Our friends over at Veteran Overland recently completed one of their annual treks through the wilderness. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, this mid-February event has been affectionately dubbed “The Cold Hearts Snow Run.” The weekend is a challenging overland odyssey through rural, snow-covered central Oregon that puts the terrain navigation skills of each participant to the test and demands teamwork in order to make it all the way through. Veteran Overland maintains the military’s ethos of leaving no one behind, and their convoy of ten attendees—a mix of veterans and veteran supporters—was there to support each other every step of the way.
The first Cold Hearts Snow Run took place in 2018 and—except for having to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic—the event has continued on annually since. From the beginning, the purpose of the event has been to teach those who aren’t particularly familiar with off-roading and camping in a snowy environment how to do exactly that. By learning and growing through this demanding endeavor, participants practice the essential tenants of Veteran Overland’s mission, which is to foster resilience and connection through overlanding and enjoying the great outdoors.
Each of these missions, like The Cold Hearts Snow Run, provides common purpose in the face of a collective challenge, and fosters a strong sense of camaraderie amongst all involved. This sense of belonging is vital to any human being, but especially those who have been through tours in combat and can struggle to find that same degree of connection upon returning to civilian life. Building and maintaining resilience is vital, especially for vets, who face much higher rates of suicide than the general population. On this year’s run, two of the attendees were combat veterans fully sponsored by Veteran Overland and were flown in for the event to ride along as part of the convoy.
On this year’s adventure, the caravan of mid-size trucks and SUVs spent most of Saturday, February 19th slogging through the snow, where the vehicles took turns getting stuck and learning how to pull each other free. The 33-37 in. front and rear tires that each vehicle uses were aired down to 8 psi in order to ensure optimal traction in the snow. The loose powder still presented a challenge for the tires though, as the process of winching a vehicle out of a bank or ravine risks pulling the tires off the wheels due to the stubborn, unforgiving nature of the snow itself.
At the end of the day, it was time to set up camp and find a way to fill everyone’s empty bellies. Fortunately, one of the attendees had the foresight to bring along an elk he’d hunted, which made for a hearty, delicious chili that the team chased down with a keg of beer kindly donated by Vagabond Brewing, a Marine-owned craft brewery in Salem, Oregon.
It was early the next morning when an incident occurred which perfectly captures the fraternal spirit of Veteran Overland and gives you an idea of what kind of people they are. The following is a testimonial from U.S. Marine Veteran Rey Rodriguez:
"These guys have a way of making guests feel welcomed and like, we are immediately a part of their crew. The group and the way they structure their event is reminiscent of a convoy on patrol, and when they hit the mountain trails, they leave no one behind. They are experts in vehicle recovery, and I'm also pretty sure they saved a man's life during my stay. A guy [a stranger] got his truck stuck in extremely low-temperature weather with no cold-weather gear and walked roughly five miles before randomly, and fortunately, coming across our campsite. The V/O crew didn't hesitate to help. I admired their dedication to their hobby, and I especially had a great time by the campfire exchanging stories, joking, and bonding with the crew. I appreciated how much V/O dedicates to recreating those bonds veterans wish for after their service ends. Thank you, guys, for the experience, and I hope to see everyone next time around."
The event served as a perfect example of the genuine, caring character of the Veteran Overland crew. Not everyone heads out for a fun weekend in the woods and ends up saving a man’s life. Fortunately, the remainder of the weekend was without major incident. In fact, the rest of Sunday morning couldn’t have gone better courtesy of some awesome breakfast burritos whipped up by V/O Co-founder Jeff McPike’s wife, Carly. After breakfast, the convoy packed up camp and headed out once again, this time with a return to civilization as their final destination. Once they made it out of the woods the team wrapped up the weekend with a lunch at Three Creeks Brewery in Sisters, Oregon.
Find Out More About Veteran Overland
MagnaFlow would like to sincerely thank Veteran Overland for all the awesome work they do to support our veterans. We’re proud to call them friends and always look forward to collaborating with their team, as well as highlighting more of their epic overlanding adventures. Interested in getting involved? You can find out more about V/O at VeteranOverland.org, where you can get further information on their upcoming events, check out their merchandise and support their cause with a lifetime membership for only $25, or you can donate to them directly at https://veteranoverland.org/shop/ols/products/donation.