camping (55)

Jay Nelson’s Subaru Brat Camper

I stopped by Jay Nelson‘s house in San Francisco Wednesday on my way to Santa Cruz (to check out the sliding doors on his shop — for the sliding doors I’m about to build on my curved-roof shed), and this was parked out in front. The body is made of wood, and there’s a copper roof which lifts up.

The vehicle is a Subaru Brat (which, in Subaru-ese) stands for  “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter.” 4-wheel drive.

According to Autoweek:

“The BRAT came with one engine at launch, a 1.6-liter flat four mated to either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. Two trim levels were offered, DL and GL. The GL had four headlights, the the DL had two. In 1981 displacement was raised to 1.8 liters while power grew from 67 hp to a whopping 73. In 1983 an optional turbo engine was offered with 93 angry Japanese ponies. Early models had a single-range transfer case; later models came with a dual-range unit. The strange Subaru Baja eventually came to continue the legacy, but only 30,000 were sold in the four years (2003-2006) it was produced.”

We are doing a new book, Hit the Road, Jack: Adventure Rigs, and Jay’s unique vehicles will be featured, along with those of Mike Basich and other creative builders.

Note: if you have anything to contribute, or know of cool road rigs, contact evan@shelterpub.com.

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Beach Camping in Baja California Sur

Left to right:

  • My 1983 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 with 8-foot bed parked at Roosterfish Cove, Destilladeras (several miles farther out on the East Cape from Shipwrecks). This model did not have independent suspension for front wheels; desert rats preferred it because it was tougher.
  • Air Camping tent (made in Italy) on roof. When flap was up, it faced water. Had mosquito netting, mattress, pillow, sheets inside. Ladder holds up cantilevered section. Great for the desert, no worry about snakes, scorpions. I would 4-wheel it out in the desert on my travels in Baja at night, go down into arroyos and sleep. Stealth.
  • 9-foot Haut 3-fin board
  • Yakima Rocket Box on roof, which contained:
    • 10-by-12-foot flea market tarp for shade. There was a solar panel on the Rocket Box that charged up an extra battery. Note sandbags hanging in corners to hold tarp down in wind; no stakes nec.
    • fishing rod

I would fly into San José del Cabo, pick up the truck at my friend Chilon’s house, drive out to an arroyo on a ranch, down to the beach, let air out of tires and go 2 miles or so on the sand to Roosterfish Cove. All alone for days. No clothes nec.

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Camping With Roof Top Tents

This set up was in the Mattole river campgrounds the night before I left on my Lost Coast hike.The couple had just bought it from Tepui Tents of Santa Cruz, California. I used a tent like this for about 10 years in Baja California and it was great.No need to scramble into the back of a pick up truck to sleep. It folds up into a compact, fairly aerodynamic shape on the roof and in the desert, you don’t have to worry about snakes or scorpions.The ladder acts as a cantilevered support for the foldout section, and the mattress and bedding and pillow are inside so that after unfolding it, you just climb in and go to sleep.

I had it mounted on a 4 x 4 Toyota Tacoma and would 4-wheel it to an isolated beach (where there was surf), and face the screened opening towards the ocean.

The different models run from about $1,000 to $2500.

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The Lost Coast – More Photos #3

“Many rivers to cross…” (I hear Jimmy Cliff when I think of this phrase.)

This was at Horse Mountain Creek. Note hiking shoes tied to back pack, so I had both hands free for my walking sticks, carefully barefooting it across.

Do I wish I’d had trekking poles! 95% of the hikers I met had them. They would have made the trip a ton easier. I don’t want them on good trails, but on sketchy terrain, they’re immensely useful.

This (the third) day, I was on a roll. Back from the dead.

I left Reneé and Pica a note on the sand, since they were coming along behind me.

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Lost Coast Backpack Trip Continued

There are 2 stretches of coast, each 3-4 miles long that are “inaccessible at high tide.” You are warned that you can die if get caught there. Well, uh, OK.

To begin with, it was harder going than I thought. My pack was really heavy. There was a rock slide upon entering the first part of the northern no-fly high tide zone that had to be clambered over. I hadn’t brought rain gear, either for me or the backpack, because the weather report had said no rain…well, 20% chance of rain the first day…and it started raining. Shit, if it poured I’d be screwed.

I found an opening in the rocks and prepared to duck under when the raindrops stopped. Yo!

Onward, or…upward. I had a moment climbing over the rock slide; I slipped, almost fell backward,and got a shot of adrenaline. I occurred to me if I fell and got hurt, I’d be screwed. No way to get word to the outside world. What had I got myself into? And yeah, grudgingly, being 80+ has taken its toll in strength and agility. In my mind I’m still 18, but that just ain’t the reality with an aging body. The kids that passed me that day seemed so strong and bouncy. God, I used to be like that.

I was a bit spooked, got to the end of the tidal zone and felt too tired to make it around the final point.

I found a ledge above the water, pitched my tent on the rocky ground, hoping I’d be above the high tide that night (I was), spent a restless night. Had to wait a few hours in the morning for the tide to drop so I could get around the point. 5½ hours hiking the 1st day.

After about 3 hours the 2nd day, I basically flat-lined. I was depressed, wiped out, thinking of all the things that could go wrong.

The wind was blowing, sun glaring, I felt almost dizzy, so stopped at Big Creek, a wide canyon with 15′-wide creek, pitched my tent, which took 45 minutes in howling wind, climbed inside and slept for an hour.

When I woke up, two women from Auburn, maybe in their 40s, had pitched their tents 100′ away and we visited. Renee told me she’d had 10 herniated discs, a back operation, and several pieces of titanium implanted and that it had taken her 10 years to recover, and one leg was shorter than the other. And here she was, on this incredibly tough hike. Shit, what kind of wimp was I? This was inspiration.

That night we sat around their campfire and her pal Pica pulled out a plastic lightweight ukulele and sang songs in a quiet sweet voice. Did I play the ukulele. Well, uh yeah-uh, songs from the ’20s, and  I played “Five Foot Two,” “Ain’t She Sweet,” and “Jada.” Fun.

I got several hours of good sleep that night, woke up. I’m gonna make it! I lightened my load by burying a pair of running shoes, some extra food, and a spiral notebook in the sand and set off feeling lighter and inspired the next morning.

It’s Saturday morning, I’m at Trinks in Gualala, with a double latte and piece of berry pie with whipped cream for pre-breakfast, now going to get bacon and eggs. I can’t get enpough food after the trip; listeninng to the Georgia Satellites sing “Keep Your Hands To Yourself: 

Rock and roll!

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