leak fix leak, 2-week limit, and horses

Yep, once again, I was late for another month’s page. I had to pre-date the last entry so it showed up in April. I’m back to my 3-week stints out in the woods, with web access only when I go into town for supplies once or twice a month. And the one day I was in a town back in April, I didn’t have enough stuff to write about.

I’ve been having to use my Slime compressor to keep air in one of the Ram tires so when passing through Silver, I stopped at Big O Tire to have the leak fixed (it had a nail). The Nash brakes have not been working properly (seemed to be veering) for quite some time so I called a shop in Silver to see if they had time to fix them. As luck would have it, they did. I had the hubs greased back in Moab, and apparently, when the mechanic put the wheels back on the street-side, he sheared the wires to the two brake magnets. Hence, no brakes on one side. Guano.
But as to the leaking tire, it still leaked. I stopped at a tire shop in Pinetop/Lakeside and they found a screw in the tire. Where the heck have I been driving?

I stopped for a few days in the national forest outside Luna, NM. Then I continued on to the Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. I had planned to spend a good deal of time in this area but now I’m thinking my time here might be limited. There are some good mtn. bike trails in the White Mtns. and I was hoping they might give me enough incentive to get back into running. We’ll see.

I’ve noticed new 15-day limit signs in two national forests so far this year. There has always been notices posted on kiosks out there but now it seems the forest service is going to be more vigilant about length of stay. Guano. The fine is $275 dollars and no warning is given (under federal law one is not entitled to a warning). Guano. In fact, violating camping restrictions is a class B misdemeanor, with penalties up to $5,000, six months in prison, or both. Not good. The forest service sees violators as no longer camping, but residing/living on federal property.

The forest service has stated concern over the rising numbers of homeless people living in the national forests and the possible increased wildfire danger. Homeless people living in the forest—hmm. I don’t associate homeless people with having cars and the money for gas and upkeep. I guess a homeless person could use a .22 on squirrels and gather local edible plants. But he would still have to make regular runs into town for gallons of water and other supplies. I guess there are some ‘homeless’ people out there who live in vans, homemade campers, cars and tents, and the back of pickups. I mostly see such people, however, in NM state parks when I’m there in the winter. But to talk about the rising numbers of homeless people living in the national forests seems a bit much. The months I spend in national forests, I do extensive traveling on my mtn. bike and hiking boots. I explore every spur road and trail I come across. I’m not coming across the homeless.
There were some tenters that I kept coming across last summer but I think they were seasonal workers, possibly for the forest service, since the guys drove off each morning. The ladies and children stayed in camp and moved their site five times during the summer. It seemed they had an arrangement with the rangers since their sites were generally along primary forest roads, no trying to keep a low profile.

When the forest service talks about the homeless, are they talking about full-timers? I do come across full-timers when I’m out and about but not any noticeable increase in numbers. But then again, I don’t go to areas of national forests where they would tend to be.
Full-timers have homes, and they are right there to see. Most of the rigs cost tens of thousands, not the kind of money that homeless people generally have. The issue is residency. We are residing out on federal property for a short period of time. Unfortunately, it’s longer than the service wants us here.

There might be an increase in disperse RVers (they’re not camping) out in the national forests, but like I said, I have not seen this. Many get into full-timing thinking it will be an inexpensive way to live. This is not necessarily true, so they might want to spend weeks or months setting up in free spots, like national forests, BLM and state lands (maybe with an occasional Walmart parking lot).

Some full-timers are having problems with the enforced stay limit. I read about one RVer who got a knock on his door shortly after midnight by a law enforcement ranger (the only ones cruising during the night) and given the $275 ticket.

When I pulled the Nash into the Sitgreaves National Forest, I planned to first setup along a spur I came across when I was here back in 2012. The spur is now closed off to motorized vehicles, with multiple piles of dirt. Bummer. I kept going to another spur I knew about (the one where I took photos of the bobcat); it is now also closed off. Guano. A little ways up the FR is a large open glade area with trees and grass, going in over a quarter mile and 200 yards or so wide. Not my kind of place, but plenty of room for RVs to spread out and set up. Too close to a primary forest road for me and I also don’t setup where there is room for another RV to setup close by. What really surprised me, was that even this area was closed off to vehicles. As you know, I still mtn. bike these spurs, but that’s not the point here—I was looking for a secluded spot to set up camp. I’ve written about the National Forest Service Travel Management Program, but this is a bit much. I can see the Service being concerned about campfires and irresponsible ATVers trashing areas, but what about responsible retired users of the forests?

I continued going up the road and it started to climb. There were a number of new diagonal drainage berms across the road that were almost too high for pulling a trailer over. The terrain left no option to stop and turn around. You waitin’ for another ‘guano’ here? I came up on fourth spur, the first not closed to vehicles, pulled over, parked, and jogged down for about ten minutes looking for a place to camp. Found one and that’s where I’m camping, up at 8100’ and 8 miles in from the asphalt. It’s not what I look for when off-the-grid, however. The spot’s off on a spur road but it’s not a rough, rocky, eroded, narrow one, which tends to keep people from exploring, nor is it a dead end, which I prefer. It was a bit too early to arrive here at this altitude. The roads in were slick in spots with standing puddles from snowmelt. If I had gotten here a week or so earlier, chances are good I would have gotten stuck. Inside the Nash, morning temps were in the low to mid 40s for the first two weeks. Now they are up into the upper 40s. Summer’s coming.

On the September 2015 page I wrote about the older spurs being taken back by the forest. That issue along with the Travel Management Program is vastly restricting RVer and camper use of national forests. In some areas, the forest service is even restricting where an RV could pull off from a primary forest road a bit and setup. Spots that have been used for years are now blocked off with rocks and logs. Not my kind of camping spot, but jeez. Maybe I should have retired earlier.

In addition, many forests roads in the mountains are not maintained and are too rough and steep for travel trailers. It’s as if forest users are being herded into the few primitive campgrounds and to pullout spots along primary forest roads. This is fine for many. But a good deal of the older campgrounds were designed for car campers and small trailers, and are too small for today’s larger RVs.

I realize what I do for most of the year is illegal. Rangers have come across some of my camping spots over the years and I’ve enjoyed talking with them. The 2-week limit only came up once but I had planned to stay in that spot for only two days so it was not an issue. Officers have a great deal of discretion when issuing penalties and I guess I’ve always come across favorably.

Maybe a ranger’s first impression is important. A ranger might cut a camper some slack if the campsite is clean and quiet. There’s no ring-of-rocks or other sign of campfires. A mountain bike or daypack and hiking staff are present so it appears as if the camper is actually using the forest for recreation. The camper appears active and cleanly dressed and shaven. It would also be in one’s favor if it came up in the conversation that you are not doing any shooting out there.

I don’t know, but if a ranger came across a slovenly fat slug with a messy campsite with a big fire pit and stack of wood out there, he might make a point of getting the guy out after his two weeks were up. If a guy is not even concerned enough to take care of himself, who’s going to think he will take care of his immediate environment.

This would SO screw up my lifestyle, I wouldn’t be able to recharge. You’ve read about my repeat 3-week stints off-the-grid for most of each year. I don’t feel as if I’m out in nature unless I can stay out there for that long. That’s when I feel most alive. Being out in nature for only a week or two at a time, or in a campground, does not enable one to truly feel what it means. If one tries these repeat stints and doesn’t feel anything, isn’t open to what’s out there, they are not hard-wall campers and won’t get anything out of being out in Nature. Most have no urge for this lifestyle; they don’t have the attitude. Different strokes. Stick to campgrounds and disperse RVing along primary forest roads for a week or two at a time. That’s what most do and are quite content.

I manage to stay in state parks for four months each winter, but then I need solitude, for months. In the winters, people tend to be in their rigs. It’s generally too cold to sit outside so there’s not much campfire smoke, cigarette stench, barbecue smells, barking dogs, and obnoxious noises long into the night. Campgrounds year round, for me, would be hell on earth. Maybe I’ll hear about national forests where the 2-week limit is not enforced for responsible users of the forest. The forests are where I do my kind of traveling; I need them.

Makes one think of those old European gypsies who pull their homes along with them, set up in various places, and from time to time, are told to pack up and move on.

As I travel in the various national forests each year, there are many areas where seedlings are way too tightly packed. None of the trees will be healthy as they grow. I have an idea if I get told to leave a forest because my two weeks are up. I’m going to point out to the ranger a few such spots and ask if I can stay and work on thinning the trees. It makes good sense to me; they get free labor for a job that needs to be done to maintain a healthy forest. Again, it will be up to the discretion of the ranger.

Okay, that’ll do it.

It’s been over two years since I’ve had a haircut, other than my occasional hacking in the back. On my last town-run I was cutting through a parking lot and noticed a haircutting salon with no cars out front. I got a haircut. Since it has been a while, I left a 100% tip. But what was cool, the lady told me where I could fill up my water jugs with free artesian well water. I knew there were gods.
I noticed it took me over 30 minutes to drive the 8 miles out to the asphalt. Definitely slow speed roads.

Being out in the woods, wildlife gets use to my campsite. Moose, black bears, a bobcat, elk, turkeys, coyotes, and deer have all come close over the years. Many more, I’m sure, have come into view either during the day or night and I’ve just missed them. This is the first for horses, however. There are six that come by from time to time, including two little ones. I’ve been seeing elk most days and occasionally hear turkeys. It’s part of what makes this lifestyle special.

April sixty minutes sixty years—2025 minutes
April Triple 18—pecs/delts: 1825; core: 1865; legs: 8080

A kindness done is never lost. It may take a while,
but like a suitcase on a luggage carousel, it will return again.
another one I forgot where I came across it

RVwest article ‘Following a Free Spirit’

RVwest article ‘The Spaces Between the Places’


klbexplores said…
Glad to see you are still blogging and living your dream. Bob at Cheap Living .com just did a blog on the legality of living a day before your post that you might be interested in. I anticipate it will continue to become more difficult as time goes on. I also saw something today that you might be interested in. A web link to Daves Killer bread that has a locator to help you find which stores carry the bread as I remembered that you like it too. It is http:www. daves killer bread. com/locator/ (without the spaces of course)
klbexplores said…
I forgot to tell you the name of the blog post, It is..... The Morality of Full Time Van Dwelling and RVing. Have a good summer. Karen
Rambling Dave said…
Hi, Sebastian - long time reader here, first time commenting.

The Forest Service is caught between a rock and a hard place in regards to recreation use by the public. On one hand they have been tasked with protecting the resource as best as they know how, but on the other they must also try to please an ever increasing number of people with ever larger and impactful demands for recreational opportunities, many of which are mutually exclusive. A lot of their policies are ham-fisted, confusing, or outright stupid, but they really are dealing with an impossible situation. In reality, the reason you and other hard-side campers have been able to live on the National Forests for such a long time relatively unmolested by LEOs is because the Forest Service has had their enforcement & recreation budgets whittled down to the bone and enforcement for petty offenses like overstaying the camping limit have been largely overlooked due to manpower issues. For example, I think the Coconino National Forest (where I live and recreate as often as I can) has something like 4 or 5 officers total to patrol a couple million acres of forestland. A LEO I spoke with one time said that he spent much of his time busting meth users in campgrounds and that they mostly rely on tips from the general public to find wrong-doers outside of their regular patrol areas. So I guess you can't really blame them for wanting to close some of those poorly maintained and little used spur roads, if only to cut down on the area they have to actively patrol.

You're obviously one of the good guys and not in the same class as the slobs who leave their campsites trashed when they leave Sunday afternoons to head back to the city and their miserable jobs, but I don't think you've thought through some of the downsides of long-term camping in one spot. For example, what do you suppose happens to the moose, black bear, elk, deer, etc who have become habituated and used to your benevolent and respectful presence after you leave and others, who have different motivations and pockets full of state-issued hunting tags and permits, show up? What kind of effects are you having on wildlife movements and daily patterns when you as a top predator sit for three weeks in the middle of their habitat? What does two or three weeks of cat-holes do to the vegetation or the local water, especially if you tend to return year after year or others use the site too? These are hard questions, but if you look at it from the perspective of the land and wildlife it's probably better that we as campers move along every few days.

By the way, the TMR and those boulders and berms you've been running up against are a *good* thing for those seeking solitude and quality time out in nature. Nowhere does it say that you can't hike, bike, or camp along those closed roads. They actually go out of their way to state that the closed roads are still open to the public, you just can't drive on them with a motorized vehicle. If you have two working legs and an imagination then you can use that to your advantage, as I often do. In some ways, the tighter motorized travel rules are ushering in a new Golden Age for those willing to go small and light. Times, they are a' changing.

Anyway, just some thoughts from someone else who also loves to camp and hike in the National Forests and wants to see them remain open and relatively free and unmarred.

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