Tag: boondocking

Western Arizona RV Trip

For the month of November, we explored Arizona and had several amazing trips!  This week I am going to share our Western Arizona Route and great places to boondock or camp that are affordable and fun! 

One question we get is living in a van how do you manage all your toys of all the different seasons?  We purchased a 6×12 cargo trailer that we leave in Tucson, AZ (Greg’s parents live in Tucson so we can visit them while we drop off or pick-up items).  The name of the RV Park that we store it at is Diamond J’s, its very affordable and located next to some great hiking and mountain biking at the Tucson Mountain Park.  We store all of our gear so we can transition from Summer and Fall activities to Winter and Spring.

For our Western Arizona trip, we wanted to paddleboard, bike, hike and run as we adventured to different areas.  November was a very pleasant temperature, with lows in the 50s and highs in the 80s.  We like to travel about 100-175 miles a day or every few days.  Here is our last trip- the good and bad of each location and if we would go back.  

  1. Picacho Peak Campground ($30- no water)
  2. Lost Horse Tank BLM Sonoran Desert National Monument (free 14 days)
  3. Painted Rocks Petroglyphs BLM Campground ($8/$4 w/Access Pass)
  4. Dome Rock Mountain, Quartzsite (free 14 days) recommend Cholla Road instead
  5. Buckskin Mountain Campground ($35 electrical)
  6. Craggy Wash Lake Havasu (free 14 days)
  7. Katherine Landing ($20/$10)
  8. Temple Bar ($20/$10)
  9. Cerbat Foothillls Recreational Area (free 14 days)
  10. Burro Creek Campground ($14/$7)
  11. Chandler Cracker Barrel (free)
  12. Gilbert Ray Campground Tucson Mountain Park, Tucson, AZ ($20)

Picacho Peak State Park is about 49 miles west of Tucson.  Be aware there is no water in the park even though there is electrical spots and water for showers.  You need to bring your water or fill your 5-gallon water jug with a 64 oz water bottle in the ‘wash your dishes sink’ and do gravity fill.  For $30 a night, we feel it’s a little over priced and suggest just do a day trip to do Sunset Vista and Hunter Trails.  I really enjoyed the hikes make sure you bring walking sticks, gloves and wear hiking shoes as it gets rocky and steep and you will use a steel cable to climb up a rocky steep area.  There is an RV dump here, no potable water.  We were under whelmed and won’t be coming back for the price.

Our next stop off old Highway 84, about 60 miles from Picacho, is Lost Horse Tank BLM area (GPS 32.8411, -112.3244) that is in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. There is decent Verizon cell coverage between 2 to 3 bars. You need to be careful where you camp if you go too far South you are in the drug and human trafficking route.  Don’t stay right at the entrance of the area as several people came there to shoot guns, we recommend going down the road and to the right.  We found a great spot away from the freeway and away from the trafficking route with no nearby neighbors.  You can stay here for free for 14 days, were stayed here two days and did a few bike rides and runs through the desert.

From here, you have 51 miles to Painted Rock Petroglyphs (GPS 33.02437, -113.04543).  Since I have an Access pass this is an awesome stop for $4.  They have fire rings, picnic tables, trash cans and ancient petroglyphs.   There are good trails for mountain biking and trail running.  No water, no hook-ups, no RV dump but it’s a great spot.  We love this spot, so few people its like having a campground to yourself.  We have returned to this spot 4 times now.

Next, we headed about 158 miles to the famous Quartzsite.   You need to check in with the Dome Rock Campground host at the entrance to get your 14-day free permit on Dome Rock Road, then head to Cholla Road GPS: 33.6493, -114.28, there are a lot less people staying off Cholla Road.  You head around the bend and you will see dirt road to the right.  I suggest staying away from the wash area so you don’t get stuck.  It was great in November, there were very few people the camp host said they get busy in January. We did several mountain bike rides, and trail runs, there are so many trails everywhere.  There is Verizon 3 bars on Dome Rock but the cell coverage is pretty limited on Cholla Road.  For us it was worth it to get away from people and generators and we just biked or ran to more cell coverage couple times during the day.  If you want to stay longer than 14 days you can head over to RoadRunner and stay there for a few days then head back to Dome Mountain (we haven’t stayed here but drove by it.  It didn’t look bad and we would consider staying there.  We stayed here for 3 days.  We will be back in off-season.

From Quartszite, we headed fifty miles to Lake Havasu and stopped at Buckskin Mountain Campground to fill up with water and to dump.  There is free WiFi and good cell coverage here.   It’s a beautiful location and great stop for paddle boarding and great hikes and trail runs right from the campground. There are 68 campsites, 30 with electric, all with picnic tables and fire pit/grills and you must reserve online ahead of time. We really liked this spot and will come back, it is spendy at $35 but coming from Quartzsite you need to dump and refill water and it is a good middle point before Lake Havasu and less people than the state park in Lake Havasu.  You will also find since there is a drought there are no free water fill areas in Lake Havasu, many of the grocery stores have the water fill stations you pay for potable filtered water but will need to fill 5–6-gallon containers and do gravity fill. We stayed here one night and would be willing to come back here.  Since we prefer non-campgrounds that is why we only stayed 1 night. 

Next, we traveled 36 miles to Craggy Wash (GPS: 34.5863, -114.364586) in Lake Havasu.  There are several areas you can boondock for 14 days.  Craggy Wash used to be one of our favorite free spots but it has become over run with homeless and people pretty down and out.  Depending on the time of year there is great trail running and mountain biking but in November it is pretty deep sand making mountain biking difficult.  Also, with a lot of the homeless, mentally ill, not the most-friendly dogs off leash and folks sporting side arms on their hips as a woman I did not feel too comfortable running by myself.  We used to love this spot but I don’t think we will be back, we only stayed 2 days. 

We were excited to explore the Lake Mead National Recreational Area, our first stop was Katherine Landing which is about 66 miles from Craggy Wash.  There is WiFi and cell coverage and with an Access Pass it was only $10 a night.  There is first come first serve spots and only two of the loops are open during COVIOD19 and winter.  Each spot has a picnic table and firepit.  There is water and a RV dump no electrical. There are several hikes and you can head down to the marina to paddleboard or rent water equipment like kayaks, paddleboards fishing boats, etc.  When we were there it was way too windy, we just did a few hikes.  We spent 2 days here and will come back. 

(temple bar pictures)Surprisingly, there are very few people at Temple Bar which is 97 miles from Katherine Landing.  The park ranger said since its off the main highway not many people head this way.  We really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of this spot (and lack of wind!).  There were nice views of the Lake and other than the camp host there was only one other camper at this 71 campground site.  There is Wi-Fi and great cell coverage and a nice walk down to the marina and beaches.  We liked this spot better than Katherine Landing.  I paddle boarded and did several runs.  Similar to Katherine Landing it is $20/$10 a night with picnic tables and firepits and some sites also had grills, water and RV dump station.  We stayed here two nights and we’ll be back. 

From Temple Bar we headed back to Tucson as we had an appointment at La Mesa RV to get some items fixed.  We had planned to take the old Route 66 near Kingman but we ran out of time.  Kingman is a great spot to get gas, groceries and get your Starbucks. On freecampsites.net you can get several free spots to stay on Route 66 and if you are a Harvest Host Member there are two spots on Route 66.  For us, we headed down the hwy 93 to the Cerbat Foothills Recreational Area about 76 miles from Temple Bar. Its convenient, right off the freeway so we only stayed one night.  It’s a true boondocking spot with nothing but just a gravel parking lot but there are lots of cool mountain biking and hiking/running trails.  The landscape was beautiful you have a mixture of one-night campers and a few long-term homeless campers.

A nice quiet spot that is right off the freeway is Burro Creek Campground that is 75 miles South.  (Top 4 pictures below) For only $7 a night it is great to get water and have an RV dump.  Its right on the river and a few nice spots with views.  We stayed here only one night there was a little too much generators for peace and quiet.  I had a nice run in the area but there are a lot of cattle and the trails are over grown.  There is BLM booondocking spot above before you get to the campground that we would most likely stay next time.  We left super early so we could get through Phoenix before rush hour traffic.

(We needed to stock up on groceries and there is inexpensive Costco Gas in Chandler, so we drove 139 miles to the Cracker Barrel in Chandler for the night.  There are three RV spots and its pretty calm place.  Early the next morning we headed out to bypass any traffic and headed to Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountain Park which is about 98 miles.  We really enjoy all the trails you can mountain bike and hike.  For Arizona $20 a night is the most inexpensive campground you will find outside the forest service and there is an RV dump, water, picnic tables and firepits.  Its quiet and there is a first come first serve loop.  We will be back! 

We hope you enjoy these spots as much as we did!  Enjoy!

On the Road to Eastern Oregon

We are back on the road, yeah!  As Oregon and much of the USA is starting to re-open and even in some places in phase 3 of 4 phases of re-opening, it seemed we would be okay to head back out. Plus, Newport allowed vacation rentals to begin hosting guests again, so our beach house has been rented and we need to move on before guests arrived.  Before hitting the road, we called several BLM, Forest Service and state park offices and they all said YES, WE ARE OPEN, so we headed back out on June 8th.  We decided it was time to explore Eastern Oregon, being Oregonians most of our lives it is a shame we haven’t explored it more, so here we go. We like to limit our daily driving to less than 125 miles, so we took our time heading toward Eastern Oregon.

As we left the coast, we stopped first at a nice boondocking spot on Highway 20 after Sweet Home by the Willamette National Forest sign, past Cascadia Campground but there was zero cell coverage and we needed to make sure our guests got in okay.  After dinner we headed back up Highway 20 east past Tombstone Pass where there is a nice snow park (Lava Lake) with cell reception that we boondocked for the night.  The next morning after breakfast we headed to Bend where we took a friend’s advice to boondock on BLM lands near Pine Mountain Observatory.  It is very secluded, pretty much just sage brush, cows and miles of pretty rough dirt roads (we call is moon dust because it is fine and just gets into everything).  If you like seclusion you will like this area, we got a little tired after driving 10 miles on rough dirt roads before we could find a good pull off stop.  We’d suggest boondocking at the big flat parking lot by the Badlands instead, as its super easy and not far off Highway 20.  We saw several RVs stopped there and the Badlands is a great place to hike with your four-legged friend.

The next day, we stopped at Chickahominy Reservoir which is a great BLM camp spot for only $8 a night/ $4 for Golden and Access Pass holders.  There are several waterfront sites (28 total sites), they are spacious and dispersed a good distance between each other that you feel you almost have the lake to yourself.  It is stocked twice a year with rainbow trout and there were several anglers fishing the banks and in boats.  The location has a fish cleaning station, picnic tables, fire-rings, drinking water, trash cans, vault restrooms and a boat ramp.  We enjoyed this spot for a couple of days and did bike rides and runs around the reservoir.

We then ventured to Chukar Park near Juntura, Oregon another BLM camp spot which was only $5 a night/ $2.50 Golden and Access Pass holders.  It was more primitive, with just picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets and the water wasn’t turned on yet when we were there.  It is set next to the Malheur River but its very overgrown so you can’t see the River, there are nice full sun and shade sites depending on your interests.

Next, we boondocked about ¾ mile past Snively Hot Springs in the Owyhee Wilderness on Snively Gulch Road.  It is a fairly even and flat gravel area along the Owyhee River that leads to the Owyhee Reservoir.  We stayed there a couple of days and only ventured to the Hot Springs once, as it rained so much that the water was really muddy and not to appealing.  The hot springs felt great and there are two pools one quite hot and the other more luke warm.  We decided to head up to the state park and check out the main campground by the dam.  There are many boondocking spots along the river all the way to the dam, the road gets very narrow and up against steep cliffs with a lot of rock falls (we saw a rock fall on the vehicle ahead of us).  It gets a bit stressful as there are a lot of large trucks hauling boats and 5th wheels and barely enough room to pass each other in many spots.  The state park campground is nice with 67 campsites at McCormick Campground and then Indian Creek Campground around the bend both  having full electrical hook ups and tent primitive sites, with showers, bathrooms, trash, fresh water, dump station, fire rings and picnic tables.

We had a lot of wind and rain for June so we decided to head to some sun and heat in Idaho and ventured to Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area outside of Boise, Idaho.  Do not take the short route on Google Maps that goes directly to the boondocking spots it takes you to private property and you cannot take the road through.  You need to go through Kuna and down Swan Falls Road, a much better route.  Idaho Power actually maintains 18 campsites even with trash cans with picnic tables and fire rings, we saw an employee every morning going to and cleaning out camp spots. Please be a conscientious camper and don’t dispose of trash that does not burn or cans in firepits as there are dumpsters just up the road at the dam and boat ramp. After the 18 they maintain then it turns to BLM camp spots that are not very well maintained and are more primitive.  The road is a mixture of hard dirt and gravel, there are parts that are very rutted out.  I would recommend 4X4 Class B and C and smaller truck trailer RVs.  We were surprised to see a Class A size 5th wheel make it down the road and into one of the sites, I wouldn’t recommend it though unless you are very confident about your driving skill and rig.

You may stay here free for 14 days, it’s a beautiful spot on the Snake River and amazing wildlife to view. We saw so many birds of prey (falcons, hawks, eagles, osprey, pelican), coyotes, lizards, a rattlesnake or bull snake, jumping bass and deer, the wind is super strong here.  There are rattlesnakes so watch out!  We ran into a baby snake in our camp, ground squirrels and there are ground hog like looking animals everywhere.  It is also a popular place for locals to rock climb, fish and play in the river.  Watch out for some fast vehicles going down the dirt road if you are biking or running.  We hope you may enjoy visiting these spots.  Below are hyperlinks to the descriptions and GPS coordinates from freecampsites.net.  Next week, we will tell you about our stay in the McCall, Idaho area and our request from our subscribers to help us plan the rest of our Summer and Fall travels.

  1. Tombstone Snow park
  2. Badlands by Bend, OR
  3. Chickahominy Reservoir
  4. Chukar Park
  5. Snively Gulch Road
  6. McCormick Campground
  7. Snake River
  8. Check out our video of this trip!

 

 

Manzanar Virtual Tour and boondocking in Alabama Hills & Death Valley

As you head to Death Valley from Alabama Hills Recreation Area you will drive past Manzanar National Historic Site on highway 395 in California.  First off, you must stop by Alabama Hills it is an outdoors person and rock climbers dream!  So many amazing rock formations, places to climb and hike and all for free.  The best boondocking ever!  We can also recommend free camping at WildRose in Death Valley.  It is a very long drive to this campground, skinny road and very windy (we would not recommend any rigs bigger than 30 feet to attempt) that only has picnic tables, fire rings, a vault toilet and potable water but it is on your way to seeing the WildRose Charcoal Kilns, (the road is gravel and pretty rough) which are pretty cool and a nice hike to Wildrose Peak that is about 8 miles roundtrip.  We went in winter time/early spring so it was quite cool (temperature that is). If you can get in, we’d rather recommend staying at Texas Spring Campground it is a good central location, much warmer, prettier and better facilities but costs $16/night.  Now back to Manzanar…

Being an Asian American, I had to stop and visit the WW2 relocation center and I highly recommend stopping for a self-guided tour.  It is very well done and reminds us of the atrocities we faced in this country during fears of war and people who looked different and had a different cultural background.  In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 100,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps like the Manzanar War Relocation Center which was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens were incarcerated during World War II.  People of Japanese decent who were US citizens from across this country lost all their possessions, dignity and were forced into these Relocation Centers. 

A little history course for folks who may not be aware.  Relocation isn’t new in the history of Manzanar and the Owens Valley. We can’t forget that the Paiute and early settlers as well as Japanese Americans all were uprooted from their homes. American Indians began utilizing the valley almost 10,000 years ago. About 1,500 years ago the Owens Valley Paiute established settlements here. They hunted, fished, collected pine nuts, and practiced a form of irrigated agriculture.  Miners and ranchers moved into the valley in the early 1860s and homesteaded Paiute lands raising cattle, sheep, fruit, wheat, and other crops. The military were called in and forcibly relocated nearly 1,000 Owens Valley Paiute to Fort Tejon in 1863. Many Paiute returned to the Owens valley and worked on the local ranches.

The town of Manzanar—the Spanish word for “apple orchard”—developed as an agricultural settlement beginning in 1910. Farmers grew apples, pears, peaches, potatoes, and alfalfa on several thousand acres surrounding the town. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began acquiring water rights in the valley in 1905 and completed the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. Land buyouts continued in the 1920s, and by 1929 Los Angeles owned all of Manzanar’s land and water rights. Within five years, the town was abandoned. In the 1930s local residents pinned their economic hopes on tourism. With the onset of World War II tourism diminished.  Then in 1942 the U.S. Army leased 6,200 acres at Manzanar from Los Angeles to hold Japanese Americans during World War II. Though some valley residents opposed the construction of the internment camp, others helped build it and worked there.

First, we walked through the mini museum that is very well done and tells the stories of the families that lived here during the WW2 internment.  There is a 3.2-mile self-guided auto tour where you can see the original sentry posts, Block 14 buildings, mess hall, women’s latrine and barracks, the cemetery monument, remnants of the administrative complex, rock gardens, parks, orchards, the hospital grounds, the uncovered foundations of the Children’s Village  which was the only orphanage of the ten War Relocation Centers in the US.  In the museum, you will find images Ansel Adams took in late 1943 where he acknowledges the prejudices and fears that led the U.S. government to confine American citizens and legal immigrants of Japanese ethnicity behind barbed wire.

From the website, I wanted to provide you more details on what is still on the property and what you will encounter in the video.

Mess Hall: The US Army constructed this mess hall at Bishop Air Base in 1942. The National Park Service moved it to Manzanar in 2002 and eventually restored it. It is identical to the 36 mess halls that together produced over 28 million meals here from 1942 to 1945. Walk through the kitchen, sit at the picnic benches, and learn about the logistics and politics of food in Manzanar.

Women’s Latrine: The women’s latrine was reconstructed in 2017. The communal shower and rows of toilets depict some of the harsh realities of living at Manzanar. Overcrowding led to long lines, unpleasant odors, and an extreme lack of privacy.

Barracks Buildings: The two barracks buildings were rebuilt in 2015 with exhibits being added in the following years. The four barracks exhibits will tell you about arrival to Manzanar, the importance of the Block Manager’s Office, the loyalty questionnaire, school at Manzanar, and more.

Cemetery: In 1943 the people in Manzanar decided to erect a monument to honor their dead and skilled stonemason Ryozo Kado was recruited to supervise the work. The cemetery serves as a poignant reminder that some of the 10,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated at Manzanar never saw freedom again. Over 145 Japanese Americans died while confined in Manzanar during World War II. Many were cremated, in the Buddhist tradition, and some were sent to their home towns for burial. Fifteen people were buried in a small plot of land just outside the camp’s security fence. When Manzanar War Relocation Center closed, the families of nine of the deceased removed the remains of their loved ones for reburial elsewhere. In 1999, NPS archeologists confirmed that five burials remain at the site. The three characters on the front (east side) of the cemetery monument literally translate as “soul consoling tower” ( I REI TO ). The inscriptions were written by a Manzanar Buddhist priest, Shinjo Nagatomi.

Merritt Park: The people incarcerated at Manzanar left a lasting legacy by creating more than 100 Japanese gardens. The largest of the gardens was Merritt Park, named for the camp director, Ralph P. Merritt. Merritt Park served as community refuge from the hardships of camp. After Manzanar closed in 1945, many of the gardens disappeared as debris from demolished barracks, sand, and vegetation covered them. Recent archeological excavations have uncovered and stabilized some of these gardens including Merritt Park. Today you can view what’s left of this symbol of beauty and the resilience of the human spirit.

Japanese Garden Tour: Private and community gardens covered much of the Manzanar landscape. For many people, these rock gardens and pools served as a source of peace and an escape from their incarceration experience. Today, eleven of the over 100 Japanese gardens have been uncovered and stabilized.

The location was beautiful but also a sad reminder about how we treated fellow Americans.  It makes you sad to see how people were forced to live and were ripped from all their loved ones and their belongings because of a war.   How our fears caused us to overlook people who were citizens and part of our community and treated them like they were enemies because of their former homeland that they had left for a new life in the USA.  Perhaps, it is a reminder about how we can do better in the present and future generations of immigrant people.  We hope you enjoy watching our virtual tour.   

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Virtual Tour

IMG_2593On April 13th, 2020 our one-year expedition to all the National Parks and Monuments got put on pause.  As our subscribers know, I finally listened to Greg and sold my business and officially retired in December 2019 and after a year of research we decided to purchase a 2020 Winnebago Boldt BL in January of 2020.  We did our shake down trip and drove from Iowa to Oregon via a southern route through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.  When we got home, we had several fixes for our Winnebago, (video to come soon check out our Boldt Review Video) and headed out on our second trip to see the California Coast and Highway one.  Unfortunately, during that trip Bode got a few ticks (it seemed to be a crazy tick season on the California Coast this Spring) and we headed back to do some reorganizing and ensure Bode was tick free before we started our full-time vanlife.

At the end of February, we decided to hit the road and go South to National Parks and Monuments through out California, Arizona, Utah and then determine where to go next.  Our house in Bend got full-time renters from California deciding if Central Oregon would be their new home and our vacation rental on the Oregon Coast was booked solid with guests, so the full-time vanlife began!

Then in the middle of March, COVID-19 starting making huge impact across our country and California began shutting down various outdoors spaces.  BLM lands and national forests were still open but we decided we needed to head to Arizona where many outdoor spaces were still open and one could find plenty of open spaces.  By April, we could see the writing on the wall as more and more forest roads were being blocked off and while we were in Utah calling parks we were told if you aren’t a Utah resident you are not welcome.

Greg’s Dad called us with our weekly mail update and read us a letter from the City of Newport telling us vacation rentals had been shut down and to please remove your guests and ensure no reservations until end of April.  We threw in the towel and headed to Newport on April 13th from Kanab, Utah.  We now have been hunkering down at our beach house for a while now.  While we were on the road we did not realize how little coverage there was in many of our parks, therefore, we got way behind in our video taping and blogging.   Now that we are in full WIFI zone we are revisiting all our trips to bring you the most interesting places to visit and where to boondock in the coming weeks until we can hit the road again.  This week I’ll be highlighting Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  We did the self-guided tour.

Carlsbad Caverns National Monument is located in the Chihuahuan Desert about 20 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico and about 145 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas.  It is an amazing geological site and we highly recommend it for all to see.  It was created 265 million years ago by an inland sea through fossil beds and it contains over one hundred limestone caves.

Carlsbad’s caves formed differently than typical caves.  Typical caves are formed by rainwater slowly dissolving the limestone.  Water then sinks through enlarged fractures and sinkholes eventually growing to become underground streams and rivers that carve out cave systems. While inside the Guadalupe Mountains, between four and six million years ago, hydrogen-sulfide-rich (H2S) waters began to migrate through fractures and faults in the Capitan limestone. This water mixed with rainwater moving downward from the surface. When the two waters mixed, the H2S combined with the oxygen carried by the rainwater and formed sulfuric acid (H2SO4). This acid dissolved the limestone along fractures and folds in the rock to form Carlsbad Cavern. This process left behind massive gypsum deposits, clay, and silt as evidence of how the cave was formed.  With time, the active level dropped to form deeper cave passages. In abandoned cave passages above, blocks fell from the ceiling and speleothems (cave formations) began to grow. Around four million years ago, speleogenesis ceased in the area around Carlsbad Cavern and the cave began to take on the look it has today. (Taken from https://www.nps.gov/cave/learn/nature/cave.htm) The cavern itself is over 30 miles long but only 3 miles is open to the public.  (Information below is a mixture taken directly from the website and from my memory of the tour and brochures.)

We started at the Nature Trail entrance and then ended at the Big Room Trail and took the elevator back to the top. The 1.25 mile (2 km) Natural Entrance Trail is extremely steep. Depending on if you decide to hike up or down, you gain or lose about 750 feet (229 m)—equivalent to walking up or down a 75-story building. The hike takes about one hour (on average) to completeThis trail is not recommended for visitors with heart or respiratory conditions.  It is not handicap accessible.

You have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of early explorers as you see formations like Devil’s Spring, the Whale’s Mouth, and Iceberg Rock (these are all in the video below).  The Iceberg Rock fell from the Cavern Ceiling and it’s a 200,000-ton rock you will see on the trail.  The Big Room, is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. This 1.25 mile (2 km) trail is relatively flat, and will take about 1.5 hours (on average) to walk it. Actor and comedian Will Rogers called the cavern, “The Grand Canyon with a roof over it.” You will be rewarded with spectacular views, cave formations of all shapes and sizes, and a rope ladder used by explorers in 1924.  Parts of the Big Room Trail are wheelchair accessible. You can ask for more information about accessibility at the visitor center. I have included their Accessibility Brochure

The lighting system in the cavern is amazing!  There are over 19 miles of wiring and 1,000 light bulbs through out the 3 miles you will walk to be able to see the amazing geological formations.  I have never seen such different types of stalactites and stalagmites.  At the very end you can take an elevator from the bottom of the cavern floor to 75 stories or 754 feet up to the visitor’s center.  The elevator trip takes one minute as the elevator travels 9 mph. The elevator shaft is 1.5 times the height of the Washington Monument. The first two elevators were created in 1931 and the second two in 1955.  All were replaced in 1977.

After our amazing tour we headed to our boondocking campsite called Chosa Campground maintained by BLM.   The Chosa Campground is a large, hard-packed, level gravel lot immediately off a paved road (Dillahunty Road). It is conveniently located about 7 miles south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park on US Route 180, this campground has three trash cans and is big rig friendly.   We had a nice view of the Chihuahuan Desert and since we were there in the winter there were only 5 other rigs in the lot with us.  The stars were out in full force and it was very quiet and serene. We hope you enjoy our virtual tour.  Cheers!

Top 4 Secret Boondocking Spots

IMG_3172This week we decided to go a little off script from sharing our adventure to sharing some great camping spots.  It’s a nice short and sweet video.  Whether you are new to Vanlife or have been at it for a while you seem to be always looking for the best boondocking spots.  During our last trip from Oregon to Northern California Coast we stumbled across several amazing boondocking spots. For those of you new to the term boondocking it is a widely used term by RVers and Vanlifers when you utilize a free camping spot without being connected to water, electricity or sewer.  Since you are not connected to any amenities this is also considered dry camping. So we are going to share with you four amazing boondocking spots we found. (just a disclaimer that these locations can be from time to time made off limits for dry camping, but to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing this blog, these are ‘ok’.  We are also lucky it is the Winter season so there is a lot more flexibility since the crowds are very small!)

For those of you who have recently joined RGBadventures (Rane, Greg and Bode) you know we are new to vlogging and trying to grow our subscribers.  Youtube requires you to have 100 subscribers before you can have a channel, so we are hoping to use this video to excite you to join us on our adventures.  For those of you who are part of the first 100 subscribers, we will send you a detailed email on how to find these four top secret spots!  As we have watched a number of videos people hint where the spots are but never tell you, so we want to make your trips easier by giving you more detailed insight, so subscribe to learn!  Each one of these spots were quiet, very little to no traffic, no bright lights flooding your rig and fantastic ocean views!

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We hope you enjoy this short video that highlights spots on the Central Oregon Coast, Humboldt County, Mendocino County and Sonoma County.

In our next blog and vlog, we will go more into detail exploring Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the Avenue of the Giants, Mendocino and Sonoma County and you will get better context of these amazing spots.  We’ll also share with you free RV dump stops and water refill opportunities along the way.  I almost forgot we will share with you a great offer California State Park System gives to people with disabilities and how to take advantage of this great offer!  Greg is going to share his top 5 tips for new RVers and his Boldt BL review, as we have heard there are very few reviews of the new BL and folks would like to hear from us.  So stay tuned next week!

Check out our boondocking video on Youtube!  Don’t forget to subscribe.

 

 

Visiting the Redwoods National Park

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Hi from RGB (Rane, Greg, Bode) Adventures, we have decided to do our series a little out of order.  I did not realize that the Redwoods and the far Northern California Coast has so little cellular service.  This rugged and isolated stretch of coastline has been called ‘The Lost Coast’ for good reason.  The videos on how to choose your RV, Why the Winnebago Boldt, the ‘shake down’ tour, and getting our RV fixed under warranty will be delayed until we hit good cellular and wifi services.  We have jumped ahead to our first roadtrip the through the California Redwoods.

We left Junction City and Eugene, Oregon exhausted on a Friday evening so we weren’t creative and boondocked at the second rest area south of Eugene near exit 40 in Oakland, Oregon.  It isn’t bad and not too loud; a small herd of deer were walking through when we arrived.  The highlight for Bode was a full poop bag dispenser and dog walking areas.  Gotta keep all members of our tribe happy.

Oregon allows you 12 hours at their rest areas, so we got our 12 hours of shut eye and then headed south to the California Redwoods.  As you will see from the video and images on our Facebook page, it is a beautiful drive and not that many cars in the winter time. We started in the pouring rain of the Valley and the clouds parted and the beautiful sun beamed down on us the rest of the trip towards Crescent City.  Our first stop was off Highway 199 at the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside Boardwalk and Jeffery Pine Loop.  We highly recommend it as a good place to move the legs before the final push towards Crescent City.

We would also suggest since there are so few people here in this isolated and seldom visited part of Oregon that one could stop at the Jeffery Pine Loop Trail head if you are tired, this could be a great boondock spot.  There are not overnight parking restriction signs, so we think you should be okay.  From here we headed back on the highway 199 to Crescent City and about 10 miles before you get to Crescent City you will hit the Smith River National Recreation Area.  We highly recommend Madrona River Access (near Gasquet, CA), it is the only free campground (max 7 day stay) where you can boondock at no charge.  We got a great spot next to the river and there is even a firepit and picnic table for you to enjoy.

Next, we stocked up at Crescent City and stopped by the visitor office for the Redwood National Park, there we got our map and the lowdown on what to see.  The Redwood National Park is paired with the California State Park system so you will need to pay state park fees if you stay at any state parks overnight.  We checked out the following trails and viewpoints in the National Park: Vista Point, Coastal Trail at Crescent Beach, Damnation Trail, Overlook, Yurok Loop Trail, and Klamath River Overlook.

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You will find driving an RV takes a lot more work than your SUV or passenger car and you get tired quick (I know this as the navigator taking care of the grumpy driver who makes specific point on how easy I got it as cook and dog mom.  I will admit out of 4,000 miles on the odometer I’ve driven about 40 J.) so instead of heading all the way down to the next campground we decided to just boondock.  The Yurok Redwood Casino are happy to allow you to stay for free in their lot, you just need to go inside and register your vehicle.  It was quiet and we had the wonderful opportunity to get a tour with the handmade dugout canoes being made out of large Redwood logs.  According to the craftsman that we spoke to he learned the trade from Yurok Tribal Elders and was trying to pass on the tradition to the Yurok children.  He was worried that the next generation wasn’t too interested in learning this important tradition but the tribe had put together a program for him to have interns and children to train.  The forest service allows the tribe to take a 6-8-foot Redwood Trunk that takes them 3 months to dig out.  He showed me the traditional tools and rocks they used back in the days but now he uses a chain saw, sander and modern tools so instead of 2 years it takes 3 months.  He explained the important carved out parts inside the canoe being the nose, heart, and kidneys of the boat.  The tribesman has 3 months to make 8 canoes and he was working on his 3rd.   If you are interested the Yurok Tribe is planning to offer traditional dugout canoe tours on the Klamath River beginning Spring 2020.  It was interesting to learn a bit about the history of the largest tribe and (according to the tribe member) unfortunately the poorest tribe in California!  It was sad to see when I did a little more research that after the Gold Rush 75% of the tribe was decimated from massacre and disease from settlers.

The next day we checked out the rest of the National Park.  I forgot to tell you the National Park is free, so you don’t need your annual pass but they charge for all the campgrounds and there is no discount.  One thing I did learn though is if you have a disability like me (which is another long story, check out my TBI blog), you can get a lifetime National Park Pass called the Access Pass for free with your Social Security SSA Benefit Letter!  We got the access pass, too bad we already paid for annual pass but now we have a pass for lifetime!  So cool and a nice benefit for those with disabilities!

After the Yurok Casino make sure you take exit 765 and take the lovely Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through the park instead of the 101 or you will miss most of the big Redwoods.  That’s what you’re here for after all right, so slow down and enjoy the windy slow ride.  For the rest of the park we scoped out the Coastal Trail to Flint Ridge, Ah-Pah trail, Big Tree Wayside (my favorite), Elk Prairie, Elk Meadow, Stone Lagoon (Be careful if you are in an RV it is steep one lane road in sand- we wouldn’t recommend it in a camper van or bigger), Big Lagoon and Patrick Point.  We were here in winter, during February, so the road to Gold Bluffs Beach was a little treacherous and suggested by the forest service to not go down in our Sprinter. The camp grounds at Elk Prairie and Patrick’s Point were very underwhelming at $35 a night as many of the campsites are closed in the winter and only have a water spigot, picnic table, fire ring, bathrooms and showers are closed for the winter (no hookups or RV dump stations).  So we headed on down to Arcata to talk to the BLM office and figure out our next spot, tune in to next week as we describe Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the Avenue of the Giants and wine tasting in Napa! In the mean time see the video on our adventures or learn more about the Redwoods and Yurok tribe.

Action:

1. Check out our video on our adventure & subscribe to our channel

2. Learn about Redwood National Park

3. Learn about the Yurok Tribe and taking Canoe Tours this Summer

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