Thanks to the factory exo-cage, the truck was found to have suffered no real damage, save a minimally scratched door. The Defender was quickly righted, and the group headed on back.
For BWOverland and everyone lucky enough to have been involved, the weekend was a perfect combination of wilderness, weather, and a great group of rigs.