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FRONT RUNNER ON THE MOVE–TARA MCGOVERN​

FRONT RUNNER ON THE MOVE–TARA MCGOVERN​

- August 05, 2022

Tara McGovern is a destination and adventure photographer that works all over the globe. In all her creative work her goal is to bring a seamless blend of art, emotion, and experience. “It isn't just photos we are taking, but memories we are making,” she says. This philosophy translates into her overland travels with her two boys in which they put their customized, Front Runner-rigged Jeep Wrangler and overland trailer through their paces on extended adventures to create memories. Tara is super hands-on with her Jeep’s upgrades and mods and through the process has developed a solid understanding of how every system on her Jeep works. This has proved invaluable for on-the-go repairs while in remote areas. Read on to get some insights into where her Jeep has taken her and what she’s learned along the way.

© Tara McGovern

Roughly how many kilometers have you done over the past year or so?

In the last year, I’ve done about 50K miles (or roughly 80,500km).

© Tara McGovern

Were these miles a mix of shorter, weekend trips and longer expeditions? If so, how important are those quick weekend trips?

Typically I do a full three-month trip over the summer and then work in shorter trips that can range anywhere from three days to two weeks throughout the rest of the year to work around my kids' school schedules. 

© Tara McGovern

Out of all the spots you’ve ever camped in, what are your five favorites (of all time)? And could you give us a short reason why?

5 favorites, that is hard to choose! I don’t want to give exact locations because finding them is an important part of the process, in my opinion, however, I would say that the top 5 areas that we spend the most time camping in each year are:​

1. Olympic Peninsula of Washington ​

This was my home for many years and we still spend a good deal of time there each summer. The mountains there are special to us as a family. ​

2. Sawtooth Mountain range, anywhere near Ketchum or Stanley Idaho  ​

I am a huge Hemingway fan and was initially drawn to the area because that was a very special place to him, where he made his home and is buried. I started exploring the areas that were his known favorites and discovered massive networks of off-road trails and public land camping there. It is a treasure trove of history and scenery there with endless spots to fish and old ghost towns and mines to explore. There are also a lot of campgrounds for those who are scared to do the more remote off-grid camping. ​

3. Tahoe National Forest and the surrounding area around lake Tahoe​

There are so many off-road trails and lakes to check out around Lake Tahoe and the area north of it. Definitely a favorite for my kids with lots of hiking and waterfalls in remote areas. 

4. Northern Wyoming/Bridger Teton National Forest area​

Generally, any of the areas surrounding Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons always make for stunning scenery and wildlife viewing. It is all very remote and grizzly and moose-heavy territory though, so I do not suggest it to beginners or those who don’t have a vehicle equipped to handle the altitude over those mountain passes. ​

5. Colorado is a new favorite that we are still exploring​

Any of the areas from Buena Vista to Ouray have such amazing trails that are all fairly easy to explore with so much history. There are also plenty of lakes and rivers for fishing and swimming or bringing the paddleboards out as well as lots of BLM camping options. 

© Tara McGovern

What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever had to deal with on an overland trip?

The biggest challenge I’ve dealt with so far is dealing with major parts breaks that require a professional and shop - like my axle internals for example. Just last week, I came off a rough trail in the Sawtooths and realized that my rear locker was refusing to disengage. I had to pull compressor lines to it and then still force it manually to unlock by lifting my Jeep and manually moving the wheels to get it drivable on the road for a short distance. After that, I still had to find a shop to open up the axle and found that I was going to have to replace internal parts, which is not a minor job. Thankfully I have a really solid network of friends and professionals that I trust in the Jeep community who helped me figure it out on the road and find a shop along the way. ​

​That being said, the best thing I ever did was commit to learning my vehicle and repairing it myself as much as possible. It allows me to be more comfortable with the risks I’m taking with it and taking it to even more remote locations each year because I have that confidence that I can handle if things break and my knowledge of how every system on my Jeep works has grown with each trip. I am also careful to carry all of the tools I need to handle any possible repair job as well as my Pro Eagle jack. Having the right tools with you makes all the difference. Months at a time off-roading and putting extensive miles on a vehicle is going to put a lot of wear and tear and require a lot of maintenance even if nothing big ever breaks. I have learned how important it is to schedule the time for maintenance on my trips to make sure everything is well taken care of. 

© Tara McGovern

Can you give us a brief rundown of the Front Runner products you have on your Jeep?

When I decided to add the trailer it was very important to me that the system I use works seamlessly between the Jeep and trailer so that everything fit the same way in and on both and could be interchangeable. So Front Runner was the obvious choice for that. The Front Runner items I am currently running on my Jeep and trailer are:​

Slimline II Roof Rack ​

Roof Top Tent and Annex (on trailer)​

4 Wolf Packs and 4 Cub Packs

Easy Out Awning​

Water Jerry Can (and mount)​

Flip Pop Tent​

Stratchits​

Pro Stainless Steel Camp Table ​

Camp Kitchen Utensil set​

© Tara McGovern

Do you have some mods in the works on it currently?

I do! I can’t give specific details just yet, but I am extremely excited about the current projects I am working on and the companies I am working with. With the explosion in popularity of the overland trailers over the last couple of years, there has been a lack of trailers out there that are truly meant for harder off-road use and rock crawling (that can TRULY keep up with a well-built Jeep) as well as trailers that are priced affordably for the average person like me with my type of vehicle. I am also focusing more on new trailer builds and modifications that are more aimed at Jeeps and towing-capacity limited rigs like them to have a trailer that won’t damage or stress their vehicle while off-road towing. The new projects will of course include new uses for all my Front Runner gear.  

© Tara McGovern

Where to next with the Jeep? (What trips have you got planned for the rest of 2022)

Right now we are still on our mid-summer trip (about 10 weeks into this trip), so we are still adventuring on to Colorado. We were going to do quite a bit of Montana and the Yellowstone area this year, but mother nature had other plans and a lot of trails and roads got destroyed due to weather. So, after Colorado, we have zero plan, which makes things even more fun! The rest of 2022 is also an open book right now. 

© Tara McGovern

If you could give a family new to overlanding one tip what would that be?

Let the kids have control as much as possible, whether it be in trip/route planning or handling camp setup etc. Trust them to figure hard things out. Don’t just make them be along for the ride, let them navigate, let them make decisions on what you do and where you go, and let them pick up the responsibilities that they are capable of. The amount of confidence you will see develop rapidly in them when they realize how capable they are in these scenarios as they learn will astound you. As a parent, I never get tired of seeing them grow and learn, or the joy that they experience with the confidence that develops when they aren’t controlled by fear of trying new things. 

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