Friday marked three weeks since we left Flahruduh. For a little more than a third of our trip we’ve enjoyed the comfort of a bed in a home. We spent Nights 1-4 in Louisiana and Nights 5-7 in Texas on the road with family and friends. A couple of weeks later we spent four nights at another friend’s place. Thanks, friends and family.
The remainder we’ve spent in a tent, in Stevie, or in strangers’ beds courtesy of Airbnb and Couchsurfing.com (don’t freak out, parents – we’re still alive). The Airbnb was unintentional. We were on our way to camp, but we were struck by a vehicle (don’t worry, parents – it’s just a flesh wound). It started raining, we weren’t sure if the car was ok, we were in a strange land, no one was responding on Couchsurfing, so we found a cozy room in the home of two lovely young people for under $50 after taxes.
We’re in California now. The surprises of existing in California deserve their own entry, so this entry is about our experiences boondocking and backcountry camping (aka dispersed camping, aka wilderness camping, aka setting up a tent in a national forest and praying a bear or snake or creature doesn’t eat us alive) in the non-Californian, post-Texas southwest.
Night 8 of our stay we spent at a Walmart parking lot in Las Cruces. The unfortunate parking lot incident took place on Night 9 so we Airbnb-ed in Santa Fe with these lovely people.
On Night 10 we finally enjoyed the hospitality of Mother Nature from the comfort of our tent in the Carson National Forest, just outside of Taos. We knew which general area to head toward thanks to freecampsites.net (which, since coming to California we’ve learned isn’t always reliable).
The terrain wasn’t too difficult for Stevie. There were several cows, however. Cows freak me out. They’re large and their moos are ominous. But we had great fun by the campfire and the next morning we spent some time reorganizing the car. When most of your life is packed in a space smaller than most storage lockers, organization is imperative.
From Taos our next stop was the Four Corners Monument. Our plan was to see the Monument in the morning, then drop down to Apache County, AZ to see the White House Pueblo Ruins, then go find a place to camp in the Arizona wilderness. All in one day. The hang up is that most of the land between Taos and the Four Corners (a 4-5 hour drive) is reservation territory, so camping is a no go.
So, we spent Night 11 in a Walmart parking lot around Farmington, NM, about an hour away from Four Corners. The second night of Walmart living was far more luxurious because this time we were actually prepared to sleep in our car and therefore allowed ourselves the 30ish minutes it takes to carefully repack all of our stuff into the front of the car so the back of the car can be used as a bed. The best part was treating ourself to breakfast burritos at the famous southwestern food chain Lotaburger. For $10 we got two coffees and two delicious burritos.
Side note on car sleeping: battery operated fans are an absolute must if you are travelling with a dog in weather that is even a little warm.
After a day of being in four places at once and hiking a canyon and exploring a petrified forest (it is remarkable what you can accomplish in 16 hours), we spent Night 12 backwoods camping by the Sunset Crater Volcano in the Coconino Forest, about an hour south of the Grand Canyon. The clear night sky was dazzling.
The next morning we had a quick layover in the Grand Canyon – because you have to if you’re there and you’ve never seen it – then we continued west.
On Night 13 we slept by the Little Colorado River in the Mohave Desert. Read my account here, and Brenden’s here. This place is a must for anyone interested in boondocking. Just make sure you bring water. It’s hella hot (pun intended) but the water is every bit as cold as the air is warm in this oasis of conundrums.
Night 14 was our first ever in California. We enjoyed it all the more from the comfort of yet another loving friend’s bed. (Thanks, friend!)