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Must a Dispersed Camper be a Hermit?

Saguache/Del Norte, CO. In the upper left quadrant of this photo you can see a white speck. It is my van and travel trailer, camping alone with excellent Verizon service. The photo was taken from one of the dirt roads/two tracks that make for excellent mountain biking in the public lands near Saguache.

Why should I camp alone, instead of sharing it with other campers that I have something in common with? I don't expect them to be mountain bikers, of course. Most people can be interesting about some topic or activity. 

In fact I rolled into a parking area in a special recreation site near Del Norte CO, and quickly told the camper who was already there not to worry about having his little sanctuary invaded, because I just wanted his opinion on any special dispersed camping restrictions there. I did end up camping next to them and it was great. They had a pickup camper that pulled a small utility trailer. When he told me that he even helped a buddy turn a utility cargo trailer into an "RV" I went crazy with one question after another. That really is what I should do for my next travel trailer. Sigh. I wish I had more non-solitary experiences like this. Why doesn't it happen more often?

You would get the impression from what many people write about dispersed camping that they are having some kind of pseudo-religious experience out there, the way they puff up with sanctimonious language. In fact they probably spend most of the day watching satellite television.

Or maybe that's just the old man. It is quite amazing that, forty years after women's lib, many women still think their job in a household is to stand at the kitchen sink and spray things with water, half the day. (The other half of the day they go shopping.) You just can't do that when you're camping outside an RV park; maybe that's why the old lady doesn't want to dispersed camp in the first place.

Or maybe people think that dispersed camping is a 'back to nature' experience. This idea gets confused by a misunderstanding of Thoreau's Walden. Even more confusion comes from the 'holy man of the desert' image. If people really saw dispersed camping as being back-to-nature, they might consider that the animal species known as homo sapiens is a mildly gregarious creature, a tribal animal.  

So why do I dispersed camp alone, as shown in the photo above? Because I have to. I insist upon a high quality camping experience, and that simply will not result from imitating mainstream RVers who are indoorsmen and portable suburbanites.

Do you know of any organizations that foster a camping/outdoorsman culture? The Escapee's Boondocker sub-group does, to some extent. But when I knew them, they didn't have gatherings in the Southwest in the summer. The WINS are basically about getting hitched up, and I ain't talking about trailers. Perhaps the LOWs do more than I think. 

So I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. When more social interaction is needed there's always the option of camping in a city that has a good bicycle club. In fact I'm thinking of returning to Yuma this winter. Somebody please talk me out of it!


XXXXX said…
Really good post, Boonie. Sometimes I find myself rather admiring your ability to post what are often very private thoughts for me, and you do it for the world to see.
These thoughts are alot more than about dispersed camping. A house can provide the same seclusion though you personally might argue that point. But for me, it is true.
Sometimes I wonder what it is we really want from other people when we have this need to get together with them. I think we are just more driven by the fact that, as you put it, we are tribal animals.
More like wolves, I would say, in the sense that it seems to be in our evolutionary history that we create hierarchies as our basic social structure which always seems to lead to a kind of competition. One leads, one follows. Perhaps the best that can be accomplished is that those involved take turns with leadership and so a mutual respect occurs.
A bit off the point, but relevant if you care to go there.
I do readily see your point about those who are looking for pseudo-religious or back to nature experiences. When you answer your own question, it seems weak though. "A high quality camping experience".....
Then you are back to your mountain biking plan. So.....THAT'S really it?
Your earlier answer is true though....why do you do dispersed camping alone. Because you have to. Well said.
We all sweat through the parts of our lives that don't come together well.
Tesaje said…
Women stand at the sink and shop the rest of the day? Really? Funny that there are more solo women RV'ers than men. That little statistic tells me that women are more adventurous on average than men. More willing to try new things. Stereotypes are rarely useful.

Your problem is that you insist your companions do exactly what you want and be interested in what you are. If you want complete freedom to do as you please, then the price is that you will be lonely, or at least alone. If you want society, then the price is a lot of give and take and sometimes boredom and putting on a nice face in spite of it. Nothing in life comes free - there is always a price to pay somewhere.

Most people who seek a lot of personal freedom take a balance - pay the price of being alone for some of the time and pay the price for social interaction some of the time. The trick is in finding the interaction that doesn't sap your soul and learn to accept and appreciate benign differences in people. But the more rigid and judgmental the person, the harder it is find anyone who is acceptable and the unhappier the person is. Unless of course, such a person gets to be the dictator :-)
Unknown said…
Oh Boonie you got it all wrong....

We only stand at the sink and shop half the day. The other half we spend getting all gussied up, donning pearls and heels so we can swoon in style when ya'all walk through the door after a hard day's work!

Ok Ward & June, back to 2012. If others aren't doing it it's because they find something else more to their liking, just like you find your way more to your liking. I do believe "your people" are out there though, and that you'll eventually find them.
Lyn said…
Tesaje - you wrote "Your problem is that you insist your companions do exactly what you want and be interested in what you are." It might sound like that just reading some of his words, but I assure you that is not what Boonie is like in person. I traveled this summer with him and a few others. As a complete newbee, he and the others took me under their wings and gave me such help! Boonie does not expect folks to do what he wants and like what he likes - he did strongly suggest (in a playful way) that he wanted me to turn my dogs loose. And he was right - they had a wonderful time off lead. But there was no pressure from him to get anyone to do what he wanted. And - in spite of his seemingly disregard for the female side of things - he was never anything but courteous and helpful to me.

Dadgummit Lyn, you just ruined my image. Now I'm just another marshmallow.
Tesaje, My comments suggesting the female half of the couple is always the weak link does not apply to female Van Persons. I think they are the "tough pioneer women" of the RV set.

And about "stereotypes are rarely useful." Isn't that statement a contradiction?

Maria, I don't disagree (notice the double negative) with what you said, but I'm probably privy to more "guy talk" than you are, and let me tell ya, if I had a nickel for every henpecked RV husband who stared off at the horizon and said, Gee I'd like to do REAL camping with our RV, but the wife has her "Needs", so we have to stay in this RV park...
Ed said…
“For a long while I have believed…that in every generation there are a few souls, call them lucky or cursed, who are simply born not belonging, who come into the world semi-detached, if you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race; that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers, perhaps; that, in sum, the phenomenon may be as “natural” a manifestation of human nature as its opposite, but one that has been mostly frustrated, throughout human history, by lack of opportunity. And not only by that, for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainty, change, have erected powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belonger’s seal of approval. But the truth leaks out in our dreams… alone in our beds (because we are alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our arts, our songs, we celebrate the non-belongers, the different ones. What we forbid ourselves, we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or movie theater, or to read about between the secret covers of a book. Our libraries, our palaces of entertainment tell the truth. The travelers: if we did not recognize in them our least-fulfilled needs, we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time.” — Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Jim and Gayle said…
Tesaje, if in fact, there are more solo women campers, I suspect it is the result of the dubious distinction of their living longer.

Boonie, talk you out of Yuma? You had us talked into it. Now what?

Sometimes a "Blog Persona" differs from reality... not in my case, but sometimes. I have known Boonie for years... camped with him, hiked with him, supped with him, but have never biked with him even tho I know that would be his preference. Heck, he even baby sat our house for us last year. He has never pushed, or even hinted that we should do what he wanted to do. If we were going for a hike, we invited him along. He went when he wanted to, did something else if he didn't want to. Boonies bark is worse than his bite. He's quite lovable, really. He does like to yank chains once in a while... just to see if anybody is listening. He's harmless, Just don't get into a war of words with him because you'll probably lose :))
Box Canyon Mark
(I can't believe I'm sticking up for you when you don't need it. I can hear you giggling).

If you are interested in building your own camping trailer or cargo trailer then my blog is perfect for you....

I can send you links of forms where they built much cheaper units then mine, many times with free stuff from Craigs List, or you could use the items that are in your current trailer ?
With a little luck my trailer is being built so that I can maybe stay out for 25- 30 days between city visits or RV dump calls. Well assuming you have enough clothing & food storage for that length of time. Most RV - trailers are only made for 3-7 day outings at best.
Bob Giddings said…
I have never understood the attraction of the Yuma area. Or Quartzite to the north, for that matter.

It's just a misery of wind driven dry grit and treeless grey horizons. Why go to Hell prematurely, even as a tourist? There will be plenty of time for that later.

Yuma always struck me as a good place for a nuclear waste depository. Right next to the prison.

There are so many pleasant places to be. Like New Mexico. If you must be a desert rat, try northern Arizona or eastern Utah. At least you'll find some color there.

Sondra said…
NOW I have to ask a question...are these women who are chained to the sink solo campers or with a male partner? IF they are with a partner, maybe they wouldnt be chained to the sink if the chores were shared equally...and if its a solo female, maybe she was NOT in the mood for male companionship...see while you're thinking of how to connect maybe someone else is thinking of how NOT to connect. Either way, once the dishes are done I'm ready to hike, bike or whatever! BUT those dishes have to be clean ya know!! :0)
Unknown said…
I hope you know my earlier comment was all in good fun :)

On a serious note, most people I know are stuck in a figurative RV park because someone or something in their life limits them.

Personally I've been on both sides of the fence, sometimes refusing to leave the park and other times chomping at the bit and being held back by someone else.

In the end though it all boils down to fear, comfort zones and our self-imposed limits. Things which we'd all be wise to question and push through from time to time.
Bob Giddings, I agree that the lower Colorado River, including Yuma, is unappealing. yuma probably became popular with snowbirds because it is not bone-chilling cold at night.

Decades ago, being warm enough to play golf in January became a mass-produced, standard, retirement fantasy. You're more likely to do that in central and southern Florida than in the desert Southwest. Hence Yuma's popularity.
Ed, that's quite a quote from Rushdie. I think you are qualified to be the research librarian of the internet. Maybe add a PayPal button to your site and offer quote-research services to other bloggers! (grin)

You're right about a house being just as confining socially as an RV. In fact when I'm on the road I have a better social life than when I am living in an RV park, where people just cocoon all day inside their rigs, watching TV, and enjoying their furnaces or air conditioners.
XXXXX said…
Boonie, just a note about men who blame their wives for not being able to camp as they like. Did you ever consider the fact that they do not wish to appear unmanly with you so blame their wives? Many men are very happy to have their wives at the kitchen sink or cleaning the house and so perpetuate this in many ways. Don't ever presume to know what really goes on inside a marriage. There is no man nor woman who is perfect and, in many cases, it is the challenge of being married in a very fast changing society that is the problem.
NEer said…
@George, insightful comments, totally agree.
@Boonie, a great post, and interesting comments, keep them coming.
Tesaje said…
I'm glad those of you who know Boonie say he's less a curmudgeon than some of his posts. But lately, he's been whining a lot about not finding perfect companions to bike with and being alone while presenting quite a judgmental condemnation of other people. I suspected he might not be quite so in reality but, of course, I don't know him in reality.

My point is that we choose our lives, for the most part, and there is always some price to pay for the choice.

Also, George, I agree. In my experience, men just love to gripe about their wives but the reality is they are happy to have the wifey excuse to keep them from doing more adventurous things, because they really don't want to do it but haven't the honesty to admit to it. Half the time, wifey wishes the griping spouse would get off his fat lazy butt and do something, anything, just get out of her hair.

Men who love to do things tend to do them. Men who don't, love to blame the wife in a fiction of keeping him down. It's always the wife's fault.

Not that there aren't women who actually do fit the stereotype. There are. Men who are actually unhappy with the wife won't chose to be cooped up with her in a tin box - they find all manner of ways to get away, somehow.

You could be Boonies life coach & maybe fix him so that he could find a women mountain biker willing to live in his new trailer.
XXXXX said…
Ed's quote is indeed a good one. I wonder if he recommends the novel as well.
Boonie, I've found RV blogs and solo camper blogs, etc. very interesting reading. The image in my mind is the solo rider in the old West with all his gear attached, roaming from town to town taking odd jobs or perhaps just taking in order to survive. A person with an almost uncontrollable drive to roam which almost seems to get the best of him. At least at times.
It is wonderful to be able to pursue one's dreams this way. But ultimately there is an end to this dream in whatever the particular form it takes. What happens when old age starts to catch up with you? Ultimately it boils down to one's own mind, which is really where freedom lies. For we are all born tethered to our instincts and ,in my experience, it is only the turning inward and facing oneself which ultimately brings the satisfaction we all crave. For it seems to me it is our passions and many opinions, which bring a pleasure when pursued, but also have a price as well. Most of us waste our lives pursuing our passions but wanting to find a way to escape the price.
Tesaje said…
Over the top - there is no fixing someone else. Each of can only fix ourselves. Besides, who says Boonie needs fixing anyway?