Interview with Lon Bennish
EXPLORING CAPE LOOKOUT, NORTH CAROLINA
All photos courtesy of Lon Bennish
As the summer days are quickly coming to a close, we had to take the opportunity to share a hidden gem of an off-roading trail with you. This month's features a trail that's not always making the top ten list but should be on your bucket list. Part of what makes this overland experience so unique is that the start of the route isn’t over land at all. A ferry ride from the small mainland town of Davis to South Core Banks, the middle of three barrier islands that make up Cape Lookout National Seashore, gets you to 21 miles of undeveloped, drivable beach ripe for fishing, swimming, and surfing. .
TRAIL OF THE MONTH GUEST: Lon Bennish, AKA @olddogventure
You can follow Lon and watch any of his many DIY videos on his YouTube Channel!
How'd you get into overlanding and off-roading? I’ve always been an outdoor enthusiast and have enjoyed camping most of my life. I started getting into overlanding about 3 years ago. That’s when I really took an interest in the idea of self-sufficient, longer duration, longer distance adventures to just have fun and relax.
Tell us about your most recent trip.
I’m currently stationed in North Carolina but finishing up my retirement very soon. My wife and I are considering streamlining our life/stuff (significantly) and spending some time traveling before settling back down in a “forever spot”. We’ve decided to try and knock out as much east coast stuff as we can while we’re already over here and there aren’t many places you can drive on the open beach. So our most recent trip was actually to Cape Lookout National Seashore. The rare opportunity to ferry over to an island where you can drive all over the beach, camp anywhere you want, have a beach campfire, fall asleep to the sound of the waves, make coffee in the morning, and watch the sunrise from your tailgate with your toes in the sand wasn’t something I was going to leave the east coast without doing. No way!
What was the coolest moment?
The entire experience is awesome. It isn’t every day you get to load your rig onto a ferry, travel 30 minutes across a channel to get intentionally stranded on an island with no paved roads, no emergency services, no supplies other than what you brought yourself, limited cell reception, zero light pollution, immersed in nothing but the sound of the waves, the ocean breeze, and your family and friends. One extra cool point of the trip was an extremely calm cove we found at the southern tip of the island. We thought it was odd when we drove past it the first time. After driving around a bit we decided it was too interesting to not go back and check out. We backed our trucks up right to the high tide line and went swimming. Turns out there was a submerged sandbar/break a few hundred feet off the beach that was breaking up any waves that would have normally come in. It was like a waist deep infinity pool at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. We hung out in that cove/pool for hot minute… until the tide came in and the sun started setting at least.
Any scary or recovery moments? No scary or recovery moments. The Tacoma does great in the sand. We went there with the intent of “resetting our balance” … that’s exactly what we did.
What's the upgrade you are most grateful you got? My bed rack actually… yes it’s a Cali Raised. I actually got it because it was one of the lighter options… Plus there was no lead time. I have the mid height bed rack and we do not use an RTT anymore (turns out I like to stand up to put my pants on). The bed rack is the work horse for our kit and has made arranging and carrying gear so much easier. The mounted storage cases hold all my recovery gear, hi-lift, shovel, and we even load up out tent, ez-up canopy, and chairs on it. I still have the entire bed of the truck to load trip specific gear, firewood, extra coolers if needed, etc. Having the rack has doubled my bed carrying capacity. Most other upgrades get used some times or play small parts in specific situations. That bed rack puts in major work every trip.
What advice would you give to anyone who's thinking about getting into overlanding or who has recently started?
DON'T BUY ANYTHING YET!! Plan small 1 or 2 night trips with basic stuff you most likely already have… THEN see what you’re missing or what might make the experience more enjoyable. Get a feel for what kind of venturing you’re into. Are you into long multi-state trips that will include a bit of pavement travel? Are you looking for the difficult rock crawling, body damaging trails? How many people will your rig need to accommodate, at what ages, and for how long (long weekends or 2 weeks)? Many of us have wasted A LOT of money of things we thought were “must haves” because it just seemed right based on other people’s stories, YouTube videos, or it just seemed logical. Then you use it a couple times and realize it isn’t actually the right solution for YOUR needs, interests, or how you and your family plan on enjoying the outdoors. Be patient, do research, and hopefully that leads to better decisions.
Where are you off to next?
I built my own Squaredrop camper over the summer. For now we will continue hitting the Appalachians, and exploring the Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee areas.
What's your dream trip?
Once we leave the east coast and start traveling, we’re moving back to the Dallas area. I’d like to make a large loop starting from Texas and loop through New Mexico, Arizona, up California (maybe Nevada) to some of the large famous parks, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. I think a couple days per major attraction, park, etc or a few days per state should be enough. We’ll stop at a legit campground or even a hotel to reset ever so often. I imagine the whole thing should take a few weeks. Gonna try to work on that balance… no rush!!
What keeps you into overlanding? The peace and freedom of getting out, leaving the “to-do” lists and calendars behind, even if it’s just for a few days, and catching up with yourself. Sort of a reset. I believe in “Balance” and it’s important to find a way to stay balanced. At 47 years old, 23 years of active-duty military and 21 of them in conflict, I’ve learned you can only push so hard for so long. The overlanding community has some awesome, motivated, enthusiastic people. I enjoy meeting them, sharing build experiences, and just being a part of an active and like-minded community.
Until next time!
At Cali Raised LED, we not only want to encourage riders to try something new, (with all the proper precautions of course!) but also to not be too shy when it comes to checking out trails that they may not have thought possible. It's in our very slogan, "Rise Up and Seek Adventure." We really mean it.
Thank you to Lon Bennish for sharing your story with us.
If you haven't figured it out yet, we've been featuring a trail or national park or other must see location each month of the year, and sometimes we are lucky enough to find other off-roaders who have been there. They are kind enough to share their experience and their expertise. Want to be featured? Have a trail you think we should feature? Submit your photos and story to firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered!
What Trails do you think we should feature next? Tell us in the comments below!