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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to find boondocking campsites

It's a good thing that there are no books showing where all the good boondocking campsites are. Make it too easy and they will all come. Look at the first quarter mile inside a BLM Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA). It's crowded. It's easy to get to. The best boondocking campsites are the hardest to find. Difficult. Eliminates the lazy, the ones that won't take the time or put out the effort to find a good, private, quiet spot. They go where the crowds are.

The simple answer--go where the crowds don't gather. The road less traveled. The dirt road leading off into the boonies. Look around the next bend, for a small grove of mesquites or desert willows, for the campsite you can't see. The longer you plan on staying, the better your efforts will pay off. Here's how to do it in the desert, since we're entering snowbird season.
  • Slow down. You won't find turnoffs if you fly by at freeway speeds.
  • If you see a promising turn off ahead, pull off to the side to allow traffic to get by, and check out its prospects.
  • A good clue is if the road goes behind a hill, turns up an arroyo, or disappears into a clump of trees.
  • Walk in a short ways (a good way to stretch your legs after sitting too long) to check the road surface for soft sandy spots or muffler-gouging rocks.
  • Look for campsites that have a "desert pavement" surface, one that is covered with a naturally occurring surface that appears like dark tiles of varying sizes. They provide a firm surface.
  • Try to find a campsite a half mile or more off the main road to avoid road traffic noise and for privacy.
  • Pick a site that has been camped in before so as not to destroy plants and dormant wildflowers.
  • Unhitch and drive in your tow or toad to look for the perfect campsite. Look for obstructions, rocks, potholes, tight bends, etc. that would hinder your rig coming in. As you gain experience you will be able to judge whether the road surface is solid and the area open enough that you feel comfortable driving in before unhitching.
  • Once you find acceptable campsites, be sure to list them in your boondocking log book, in your favorite campground guide, or with GPS coordinates so that you can easily locate it the next time.
Taking these extra efforts to go beyond choosing the easiest to get to campsite will open up your opportunities, provide many more camping options, and give you a lot more privacy, solitude, and quiet.

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