2018 SoCal Mountain Rendezvous

2018 SoCal Desert Rendezvous

Thursday, Day 01:

Our day started with the American Adventurist team already on-site and prepping for the slew of members to arrive for check-in at our 8th Annual SoCal Mountain Rendezvous. We’d arrived a around 3:00pm after loading up and making logistics stops along the way. Traffic was light, the weather was very pleasant but warm, and we finally arrived to Camp Tahquitz with not a cloud in the sky. The entire team was there at the check-in station, along with our founder, Dave Bennett, who had flown in from the Midwest the day before to see everyone. We got our camp setup and joined the team already on duty. It was a day to unwind and get into the Rendezvous mindset!

Friday, Day 02:

It was a wonderful morning as the sun began to rise and shine between the many trees throughout Camp Tahquitz. The camp slowly began to come to life as breakfast was being prepared and cooked, and others were preparing for the day’s activities to come.


After having breakfast and coffee, the check-in station reopened and we began to gather the members who were interested in a trail-run to the Holcomb Creek Trail led by Falken Tires. Brandon and Don of Falken Tire gave the drivers meeting and safety brief before they saddled up and hit the road.  We had people coming from as far away as the east coast for the Rendezvous again this year, so we manned the check-in area as members and vendors alike began filtering in throughout the morning.




At 11:00am, a first-aid class was hosted by Dave Bennett. A great turnout from our members to soak in the knowledge from his many years of Navy medicine and real world field experience with the Marines.  Staff member Stuart also advised on information regarding CPR with his 25 years of EMT experience.



The rest of the day on Friday was left to relaxing and socializing, saying hi to old friends, and meeting new ones. At 5:00pm, a social hour was hosted by Goose Gear. One hundred and fifty burgers and hotdogs were cooked up for everyone to come and eat around the main fire pit. All the folks in camp from all corners came down to enjoy the delicious food. Thanks Goose Gear for providing a ton of food for everyone to eat!



As everyone lounged about the fire pit, the group that had left this morning on their trail run finally began to arrive at home base with the guys from Falken Tire. During the afternoon, we had comms that they had encountered a broken down Jeep YJ that had a broken belt. After a little bit, it was decided to send our good friend Tim out on a mission to pickup a fan belt and deliver it to them on his KTM motorcycle. Unfortunately comms were very spotty, but it turns out that the shop had already sent someone out to meet the stranded Jeep and Tim’s rescue wasn’t needed. He had returned after raising Brandon and getting the update. Brandon and Don literally returned to camp as the remaining “campfire” loungers were about ready to head to bed. They had a long day and long night and also decided to turn in as well. Friday had been a very eventful day.



Saturday, Day 03

Another clear and crisp morning greeted us as we all awoke from our nights’ slumber on Saturday morning. Today’s event schedule consisted of a Gear Science class hosted by Adam from Step 22 Gear, and a Recovery 202 Class hosted by I4WDTA Certified Trainer Dave Bennett with help from Deadman Offroad.  A Scavenger Hunt for the kids was also hosted by American Adventurist which had the kids running all over the place looking for items and key people. Saturday evening would bring the main event: the Potluck Dinner and Camp Cooking Competition, which gets bigger and better every year.



Step 22 Gear began their Gear Science class at 11:00am. Adam gave us a rundown on how to properly choose recovery gear, what the materials are really meant for, and what the differences are. He shared lot of great information we all should know, and made it easy to understand the mysteries and importance of things like working load limits, safety factors and independent testing. Thanks again Adam for taking the time to teach the class!



After a lunch break, it was I4WDTA Certified Trainer Dave Bennett and Deadman Offroad to host the Recovery 202 class. This was an advanced class which built upon the basics of recovery that most of us should know. The idea of this class was to simulate clearing a blocked trail by moving a large log via a 9,500 lb winch. A layout was made using a tree strap and single pulley block to redirect a VERY large log 180 degrees from where it lay to it’s new position out of the way. Careful consideration was given to the approximate weight of the deadfall (6K lbs), the rating of all gear used, and also the weight of the vehicle doing the winching.  A great instruction of what to do, and what not to do in regards to winching skills and setting up the lines properly. Safety is always number one!



After a successful and educational afternoon, it was business as usual in camp, with the days’ schedule left up to you. That’s a Rendezvous tradition after all – do as much, or as little, as you like!



Meanwhile, the younger Adventurists had a fun event coming up, the American Adventurist Kids Scavenger Hunt. An awesome prize was given out to each participant for finding the listed items on their hunt. Every year is always a different prize! The kids had a blast with the hunt and even more fun using their prize at night fall.



As the afternoon wore on, preparations began in earnest for the Potluck Dinner and Camp Cooking Competition. Participants had been planning their meals for this main event for months, and now it was show time. The issue of open flame and heat is always a concern given the fire restrictions in the San Bernardino National Forest in the latter days of summer. Unfortunately, the winds had picked up so charcoal was a no-go this year.  Luckily the participants weren’t strictly limited to Dutch Oven cooking and they had arrived well prepared with a variety of camp cooking tools at their disposal. Our members are truly the Kings of Camp Cooking!



At 6:00pm, the tables were filled with dishes of all kinds, from main dishes to sides and desserts. It was awesome to see how many different dishes there were. Not only the variety, but mostly just because of how many of you participated in this event, which included both contestants, and also the Adventurists who contributed to the Potluck. A huge thank you to everyone who brought a dish to the table. Team efforts like this are what American Adventurist is all about!


An AMAZING variety of dishes, and quite delicious all around! Congratulations to the winners of the Potluck Dinner and Cook-off Competition!

In Third Place:


In Second Place:


In First Place:


A big thank you tour friends at Tembo Tusk for sponsoring the Camp Cooking Competition, but more importantly, a massive thank you to everyone who participated in this delicious event!

With full belly’s and smiling faces, we all kicked back and enjoyed the rest of Saturday night, sitting around our faux campfire lanterns. The night sky this entire weekend was so clear, no moon and a flooded with stars. A perfect clear night.



Sunday, Day 04

Sunday was a nice and leisurely morning as everyone was readying up for the huge raffle. After everyone gathered around the main fire pit, Brent Haywood Photography rallied everyone together for the always happening Rendezvous group photo. Thanks Brent for coordinating the photo!


With the photos taken and everyone settled in around the main pit, everyone was ready for the raffle. This part of the event cannot be successful without the endless list of devoted sponsors who continue to donate items to the raffle to help support American Adventurist with our cause and purpose.

We want to give all our sponsors a huge THANK YOU!



With the Sunday afternoon approaching, everyone returned back to their campsites to pack, clean up and head home. The staff stayed behind to wrap up, debrief and say our goodbyes to everyone who attended this always great Rendezvous event at Camp Tahquitz in the mountains of Southern California.

At our Mountain Rendezvous we raised over $3,300 to help support Camp Tahquitz and the Scouts at this event. Another BIG thank you to all our donating sponsors, and of course, to every member of American Adventurist for continuing this annual tradition. Until our next Rendezvous event!



Desert Rendezvous 2018

American Adventurist began at a campfire near Anza Borrego.  There’s just something inherently right about spending time around a campfire with good people, and we wanted to do more of it.  Fast forward eight years to a long weekend running trails with barbecues, gear raffles, potlucks and classes on everything from astrophotography to advanced vehicle recovery techniques, these times spent around the campfire are some of our best memories.  In the end it’s all about the people, and for the last eight years we’ve been teaching people how to have fun in the desert while leaving Anza-Borrego better than we found it.  This is the 8th Annual Desert Rendezvous hosted by American Adventurist.

For 2018, we came up with too many activities to pack into three days, so we added an extra day to all of our events.  This year the event started on Thursday and people came from across California, Nevada, Arizona, and as far away as Texas to join in on everything that is Desert Rendezvous.

Unlike most outdoor enthusiasts, the average American Adventurist is completely self sufficient in the backcountry.  Most vehicles have been tastefully modified and are properly equipped for unsupported, vehicle dependent travel.  There are no toilets here, no running water, no fuel or stores for many miles.  Fuel, water, provisions and toileting arrangements are all carefully planned for in advance so that they are always prepared, and once they leave a campsite there is no trace.  Just tire tracks in the sand.

One of the great things about the desert is that it allows people to spread out a little rather than being crowded in like a trade show.  People took advantage of this by arriving on Thursday, making camp at a leisurely pace and mingling.  Renowned 4WD guru Bill Burke of Bill Burke’s 4 Wheeling America and his sidekick Henry even showed up to say hi and donate to the raffle.

Friday morning started the way all mornings should – watching the sunrise while coffee percolates.  After breakfast, a number of folks lined up their rigs for the trail runs while other folks took time to relax in camp and hang out or even attend classes.  That’s one of our founding “rules” at a Rendezvous event – do as much or as little as you like. There’s an event schedule, but you’re really on your own program.

Trail runs departed and soon classes were underway in camp.  Joey Pitts, an I4WDTA Certified Trainer and owner of Pitt’s 4×4 Company, came all the way from Texas to instruct classes on off-road skills focused on safely utilizing commonly seen recovery gear to resolve a variety of “stuck vehicle” scenarios and other mobility challenges typically encountered during off-pavement desert trips.

As the sun sets, everyone is back in camp as the American Adventurist Staff fires up grills and skottles to cook up a mountain of burgers and hot dogs for the barbecue social hosted by sponsor Pelfreybilt Off-Road.  No one ever goes hungry at a Rendezvous event and the shenanigans were soon underway again as night falls.

After dinner, a number of folks met up to learn about astrophotography while others congregated around the campfire.  Thanks to our friends at Goal Zero, we were able to bring along a computer monitor to show students what the instructors were doing with their cameras, and provide free solar charging for the entire event.  Nighttime photography in the desert is a special treat and we can’t wait to see what our members can do with these newfound skills.

Saturday’s schedule is packed with classes again with offerings in camp for kids and adults alike.  A number of rigs lined up once more for trail runs while others gathered to attend the classes.  The scavenger hunt was a big hit this year as kids raced around camp putting new compass skills to use while seeking out random items and staff members.  As always, sun and wind are a factor in the desert and this weekend did not disappoint with beautiful weather and mild temperatures.  There’s a reason we call this time of year “desert season”.

Pitts 4×4 Company was joined by Deadman Off-Road and Step 22 Gear to put on another great course on vehicle recovery in the desert.  Deadman has a revolutionary land anchor that’s capable of anchoring to just about anything – earth, trees, rocks, you name it.  The demo provided was both informative and entertaining, and we were VERY impressed by the results.  A very BIG thanks to all of these experts for coming out and teaching at Desert Rendezvous!

Just as this class was winding down, folks were drawn to the excellent smells of the Dutch Oven cooking class – a perfect appetizer for the evening’s Potluck and Dutch Oven Competition hosted by Front Runner Outfitters.  If you’ve never tried Dutch Oven (aka Potjie Pot) cooking while camping you’re missing out – everything from fresh bread to jambalaya to peach cobbler or even triple chocolate cake can be made completely off-grid.  Fire one up (or just mooch off your buddy) and you’ll be a believer – the only limit is your imagination.

On Sunday morning everyone in camp mustered for the Annual Desert Rendezvous Cleanup.  This year, the Bureau of Land Management provided two gigantic dumpsters large enough to park a full-size truck inside – and by the time the group of volunteers had worked its way from camp to the dumpsters they were filled with of all sorts of garbage and oddities that you wouldn’t expect to see abandoned in the desert.  Over the years, we’ve found everything from TV’s and freezers to wigs and prosthetic limbs.

Sadly, it seems too many people have no idea what it means to Tread Lightly! in even the most basic sense – as a Community we’re doing our part to change that by putting Tread Lightly! concepts into practice in hopes of keeping this and other areas open for future recreation.  Next year, we need your help.

At final tally, this year’s Desert Rendezvous Cleanup picked up over FIVE TONS of trash.

To be precise, American Adventurist members collected 5.36 tons, or 10,720 pounds of trash from our public lands.  In one day.

Let that sink in for a minute.  If you see any of these fine Americans out there on the trail, please thank them for their efforts.

With the dumpsters full, it was time for the Rendezvous raffle.  Coolers, tires, recovery gear, gift certificates, blankets, lights, knives – there were tons of awesome prizes to give away again this year.  American Adventurist is able to have such great raffles because our members give back to the community everywhere we go, and our friends in the industry recognize and support these efforts year after year.  Please support the companies listed at the end of this article – without their generous support, these events would be much more difficult to organize.

Desert Rendezvous is just one of three national level events hosted by American Adventurist each year in California and North Carolina.  Each event is held in a unique environment and steeped in the region’s local flavor.  All of our community events have the same core values and focus on friends, family, and an active outdoor lifestyle.  At American Adventurist we are not “just for profit” and as such we have an enduring commitment to give back to the local community at every event we host.
To learn more about our other events, please visit our EVENTS PAGE.
To join the American Adventurist community, visit our Forums and REGISTER and be sure to stop by and see us at Overland Expo West in Arizona in May ~ we’re the Official Forum Sponsors for Overland Expo!

Grassroots events like the Rendezvous and the causes we support wouldn’t be possible without continued support from a large number of outstanding companies. Please consider them first when you need gear:

4X4 sPOD
Baja Designs
Colby Valve
Deadman Off-road
Equipt Expedition Outfitters
Factor 55
Falken Tire
Fold A Flame
Front Runner
Goose Gear
Goal Zero
LT Wright Knives
Mojoe Outfitters
Pitts 4×4 Co
Princeton Tec
Prometheus Design Werx
Rancho Suspension
Safe Jack
Step 22 Gear
Tembo Tusk
Wilco OffRoad

Many thanks to all the STAFF that make these events happen and to Richard SooHoo (@synikalsoysauce) and Justin Pitcairn (@pitcairnoverland) for use of their photos in this article!  See you at Overland Expo!