Overlanding the Ozarks
6 guys, 4 rigs, 3 days in the Ozarks. This was our 3rd trip as a group, but our first time to the Ozark National Forest and our first multi-day overlanding trip. We spent a couple months prior to the trip planning our route, gathering and testing equipment, and modifying our rigs in hopes of making the trip go as smooth as possible. Luckily our planning and preparation paid off and we successfully executed a trip to remember and learned many lessons which will be applied to future trips.
(Much more info at bottom of page)
How long did it take to plan?
The trip didn’t take too long to plan. We hashed out all of the details over breakfast one Saturday morning a couple months before the trip. The route was given to us by Jayston of overlandguild.org, so that was already taken care of for us. At breakfast we set a date and assigned who was to bring what gear, so we could share gear and reduce our overall payload as a group by eliminating unnecessary duplicates of gear like stoves, dutch ovens, lanterns, camp tables, etc. What did take some time was preparing our rigs for the trip. We were warned beforehand of the possibility of some relatively deep water crossings and treacherous terrain, so we took the time and energy to modify our vehicles accordingly to reduce chances of a mishap on the trail. We also made sure all routine maintenance was taken care of before hand, like changing and checking fluid levels, checking for loose nuts and bolts, greasing everything up, and just making sure all systems were go, in general.
Most dangerous part?
This was a pretty mild track, to be honest, but we did come across some moderately difficult obstacles. Towards the beginning of the trip we came across the deep water/mud hole that Mason plunges into in the video. That was a bad choice on the entire group, we should have checked how deep it was beforehand, but of course, we had seen photos of other rigs that were of comparable size make it through with little issue, so testosterone was clouding our brains and we all encouraged Mason to “go for it”. This resulted in Mason’s truck floating, sinking to the bottom, filling up with water, then being winched out. Because of the time it spent in the hole, the transmission took on some water (breather wasn’t up high enough for a hole this deep), so it had to be flushed on the side of the trail after Adam and Jeff went back to town (an hour away) to retrieve a couple gallons of fluid to do the job. Other than that, all of the water crossings were lower than normal and there wasn’t much mud, as we ran the trail during a dry spell. We did come across one long, relatively steep, and rocky hill-climb. It wasn’t too technical, just long and slow going, but was a load of fun.
How many days?
We left home Friday morning and returned Sunday afternoon, so we spent 3 days and 2 nights away from home. The Ozark National Forest is around 3 hours from our home town of Tulsa, OK. We covered around 80 miles of the 140 miles of trail we had planned to cover. We didn’t cover as much ground as we had hoped to because it took the better part of 4 hours on Friday afternoon to get Mason’s truck back to normal after taking the plunge. Next time we’ll check water depths to avoid any more catastrophes, so we’ll be able to cover more ground. Lesson learned the hard way.
Anything you wish you had that you didn’t bring?
We were pretty well prepared and definitely didn’t go without. We had warm bedding, hot showers (solar shower inside a pop up shower enclosure), and more than enough food. Only thing that comes to mind that I wish I had taken care of before leaving home was I forgot to charge my Fenix flashlight, which died by the end of Friday night, so I had to use the flashlight app on my phone to get around in the dark Saturday evening, which was incredibly lame.
Best rig goes to Mason’s beast of a 3rd gen 4runner. It had 8 inches of water in the cabin and the transmission got filled with water too, yet it kept on going with no issues after we took care of the transmission flush. After taking a beating it finished the trail and got him home with no problems. Got to love the dependability and durability of a Toyota!
The most interesting thing for me about this trip was the sheer beauty of the country we were in. I’ve lived 3 hours away from the Ozark National Forest my entire life and never realized it was filled with so much beautiful country. Clean and clear creeks and rivers. Lots of elevation change. Beautiful fall foliage. Waterfalls around every turn. Caves and rock features everywhere. This trip opened my eyes to the giant and amazing play ground that I have in my “back yard” and I can’t wait to go back again. The Ozark National Forest is now our go-to spot of exploration, overlanding, and weekend adventures.