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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Slab City faces water crisis

Many boondockers are well-familiar with Slab City, dubbed one of Southern California's "last truly free places." What? You've never heard of it? Well, the short-description of "the slabs," as the place is also known, is a huge area, formerly a Marine base, tucked away east of the Salton Sea. It's known as Slab City, because when the Marines left, they took just about everything but the large concrete slabs that mark the footprints of the old base buildings.

Today, "slabbers," call this vast stretch of desert home, and each winter, RVers by the tons come and join them, squatting for free at Slab City. But that all may come to a halt, due to water. Actually, the lack thereof.

Like the rest of much of California, Slab City is in the middle of the big drought. There hasn't been a regular source of drinking water on the slabs since the Marines abandoned the site, but squatters and visitors could always rely on the Chamber of Commerce in the nearby bustling metropolis of Niland to allow free fill-ups at the office water tap. Sad to say, the free water tap is closed. Other sources in town are likewise drying up, and water is getting pretty scarce.

For visiting RVers, this matter is simply more of a "make better plans" issue. If you plan on visiting the slabs, be sure to come in with plenty of drinking water, or plan on making a trip out to Calpatria, or even Brawley, 20 minutes of road time or more, one way, to fill up again.

For more "permanent" residents of the slabs, this could turn into a disaster. Many of the folks who call Slab City a year-around home, are there, often not out of a great deal of choice, but out of need. Look to see homeless veterans, disabled folks, and some whose health conditions have tossed them a tough bone to gnaw on. Yes, there's water that can be drawn from a nearby canal, but without appropriate (and safe) equipment to treat the water, health problems for those who drink it are a sure bet.

We've reached out to the Niland Chamber of Commerce for their comments, but as of press time, haven't heard back. Will update you when (and if) we get more information.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Use common sense and a few tricks to become a happy boondocker

By Bob Difley
Boondocking is not brain surgery. Anyone can camp overnight without hookups. Two or three days takes a little effort--no, not effort--but, common sense in the use of your resources.

What resources? Electricity and how fast you deplete it from your batteries, drinking water and how much you waste, and that resultant waste water filling up your gray water tank. Filling the black tank is usually not a restricting factor.

Where boondocking requires a bit more effort, more creative thinking, more conservation, and more planning--the art and skill of boondocking--is in extending your boondocking days. Getting as many days "our there" as you can squeeze in between having to pack up camp and drive off to replenish electricity (charging your batteries), fill your water tank, and dump your waste tanks. Staying out longer, and doing it comfortable, is what makes a boondocker happy. 

It also takes experience. Every time you boondock, you learn a new trick or two to extend your stay. Simple, common sense acts--that with experience become second nature--like not letting your faucets run, taking Navy showers, re-using the water you run when waiting for hot water to come, reducing the amount of waste water you let flow into your gray tank, turning off lights and TV when not being used--this bag of tricks--are what makes boondocking a successful  and fun way to camp.

Look at it this way. If you were just as comfortable without hookups as you were with them, where would you rather camp. With neighbors within 15 or feet on either side of you, or would you choose campsites where your nearest neighbors were 50 or 100 feet away. Or you had no neighbors at all.

That's the beauty of boondocking. Once you learn the tips and tricks, your options are endless--from a crowded LTVA at Quartzsite to a solitary campsite with sweeping vistas and no sign of civilization in sight.