Friday 05/13/22 – Tuesday 07/17/22 Flagstaff, AZ @ Coconino National Forest, boondocking
Off we go boondocking in Coconino National Forest, off service road 171 pull off 812. Boondocking is a term meaning “camping out in the boonies”. It also is called dispersement camping. It refers to a place where there are no hookups: no water, sewer, or electricity. What? Read below to see Kevin’s explanation on how you make this work. 🙂 I got some groceries this morning, making sure to plan meals around boondocking. This is the first time for new HOWE (our Home On WhEels). We aren’t sure how it will do with no hookups but we will see.
We drove out of Flagstaff, AZ on Hwy 180. Kevin pulled off to wait for me as I took the car on the Forest Service dirt roads to see if the spots we wanted were available. There isn’t turn around spots so it will be horrible to have 36 ft HOWE (we measured!) plus the truck for a combined total of 54 ft and not be able to turn around! The dirt road #245 had been graded since last weekend and it is horrible. Not kidding. A wash board. At times I was going 7 mph and was bouncing all over. Before the washboard, I could go 25 mph safely. I went to our first choice and no one was there. Wahoo! I texted Kevin and he started this way. I just knew that HOWE would be a total mess with everything fallen down from the washboard road. But surprise! Nothing was amiss, except for all my canned goods fell again. Sigh/laugh. Kevin and I were thrilled that nothing else was broken.
We got HOWE backed in along some Ponderosa Pines but out enough from the trees so Dishy for Starlink will work 100%. And boy, it sure does. There is great AT&T service here as well and I was able to FaceTime Kevin to warn him about the washboard road. After supper of macaroni salad and chicken, we sat outside on our chairs. Enjoyed the evening. We are at 7640 ft elevation. Dark at 9:00 pm and we went to bed.
Coconino National Forest I love the blueness of the desert sky. It is deep blue and a color that a person would think it is photo-shopped. The Ponderosa Pines around us are anywhere from right next to each other to about 15 ft apart. Some of the trunks are about 6 inches in diameter while others are bigger than we can get our arms around. There is shade from the needles and trunks that we chase around as the day goes along. Native grasses are starting to come alive, a big difference even from last weekend when we drove up here to take a look. There are lava rocks. To the west of where we are parked, it is the Kalib National Forest. Right there it a wide open field with just wild grass. It looks like the forest service has planted trees around.
There is a very steep hill where off road vehicles have climbed. Now it is closed with rocks blocking the start of the trail and a sign that says they are trying to rebuild from the damage. We walked up the hill to about 1/2 way one day. From there, as you look East, you see Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona, elevation 12, 635 ft. There are a few vehicles that go past us on the dirt road. Campfires are not allowed right now, due to the dryness around.
Behind HOWE, there is a large campfire pit made out of lava rock. The pit is full of beer cans and bottles. We bought extra sturdy trash bags and cleaned it up. We also picked up bottle caps, cigarette butts and bullets. Why don’t people clean up after themselves, I will never understand! We took walks in every direction around HOWE. We are just in awe of this place.
The only injury we had was my big toe. You might think I stubbed it on one of our hikes or a big lava boulder rolled over it. No, not even close. I reached into the pantry to get some hamburger buns out. It was sitting on top of the cans (previously mentioned that had fallen during transit). As I pulled the buns, a large soup can came crashing down right on my toe. I said “ouch” and maybe, perhaps, another word and put it back on the shelf. I looked and saw a tiny bit of blood along the toe nail. Pretty soon it was dripping blood. I hollered for Kevin, who was sitting outside. Turns out HOWE must be built will solid walls because he couldn’t hear me holler. So I said to my watch, “Hey Siri, text Kevin, I cut my toe, please come help.” He immediately came in. I had him turn off the stove because I had just start heating up some Bush’s baked beans and I knew they would start boiling over too fast. I got the toe cleaned up as Kevin got the Emergency Kit and handed me a bandaid. There is so much red dirt around here and we are covered in it. Hope it doesn’t mess the toe up. HAHA The toe is fine.
In one day, I read Sue Thomas’ book, “Silent Night.” Kevin had bought it for me and came the day we left. So interesting and very much a story of perseverance while being deaf. Another day, well, it took just a few hours, I read through the manuals we were given for this Alliance Avenue.
Everything is working great! The solar panel charges up the battery and with Starlink and Kevin working with his computers, the battery charge never went below 3/4 and charged up to full every morning. We still have full water, even with each taking several showers. I am being careful with the water in the kitchen but turns out I don’t need to be. Black and grey tanks are nearly empty, too. So, 5 days of boondocking and everything is holding out great. The temperatures have been perfect. At night, the outside temps are in the low 50s/ high 40s and we don’t even need to turn on the heater. Our comforter keeps us nice and toasty. The daytime temps have been in the low 70s. And best of all…. No wind! A slight, barely feel breeze every once in awhile.
When we got HOWE back to J & H Campground in Flagstaff, we were so thankful and relieved that nothing broke on the travel! Wahoo. I rearranged the canned goods in the pantry and they didn’t fall. I think we got this now! ROFL
Boondocking is camping without a campground or hookups. Out west in United States especially, there are many public lands where this is allowed. This is great, because in campgrounds you are very near your neighbor. The last time we went boondocking, our nearest neighbor was at least a mile away.
What does “no hookups” mean? It means you have to be completely self sufficient. The big three for RVing are power, water, and sewer.
There are books written on how to be power independent. It boils down to needing some way to store electricity, and some way to replenish that storage. On our HOWE, I have four lead-acid batteries (my buddy Larry gave me two. Thanks Larry!) and a solar panel to help keep those batteries charged. We boondocked over a week with this setup. As a backup, I have a generator that I can plug in to get the batteries charged again.
Water is much simpler. Almost all RV’s have a water storage tank. There is an electric pump that keeps the pipes pressurized and running. We just need to remember to fill the tank if we are going to be boondocking. People that boondock for long periods will need to haul water to their RV.
Sewer is pretty simple as well. There are usually at least two tanks for sewer. Our 5th wheel has 3. There is a black tank for everything that goes in the toilet. Next there is a grey tank for sink and shower water. As with water, if you boondock for a long period of time, you will need to haul the waste away and dispose of it at a dump station. Ask Charla about the poop trolly!
Also, for most RV’s boondocking is more of a challenge in more extreme weather. Our HOWE has two air conditioners and that requires electric hookups. So if it is hot out, boondocking would quickly become miserable. The same goes for cold weather. Most RVs have a propane furnace. This brings down two resources – propane and electricity for the fan to push the warm air into the RV. So, for most people, boondocking is best done in mild weather.
Boondocking is a blast! You get to see remote areas without the crowded feeling of campgrounds. It requires a bit more planning and monitoring of power water and sewer, but the tradeoff is awesome in my opinion.