The problem was that I had gotten a late start in the day because of getting stuck, plus, it was hot so I knew I couldn’t make it all the way down to Laramie in the remaining daylight. Because of the heat I wanted to get up out of the high plains and into a National Forest somewhere along the way to camp in. The only National Forest between Spearfish and Laramie was the northern section of the Medicine Bow NF just north and west of Wheatland, Wyoming on Interstate 25. That was my goal for the day.
When I need to find a camp along my travel route, the first thing I do is get out my most important tools, my Benchmark Recreation Atlas and Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer. They are large books of maps with each state broken down by page with a fairly large scale map of each section. It always shows the National Forests along my route and generally shows BLM land. They have enough detail to show me the larger Forest or BLM Roads and almost without exception I can find a dispersed campsite along one of them. Get the Benchmark from Amazon Here: Benchmark Atlas From Amazon.com and the Delorme from Amazon Her: Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer . I’ll show you how to use them in another post soon.
I left Spearfish headed due west on Interstate 90 and drove straight through to Gillett, Wyoming where I stopped for lunch and then turned south on State Route 59. It wasn’t a pretty drive. Most of the way it’s high plains with sagebrush, and part of the way you drive through Thunder Basin National Grasslands which is just what it says, a grassland. It’s probably what the plains looked like before Europeans got here and did everything they could to destroy it. It’s just flat and boring, but you can make some serious time and distance. I took it all the way to Douglas, Wyoming where I got on Interstate 25 and continued south.
At Exit 94 I got off and turned due west and followed a small, paved country road until it became an even smaller unpaved county road which eventually turned into a dirt Forest Road in the National Forest. It was a fairly steep, winding road and as soon as we climbed up into the trees it became very obvious that there had been a forest fire here recently and there weren’t many trees left, it was almost entirely charred remains and stumps of trees. The openness of the forest gave a great view down and across the plains so it was actually pretty in a way
It was late and almost dark so as soon I was sure I was in the National Forest and found a decent campsite I set up camp there. I was closer to the road than I liked but it was steep and winding so there wasn’t much traffic and what little there was moved slowly enough I wasn’t worried about Cody getting run over. On our daily walks Cody and I would walk up above the fire and into green trees and it was a very pretty forest. If we hadn’t been so late in the day and I hadn’t been so tired when we got here, we could have gone on and found a green campsite–but then we would have missed the great views and the owls.
I’d heard that fires were actually good for the land and apparently it must be true because this place had more rabbits than I had ever seen–they were everywhere! Unfortunately they were cottontails. The reason that’s bad is they are the slowest, dumbest rabbits I’ve ever seen. Cody has no problem out-running and out-maneuvering them so if I don’t control him, he’d catch and kill a whole bunch of them. When there is dense brush, they can stay safe and hide from him, but after the fire it was wide-open and they were easy targets. Most of the time I could keep him close on our walks with voice commands, but sometimes he just couldn’t resist chasing the rabbits and ran them down. That’s when he had to go for a walk on a leash.
Because of the huge rabbit population there were numerous birds of prey in the area, including two very large owls. Our first night there I was sitting looking out the side door of the van at dusk, watching rabbits run around (Cody was leashed inside the van). Super quickly the pair of owls swooped in and one caught a rabbit and took off and the other landed and watched for a while. We saw them briefly several times after that. It was a very cool experience I’ll always treasure!
I had good internet there so we stayed for two days to rest and relax and then continued our journey on to Laramie and over to the Snowy River Range Scenic Byway. I had never even herd of it before, but it turned out to be one of the best most beautiful parts of Wyoming; I came with many great photos. We’ll cover that in my next travel post.
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Benchmark Atlas From Amazon.com
Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer
Thank you for the discussion of maps. As always, the practicalities of vandwelling interest me. Thanks especially for the pictures. I have used a Delorme Atlas and I agree with your assessment. Patience is required, but the Delorme gives much information. I have not used a Benchmark Atlas, so a picture of one of their pages would be useful. I find Google maps very good at showing roads, useful for finding businesses, and not much for other uses. (They give bicycle routes, but those often add distance in order to use off-road routes.) The assorted States offer maps of varying quality that are almost always difficult to re-fold and keep organized.
I wondered how you would handle wildfire territory in your photography. You found a good balance, I think. I find the past season’s wildfires scary because of their number and extent. Given my lung problem, I’ll keep an eye on that.
Calvin, I have a post coming up just on finding dispersed campsites and it will include photos from the Benchmark as well. I’m a map Geek and I buy maps in the areas I go to, but no matter what the minimum is to have at least one or the other of a BenchMark or DeLorme Atlas. If I spend enough time in a state, I’ll have both.
As the planet warms rainfall will change drastically everywhere. Warm air holds more moisture so more water will move into the atmosphere and away from the surface. Drought will drastically increase and areas that get rain will get more rain in bigger downpours leading to more severe flooding. Worse, more precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow. Billions of people will suffer because the rivers they depend on will run dry in the summer without snow. We’re seeing that everywhere now, and it will get much worse.
Trees will be stressed because of drought and the heat, the heat will allow the spread of more beetles to attack the already weakened trees. There won’t be enough snowpack to get them through the summer.
Bottom line is, we ain’t seen nothing yet when it comes to forest fires. Everywhere you go in the Sierras and Rockies you see millions of acres of dead or dying trees–they’re all going to burn eventually.
Of course when they burn they pump all that carbon into the air they’ve been storing and they no longer remove any because they are dead. Then we are into a viscous feedback loop that just pushes us over the edge.
Bob, you and I agree on the process that’s begun. It will continue for a long time, and the details cannot be predicted.
Unfortunately Calvin, we’re making changes that will have an impact for the next 500-1000 years. Nearly all of them really bad.
Thinks for another great post as always one other thing that’s killing all the timber is the pine beetles one more thing the government though was a good idea to get rid of the lady bugs, off subject what do you think the average age is of people living like you do before they have to come off the road and have a permanent place to live and how many do you think have a so call plan b if a person does not die at some point there will be no way to live the life style your body will just not let you even though the mine would like to I understand at some point a person may not even be able to stay in a home they have thinks for your thoughts
Poor Bugs…he was no match for Cody 🙁
They really aren’t Tommy!
I used to think grasslands were boring, too. But the last time I was driving through the plains it was very soothing. It was like being a bug on a gently undulating putting green that stretched to the horizon in every direction.
You make it sound romantic Al. Next time I’ll try to adopt a different attitude!
It’s nice to get some of your summer travel posts right about now, as we’re dealing with Pacific winter storms and arctic air masses.
How can you tell from your maps the elevations of your prospective campgrounds?
Hey, if you were into cooking (and eating) rabbit stew, Cody could help you keep your food bill down!
Ming, the Benchmark in particular is very good at giving elevation right in the map. The DeLorme has topo lines but finding the elevation on it is hard and once you find it you have to count the lines to find exactly what you’re after. It isn’t nearly as good for elevations.
HI. love the site. Im a working musician, and IM about outr of patience with this check to check life, in a city. I want to get out, and see the nature hikes and locations, in my pathfinder..
Do yopu still feel the workcamp.com site is valid, and I could find work through that?
I do not have a mobile income, Im working to find something to do,maybe guitar lessons, through the internet, but I most likely will work on the road
I have a website, about my forida hikes,and I intend on doing that full time, video and pics of every damn hiking trail I can find before I die
Thank you for your site
Shawn, yes I’m a big fan of workamper.com and recommend them. Here is more info about getting jobs as a nomad:
I think a blog and videos about being nomad who hikes all around the country would be very popular! Great idea!
Hi, Bob. What is the app that you use to find dispersed camping sites on public lands?
Ron, it is US Public Lands–very highly recommended for apple and android. Bob