Monday, July 20, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART FOUR Of a six part series by Larry Harmon

USFS / BLM / USCOE AND SOME DIFFERENCES THEREIN. Boondocking in these areas is a very cool thing that allows us to enjoy Mother nature’s splendor in a up close and personal way. However each of those agencies have a set of specific requirements that cover the whole spectrum of activities during your stay. Many of the core values for those agency’s are the same, but, and now, that is a big BUT, each of the various Ranger districts can be ran as a small kingdom all unto it’s self, with the ability to adjust the regulations to suit the needs of that particular area. LENGTH OF STAY has a direct impact upon the area and may be regulated individually, but the general rule of thumb is fourteen days then you must move on out. How many additional days that you may stay for the remainder of the year can and often times does vary widely. ELEVATION will often dictate your style of camping because of wide temperature changes from season to season coupled with whether the area is arid, moist or maybe even in monsoon season. Each agency is good to post the individual area’s rules and regulations, so it is a good idea to spend a few minutes to pause and read how that may affect your visit. A quick check in with other campers in your chosen area will get you up to speed on particular’s about distances for dispersed camping and surface discharge of grey water and it’s various acceptable or non-acceptable, local methods. Each district office is a great source for maps, brochures and information about cool features in that area. Sometimes the USFS and BLM share offices in a given area.
USCOE lakes are almost all power generating and flood control lakes that have built up campsites, some with full hookups and some with partial hookups. In the heartland the USCOE many times, has primitive campgrounds with bare bones amenities such as picnic table fire ring and lantern pole, that are in remote locations and there is no charge to stay there. They are usually not advertised and campers depend upon word of mouth to learn of them. USCOE LAKE LEVELS CAN VARY WIDELY, chose your campsite wisely, after observing the high water marks left behind by previous high lake water levels. USFS and BLM lease land for livestock grazing in many western states and livestock can come to visit on occasion. Sheep in these areas are normally accompanied by a sheep herder and his camp wagon. Cattle normally free range and are checked upon by a stockman that is in a pickup with a horse trailer. Both of these stockmen are great sources of local information and because of the solitary nature of their job, will usually chat freely, giving you a perfect source of cool local stuff to see and visit. COYOTE’S, all of the various agency’s campgrounds seem to have a chronic Coyote problem. They are seldom seen and only occasionally heard, but they are there. An unattended pet is at jeopardy and coyotes are serious predators. Though we have covered a lot of ground, we have barely scratched the surface so far as USFS, BLM & USCOE bondocking is concerned. Our time spent boondocking with them is our most fun, memorable and continuous learning adventure that we enjoy. Safe travels and happy bondocking !

Monday, July 6, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART THREE of a six part series by Larry Harmon

Stretching your resources Just suppose that it is a holiday weekend, one of those cool three day holiday’s. You are used to boondocking for Friday night, Saturday and leaving back to civilization on Sunday. But now, you have an extra day to unwind and commune with nature. Most of us only have a limited amount of storage space in our camper and that means packing extra stuff can be a challenge. Boondocker’s have so many clever ways of stretching their resources that we could never cover them all in our limited space, so we will touch base with some of the more common ways and let your imagination be your creative guide.
WATER is heavy, takes up a lot of space and in some places it is not readily available. Under those challenging conditions, bringing it with you is necessary. Since your fresh water tank can only hold so much, many boondocker’s look for a way to make that weight count twice. Freezing gallon jugs of store bought water gives you long lasting blocks of ice for your ice chest that can be used for drinking or cooking after it has melted. a. Bathing, shaving and other chores can be done with a small amount of water in the sink using a wash cloth. Most commonly refer to this as a “spit bath”. As molded fiberglass enthusiast, Betty and I usually do a very quick wet down, soap down and rinse off that goes like this. Put plug in sink b. Adjust shower water temperature catching that water in the sink c. Put shaving lather in the sink water to warm up d. Wet down then turn the water off at the showerhead to keep the temperature unchanged e. Lather down f. Rinse off, turn water off This method can be stretched even one step further and is popular in the arid desert southwest. Catch the gallon or so of shower water in the shower floor pan with a stopper and add Epsom salts for soaking the tired hiker’s feet. GREY WATER storage can be extended in some arid areas operated by the U S Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management if your campsite is well away from streams or reservoirs and you carefully surface discharge your grey water. In these situations it is advisable to check with the local Ranger to insure whether or not it is a local custom. BLACK WATER by it’s very nature must be handled very carefully. Most camper’s have enough black water storage for a week or more, so an extended weekend will not create a issue there. If handling black water is necessary many deem the “blue boy”, “EZ TOTE” or similar container as the safest way to handle the black water. PROPANE is a bit more difficult to stretch, but the main ways that most boondocker’s use is reduced hours of use, cooking over a, open fire, or using a small generator for heat or cooking power source. For most camping trailer’s an extended weekend is not a propane issue. GASOLINE for a small generator as well as PROPANE give some cause for safety concerns and those folks seek other methods that can sometimes be difficult and or expensive. FOOD is space consuming and it’s weight has been addressed by the back packing community quite handily. The easy and convenient solution is to go the dehydrated route which makes many meals fit into a small light weight space. CLOTHING is also handled by back packers quite readily. The secret is light weight layered high tech fabrics. Here’s hoping that these few simple hint’s help you on your journey to a enjoyable extended boondocking experience.

Friday, June 26, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART TWO

IN IT’S STRICTEST FORM, WITHOUT SUPPORT. Many RVer’s perceive that this means staying camped in their chosen location as long as the stuff that they bring with them lasts. And often times this can come down to how much water you brought with you. Limited space for stuff seems to be the main controlling factor. Black and grey water holding tanks are usually fixed size containers that are installed by the camper manufacturer. Filling black and grey tanks to capacity usually depends upon their size and your stay time, but even one trip a day to a primitive campground’s vault toilet can really extend your stay.
Some of the campgrounds that we have stayed in out West on the USFS ( United States Forest Service ) and BLM ( Bureau of Land Management ) , don’t mind the careful discharge of grey water when it is at considerable distance from a stream. These less strict campgrounds are nearly always up high and way back in the more arid mountainous places. Their current position on grey water under these conditions is that it can be beneficial to tree life. Now under those conditions an outside shower with solar heated water can be a really fine thing and stretch out your stay. Also being able to put a small dish pan of dish washing grey water under a needy tree can do likewise. Probably the most common grey water storage saving under those conditions can be attained by hooking a hose to the grey water tank and placing it a strategic and appropriate location. With the hose hooked up many molded fiberglass camping friends follow this shower sequence. 1.Put plug in sink 2.Adjust shower water temperature catching that water in the sink 3.Put shaving lather in the sink water to warm up 4.Wet down then turn the water off at the showerhead to keep the temperature unchanged 5.Lather down 6.Rinse off, turn water off 7.Shave, rinse, turn water off Some even plug the shower pan drain to catch that soapy shower water, add Epsom salts to it and soak their feet. Under this strict water rationing protocol many campers report using a gallon to a gallon and a half to complete the process. Your method can vary considerably but you get the idea ! Ice Chest use is somewhat similar in frugality. Some will fill drinking water containers and freeze them at home before the camping trip. Put the frozen containers in an ice chest to keep perishable’s fresh then they can use the remaining water as needed around camp. There are way too many such clever ideas to be able to cover them in such a short writing, but your imagination will doubtless come up with many more ! DISPERSED CAMPING, a term used by USFS & BLM for when there are no facilities at all. Some of the coolest camping of all and often times in some of the most pristine wilderness. One popular camping site in the Southwest is near Quartzsite Arizona where in January and February there will be tens of thousands of RV’s scattered across the desert. BLM sells a Long Term Visitor’s pass that will allow winter visitors to stay for several months. In town there are RV service sites that specialize in providing tank dump sites and fresh water fills. Many RVer’s there move every two weeks and go through town to dump, fill with water and move to another camping place. There are even mobile water delivery and pump out services along with mobile RV repair technicians.

Friday, June 19, 2015

BOONDOCKING PART ONE Of a six part series by Larry Harmon WHAT IT IS AND SOME OF IT’S FORMS Boondocking comes in many forms, so it’s not likely that we will be able to cover them all in this brief writing. So, let’s talk about the most common types of boondocking that comes to mind.
So, just what is boondocking ? It is camping without hooking up to water, sewer or electricity, and there are many ways that folks like to do it. ASPHALT/CONCRETE BOONDOCKING is just as the name implies but the location can be widely varied. This is usually in an urban type of environment. There are many names for this type of boondocking. Some that come to mind are WALLYDOCKING or overnighting at Wal-Mart. A hint for here, park out of the way, near the security cameras and away from the receiving dock area where noisy deliveries are often times made in the wee hours. Many retailers do not discourage this type of camping and some encourage it. One of our favorites is Cracker Barrel because of their roaring fireplace and great breakfast. This type of boondocking can have some hidden Dangers so reading the local vibe can be important. For example if you see gang graffiti, vandalism, street people with all of their worldly goods in a shopping cart, it might be better to move on. Broken safety glass scattered around a parking lot can well indicate that smash and grab thefts are happening there, and leaving someone in your camper, even when shopping could be a wise move. Again, parking in full view of security cameras is always a good idea. STEALTH camping is somewhat the art of blending in or hiding in plain sight. Being anonymous by virtue of, “out of sight, out of mind”, can provide not only security, but also a good night’s rest. One of our old standby’s is a RV sales lot or dealership, they always have easy in and easy out access and we look like we belong there. DRIVEWAY Boondocking can be great, either at kinfolks or someone that you know along the way. Great visit’s and wonderful local flavor from this type of boondocking, and there is no check in or out time ! REST AREA’S, TRUCK STOPS and other high traffic, noisy type, of area’s can be convenient but hard to get some rest in, because of the noise. Even with the stereo on, if a truck sets it’s air brakes next to you, it will likely wake you up. Should you find a lower traffic part of it, there will always be the bull hauler Cowboy with a Jake brake racking off. We tend to use them, but sparingly when pushing hard to get somewhere. REMOTE BONDOCKING, commonly referred to by the USFS ( United States Forest Service ) and BLM ( Bureau of Land Management ) as DISPERSED CAMPING, can vary widely depending on which part of the USA you are in. For example, in the West, sunshine and solar panels can really keep you out there in pristine wilderness for long periods of time. In Heavily timbered areas the sunshine can’t get to solar panels and other alternatives such as small generators can be used. Water is the usual limitation to remote boondocking, fresh water, grey water and black water capacities will be critical in determining on site stay time. BOONDOCKING WITH SUPPORT can be as simple as using vault toilets and carrying water in containers to extend your stay, or, to having a utility trailer to haul fresh water and waste water. This is one of our favorite ways to boondock and as I write this we are in our third week of boondocking with more to come, in a primitive campground that has a lake on three sides and a magnificent view in all directions. Later in this BOONDOCKING SERIES, we will talk about supported boondocking in depth.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

RISING

A slightly rising lake during a fishing trip is generally a good thing ! The fish bite better and in a springtime fishing trip the air is washed clear from time to time by those wonderful and mild showers that are causing the lake rise.
Most of our springtime fishing trips kind of follow a pattern in general, that goes like this. Fish during a mild lake rise for a couple of days. Then as the lake drops back to a more nearly normal level and the fishing slows down, we have held our daily catch in the live box. During this lake dropping and slower fishing time we catch up on our fish cleaning and filleting, putting one gallon freezer bags of fillets up for future use. This slow down period is when we catch up on fish fry’s and Dutch oven cooking.
This spring’s fishing trip however, was different. Once the lake quit raising, we, . . . . No, wait ! The lake just never did quit raising ! Between rains we were able to have fish fry’s and some great Dutch oven cooking, but that lake just kept on rising.
Fishing was pretty good, but, then, that lake just kept on raising. Daily it seemed, we would have to move our boat tie up lines further up the bank. Soon our neighbors were leaving out and, soon, there was just us ol’ die hard’s left there with the rising lake. Then we realized that it was time for us to go. After all, we had a trans Canadian trip to get ready for ! Yep, we’re back at the docking port, rounding up our plunder, getting ready to tour again !

Saturday, May 16, 2015

MEALS

We are not fishing quite as hard while at Lake Ouachita. Rain, winds out of the East, friends visiting, going to town for supplies and so on and so forth, consumes our days. We have a large rain fly over the fire pit and cooking area which gives us a gathering place around the fire with full coffee cups where we plan our day. Checking the forecast has allowed us to adjust our activities so that between weather events we are cleaning fish, repairing the jugs or cutting firewood.

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Meals have been absolutely primo events with all kinds of Dutch oven fine fare. On a personal note, clicking on the photo’s to get a better look can trigger  campfire cookery cravings !

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Dutch oven treats such as yeast rolls and blackberry cobbler as well as things like racks of ribs barbequed over the campfire have been such a real memorable treat.

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With regular fish fry’s scattered through the week, the variation of side dishes has been amazing.

As our campers and fishermen have came and went over the duration of our stay at Big Fir campground, each has brought different skills to the cooking fire and kitchen area.

The clickable video link below gives a quick look around the campfire during a rain shower.

Rain fly campfire big fir 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

WIND

Our boat has sat in our campsite, out of the water, for the best part of a week. Heavy thunderstorms and high winds from the east will capsize our boat where it is tied up at our lakeside campsite. When the National Weather Service sent an alert to our cell phones we knew that it was time to pull the boat out of the water.

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That means it is time to pull the bait traps out of the water, repair jugs and other chores around camp so that we will be ready to fish. He, he, now, after three days of rain and storms, none of which amounted to a hill of beans,  all is ready to fish and I have gone to looking for things to do around the fiver while it is raining, After five days I have read all of the books from kindle that I have on my tablet. The rain finally quit last night and this morning I am starting the reverse process. Traps are baited up and back in the water, and the boat is ready to launch, when the NWS sends out a lake wind advisory  ! There will be gusts up to 30 MPH !

Crud, crap and crim o nettly ! Oh well were’ on the lake, it is a beautiful day and I think I will cut a little firewood because there is nothing quite like the smell of a campfire on the banks of the state’s largest lake !