The Tillamook State Forest, located in the Coast Range mountains of northwest Oregon, offers some of the best Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails in the Pacific Northwest. Browns Camp is one of four areas in the OHV Trail system filled with moderate to extreme rated 4×4 trails, as well as a few that are labeled severe. Connected by logging roads, the wide variety of trails places drivers in some of the more remote and scenic parts of the forest as well as providing excitement for beginners and experts alike.
Browns Camp is in the North West FJ Cruisers Club's (http://nwfjcc.com) backyard and the club decided it would be perfect to show off everyone's lighting mods with a night of wheeling under the soft moon glow and blazing off road lights.
At the trail head everyone settled into the business at hand, airing down tires, double checking equipment and comparing rigs. Bernd, who we met in Ouray, CO at the 2008 FJ Summit, was going to be our leader with Jim, the club president, running as tail gunner. The rest of us… settled into pack as we saddled up for the run. I chose the last slot just in front of Jim so I could watch the parade of Fjs through the woods.
Bernd took the group out in the early evening so we could get in some trails while the sun was still out and ease into wheeling on the dark side of the moon. Turned out to be a good decision since we came across a motorcyclist stranded on the side of the trail. Those two wheel guys don’t have a lot of room for gear and he needed a socket to pull his spark plug. Our group pulled together, found the right socket and helped get him back on the trail. You never know when you’re going to need a little trail Karma so we took the opportunity to make a deposit into our Karma accounts.
With the sun hanging low we came up to Hog's Back, a gnarly little climb that provided fun and excitement for drivers who conquered it as well as those who just watched. As the club moved on the sun fell behind the mountains and when night fell, the lights came on.
As the old saying goes, "size matters" and they are right when it comes to off-road lights. When we turned on the La Paz HID roof lights by Baja Designs the folks in front got a sun tan and I swear a few planes started to divert from their approach at PDX . As you would expect for the trails we only used our Soltek flood lights down on the bull bar since they put out so much light and throw a clean wide pattern. But lets be honest here, we turned them all on just so we could feel our testosterone levels spike each time we hit the switches on those bad boys on top.
Running at night on tight, sometimes really tight, trails is a whole different animal. Night runs give you the sense you're in another world with ET lurking just outside of the light’s reach. You also find yourself focusing more on the trail since there is none of that beautiful landscape to distract you. And when you do stop to rest, the Milky Way Galaxy seems to spill out of the rig with you, bathing everything in light while still hiding the mysteries of the forest. If you're looking for a little more glow to help your spotter, there are always rock crawler lights, little LEDs that wash the area below your rig in a bright white light.
This run was definitely a hit with everyone in the club. Throwing in the darkness, added a new challenge for those who had run the trails a number of times before. And in Browns Camp, an area normally full of 4WD rigs, when the stars came out we had the trails to ourselves. Based on the success of this run it looks like the NWFJCC will be planning a few more midnight runs.
Last Great Road Trip (http://www.lastgreatroadtrip.com) is a collection of stories, pictures and videos based on a father / son team's adventures, friendships, rants and raves on the road of life. Part road trip, part overland expedition and all fun, the blog records the team's exploration of the hidden trails, back roads and diverse cultures that enrich all of our lives.