Canyons and Community: E3 Overland Adventure to the Grand Canyon

(Above: View of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon from Whitmore Canyon Overlook.)

One of the things my husband Brad has always liked most about overlanding is the community. He loves the people he’s come to know over the years, whether they’ve shared in his adventures or helped him out along the way.    

On the surface, I understood what he was saying. He liked the people he met out on the trail, at various events, and through friends. That’s awesome.    

But I didn’t really understand what he meant.   

You see, even though Brad has been overlanding for years, I haven’t. As far as I was concerned, when he went out on the trail on his adventures, that was “guy time” and I was glad he had some great friends to enjoy it with. Because while he went off to explore, I stayed home, holding down the fort and working fulltime.     

After finally realizing that I was missing out on some amazing experiences, I said goodbye to my job last August and traded in my business casual for jeans and hiking boots to join Brad fulltime on his E3 Overland and TrailRecon adventures.   

And the more I get out there, the more I’m beginning to understand why he loves the overlanding community so much.    

A few months ago, at the end of October, I joined Brad for the second annual E3 Overland event, “Canyon Without the Crowds,” at Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. This five-day affair provided E3 members with overlanding information and tips, recreational outdoor activities, and plenty of opportunities to get to know each other.     

I was not only excited to spend time in this beautiful corner of the Southwest, but I was also looking forward to finding out for myself what is so special about the overlanding community. 

Convoy to the Rim

Brad talks to E3 members before hitting the trail the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
(Brad talks with E3 Overland members before hitting the trail.)

We got off to an interesting start as we met up with 25 other vehicles at the trailhead near St. George, Utah, to begin our 80-mile journey to the Whitmore Canyon Overlook on the Grand Canyon’s north rim, a remote spot where we’d be spending the night.       

As you might expect with so many different vehicles and drivers not used to traveling together, it took our convoy a little while to find a rhythm as we moved across the desert terrain. Due to the size of our group, we were spread out across several miles and we needed to make a few stops along the way to ensure we stayed together.      

It reminded me of how an inchworm moves, head forward, then the middle, and finally the tail catching up. But we eventually found our cadence and everyone made it safely and happily to the rim.   

It was late afternoon when we arrived at Whitmore Canyon and everyone got busy setting up their camps. While the panorama of the canyon and the Colorado River was breathtaking, they weren't the only riveting things to see—camp itself was a sight to behold. From Jeeps to full-sized trucks, no two rigs were alike. And the camp set-ups were just as varied with off-road trailers, rooftop tents, ground tents, and our four-wheel camper.         

That’s one of the coolest things about overlanding—there are just as many ways to do it as there are people doing it. It’s all about what fits your individual needs and wants.     

I say “wants” because really, you only need the basics for overlanding—shelter, a way to keep warm while sleeping, a simple way to cook, and a shovel for taking care of business. I’ve done my fair share of roughing it but, at this point in my life, I’m all about finding ways to be comfortable while I’m out enjoying nature.   

Building Bonds 

Overlanders are a curious bunch, and it didn’t take long for members of the group to start checking out each other’s campsites and discussing how they outfitted their rigs and what gear and equipment they brought.       

I really enjoyed the mix of people too because this group was every bit as unique as their vehicles. Some came as couples, some with families, and others on their own. There were nearly as many women as there were men, and I was glad to realize that trail time could be just as much “girl time” as it was “guy time.” And just about every generation was represented too, including boomers, so don’t ever think you’re too old to overland. There were also several dogs and an overlanding cat!     

That evening, under a star-filled sky, we gathered around our fire pit (it was BYOC—bring your own chair) to talk and hang out—sharing information, swapping stories, asking questions, and just getting to know each other.      

The next morning, our group headed back down the trail to the Bar 10 Ranch where we were joined by more E3 Overland members and the initial bonds that were started the night before expanded to the new arrivals. Everyone continued forming friendships and the sense of community that was sparked around the campfire on that first night kept growing.