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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Visit Connecticut State Forests for free boondock camping when the leaves start to turn

The New England states are famous for their spectacular fall colors, and Connecticut is not lacking when it comes to vibrant autumn foliage.

Like the tourism promotion folks love to shout, "When it comes to autumn, Connecticut is much more than seemingly limitless shades of reds, oranges and yellows waving in the trees and wafting to the ground - though visitors will definitely find that throughout the state."

RVers all want to know: Where can I park the RV to appreciate all this beauty? Here's a tip--try the state forests. One of these is Pachaug, Connecticut's largest state forest, rolling with forests over 24,000 acres. If the name's a bit different, consider that it's a native term meaning, "bend or turn in the river."

Pachaug is an area rich with history. Indians of the Narragansett, Pequot, and Mohegan tribes in habited this area in great number. During the last half of the seventeenth century, the Narragansetts and Pequots were defeated by the combined force of the Colonists and the Mohegans, when in 1700, a six mile square tract was granted to the Indian War Veterans. Eventually, the central portion of this land grant became "Volunteer's Town," incorporated as Voluntown in 1721.

Old cellar holes and miles of stone fence winding through the woods give evidence that the entire forest was once farmed or pastured. Abundant water encouraged the establishment of a mill industry as early as 1711. Nearly every brook has several old mill sites and dams. Homestead farming and small industry succumbed to advancing modern technology; the forest reclaims its land.

Fall is one of the finest times to visit the forest. Call the forest folks at 860-376-4075 for more information.

Additional information from Bob Difley, in response to a request from a reader in the Comments section:

Dispersed camping (boondocking) opportunities are far fewer in the East than in the West, where most of the national forests now have maps of legal dispersed camping areas. Not only do these maps not exist for the national forests of Connecticut, but there are no National Forests in Connecticut, making boondocking even more difficult. 

The rules are always subject to change, but at this writing, dispersed camping in Connecticut State Forests is only referred to as Backpack Camping and the available online information does not provide enough information to determine whether these sites have vehicle access or are walk-in only. They do not refer either to where RV dispersed camping is available; therefore, it is necessary to contact them by phone, both for where RV dispersed camping is legal and what are the current guidelines/rules. 

You can contact the Pachaug State Forest online at the CT DOE camping areas website (scroll down to State Forest Camping Areas) for info. on Pachaug State Forest.

And the blog post was about booondock camping in Connecticut, which is far more difficult than in some other New England states, such as MA, VT, ME, and NH, where leaf peeping is also popular.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nevada Highway 93 boondock jewel: Pahranagat Refuge

There's plenty of long and lonely stretches Out West. Traveling north out of Las Vegas on the 2-lane blacktop of US-93, things get pretty scary for an RVer. The voices on our tape dramas begin to loll one into a (dangerous) trance-like state. Oh, it's time to be off the road and resting up. But where?

Just south of the berg of Alamo is a big (by Nevada standards) lake, Pahranagat. The lake is the centerpiece of a National Wildlife Refuge, and serves as a stopping point for migratory birds. It's also a great stopping point for migratory RVers, and happily, the stopover is free. Bring your fishing pole, but leave your generator off, your hosts thinking that gennies make too much noise for man and beast.

Still, the views of the lake are soothing, and on our early August stop, we didn't mind not using the generator as a spanking breeze came up and gave us natural cooling action. Here's a video of the lake taken from our boondocking site:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Squeezing watts out of your solar panels -- while shady camping

As we're presently traveling in the Pacific Northwest, our boondocking skills are getting a bit of a challenge in an environment so different from the Southwest. Last night when we rolled into bed, we began wondering if we'd maybe need more blankets -- it seemed so cold! But by morning, it seemed like there were too many blankets. What goes on? A little head scratching revealed that when we rolled into bed, the heavy humidity had made the blankets clammy, and by morning, our personal Btu output had driven out the damp, making them much toastier.

The transition to the Northwest also has made some kind-of-weather-related changes for us. The Northwest's famous (infamous?) rain makes for the growth of beautiful trees. And that's great on a hot summer day -- natural shade makers. But if your rig is equipped with solar panels, those shade producing trees also become solar power killers. What can you do to take advantage of the forest without killing off your power?

Much of it is a balancing act. You'll love those shade trees in summer, when happily, you have the most hours of sunlight. Longer days make for more solar watts, and hopefully, a little shadowing on your panels at time can be made up for in longer hours of available light. But remember, just a little shadow across even a portion of a solar panel, dramatically reduces the panel's production rate.

On arriving at your designated woodsy camping area, you'll have to make your best guess as to what site, or location, to call home. Will you get a few hours of direct sun on your rooftop? Will it be enough? If you'll be staying in the spot for days, you may want not to "sink in your roots" too deeply the first day. Maybe leave the tow vehicle hitched up if you're a trailer user, so you can reposition your rig after you've seen a day's cycle of sunlight.

Other boondockers have set up their solar panels so they can actually remove them from the roof, and set them up at ground level on a temporary frame work. That way, they can park their rig in the shade of the woods, and set the panels up in an adjacent sunny spot. Of course, to accomplish this trick, you'll need to size the wire gauge of your connecting cables to handle the distance from panels to rig without a big voltage drop.

We see some of the enjoyment in RVing is the challenge of overcoming obstacles. Squeezing as many watts out of a shady campsite can be one of them.