That Mud Tastes Like Maple Syrup!
Aug. 7-12, 2013 – Vermont served up tons of local flavor and challenges for man and machine in the inaugural Vermont Overland Trophy 2013 (VOT). The event pitted 24 teams, consisting of two off-road vehicles each, against the class 4 roads across southern and central Vermont for 4 days of action in the spirit of the original Camel Trophy.
The first night kickoff even saw Vermont local and Camel Trophy royalty, Michael Hussey, in attendance. Hussey was a member of the only USA team to win the Camel Trophy. Vermont delivered the goods this year with lots of off pavement miles and a few quality off-road obstacles to tackle each day, combined with weather that included flash flooding, plenty of mud and a few picturesque sunny days with white puffy clouds. All combined to challenge and motivate teams to work together and attempt a VOT completion.
Each day the event served up a quality off-road challenge or two, as well as plenty of off pavement trails through the lush Vermont countryside. The entire route was preplanned by the staff at Vermont Overland and was provided to participants by way of a marked map set in the Avenza PDF Maps smart phone/tablet app. This system proved to be very easy to use and an amazing tool for exploring the back roads of Vermont.
Arguably, one of the most fun “roads” on this year’s trophy route was the creek bed that was an optional challenge route on Day 3. Many teams navigated this “dry creek bed” while it was in the middle of flash flooding, which made finding a clean route through the boulders and rock ledges quite challenging.
The Lucky8 team even managed to blow up the front differential on their Land Rover Discovery half way up the creek bed. With no room to turn around and teams piling up behind them, they towed the disabled truck through some tough off-road obstacles with the team’s other vehicle, a heavily modified P38 Range Rover. The rig was fully repaired later that night at camp, after being towed all the way there on a recovery strap. There was plenty of vehicle carnage at this year’s VOT with MANY tire punctures, lots of damaged under vehicle armor, dented body panels, exploded differentials, broken winches and much more!
Two nights in the middle of the VOT were spent on event organizer Peter Voller’s property. Finding and getting to a campsite proved to be quite the challenge for all the teams. The two-track onto the property was winding, steep, rutted and quickly became quite the mud bog in certain spots. Most competitors actually had to winch to their campsites!
Once on the property and up the road, teams then pulled off into the woods and created their own camp areas, many of which were quite muddy and not flat. To put into perspective the difficulty of getting to the upper camping areas, one of the event staff in an old Land Rover 88 Series II actually rolled his truck tackling the steep rutted hill coming into camp at night. The driver was unscathed and the rollover recovery went well. The little old Land Rover was actually back on the road under its own power the next day, running better than ever according to its owner.
Part of the Trophy was also to spend at least $10 per person each day buying local Vermont goods. This was to stay in the spirit of giving back to the communities that you travel through, as the Camel Trophy had done. This task was not hard, as Vermont is very proud of its localvore offerings with plenty of local eats, adult beverages and gifts for friends and family readily available.
A highlight for many teams was a stop at the Long Trail Brewing Company, as it has a great outdoor deck along the river and some very tasty local brews on tap. The famous Vermont maple syrup was also enjoyed by many teams in it’s many forms; maple ice cream, maple bacon, maple soda, maple candy, pure maple syrup and the list goes on and on.
The event ended back where it started, on Lillie Brook Farm, with a final off-road challenge course. The course was a freshly cut tight trail on the hillside above the camping field that offered up a variety of small obstacles. While not nearly as hard as many of the off-road obstacles encountered along the Trophy route, it did require a well equipped off-road rig and solid teamwork. Teams with vehicles that had poor off-road tires, or suspension that couldn’t handle off camber slopes, weren’t able to conquer the course.
The final event activity was a localvore’s dream dinner, consisting of fresh grass-fed beef burgers from the farm, fresh veggies from a neighboring farm, buns from the local bakery and homemade cookies. Yum! As seconds of this amazing local food was being served up the awards presentation began.
In the end, only 15 teams, of the 24 that started, managed a completion of the 2013 VOT. The coveted Team Spirit award went to the AVAM Adventures team, consisting of a Land Rover Discovery 2 and an old school Unimog 416. This team worked well together to tackle all the obstacles and have the most fun possible. The best camp setup award went to the Lucky8 Off Road Equipment team who offered up tons of quality food every morning and night, as well as had a much-coveted fresh water shower that participants luxuriated in after muddy days on the trail. The best mustache award, in true Camel Trophy style, went to Steve Ostrovitz.
Overall the inaugural Vermont Overland Trophy 2013 went pretty smoothly, challenged all competitors in one way or another, and really showcased the amazing overland destination that is Vermont. The limited spots for the 2014 VOT will fill up quickly!