Boondocking gone wrong: One woman’s experience

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We found this post by Suzanne Anthony on her blog “Take To The Highway.” What she wrote echoes what we are hearing so often these days about crowded conditions in RV parks and even boondocking areas.

Suzanne had recently learned about an “idyllic” boondocking spot near Cloudcroft, New Mexico, in the Lincoln National Forest. She was looking for a place to escape the brutal heat of central Texas. She found the coordinates, and then headed off. Here is part of what she wrote about the experience:

I have boondocked in just about every state west of the Mississippi, and I’ve never in my life seen anything like what manifests each Friday evening in the Lincoln National Forest. It’s bad. Really bad. Is this due to COVIDity? Or is this the norm? It’s like a train wreck, hard to look away. And they all have Texas plates when New Mexico has a quarantine mandate for out-of-state visitors.

I stopped by the ranger station to get a map and hiking info. The head ranger was there, so I asked him what was up. He said he had been stationed at this post for 25 years, and had never in his life seen anything like it. Certain areas (hike to the waterfall) had been closed off because they were being completely overrun by campers, and they don’t have the resources during COVID-19 to deal with it.

El Paso is only 108 miles away, he tells me, and they come to escape the heat. Would the last person leaving El Paso please turn out the lights? Oh, wait. No need to turn out the lights, because they brought the lights with them — a construction sized light pole!

Nearly every group has a generator. Why do you need a generator when camping in a tent? And there’s always a car among the group equipped with trunk speakers. . . I guess to drown out the generator noise. Nothing says “a weekend away in a quiet forest” like a giant sub-woofer.

So much for “Leave No Trace.” This bag was left 2 miles up the FS road from the highway.

And of course there are ATVs, UTVs, Polaris RZRs and dirt bikes, all buzzing up and down the forest road until long after dark. But never fear, they are equipped with roll-bar mounted spotlights, neon LED whip antennas and giant flags waving out the back.

WHILE I AM ENRAGED by the mess left behind, I can’t begrudge them for coming. They are all escaping the same triple digit misery I left behind. But what about social distancing? It’s a big forest, yet they congregate in tight-knit groups. I guess their idea of a “quarantine pod” is a little bigger than mine. So what about New Mexico’s quarantine mandate? There is a state law requiring anyone with out-of-state plates to quarantine upon crossing the state line for 14 days or the length of their visit, whichever is shorter. As long as they stay in the forest and don’t go into town, I suppose they consider it a legitimate quarantine.

So why on earth would I stay, one might wonder? Well, this “cloud” in Cloudcroft has a silver lining. Come Sunday afternoon, the place folds up and empties out. I have the place pretty much all to myself, save for two other “regulars.” During the week, there is an average of three rigs, tops, along the entire Forest Service road. I have kind neighbors who have my back, look after the rig while I am hiking, and always ask if I need anything from town.

So why stay with all that mayhem? Because come Sunday afternoon, the place empties out, and I have peace and serenity until the next Friday afternoon.

If you would like to read Suzanne’s blog, which continues beyond what we posted here, you can do so here.

##RVT967

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Lindsay
8 days ago

I used to live in southern Colorado, not far north of New Mexico. Considering that most people in Texas are decent, considerate and neighborly people, the majority of people who came to that area during hunting season were from Texas, and were disproportionately rude and inconsiderate. We used to encourage our Texas (considerate and neighborly ) friends who came to visit us to NOT tell people they were Texans. They got better service in our local businesses and a generally friendlier response from our neighbors and other friends.

Terry A.
9 days ago

“Over-run with Trash “
This is mostly caused by COVID-19. People cooped-up for months with no place to go. Then things start to open up again and Crazyness starts. What do you think happens when No airplane trips or cruses can be booked. The Parks are Free and need to start charging at least $10.00 dollars per car per visit. This will help pay for future trash and maintenance problems.

Point: The trash was located around the Dump container and not scatted around the Park. (according to the pictures)

Tom Horn
22 days ago

One of the answers to the over crowding is to have your rig set up for Freedom Docking at a moments notice. For example, If you make a reservation at a campground, get there and it totally sucks for any number of reasons then you need the option of telling the campground to take a hike. Don’t be a slave to the RV parks. RVing Is not going to get any better then it is right now. Spend the money and get the rig ready for Freedom Docking. Practice the art of Freedom Docking, your going to need the option to survive in the future Camping World Jungle. (Freedom Docking is formerly known as Boondocking) lol

Last edited 22 days ago by Tom Horn
Duane Rice
22 days ago

Some years ago I went to a Park in Manitoba…..didnt even see a gum wrapper or cig butt on the grounds anywhere……no trash anywhere……

Robbie
24 days ago

We’ve been full time boondockers for 14 years. Seeing what is happening and experiencing the attitudes, we are hanging it up.

maine demesse
27 days ago

this is a great article.

Dayna
28 days ago

Why do people bag dog poop just to leave the bag !!!!

Sue Orr
28 days ago

I talked with some campground hosts this summer in Montana. They said it would be the last summer they would be camp hosts, and they’ve been doing it for 30 years. The campers were disrespectful and not well behaved this summer and they are not hosting anymore. So sad.

Scott
28 days ago

Such a crock of ****, You know why trash is left. The Govt and states toke all the garbage cans out I’ve been boondocking for 4 yrs straight now. There use to be garbage cans everywhere. Now Your lucky to find one at any park. Billions of dollars and Billions of dollars they waste and it’s the People’s fault.
Wake Up People.
These are Our Public lands.

Michael
21 days ago
Reply to  Scott

And it is your trash. Take it with you!

Ron T
29 days ago

Regarding the trash, when was the last time you saw an Anti-Littering road sign? They used to be everywhere threatening a $500 fine. Every spring before the grass starts growing I clean the winter’s worth of litter out of the state highway ditch in front of our home. From the intersection to our north to the neighbors home to our south it’s about a quarter mile. The rest of the year I collect whatever the passing traffic leaves me. Sometimes it’s even useful – like 8′ landscape timbers or a 16qt oil drain container.

Ramon B
28 days ago
Reply to  Ron T

Texans stay in your great state.

Bob Weinfurt
27 days ago
Reply to  Ramon B

Like a good neighbor, stay over there.

Lindsay
8 days ago
Reply to  Ramon B

The problem is not Texans, it’s RUDE Texans. I used to live in southern Colorado. Polite and considerate folks from Texas were as welcome in the area as strangers from anywhere else, and a mainstay of the tourist economy. We did, however, seem to get a disproportionate number of very rude Texans there.

Michael
2 days ago
Reply to  Ramon B

Also, Californian’s!

Doug
29 days ago

WOW, that one site next to the port a potty is very popular. Did they tow that in too!

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to re-educate and re-raise this segment of the population. Or suffer the consequences.

Dalmom
29 days ago

When things are “ FREE” this is what you get! It’s called camping off the grid!
I can see young people doing this.
But it’s definitely not our lifestyle.
When you boondock you take it for what it’s worth, don’t like it or what you see then don’t do it. We pulled into what I thought was a resort in Creede Colorado this year and they booked us in the park Nextdoor it had nasty gravel drives and the dog park was so overgrown, people were hanging laundry outside , washing ATZ’s . We had already paid for three nights. We drove through and made a U turn and left, never looked back never asked for our money back.
Just moved on down the road to the next destination. No need to complain, just do what makes you happy!

Miles
29 days ago
Reply to  Dalmom

So that excuses the littering?

Dalmom
29 days ago
Reply to  Miles

Why would littering be our problem? My husband and I don’t litter!
We choose not to stay in places like this because of “ trash”

livingboondockingmexico
28 days ago
Reply to  Dalmom

Are you serious? That’s what the litter program is supposed to be. Everyone pitching in to keep things clean, free of pollution and protecting wildlife. What a disappointment to hear this. I always make it my job to pick up trash wherever I go. I put it in its place, I set the example. I learned this from my parents at home and in the Boy Scouts. I have taught it to my students. It’s not somebody else’s job, it’s everyone’s job. Unbelievable.

Dalmom
28 days ago

Like I said we don’t litter and choose not to go to places the people do. Not my problem. At home we recycle our stuff.

Sandy Ruther
19 days ago

I agree. That’s like witnessing a crime and refusing to get involved. Yes, I know, littering is a crime.

Nomon R Kennedy
25 days ago
Reply to  Dalmom

You make a very common statement.
It’s not my problem. I don’t litter, so what’s it to me. Let someone else take responsibility because we don’t act that way.
OH the excuse of “I’M NOT TO BLAME. But you and many others like you are. As a CITIZEN WE EACH HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY, equally Responsible to NOT TRASH our Parks, equally Responsible to Help Keep the Parks Clean, Equally Responsible to encourage others to Keep our Parks Clean.
WHY? BECAUSE THE PARKS BELONG TO US, as a citizen YOU are part of US.

Michael
2 days ago
Reply to  Dalmom

The sad thing, is that you leaving most likely is no concern to the park. With so many RV’ers these days they don’t lose a dime. You just helped them add to their profits by not asking for a refund.

C.Lee
29 days ago

I live in New Mexico. New Mexico State Parks are STILL closed to camping under our governor’s orders, thus, thousands who would normally be camping there are finding other avenues, and National Forests, which are not subject to our governor’s edicts and are open, are one of them. Our governor has “graciously” allowed camping to resume in SOME state parks on October 1st….However, they will STILL be closed to “out of staters”, so look forward to federal lands being hit hard by campers for quite some time to come.

Last edited 29 days ago by C.Lee
Alex
29 days ago
Reply to  C.Lee

State Parks are closed to all BUT the Governor and her boyfriend. They can enjoy Navajo Lake State Park for a long weekend while all of the peasants are forbidden to enter.

C.Lee
29 days ago
Reply to  Alex

Certainly appears that way. While Navajo Lake State Park claims to be “open” for day use only, we’ve been out to the Cottonwood Day Use area, and the Bolack Day Area slightly east of there, and they’ve all remained closed. We’re boondocking in the Carson National Forest and on BLM land in Largo Canyon these days. A lot of history there, and my wife and I love that stuff. I’m loading up the travel trailer to head out to Largo Canyon today.

JS
22 days ago
Reply to  C.Lee

And NMs pour over our southern border every weekend to recreate in our backyard…the citizens here are restricted but the out-of-staters are cramming our forest. We’ve respected the NM restrictions, but it’s not reciprocated.

Tom Smythe
29 days ago

The solution is simple:

Camping for less than 7 days pays MUCH higher fees than those camping more than 7 days. This pays for the cleanup crews to follow behind the weekend warriors.

The parks/forests/etc…, are now kept much cleaner the the folks doing the dirty work get to pay their fare share of the maintenance costs.

Consider extra fees for folks who haul in any type of off-road vehicle. Those trails need maintenance, as well.

Jeb
29 days ago

You seem to be complaining about people doing the same thing you are. Getting away from it all!

MIke B
29 days ago

This must be happening all over, I went hunting this last week in a spot I have gone to for 20 plus yrs and It looked like I was sitting on Main Street. One of the guys that lives near our hunting spot said this has been going on all summer. The problem as discussed with my friends is everyone is getting paid to go camping. This country needs to get back to work, or we are all going to be in trouble.

SDW
29 days ago

Well, Plan on it getting worse. All the lazy millennials that don’t want to work for a living are
quitting they’re jobs and RVing and reporting on YouTube about every campsite they visit.
Tell the world where every campsite is.Nevermind that anyone with half a brain can find those campsites on the own. So I imagine your going to see a lot of great camping areas
become crowed sooner or later.

Leslie Berg
29 days ago
Reply to  SDW

The ruining of nature’s beauty by stupid media bragging is a horrid affectation. This cohort also seems prone to plummeting off cliffs while taking selfies, but the body can always be identified by their colorful tatoos.

Jim
29 days ago

I was stationed at Fort Bliss in 2011-13. Cloudcroft is beautiful. It’s painful to see those pics. We also try to keep to Mon-Fri camping trips to avoid the weekend craziness.

Rick
29 days ago

Yep, we try and do all our travel/exploring Monday-Thursday and if on the road we try and find a site (ANY SITE) for Fri-Sun and stay put. So travel without a toad is harder, being stuck, so to say, in one place.

Paul
29 days ago

You don’t know how long these people have been in New Mexico. Maybe they have been in the state all summer.