Read other peoples Blogs: There are many people who have been boondocking for years and blogging about the beautiful campsites they found. To me it only makes sense to take advantage of their hard-won experience and follow their blogs. One of my goals for this blog is to make all of my campsites available for you. One day soon, when I have time, I will create a page with maps to them. Here are some blogs I follow
RVSue and Crew: http://rvsueandcrew.com/
Wheeling It: http://wheelingit.wordpress.com
New Age Nomad: http://www.newagenomad.com/
Another site I find invaluable is owned by some very good friends of mine who are actually living this life:
Google is your friend! It’s astounding all the information available on the internet, so take full advantage of it. Whenever I am getting ready to move I do a Google Search for “dispersed camping” of my chosen area. So when I found my latest campsite I Goggled “Dispersed camping Prescott National Forest.” It isn’t always helpful, but at least it will take you to the Web Page of the Prescott National Forest official Website. Google Maps is a great tool to find the best route to the area you want to go to and the distances along the way. Google Earth is a free download that lets you access satellite views of your location. It is an invaluable aid! A difference of only a few miles or few hundred feet of elevation can make a huge difference in what your new campsite might look like and Google Earth really helps to visualize it. At the end of the post I have some pictures I snipped from Google Earth of our campsite. Here is the site to download it:
Photographers Guidebooks: Since one of my priorities is finding beautiful places, I have a collection of Photographers Guidebooks that help me find especially beautiful places. I can’t tell you how many times I would have driven right past a gorgeous spot if I hadn’t had ta photographers guidebook. They’re easy to find, just go to Amazon.com and type into the search bar “photographers guide Arizona”. Of course you would substitute your area for Arizona. Here is an example of one I find invaluable:
Photographing the Southwest: Volume 2–Arizona (2nd Ed.) (Photographing the Southwest)
MVUM Map: The Forest Service has started a new program to gain more control over where and how we use the National Forests. At first that sounds like a very bad thing, but I don’t think so! I can’t tell you how many places I have seen torn up by ATVs and Jeeps and covered with their trash. They love to wait till it rains and run around in the mud creating deep ruts and destroying the land. On a regular basis both the Forest Service and BLM have to do “Emergency Closures” to keep out all motorized vehicles so the land can heal itself. The new MVUM is an effort to prevent the damage before it happens by creating a map of every road under their control which clearly marks them as open or closed to vehicle travel. Appropriately it is named the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). But that’s not all it does, it also clearly shows where we are allowed to disperse camp and where we are not and gives the rules for dispersed camping. They are easy to find, all you need to do is a Google search. For example, I searched on “MVUM Prescott National Forest” and found the one I needed. They come as PDF files so you can download and print them. This is one of those times where a picture is worth more than a 1000 words, so I will show you the details in a picture at the end of the post. Here is a link to a central Forest Service website where you can find all the MVUM maps:
Make the Move, But be Ready to Improvise. Even with the best preparation, sometimes you get to an area and it just isn’t what you want. One of my all time favorite spots is Pahrump, NV, but after being there for a while I discovered the wind is simply unbearable and winter can be quite cold. Another example is a spot I had picked out at Yuma, AZ but it just was not going to work. So we searched around and found one nearby that would. Also, don’t be fooled by first impressions. At our current camp we started to settle in but discovered that while we had 3 bars on the internet, it simply would not come in. So we moved a mile away and had great internet. The lesson is: don’t be too hasty in setting up camp. Take a good look around the whole area before choosing your spot and even then spend a few hours or even a night there before completely unpacking and settling in.
Putting it all together: Here are the steps I took to find this campsite.
- I’ve camped near Prescott before and loved it! It is an amazing, beautiful little town but big enough to have every kind of shopping, so I wanted to be close to it. As always, the first thing I did was look at my Benchmark Atlas to narrow down the search to National Forest land at about the right elevation for the temperatures I was looking for; in this case 5000 feet. I knew that highway 89 was heavily traveled and would have strong Verizon Internet signal so I wanted to camp within a few miles of it.
- I remembered that RV Sue had camped on 89 the year before, so I went to her blog and found her posts about it. She had camped further up 89 almost to interstate 40. But from there the closest shopping was at the little town of Chino Valley which had a Safeway. So I wanted to learn from her mistake and camp as close as I could to Chino Valley and yet still be in the Prescott National Forest.
- I did a Google search of “Dispersed Camping Prescott National Forest” but found very little. However, it did take me to the MVUM map of that specific area. From it I narrowed my search down to a tiny area, and we drove straight to it. Logically, we thought the closer to 89 the better the internet signal, but that wasn’t true in this case. When we discovered the poor signal, we searched for a better one and found it another mile away from the road, but on a slight ridge that gave it a better line-of-sight to the cell tower. The extra elevation also gave us a much better view. That taught me a valuable lesson I will add to my bank of knowledge and in the future I will specifically look for ridge lines. A topo map will help you find one.