As I was growing up, my dad would take my brother, sister, and I camping for a few days every summer. My dad loves camping, hiking, floating, the outdoors. We would head down to the Buffalo, camp along the river, and go hiking at spots like Hemmed in Hollow and Lost Valley. We would throw some kayaks on top of our Saturn Outlook and do whatever portion of the river was high enough to float in the middle of the summer.
As I got older and into high school, my friends and I were constantly looking for new adventures to try out. Knowing the area from those summer trips, we would pack into my Ford Explorer and head down to Ponca, Arkansas for some hiking and camping.
We made plenty of mistakes. Once we left after school on an October Friday evening for a weekend camping trip, by the time we arrived at the Steel Creek campground, it was completely full for the weekend, and so were the next two campgrounds we tried. We finally set up camp in the dark that night, before realizing someone had left their phone at one of those other campsites.
We got plenty of looks. Like when we couldn’t all fit in my truck, so one of my buddies drove his late 90’s Honda Civic up the steep and jagged seven mile road to Whitaker's Point. He did it with his windows down too, and I’m pretty sure to this day, three years later, there’s still some Arkansas dirt in there.
I was learning though. I learned how to map out and plan trips, but that it wasn’t going to be an adventure if it all went according to the plan. I learned that, no, adventures really don’t have to be expensive, but being unprepared is dumb. I learned that, contrary to what the outdoor recreation industry would have you believe, most of the time less gear is better. I learned that a RWD Explorer with a roof basket and some neat lights is going to get you down 98% of every road you drive, and if it can’t, you probably shouldn’t be on it anyways.
The summer after I graduated high school, I was itching for adventure. If some of us wanted to go on a float trip, I knew exactly where we could go, what we would need, and how long it would take. Day trips throughout the Ozarks became a weekly endeavor. I had a document with places I wanted to go, and the hardest part of going on these trips simply became deciding where to go.
Between jobs, sports, and vacations, most of my friends weren’t going to go on one of my crazy adventures every week. Yet there was never any trouble finding anyone to come with. The thing that struck me, every time we’d be rolling back into town at a quarter past twelve in the morning, exhausted and smelly, was how much fun people had. Adventure, the outdoors, is an escape. People realize that. No matter if they grew up hiking and camping, or if they just did it for the first time. We find ourselves through these things. It’s part of being human.
Sometime during my senior year, I discovered a new type of adventure called “Overlanding”. By definition, overlanding is self-reliant travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. If you Google “Overlanding” you’re going to get millions of images of high dollar Toyotas and Jeeps, kitted out with roof top tents and all sorts of accessories, ripping across desert landscapes. Almost all overlanding content you find right now is going to be about the rigs, the gear, the things you need to do it. Another thing: You’re going to be hard pressed to find too many routes and spots in the Midwest.
So it turns out overlanding is kind of this combination of things I’m passionate about. Adventure. The outdoors. Cool trucks. The thing is though, most people doing this stuff will have you believe it’s about all of those things at once. I think that’s wrong. I know that’s wrong. You can have a great adventure without being in the most beautiful spot in the country. A Jeep is not a passport to the most scenic and remote areas. Always keep in mind what that definition of overlanding actually is.
That’s why Ozark Mountain Overland was born. To show the amazing adventures and places that everyone can go and do. How to do it all the right (and smart) way. Not only here in the Ozarks, but anywhere in the world, because anywhere is possible for anyone, it’s just a matter of getting out and doing it.
So I’m going to invite you to join us as we find the coolest places to hike, float, camp, and drive to share with you guys. We’ll get lost. Fall down. Tip over. Freeze until we can’t feel our fingers and sweat buckets. How to’s, adventure recaps, routes and other information, news, you’ll find it all here at Ozark Mountain Overland as we explore the Midwest and beyond from here in the Ozark Mountains.