A Memorable Family Overlanding Adventure

Embarking on a family overlanding adventure is an exhilarating experience, brimming with anticipation and discovery. In early October 2022 our family set out on an unforgettable journey along the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR).

Equipped with our trusty Jeep Gladiator and a rooftop tent, we embarked on a remarkable expedition, creating lasting memories with our children. Join us as we explore the planning, execution, and invaluable lessons learned from our epic overlanding adventure, tailored to traveling with children.

Planning and Preparation

The dream of completing the WABDR came from our family’s desire to explore as much of Washington’s rugged terrain as possible. We scoured the internet for helpful videos and articles, which provided good insight of what to expect on the route. Our GPS map, with offline capabilities, assisted with daily mileage goals and scouting potential camping spots.

When venturing on an overlanding adventure with children, thoughtful planning becomes even more essential. Here are some valuable tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for the entire family:

1. Involve the Children in the Planning Process:

Engage your children in the trip planning phase by discussing potential destinations, landmarks, and activities. This involvement fosters excitement and allows them to contribute their ideas, making them feel more invested in the journey.

2. Optimize the Itinerary:

Consider the age and interests of your children when crafting your itinerary. Plan for shorter driving days, allowing for more time to explore and engage in activities suitable for kids, such as nature hikes, wildlife spotting, or simply dipping your feet in the river.

3. Pack Age-Appropriate Entertainment:

Keep your children entertained during long drives by packing a variety of age-appropriate books and games. Consider introducing them to audiobooks or podcasts that relate to the region or wildlife you may encounter along the way.

4. Prioritize Safety:

Familiarize your children with some basic safety rules, including how to behave near wildlife, around campfires, and in unfamiliar natural environments. Nature can be unpredictable, so discuss hypothetical emergency situations. YouTube can be a great place to discover insightful information for potentially dangerous situations.

5. Embrace Flexibility:

Embrace the unpredictability of family travel and allow for flexibility in your schedule. Leave room for spontaneous adventures, unexpected stops, and breaks tailored to your children’s needs.

6. Pack Essential Supplies:

In addition to the usual camping gear and supplies, bring ample snacks, water, and necessary medications for your children. A first aid kit equipped for everyone’s needs is essential. We also have a Garmin InReach Mini 2 Satellite Messenger for emergency situations.

The Adventure Unfolds

 As we embarked on the WABDR, the enchanting landscapes of Washington unfolded before us, captivating the imagination of our children. We traversed dense forests, majestic mountains, and vibrant valleys, each offering unique wonders for our little explorers.

The Jeep Gladiator, equipped with a rooftop tent, provided a comfortable and cozy haven for our family throughout the journey. Our children embraced the novelty of sleeping under the stars, surrounded by the beauty of nature. We found secluded campsites that allowed us to immerse ourselves in the tranquility of the wilderness while ensuring the safety and comfort of our young adventurers. 

 The WABDR offered numerous family-friendly activities and attractions. We delighted in exploring hiking trails suited to various skill levels, observing wildlife in their natural habitats, and capturing memorable family photographs against breathtaking backdrops. Our children were enthralled by the dramatic Bethel Ridge, the peaceful Methow Valley, and the awe-inspiring Cascade Mountains.

As parents, we marveled at how the journey nurtured our children’s sense of curiosity, resilience, and appreciation for the natural world. They developed a newfound understanding of the importance of preserving and respecting the environments we explored together.

Although picking favorite spots along the WABDR is nearly impossible, there are a few must-see destinations. Here are some of the highlights  from each of the six sections:

Section 1 – Bridge of the Gods:

 Just miles from the Bonneville Dam, this steel truss bridge spans the Columbia River between the Cascade Locks, Oregon and Washington. If you are traveling south on the route, this will be the beginning of the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route.

Section 2 – Bethel Ridge:

One of the prettiest views you’ll see on the route, this nearly 2000 foot cliff is home to various wildlife, like the band of mountain goats we saw upon arrival. The cliff offers a 180 degree view of the mountains and lakes in the distance.

Section 3 – Beehive Reservoir:

Whether you’re looking to stretch your legs or do a little fishing, this man-made reservoir is the perfect spot to take a break.

Section 4 – Leavenworth:

This Bavarian-style village, tucked away in the Cascade mountains, has something for every traveler. Restock on groceries, eat a Bavarian inspired meal, or ride the new alpine coaster. 

Section 5 – China Wall of Loup Loup:

For the adventurous travelers with a well-equipped vehicle, this series of obstacles are the most challenging you will find on the WABDR. Remember to buckle up and try to enjoy the ride!

Section 6 – Conconully:

A hidden gem that provides entertainment throughout the year, this town is home to no more than 197 people. You can snowmobile, fish, hike, hunt and even race an outhouse down mainstreet.

Favorite Items for a Trek on the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route

Our journey along the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR) was made even more memorable by the thoughtful selection of gear and equipment that enhanced our experience. Here are a few of our favorite items that made a significant impact during our adventure:

String Lights for the Awning: One of our favorite additions to our setup was a set of string lights that easily attached to our awning. These lights not only provided practical illumination during the evenings but also created a warm and inviting ambiance around our campsite. They added a touch of coziness and made our outdoor space feel like a home away from home.

Strings for Awning

Dometic Fridge: One game-changer for us was upgrading from a traditional cooler to a Dometic fridge. The convenience of having a portable refrigerator on board cannot be overstated. It kept our food fresh, beverages cold, and eliminated the need for constant ice runs. With adjustable temperature controls and a reliable power source, the Dometic fridge made meal planning and food storage a breeze, allowing us to enjoy fresh meals throughout our journey.

Dometic Fridge Cooler

Garmin InReach Mini 2 Satellite Messenger: This compact and rugged device provides two-way messaging, allowing users to send and receive texts, SOS alerts, and track their location, even in remote areas without cellular coverage. With global satellite coverage, the inReach Mini 2 ensured constant communication and peace of mind during the expedition.

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Beyond Clothing Gear: We were thrilled with the performance of our Beyond Clothing pieces during the WABDR trip. The high-quality gear provided the perfect balance of lightweight comfort and durability. Whether it was their versatile jackets, moisture-wicking base layers, or rugged pants, Beyond Clothing delivered on functionality and adaptability in various weather conditions. The thoughtful design and attention to detail ensured that we were well-prepared for changing climates and rugged terrains.

Lessons Learned on the WABDR and Improvements for Next Time

Our overlanding adventure on the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route was an incredible experience that left us with a few valuable lessons and ideas for system improvements.

  • Firstly, we realized that our storage solution, a truck bed drawer system, took up a significant amount of space and was not as efficient as we had hoped. Since our trip, we’ve switched to smaller, more versatile Front Runner Wolf Pack Pro totes that can be easily organized and accessed.
  • Another aspect we have changed is our water storage system. Our large water containers occupied precious space in the truck bed, limiting our storage options. Currently, we run a gravity-fed water container, which allows us to utilize the available space more effectively. The Front Runner Pro Water Tank with the tap extension is a great combination that has saved a lot of space and time. 
  • Lastly, we found that our current spare tire mount was cumbersome and time-consuming to adjust. After months of research, we purchased a swing-away spare tire mount and bumper combo. The additional weight also meant upgrading our suspension, but the more efficient functionality made the cost well worth it for us.

Embarking on the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR) with our family was a transformative experience that left an indelible mark on our hearts. The rugged terrains, breathtaking landscapes, and unforgettable moments shared along the route created memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. We wholeheartedly encourage other families to embark on their own WABDR adventure and experience the magic firsthand.

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