Showing posts with label boondocking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label boondocking. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First road trip 2017, Southern Oregon Coast — with a boondocking tip

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We'd been retreating to the Oregon coast between Brookings and Gold Beach for decades before someone recommended this prime real estate—Thunder Rock Cove. See PK on the rocks on right? How insignificant we are on the land, and the sea dwarfs us even more.
Storms have hammered Southern Oregon for months, but the furies took a break early last week for two entire days. We heard the forecast, locked eyes, and said, Let's go!

So PK released the Roadtrek from its antifreeze-induced coma, I put together a quick camp menu, and we motored 80 happy miles to the Southern Oregon coast.

We are fortunate to live near the Pacific Ocean — such a power-source. It never fails to energize, inspire, and, during these surreal political times, calm. The crashing waves, the salty scent of sea air, the glint of slanted sun on the water, the glowering clouds meeting the horizon. It all dissolves poisonous anxiety and opens the mind to focus on what really matters. Family, friends, relationships is what it boils down to.

Aside from its stunning beauty, the Southern Oregon coast in the off season is more or less deserted.
   A view from the Cape Sebastian trail. We hiked about 90 min-
   utes round trip from the top almost to the beach and back
   and didn't see a soul. 
Like everyone else in Southern Oregon, we live a five-hour drive from major population centers. Lots of small towns here, and a minor city there, but Portland is five hours north and San Francisco is seven hours south. Hence our guarantee, at least during the off-season, of having regional natural wonders to ourselves. 

On our lovely lonely beaches we can pretend that the world is still all natural and pristine, population density is under control, our country is not in a period of political discord, and that maniacs around the world are not constantly committing crimes against humanity and nature.

Here the only aggression arises from a winter sea riled by natural forces rather than from ego-ridden flawed humans riled by each other and driven by pride and greed. 

Another view  from the Thunder Rock Cove trail, which is part of the
Pacific Coast Trail through the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

If you visit this part of the world, stop at as many pullouts as you can manage along the 26-mile Samuel H. Boardman corridor. Every single stop has a gem to turn over in your vision and your mind. 
PK at Thunder Rock Cove. Part of the trail follows
a creek with a waterfall or two. Ho hum. 
Boondocking Bonus

About that boondocking thing. I admit that until early last year,  I thought boondocking had to do with living in the boondocks, which we pretty much already do in rural Southern Oregon.

But no.

Boondocking, in camping terms, means parking your RV, or pitching your tent, someplace where you don't have to pay. And, of course, the trade off is you also don't have electricity or water hookups, restrooms, laundry, or any of the amenities that can dock you $30 to $60 a night. (We once paid $86 at a KOA on the East Coast near Acadia National Park but that's another story.)

Boondocking has become, I believe, something of a badge of honor. I learned this after we bought our Roadtrek Agile van in February 2016 and joined the Roadtreking Facebook group, aimed at travelers with small Class B RVs but open to all. If you have an RV of any size, or are thinking about buying one, check it out.

If you're rolling in a small RV, such as our van, you are self contained with water, heat, generator, and the all-important flush toilet. Why should you pay for camping? 

Too many commercial RV parks look like sales lots, just a bunch of big rigs lined up in a metallic row with a tree or two here and there. Or not. Little privacy. Gravel. Sad little plants. Sometimes clean restrooms/showers, sometimes not.

During our two-day coastal getaway, we scored a wonderful boondocking spot quite by accident. I glimpsed a car climbing a steep gravel drive on the ocean side of the highway as we were passing by. We returned to the area later and discovered a perfect hideaway.
I love this. We're super close to Hwy. 1 but we couldn't see the road and drivers couldn't see us. There were no pay envelopes in sight. Also no other campers.

As the photo below shows, we did have a fine vista to enjoy while sipping wine before our  dinner of leftovers from home. 

Here we are leveled up with Lego thingies, our plastic rug on forest duff and mud, deluding ourselves about keeping the van tidy. It never hurts to try.
Before I leave the boondocking topic, here's a tip.
If you have a self-contained RV, you can join, for $20 to $25 a year, a group called Welcome Boondockers. 

For $25, you can park your RV on a member's property. For $20 you can park on others' property and open yours to fellow travelers. The website shows hundreds, maybe thousands, of available driveways, fields, and whatever to park for the night, all over the USA and Canada and some in Mexico and other foreign lands.

We used Welcome Boondockers several times during our seven-week cross-country road trip last fall. It was great, and we met some fine folks. 

And while I'm at it, the ALLSTAYS Camp and RV app helps you find campgrounds and parks and dozens of other things RVers might look for, including "dispersed" camping areas, and Wal Mart and other businesses that allow overnight parking.

Dispersed camping, usually available on BLM or Forest Service lands, is free camping without amenities, the same as boondocking. 

Sky, land and sea from Otter Point north of Gold Beach, OR.
On the road there, we saw a large semi-hidden RV boondocking.

OK. Here's a confession: We were at the coast for just two nights, and we spent one of them at a hotel in Gold Beach. A hotel! Even when we had the private spot with a million $$$$ view.

I know. It's embarrassing.

But hear me out. It was Valentine's Day and we had reservations at a quirky gourmet restaurant in Gold Beach, Oregon, Anna's by the Sea.  Recommended!

The combination of Valentine's Day and dinner reservations propelled us to the hotel, where our dinner and our bed were just a few blocks apart. You make concessions when you're over a certain age and are no longer living paycheck to paycheck. 

We'll get our fill of  boondocking this spring as we travel to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

       Parting shots from the Southern Oregon coast

Standing in the surf can make anybody feel like Master of the Universe. 
One of my favorite Oregon coast memories is of this mid-December day when the temperature climbed to 70F and we spent hours hiking and relaxing on Lone Ranch Beach. Back home in the Rogue Valley, cold fog hid the sun and it was around 35F.

My niece from Minnesota marveling at an Indian Sands trail vista a few years ago. 

Same niece, different year, and a typical sunset on the Southern Oregon coast.

Guide to the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
If you plan to visit the Southern Oregon Coast, this guide is invaluable.

Three earlier posts, two about camping on the Southern Oregon Coast and one about a fantastic beach camp in Northern California. Pick and choose. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Hoh, the hikes, and the bike scum

A big leaf maple along the ethereal Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park.
We spent a couple weeks on Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula earlier this month, traveling in our Roadtrek Agile, a compact home on wheels. Everyday was dense with subject matter. 

A close encounter with a bald eagle, and later, a humpback whale; a reunion, after 40+ years, with a woman who validated my memories of the thin slice of our shared past; a music festival that challenged what I thought I knew about music-and about festivals; Victoria, a city that made me rethink my bias against cities, and a hike so beautiful it made my chest ache.

And I can't neglect the random human factor, connections and moments shared with people we meet along the way. Those rank right up there with the natural beauty we find in parks and reserves everywhere. Usually brief, the connections may be intense, moving, hilarious, or, in the case of the young man self-described as "bike scum" on this trip, just plain interesting. All share one thing - under ordinary circumstances in our ordinary lives, we would not be talking with these strangers.

If you're open to it, travel presents opportunities to stick out your hand, and maybe your neck, and interact with people you'll not see again. The encounters provide food for thought. As if I needed more "thoughts."

As a writer/blogger, a problem with frequent travel is that my brain gets buzzed with so many ideas during and after a trip, that I have big troubles producing a post or two before we leave for the next getaway. The trouble comes with sorting, sifting, and shaping details and deciding, deciding, deciding. Should I use this word or that? This photo or another? Check email or Instagram? Make a cup of tea or a gin and tonic?  

I don't expect I'll require therapy to solve my writing difficulties, but maybe I should take a course in self discipline? Or develop a method to light up, in my beleaguered brain, the best stuff.

For now, this post's title narrows the choices.
On the Hall of Mosses Trail. Or maybe it was the Giant Spruce Trail, or the few miles we hiked on the 18-mile Hoh Trail, which leads to the 7,980 foot summit of Mount Olympus. Chest is aching here with the beauty of this mossy, moist and fragrant cathedral filled with soft sounds and filtered light. It is otherworldly.
The Hoh is a remote glacial-melt river in the Olympic National Park. It lends its name to the Hoh Rainforest where three trails out of the visitors'  center pass giant Sitka spruce, western hemlocks, big leaf maples, Douglas firs, western red cedars and more, all festooned with colorful mosses and lichens. Two trails are loops around a mile long. Easy.
This moss is fluffy, soft, spongy and several inches thick.
We live a couple hours from coastal redwood forests, which are magnificent, but the Hoh Rainforest rivals the beauty, if not the size, of the redwoods. The rainforest earns its name by getting as much as 300 inches of rain a year annually. We were blessed with two sunny days. 

The Hoh Rainforest is not exactly on the way to any place else, so I guess we shouldn't have been shocked when we arrived at the Hoh Visitor Center's campground around 5 p.m. on a Saturday in mid July, the pinnacle of tourist season, and scored a campsite. Wahoo! We were fully prepared to turn back to one of the pull-offs that looked decent for boondocking - legal free camping. 

With our senior pass, camping cost just $10. Like most national park campgrounds, camp sites don't have hook-ups, but do have water and restrooms with flush toilets. (In Canada, those are called washrooms. Inquiries about "restrooms" draw blank stares and perhaps pity for weary travelers looking for a place to take a nap.)

Our home on the road, a Roadtrek SS Agile, compact comfort at its best.
Looks like a science fiction movie set.
Even with our late arrival, we had plenty of daylight to set up camp and hike the Hall of Mosses Trail, an .8 mile wonder departing from the park's visitor center, a quick walk from our campsite. 

A nurse log engendered these trees, and their tangled roots, before becoming part of the forest floor.
After hiking we returned to our camp for dinner, which was hamburgers cooked on a serving-platter-sized charcoal grill. I managed to squeeze four burgers on the thing, thinking we'd have two leftover for the next night. We had all the condiments, of course including a sweet onion from our home garden. Life is good!

Random moment arrives.....every travel day should have at least one!

It was dusk when PK noticed a man pushing a bicycle charging along a trail behind our campsite.

PK called out,  then jumped up to catch him.

"Do you mind if I invite him to dinner?" he asked, hollering over his shoulder.

Of course not!! 

A minute later a lanky young man was standing in our campsite warming up to the idea that he suddenly had a hot meal and a place to hang his hammock.

I think PK and were remembering, at that moment, the frigid December night in Death Valley when we invited a bicycling stranger we met in a convenience store to share our campsite and supper. We rescued him from a stealth camp he'd set up in the bushes along the road. He was still drying out from a violent storm the previous night.

He was gracious and grateful for a hot meal and warm conversation. We were inspired by his courage and grit as he rode solo the park's rough unpaved roads, slogging through sand and over steep grades. Plus he told a helluva story about how he'd escaped from flash flooding after water filled his tent during the storm.

We shared more stories and breakfast the next morning, then met up with him again about 15 miles down the road as we did our own cycling. He invited us to stay with him if ever we were in Denver. We never were.

Things weren't quite as cozy with the random person at the Hoh Rainforest, but just as engaging.
Setting up his hammock in the dusk. (flash photo).

Phillip from Portland, OR, is not your typical bicyclist. No Spandex, flashy bike jersey or high-tech trappings. No tent for him, but a hammock and sleeping bag covered with a tarp. No sleek, light  and costly biking shoes, but work boots.
Phillip's bike shoes. No kidding. No need for clip-in pedals.
He carried flip-flops for camp use.
After hearing him speak, I said, "If I couldn't see you, I'd guess you were a 250-pound Harley rider with a heavy cigarette habit."

He smiled and replied in his gravely voice,  "I'm a bike rider with a heavy cigarette habit."

It wasn't long before he rolled one, being super careful to blow smoke away from me.

PK was inside the van cleaning dishes. I cook. He cleans up. This gave me a chance to ask nosy questions without PK giving me "the look." Phillip didn't mind at all. One thing I know from my years as a journalist, people like to be asked questions about themselves.

I learned he rides his bike to jobs on Portland's bike-designated streets. Some good friends of ours happen to live on one of the streets he uses.

"That's the best street in the city for commuting," he said. "I can roll a cigarette and smoke it on the way to work."

He got a BS degree in electrical engineering, he said, but doesn't have a regular job. He's a disabled vet with a head injury.

"I'm not a careerist," he told me. "After the accident, I realized I didn't buy into the nine to five routine." Instead he does contract work and also teaches programming to elementary kids.

"Most of them get it by the time they reach second grade, " he said. "But trying to teach programming to most kindergarteners and first graders doesn't work."

New to biking, his first overnight trip was 50 miles one way. At the end, he and a bunch of other renegade cyclists set up in a campground and raised hell.

"We made a lot of noise and were the worst people there," he said. "We're bike scum. We don't look like most bikers or act like them.  We partied all night, and I got three hours of sleep."

Riding 50 miles back the next day wasn't all that much fun.

We saw Phillip along the road the next day, stopped at the top of a steep hill chugging from his water bottle. I didn't see any smoke so he must not have had time to roll one yet.

Us? We were headed to the northern Oregon coast with home a couple leisurely days south.   Generous and benevolent Mother Nature in summer dress loomed large in our immediate future, and perhaps more randomness. We could only hope. 

PK entering the mosses trail through a nature-built portal.Maybe we'll get
back there sometime and hike to the meadow below Mount Olympus.

More Roadtrek travel posts

Us and Them, Then and Now - traveling with our son and his girlfriend made clear some generational differences. But it was all good.

Chasing the Death Valley Super Bloom, 2016 - no mention of the Roadtrek here, or photos, because this was our first trip with it and I was still getting used to traveling in such a luxury unit after all our years of car camping, and then a pop-up camper.

Loving Death Valley Part 2 - Again, no mention of Roadtrek. I couldn't quite get over all the attention our new-to-us van attracted. We met a couple in Death Valley who had paid someone to find a used Roadtrek for them. They couldn't believe our luck in scoring a decent deal on our own.  I'm over it now!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Roadtreking - Us and Them, Then and Now

The young runner on the tree-strewn forest road is Chelsea Behymer, son Chris' girlfriend. She's running out of the sheer joy of being alive and thumbing her nose at minor obstacles such as hundreds of downed trees  en route to a trail we wanted to hike. But first we have to drive there, them in a self-converted Sprinter, us in our cushy Roadtrek Agile.

The tree-clogged road presented a challenge they wanted to tackle. To Paul and me, it was a no-brainer no-go from the get-go, even though we followed them.

A recent van camping trip with son Chris, whose primary sponsor, Eddie Bauer, features the Live Your Adventure brand, and his friend Chelsea, made clear the differences in our travel styles and our generations, including their propensity for risk and ours for scaling back in that department. For starters, we joined them by invitation. How cool is that? I loved my parents, but I don't recall at any time inviting them to ruin a jaunt with me and a romantic partner. That's just one little difference. (If you have a few minutes, check out those links above.) Maybe we're getting rewarded for all the camping trips we did with our sons when they were youngsters. 

PK and I are Baby Boomers, although I am officially one year too old. We worked hard, scraped by for a few decades, and raised two incredible sons. We were frugal because well, we couldn't afford not to be. Now well into retirement, we've reached a comfort level that enables road tripping in luxury, at least compared with son Chris, and also compared with our younger selves. (Keep reading.)

Ours is the sleek silver Roadtrek Agile van above. Theirs is a spirited red Sprinter he named nevervan. Maybe because he wanted one for so long but never thought he'd find one he could afford. 

Chris and Chelsea travel in true Millennial fashion equipped with rugged mountain bikes, kayaks, the latest electronics, propane stove, cooler, and a trowel. No heater, no AC, no running water, and no toilet. Not even a fan.

He snagged a deal on this used Sprinter a couple years ago, and between kayaking expeditions, he, with help first from his father, and later, from Chelsea, fashioned a simple custom interior from which he can work and play. Our home is his mailing address, but the Sprinter is his real home, which he often shares with Chelsea and her little mutt, Peanut.(Naturalist Chelsea has work that takes her to far places for weeks at a time.) 

Our van, on the other hand, is a lightly used 2010 Roadtrek Agile on a Sprinter chasis and, like Chris', boasts a Mercedes diesel engine. Let's not even talk about the price difference because it is, frankly, shocking. They're going Spartan, mostly, and we're, well, not! 

But there are some perks to getting old, right? For the record, our van, the same 21 ft. long as Chris', is decked out with: cherry wood cabinets, unbelievable storage space, a refrigerator/freezer, AC, a microwave/convection combo oven, a generator, a tiny toilet/shower closet, a queen-size bed, swivel seats, blinds, curtains, a retractable step, awning, outside shower, furnace and on it goes. We love it, love it. But we also paid our dues. 

                                    Photo above: Chris riding his bike about 25 years after the photo below was taken.
Korbulic family around 1989. Chris, 3, has the long shorts, Quinn, almost 13,  the cute pink ones. Paul's kayak is atop our trusty Toyota Landcruiser and my road bike is ready for my training ride that morning for Cycle Oregon. We car/tent camped from Oregon to South Dakota and back. One of our best family trips ever. 

About paying our dues. We progressed through the decades from rough and tough tent/river/car camping (30 + wonderful years, half of them with our two sons), to sleeping in the bed of our pick-up (a couple awkward years) to enjoying the hell out of our FourWheel pop--up camper beginning in 2010, to our current state of luxury.
We've never wanted a hulking RV, but something that parks as easily as a large pickup, doesn't require an RV site with hook-ups, and gets decent gas mileage. No wonder our Roadtrek is named "Agile." It satisfies  our keen desire to travel comfortably but nimbly as we pile on the years. And my, how those years are stacking up.

We kinda noticed those years during our enlightening camping caravan with Chris and Chelsea. We also noted some, umm, traveling style differences. This is to be expected, of course, since we are 40 years older.  But they indulged us, and probably didn't notice, as they were too busy making every minute count: running, biking, hiking, gathering firewood, gnawing roots and herbs, gazing into one another's eyes, organizing their van, doing push-ups on picnic tables, and washing up in snow-melt temperature lake water. And I'm only exaggerating a tiny bit.

A few key differences


Choosing a campsite
Us:  We love Forest Service campgrounds, $5 a night, senior rate, or county, state or national camps, between $15 and as much as $35. We have succumbed to private RV campgrounds under desperate circumstances, which can run between $35 and $55, depending upon size of RV and amenities needed. Not recommended! 
Them: Dispersed camping: free (AKA boondocking)
Note: They seemed comfortable with the Forest Service camps we used during our two nights out, but Chris later revealed that those were the only times they'd stayed in designated campgrounds. We treated them to the $10 per night fees. Our first night out, the four of us were alone in a lakeside campground with a spectacular view of Oregon's Mt. Thielson. We also had clean odorless toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, and lots of wood for campfires.

I had to look up "dispersed camping," although we encountered it in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA, and in Death Valley. We didn't call it dispersed camping in our 20s, though, but 'finding a place to park and hide in the woods or wherever." The link above is an excellent guide, which I just discovered on the RoadTrekking Blog, which calls it boondocking. I was delighted to learn that many Roadtrek owners prefer boondocking. That's my kind of group!

As a person who grew up in the boondocks of North Dakota and has lived in Oregon boondocks for a few decades, I am pleased that remote terrain has come into fashion with owners of high-quality compact self-sufficient camping units. I'm excited to go boondocking along the East Coast. Is that even possible?

In the West, most ranger stations have behind-the-counter maps to how and where to camp free provided you can do without hook-ups. Of course, Chris and Chelsea don't need no stinkin' ranger advice. They've only been routed out of a "campsite" at 2 a.m. by law enforcement once. 
Mt. Thielson from a deserted Forest Service campground on Lemolo Lake in Southwestern Oregon, May 2016.
Settling into a campsite - Us and Them
Us: set up the camp chairs, pour some cabernet sauvignon and start thinking about appetizers.
Them: check the mountain bike tires, do a few calisthenics, hop on those babies and ride 45 minutes uphill over rocks, roots, and downed trees before returning to gather wood and assemble a campfire. 

PK may be wondering where the corkscrew is located as he watches the biking preparations "next door." Soon they'll be off and onto the same trail we'll hike tomorrow to Lemolo Falls. That's our Roadtrek Agile.

Dinner time
Us: Sometime between 7 pm and 8:30 pm, preferably during daylight. 
Them: Sometime before bed and after a bike ride or a hike, especially if they've had fewer than five or six hours of physical activity. Or maybe that should be seven or eight hours?

Plastic bags
Us: We're virtuous, we thought. We reuse purchased plastic ziplock bags until they fall apart, and take cloth bags shopping. We use the inevitable plastic disposable bags for trashcan liners and to hold  massive amounts of garden overproduction to drop at food banks and press into neighbors' hands. 
Them: No plastic bags. None. I've tried forcing ziplock bags on Chris to keep a hunk of cheese or a leftover from drying out. Nope. No plastic bags.
Upon encountering a road blocked by too many downed trees to count
Us: Complete agreement that the downed trees make the road a no-go. 

Them: (Who are in lead position) Let's get through by using the machete on the smaller trees and holding others up so the van(s) can pass under, and then just dodge around stuff. Destination: an up-close view of Lemolo Falls. We turned around, of course, with a bit of difficulty, perhaps a quarter mile down the pike, and took a log strewn hiking rail to the falls the next morning. But we followed them into  this obstacle course. It was, uh, instructive, to observe our differences.
Yes, this may be too many trees, they agree.  Below Chelsea bends another small tree for van passage.

Bathing (with environmentally acceptable soap, of course) in streams, lakes, oceans, ponds, snowdrifts etc.
Us: Unless the water temp is at least tolerable, we'll wait for a warm shower or take sponge baths.  
Them: Frigid water is not a problem!  It toughens then up, and I believe they actually like it. Plus after a few hours of running, mountain biking, vigorous hiking, rock climbing etc., rinsing off is imperative, icy water or not.

Leveling the van
Us: We use those orange plastic Lego-like thingies plus a cellphone leveling app for precision work. 

Them: Search around and you'll find the perfect rock or piece of wood.

The obvious difference between "them and us", of course, is that they're in the fullness of beautiful vigorous youth and PK and I are teetering on the edge of old age! 

We realize what's coming, but before it does, we'll be riding high, far and wide in the Roadtrek.

Warm Spring Falls is just a few miles off the beaten path near the North Umpqua River in Southern Oregon. The trail to it is maybe a half mile long. I think we should be able to get there again in 10 years, maybe even 20. When you're in the first third of a normal life span, you can't fathom the last third. But when that final third arrives, you know you must grab every bit of joy. Seeing waterfalls and wild birds, tending a garden, nurturing relationships, including with your adult children, all take on new meaning.  The "life is short" cliche becomes your reality. I need to get to bed and rest up. I very have important things to do tomorrow.