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Old 05-22-2015, 12:05 AM   #29
Len and Jeanne
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SilverEagle6, I am just guessing that around Lake Mead there are also public lands administered by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. There are also federal wildlife refuges.

State lands can include all kinds of things: designated parks, forests, and trust lands (usually 4 sections per township) that were reserved for the western states out of the former public domain. What are trust lands? | Trust Lands Administration

I don't think there is land anywhere in the US that isn't either private, administered by some government agency or other, or part of a Native American reservation. In some parts of the West, there is a so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, where local people contest policy decisions by government land managers.

Incidentally, for anyone unfamiliar with particular stretches of BLM dirt roads, it's a good idea to take along a bucket and shovel for small emergency road repairs. One friend says to bring along a chain saw, but so far we've avoided having to clear fallen trees! The desert roads are prone to wash-outs from storms-- and also knuckleheads who persist in driving on clay roads when wet, leaving deep tire ruts behind.

So far nobody's commented on snowbirds flocking to southern Arizona's BLM lands for cheap warm-weather winter stays. The area around Quartzite and south is just unbelievable, with so many boondocking RVs. Not exactly the wild experience the OP is probably looking for, though.

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Old 05-22-2015, 06:25 AM   #30
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First hand experience.

This is a gross exaggeration. But reading maps of BLM lands, is like looking at a picture of a baby, and thinking you know how to raise a child.

Top Ten things I learned from an expert in the field… the field. (Yes you need the maps, and yes talking to regional offices is very important )

#1 Some of the best campsites in the universe are marked by two tire tracks.

#2 Keep your wits about you. Soft sand spots in roads are not marked. Getting a tow truck in most BLM lands could run into the thousands of dollars. You may not have cell service. Do you have water ? Can you walk out as far as you drove in?

#3 Most times you need to get out and walk, to determine what lay ahead.

#4 Some BLM lands are leased to ranchers who graze cows, and the access to these areas will have cattle guards.( metal grates that cattle are afraid to walk on ) It looks like a private ranch, when in fact it is public land, with great campsites, that you will share with cattle.

#5 This is just my perception because maybe I have just been lucky TOO MANY times. Finding an awesome, beautiful, and easily accessible campsite in the Southwest is like looking for a piece of straw in a hay stack.

#6 I had a top ten list of incredible free BLM campsites. I threw it out, because I kept finding better ones. Once we went looking for a campsite, in Utah. We had to drive a whole mile down the highway before we FINALLY found one. The next morning I took a walk and within 1/8th of a mile I found three better campsites, on the same dirt road.

#7 NEVER try any of this alone.

#8 If you go for a walk, bring water. If you put down water in a plastic container….consider it gone.

#9 I found one campsite with a landing strip, and three with horse corals.

#10 Without smarts, guts, intel, and luck….you may never find a campsite

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Old 05-22-2015, 10:53 PM   #31
Len and Jeanne
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mandolindave, not sure if your meant that something in my last post was an exaggeration.... but if so, no, it's not! However, most of our experience camping/driving on BLM lands has been mostly but not exclusively in Utah's North San Rafael Swell and the area around Moab. It is likely that experiences in one area would be different from experiences in another state. Also, experiences in the same place can vary between years: a lot depends on whether a road has been recently graded. For sure we've infilled a few holes and "graded" a couple of rocky bits before proceeding-- cautiously.

Otherwise, I agree with most of your expert's advice. I would add to it:

1. We typically stay in the BLM's designated campgrounds, but it is not uncommon to find ourselves the only people there, regardless. Then we explore the dirt roads with the truck only, oftentimes parking to go for a hike down an interesting side-canyon. We try to tell someone else where we are going and when we expect to return, although with no cell service, this doesn't always happen.

But truck-only explorations are a great way to locate those dispersed camping gems on passable dirt roads that you can return to next time.

2. The usual desert camping advice. Summer temperatures can be extremely hot. Lots of water, hats, emergency first aid kit, &c, &c. If your road became impassable due to a washout do you have a Plan B for getting out?

3. The aforementioned shovel comes in handy not only for the odd bit of road work, but also because grazed lands can be littered with cow pies-- and choice campsites can have unexpected outdoor latrine areas at close quarters, used by inconsiderate previous campers. We've also seen beautiful dispersed sites on the slick rock overlooking wild canyons, that were littered with broken glass. If it really is a great site, chances are others have been there a lot, before you.

4. We don't travel with mountain bikes, but for people who do, this might be an easier/faster way to check out the road ahead than jogging-- which is how we do it.

I hope none of this discourages people from exploring the Back of Beyond. We've had memorable experiences in the North San Rafael Swell of desert bighorn sheep, wild burros, beautiful redrock scenery, hikes where we didn't see anyone else-- and one unforgettable flash flood that was way too close for comfort!
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Old 05-23-2015, 06:07 AM   #32
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To L and J

It was me who was exaggerating, when I said

" This is a gross exaggeration. But reading maps of BLM lands, is like looking at a picture of a baby, and thinking you know how to raise a child."

I was trying to be funny, while trying to make the point that maps are needed but to be safe…you should have more than just maps. I am very sorry if I came off has flippant or disrespectful. That was not my intention. I enjoyed your comments VERY much, and read them several times. Visions of cow pies dancing through my head…ha ha.

I wish I had a picture of Cryptobiotic Soil to let people know not to disturb it. I was told that it is the desert trying to repair itself, although I have seen it in fertile soil as well.
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Old 05-23-2015, 06:53 AM   #33
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To ( or with ) L and J

We should probably talk more about rain.

Never camp in a nice flat dry wash. There could be NO sign of rain, but it could be raining in the distance. Dry river beds, and slot canyons can start flowing like a freight train.

Once, I was trying to get to a specific trail head. A previously dry river bed, the day before, had turned into a raging white water river. We watched a Jeep get stuck and flooded. We quick like opted for Plan B, which put me on a different trail where I got to see coprolite (petrified dinosaur pooh) It was surprisingly beautiful ( EEWWW did I say that ) It was gold and purple, and some other shades of colors that I don't know the name of.

If we would have been on the other side of the dry wash, we might have been stranded for days.

On the other hand, seeing the desert when it rains is a glorious thing to behold. Or a few days after it rains as well. The mountains and rocks change to even more beautiful colors. I was hiking a few days after it rained, in The Grand Gulch to find The Perfect Kiva. The trail was flanked by waste high wild desert rose patches. Bunches of little tiny red roses, standing out deviantly amidst rock and sand. Not far away I found a puddle in an indentation in a rock, inhabited by tadpoles.
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Old 05-24-2015, 03:20 PM   #34
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Thank you, Dave! You've got great advice.

And let us second you on not camping anywhere near a dry wash or creek.

We did that once in the North San Rafael, and got stranded by a flash flood. Not with the AS, thankfully-- we were backpacking in Saddle Horse Canyon, a dry wash off of Salt Creek, and thought we had perched our tent well above the high water mark on a ledge about 7 feet above the wash-- but this was in a narrow canyon. (Also major dumb as a campsite choice.) It started to rain, and just as dusk was setting in, "a little bird" told us to move our gear even higher. The water flowing down the "dry" wash beneath us started as just a trickle, and then swelled within a matter of seconds into a raging torrent. Had we been in the wash then we would have drowned.

This flash flood went on for hours-- roaring like a jet engine-- but we couldn't see it in the dark. In the morning, we found that the high water would have missed our initial ledge campsite-- by maybe a foot. The logs placed at the canyon mouth as a cattle fence were completely swept away and gone. It started to rain again, when we were hiking out along Salt Creek-- I don't think I've hiked anywhere so fast in my life!

On another occasion when backpacking along the San Rafael River to Virgin Spring, we missed what had clearly been a monster flash flood, by several days. There was caked mud all along the route, and many feet beyond the banks of the normally small and docile river.

So another thing I would suggest to campers who are new to the desert, is that if you are in the vicinity of a creek or a dry wash, pay real attention to the surrounding vegetation. If you see bits of flotsam like grass stuck in the lower branches, that tells you how high the water rose recently. Where you see lichens and the cryptogamic soils that Dave mentioned (soil with a dark crust to it) you are probably pretty safe.

Also, as Dave mentioned, where you have a choice of camping sites, on either side of a wash, it's better to take the one where you couldn't get stranded by a flash flood if one came along. In a lot of the 4 Corners states' desert areas, the headwaters of desert creeks can actually be in the mountains, and they're apt to get thunderstorms even if the desert remains bone dry. A small, docile looking creek or dry wash might actually have an extensive watershed, all of which might be funneling water close to your site.

Having said that, the red rock desert can be an amazing place in the rain-- from a safe vantage point. The water pockets (depressions in the slick rock) can fill with water, and formerly dry cliffs can flow with waterfalls.

The Colorado Plateau desert has so much natural beauty to offer that we'll be back! Probably this fall. We've also visited Death Valley twice now in the winter, and that place-- so stark and rocky-- has grown on us, as well!
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Old 05-24-2015, 05:07 PM   #35
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Why do you have #7 - "NEVER try any of this alone. " Follow good solo camper practices. Leave an itinerary with your family, friends. Check in with a ranger station. Have a cell phone. Get a Spot messenger with SOS capability. Get your ham radio general license for fun and emergency contacts. Lots of ways to manage risk. But do manage the risk....
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Old 05-24-2015, 05:56 PM   #36
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I, personally, think that going with others is the wise thing to do.

In my solo life, I would not head out to any remote spot without someone else with me.

Not because I'm afraid, but because if anything happened to me I would not want Lily alone without care.

When you have dependents, you think about these things.

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚❤️
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Old 05-27-2015, 10:00 AM   #37
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If you cannot swim... get into water ONLY up to your knees.

I do like Manolindave's list. Thalweg knows his material. Len n Jeanne obviously have been spending a lot of time in Utah.

Many boondockers, myself a defined rockdocker (off the grid trailer camper) did not learn all of this from reading a book or a colorful magazine article in a Trailer Magazine. There are some individuals who should NEVER travel alone. Often, these individuals do not even recognize that there are risks to finding campsites that are not developed by the Forest Service or BLM. Even some of those, like in Montana can get pretty brushy and you had better carry some hedge clippers to keep from scratching your "silver bullet".

It is always best to find someone who can be honest with you. Some of us cannot sail the oceans as we get sea sick. Or fly a helicopter because you have no sense of balance or air sick. We ALL have our limitations. You will one day EXCEED your limitations and wish you had not.

Common sense about camping on a flood plain is usually out the window on a sunny day, not knowing in the mountains it rained five inches in two hours and it is coming downstream where YOU are camped. The Virgin River in the narrows of Zion Park, drown the unsuspecting from time to time.

You bury your Airstream and are overweight and have a heart condition... not good. You bury your 4x4 with the same conditions, you are worse off. You had better carry one shovel, maybe one for the wife as well.

Your trailer can have HDTV and a wonderful stereo system. You feel secure. Then find two flat tires on the trailer. You fresh water tank plastic drain broke off on the gravel road to the campsite. A meteorite hits your tow vehicle... Be prepared.

Although very rarely, you read or hear about people getting lost, stuck, a rock moves and a leg or arm get trapped... And some of these people know what they are doing... solo.

Utah for example. Most of the beautiful scenery are sandstone formations. Sand and clay cemented with some calcium. The roads are bulldozed sand and packed from daily use. One small rainstorm these roads are sink holes... in away. Muddy, slippery and impassable until they dry. A map does not tell you the geology. Many BLM and Forest Service maps to not have contours of elevation or grade of the road up and over a mountain pass. They look like straight lines and are not even close to straight or level.

This is not a Pep Rally for the Newbie frontiersman. It is just an example that your knowledge will grow with each trip. Some dry roads in western Nebraska are "gumbo" waiting to trap someone who does not know what a wet mud hole that awaits under that milky colored water.

The "Mountain Roads" blasted and graded hard rock are often ALL season. Wet, dry and maybe a foot of snow... you will find your way out. Maybe without the trailer, but passable... all season. Three feet of snow... you might be there for a long, long winter. WE do not travel the high country of the Rockies from late October to mid April. Why?... then you had better study the climate options.

There are Seasons to be in a part of North America... and times you had better leave to Snow Cats, Snowmobiling, ATV's and custom trucks.

easler7267 is doing on track of doing what needs to be done. Especially with that new 25 footer in the "Springs". Gold Camp Road near Pikes Peak is not one I would even want to drive my pickup on the weekend! Been there. Too many drunks and accidents. I discovered that 20 years ago.

You want to get out in the Middle of Nowhere and learn...?

See you at Quemado, New Mexico on July 13 and ready to depart at 2:30PM. If this trip is too civilized for you to learn the tricks of being in nowhere, you are much too advanced even for me to follow into the wild blue yonder.

I know that this is like a Big Wind coming out of a canyon, but your question cannot be answered with one sentence or paragraph. You learn one step at a time. Maybe in 2016 there will be a Rockdocking Adventure to DuBois, Wyoming. You will learn "how to cross a fast shallow river with a walking stick and tennis shoes", with your hiking boots secured around your neck and NOT fall down.

This is one of our neighbors... learning the process at DuBois. Her husband had the option of helping... or not.
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Old 05-27-2015, 07:59 PM   #38
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Ray, The look on her face is priceless, I am not sure if she is frightened or pissed off? Some one should teach her how to use those trekking poles while crossing a river.
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Old 05-28-2015, 04:07 PM   #39
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No kidding, Batman. If I didn't have trekking poles or a walking stick prior to fording a big stream, I'd look for a tree branch of some description to use. Three or four "points" in swift current are much safer than just two (feet.) It appears that this gal was trying to keep her trekking poles dry!

For sure, on the few times we have other people that we like to desert camp with, that's our preference. Not for the ordinary camping trip, but in case of an emergency. Also, with people we like, it's a lot more fun!

What bothers us more are the strangers blasting around on ATVs. Especially the ones who are armed. (We're not anti-hunting, just a little apprehensive.)

In really remote areas, cell phones may not have service. Telus is about the best in the West, although I understand that you can still call out on 911 on other systems if need be, if Telus does has service available. But sometimes nobody has service.
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Old 05-28-2015, 10:27 PM   #40
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A Satellite phone and or SPOT locator are great backups when "out there"!
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Old 05-29-2015, 04:13 AM   #41
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Originally Posted by batman View Post
Ray, The look on her face is priceless, I am not sure if she is frightened or pissed off? Some one should teach her how to use those trekking poles while crossing a river.
She might be cold. We had to ford several rivers on our Glacier cross country backpacking trip in July and the waters were frigid!
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Old 06-01-2015, 07:39 AM   #42
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Word of advice on fording a stream in mountainous country: An easy crossing at 9:00 AM turns into a real problem at 2:00 PM when the snow melts and the stream can come up a foot with a nasty current.

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