Sunday, 5/23/21: Time Out

The great drive into town from our campsite.

After a week at Rock Springs Bend free BLM dispersed boondocking, it was time to plan our next couple of moves. In this age of camping, that is a long tedious chore that requires some serious internet power. That meant breakfast burritos at the Stage Stop Mini-Mart and Grill in Tropic.

Here is what we are up against. Many of the small, 6 to 12 site, first-come first-serve, National Forest campgrounds scattered around the west are still closed. The remaining National Forest campgrounds are reservation only and they are full for months to come. Most state campgrounds are also reserve-only and they are jammed full for the foreseeable future. The private commercial RV campgrounds are expensive and cramped. They are usually in the $40 to $70 per night range. We have talked to people that are hoteling it and they are having trouble finding vacancies. America is on the move.

For spontaneous vagabonds like us, that only leaves dispersed boondocking. Finding these spots is kind of an art. As I stated a few weeks back in this travelogue, many of these sites are not usable with a camper or are hidden down long beat-up gravel roads.

The Campendium app, a state atlas

(either Benchmark or Gazetteer), and a large paper state map, works the best for me. The website freecamping.net can also be helpful. I use the maps to pinpoint an area of interest. Then I find a handful of dispersed camping spots in the general vacinity I want to go. Finally, I read the reviews, which is key. The reviews let me know how accessible the camping spot is, whether trailers can get in, how full it is, etc.

Many, and I mean many, of these dispersed spots are either tiny and always full or way too difficult to reach without a super high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle. I can also tell if the campsite is still available. If the last review was posted in 2018, then I get suspicious. It is then smart to check the corresponding website of the BLM or National Forest or Army Corp of Engineers or whoever is responsible for the campsite. It may be closed for the season or for COVID or even permanently shut down.

It literally takes hours to comb through all the data to find the spots to fit our needs. So far we have been able to do so. Some of it has been research and some of it was pure luck. Either way, we are now camped at a gorgeous spot, practically all by ourselves, and right in the middle of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument with only a short half-mile of crappy road to travel. The last three sites prior to this one: Valley of the Monuments, Paria, and Old 89, have also been wonderful. We are on a roll. Can this continue?

Today, I located the next three sites. The tricky part coming up will be accessing the ever-popular Moab area and dealing with the summer kickoff Memorial Day weekend. So, next will be a stop near Capital Reef National Park. We will stay there until after Memorial Day. That will give us some great hiking time and some relax time. The day after Memorial Day we will hit the Moab area. North of Moab along Highway 89 are some BLM sites that look promising.

After that, we will travel north to the Price area. There are dinosaur fossils and museums, tons of petroglyphs, more bizarre badlands, a mini-Grand Canyon, and a possible kayaking spot. Price is kind of devoid of campgrounds, but I found a couple of spots that look promising including a rare free village park.

While I toiled away at research, Wanda did a load of wash. What an effective team! I overheard the super friendly cashier at the Stage Stop Mini-Mart and Grill, tell someone, “We get work where ever we can find it.” She must be one of those “work campers” that the movie Nomadland put a spot light on. She was the most cheerful person I have ever met, and I told her so. She blushed and didn’t complain when I spread out my maps on a table and planned all day long.

It was 4:30 by the time I nailed down what I wanted to accomplish. To salvage the rest of the day, we bumped down Cottonwood Road 12 miles to visit Grosvenor Arch. Like Skutumpka Road, Cottonwood Road travels through the heart of Grand Staircase and the scenery is awesome. I just wish they would pave it like the Burr Trail Byway was.

Let’s see, 12 miles at 12 mph equals one hour of drive time. Yep, that’s how long it took - a two hour round trip drive. The arch turned out to be a double arch. It was tall and majestic. The tall rock formation just juts out of the desert floor surrounded by miles of sand and scrub brush.

Cottonwood Road skirting a big formation. Grand Staircase is a series of these humongous angled uplifts that have been eroded away in such a way that leaves these giant cross sections of ancient layers exposed.

Margaritas and crackers with cheese and summer sausage greeted us on our return to V-Jer. It was time for bed already.

Glossary of terms used for newcomers: 1) V-Jer. The name of our camper. 2) Saturn. The name of our Van. 3) Duende. Our mischievous gremlin that breaks things. 4) Tata. The good gremlin that helps us fix Duende’s dirty work. 5) The Black Hole. This is what we call Walmart because every time we go in for just a couple of items, we come out spending way more than we figured. 6) QT. Quaint Town. 7) Little Buddy. This is what we call our Dyson cordless stick vacuum.

Dave and Wanda

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