Off-roaders share their adventures on the East County Overlanders YouTube channel

About twice a month Ramona resident Adam Nungesser goes off-roading on rugged terrain, usually in Anza Borrego or the eastern Sierras.

But he doesn’t go alone. Usually, he corrals a group of 40 or so like-minded off-road enthusiasts in roughly 15 4-wheel drive vehicles who have fun driving bumpy roads and camping overnight together.

The caravan is known by their YouTube channel name, the East County Overlanders.

Nungesser created the channel a few years ago when he was looking to make changes in his life. His kids were growing up, he separated from his wife, and he was selling his motorcycles — mostly dirt bikes he had been riding off-road in the desert since high school.

And significantly, he bought a Jeep — a vehicle he had his eyes on since he was a teenager.

Shortly after getting the Jeep, Nungesser started going off-roading with his friend, Scott Mattson of Ramona, who owns a Toyota FJ Cruiser. After goofing around on camping trips for awhile, Mattson suggested they make their outings organized events.

“East County Overlanders is an overlanding club and it started for fun,” said Nungesser, who has a career in medical sales. “Now it’s just really taking off.

“We don’t care what type of vehicle people drive,” he said. “We just want them to come out and have fun.”

From left, Jenniffer Ulrich, Adam Nungesser and Scott Mattson visit Slot Canyon in Anza Borrego.

From left, Jenniffer Ulrich, Adam Nungesser and Scott Mattson visit Slot Canyon in Anza Borrego.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

Mattson said forming the group started as a joke, but the idea germinated and grew organically. He said he realized too late that Ramona is considered North County, but he enjoys the diversity of people it attracts.

“We have people joining from Orange County, Los Angeles, all over the place,” said Mattson, owner of Customer Support Networks. “Everybody is from all walks of life and there’s diversity in the rigs. We like to razz each other about the rigs and properly haze members as they join the club, but it’s all in good fun.”

Some East County Overlanders campers sleep on top of their vehicles inside rooftop tents.

Some East County Overlanders campers sleep on top of their vehicles inside rooftop tents.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

Along with driving and camping, Nungesser takes videos of their adventures and posts them on the East County Overlanders channel.

One of Nungesser’s twin boys, Colin Nungesser, 19, got the channel going based on his experiences creating a YouTube channel for fishing. Colin took it to the next level by creating hats with an East County Overlanders logo designed with a compass and a large red E for East.

Nungesser’s daughter, Lydia Nungesser, 17, also stepped up to teach her dad how to make videos based on her experience running an online shoe business, Lydia ReSells.

“Basically, she and Colin taught me how to take a video, download it to the computer, edit it with music, add special effects and then post it on YouTube,” said Nungesser, who has made nearly 30 YouTube videos of the club’s excursions. “They’ve gotten a lot better as I learned how to do it.”

The YouTube channel now has 347 subscribers and more than 110,000 views of its content.

Off-roaders with their vehicles are, from left, Adam Nungesser, Ken Fortier and Steve Sublett.

Off-roaders with their vehicles are, from left, Adam Nungesser, Ken Fortier and Steve Sublett.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

When Nungesser goes on an outing he takes a GoPro camera and a drone.

“I interview people,” he said. “I go up to random strangers on the trail and ask them, ‘Can you tell me about your vehicle and where you are from?’ One guy was from Alaska and he ended up following us on the trail. We just met a great guy from Redondo Beach who is a filmmaker from Los Angeles. He said, ‘I love this. It’s so much fun. When are we doing it again?’”

Nungesser said he’s met a lot of strangers who have become friends. Sometimes they email him and other times touch base to find out when the next East County Overlanders trip will be.

Along with telling stories, some of the videos can be educational lessons in how to repair a vehicle if it breaks down on the trail, or informative descriptions of different types of communication to use while off-roading.

“The people absolutely love the videos because it’s a scrapbook for them to remember the trips by,” he said.

Colin Nungesser helped his dad, Adam, create the East County Overlanders YouTube channel after creating a fishing channel.

Colin Nungesser helped his dad, Adam, create the East County Overlanders YouTube channel based on his own experiences creating a fishing channel.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

Along with off-roading, his buddy Mattson enjoys having outdoor experiences in places like Anza Borrego, Glamis, Palomar Mountain and Joshua Tree National Park. Growing up on the East Coast in places such as Florida, North Carolina and West Virginia, Mattson said he learned survival skills while rock climbing with his dad, Bob Mattson, who was a mountaineer.

“He taught me a lot about how to handle yourself outdoors, although the East Coast is a different environment,” said Mattson, who also knows how to help when a vehicle breaks down on the trail. “Everybody is pretty well-versed. We try to bring tools and make sure we have what we need to get out of any type of situation we run into. It doesn’t happen a lot though.”

Jenniffer Ulrich, Nungesser’s girlfriend who lives in Rancho Bernardo, regularly joins Nungesser on the one- to two-hour drives to get to remote areas. Once they get to their campsites, they’re accustomed to “boondocking,” which is camping without hookups, electricity, restrooms or running water, she said.

“Every dirt road leads to an amazing adventure and it offers calmness and the beauty of the desert that a lot of people aren’t aware of,” said Ulrich, a real estate agent with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty. “It gives you an opportunity to see what a Jeep can do because they’re made for off-roading. And it’s nice to go out and explore nature.”

Jenniffer Ulrich makes regular off-roading trips with her boyfriend, Adam Nungesser.

Jenniffer Ulrich makes regular off-roading trips with her boyfriend, Adam Nungesser.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

One of the memorable trips took Ulrich and Nungesser to Fonts Point in Borrego Springs where they had a picnic to celebrate Nungesser’s birthday recently. The scenic landscape reminded her of the Grand Canyon and she thought it would be a great place to take a sunrise or sunset picture.

Part of the fun in arranging the organized trips is meeting new people, some who aren’t familiar with the trails, Ulrich said. She sometimes hands them East County Overlanders stickers and hats, and tells them about the YouTube channel where they can subscribe and follow the group, or they can go to Instagram and Facebook pages.

East County Overlanders sometimes drive their off-road vehicles to Fish Creek in the Sierra National Forest.

East County Overlanders sometimes drive their off-road vehicles to Fish Creek in the Sierra National Forest.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

Just a couple of weekends ago the East County Overlanders added a little more fun to their trip by hosting their second annual Poker Run. The trip was on mild terrain to include some newbies, Nungesser said.

Players met in Borrego Springs where they were given an envelope with two playing cards. Then they jumped in their vehicles — Nissans, Toyotas, Jeeps and Broncos — and went on a 20-mile off-road adventure where they drove to three points of interest. At each stop they received another playing card. At the end of the run, the winners with the best poker hands were awarded prizes.

East County Overlanders’ logo is printed on hats and stickers.

East County Overlanders’ logo is printed on hats and stickers.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

The grand prize winner received $150 cash, a $50 gift card to REI outdoor recreation store, and some recovery rope for towing in case a vehicle gets stuck on the road, Nungesser said. The second-place winner received a bottle of whiskey.

“The Poker Run attracts people to the club and to watching the YouTube videos,” he said. “It’s nice to get away from reality.”

Monache Meadows in the eastern Sierras offers a scenic backdrop for YouTube videos.

Monache Meadows in the eastern Sierras offers a scenic backdrop for YouTube videos.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

Lexi Ulrich, Michele Selis, Leona Sublett, Julie McIntyre, Erin Nungesser, Natalie Fortier, Jenniffer Ulrich, Shannon Burke.

From left, Lexi Ulrich, Michele Selis, Leona Sublett, Julie McIntyre, Erin Nungesser, Natalie Fortier, Jenniffer Ulrich and Shannon Burke.

(Courtesy Adam Nungesser)

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