LAND ROVER EXPEDITION AMERICA - Trail Report by Expedition Leader Tom Collins
03 September 2013
Did the Trans-America Trail meet my expectations? No, it exceeded them. The people that we met along our journey were a highlight; everywhere we stopped, people were interested in what we were doing. The Trans-America Trail is important to the livelihood of the small gas stations and cafes along the trail and they were very surprised that we were travelling along it in SUVs and not motorcycles. Many of the people living on the route have log books for the motorcyclist to sign and love talking to the riders, especially those from other countries. We were very surprised by the number of invitations to lunch we received at remote ranches.
The Land Rover LR4 truly exceeded my expectations. We were spoiled riding in air conditioned luxury. Other than a few inevitable flats along such a varied-terrain trail, the LR4 never gave us a problem. The off road systems worked as advertised, the fuel economy was better than expected, the cargo carrying capacity was exceptional and we were never beat up by the suspension. I was truly impressed by the navigation system that had the majority of the trails we traversed on its map. I was even more impressed with how the LR4 kept the cabin dust-free as Nevada has the most dust of any states I’ve ever driven through.
Traversing the United State on its most remote roads was the closest one can come to seeing what the pioneers saw as they headed west so many years ago. The changing vegetation and geography was truly noticed on the trail verses the interstate. We started in the Appalachian Mountains near Ashville, North Carolina with an elevation of 2,100 feet and descended to 151 feet at the Mississippi River. Heading west, we climbed steadily until we peaked out at California Pass near Silverton, Colorado at 12,930 feet. During that climb, the eastern forest thinned out in Oklahoma and abruptly changed at the 101st parallel to sage brush and cottonwood trees, western species. At the New Mexico line, agriculture just stopped and it became a wild plain full of cattle, deer and antelope. At this sight, you definitely know you’ve entered the west. The trail was practically a wild life program. We saw deer, elk, bear, mountain lions, bob cat, antelope, wild horses, eagles and a number of smaller animals; it was spectacular.
Throughout our journey, we got very lucky with the weather. We had no rain until Oklahoma and even that was just a drizzle. We missed three flash floods that flooded parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah. We had to work our way through deep water in Oklahoma, that two days earlier, would not have been passable. In New Mexico we saw twisted bridges and washed out roads that were devastated once again two days before we arrived and in Utah the motorcyclist, who became our trail mates, said we missed a flash flood near Lone Tree Crossing in the San Rafael Swell by two hours. Any of the floods could have ended our trip. In fact any rain could have destroyed our ambitious schedule. Our luck partially ran out in Oregon, where forest fires forced us to reroute for half a day, and then we doubled back to complete a section of the trail.
Would I do the journey again? Absolutely, in fact, when we reached our finish line, I wanted to turn around and head east at the Pacific Ocean. I had emerged myself in the rhythm of the trail and was not quite ready to return to reality yet.
I would like to thank Land Rover and everyone involved for making this expedition possible, but one man deserves the most credit, and that’s Sam Correro. He spent three decades putting the Trans-America Trail together and helped us tremendously throughout our journey. I was truly impressed by the accuracy of his maps and roll charts and could have never navigated our way across the country without his hard work.