Thursday, September 21, 2023


How we survived the remnants of Hurricane Hilary while camping at 7,500 feet

My RVing friends and my wife and I experienced the remnants of Hurricane Hilary at 7,500 feet, and no, we weren’t in an airplane. We were in our RVs camped high in the mountains.

You probably read the headlines or watched the news stories that proclaimed, “Hilary could dump more than a year’s worth of rain in parts of three states: California, Nevada and Arizona. Because of the threat, parts of California face a rare high risk for excessive rainfall.” Per CNN.

Or, maybe you watched the video from The Guardian of the people trapped in a motorhome as Storm Hilary hit.

None of us were aware of Hurricane Hilary

My wife, our friends and I were unaware of any of this until after we, too, were impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Hilary.

Hurricane Hilary Path
We were camped in the path of the remnants of Hurricane Hilary

When I planned an extended boondocking trip in the Lost River Valley of the high mountains of south-central Idaho, the last thing I expected was to encounter the remnants of a hurricane. After all, according to Wikipedia, only the remnants of 8 hurricanes have impacted even the Southwest United States since 1850. I have been unable to determine how many of those 8 continued north to impact Idaho. I expect very few, if any.

What made it even more of a surprise was that we were camped far from cell and internet service many days before Hurricane Hilary eve became a newsworthy item. I only became aware of the impending storm when we rode our off-road vehicles nearly 30 miles from our RVs. We had gone to a nearly-9,000-foot ridge overlooking the small town of Mackay, where we obtained an internet signal.


To my surprise, when I opened my weather app I discovered multiple warnings of an incoming storm and a flash flood due to the remnants of Hurricane Hilary. It even warranted a flood warning from the National Weather Service (see photo). Even more disturbing was that it was due the next day! Did I mention our RVs were 30 miles yonder and the sky was growing dark?

Flood Warning
The warning that opened up on my phone. Flood warning due to the remnants of Hurricane Hilary that specifically listed the drainage where we were camped
remnants of Hurricane Hilary weather
Surprise – Not your typical weather forecast

Some might have returned to their campsite, rolled in the awnings, raised the jacks and headed to the safety of pavement and cell service. With five days left of our outing, we took the optimist approach and followed the proverbial phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Relocated to get a better view of the storm

We were camped back in the trees, which had been providing shade, had no view and was in a low spot prone to puddling (i.e., “flooding”). So we decided to move about a mile down the road to a prominent viewpoint overlooking Wildhorse Creek, a tributary to the Lost River. There, we could watch the approaching storm from the comforts of our RVs while watching the rising waters from our campsite high above the stream. If it rose to our location, we would hopefully “float it out” like Noah! It would be just like storm-watching at the ocean beach back in our home state of Washington. It’s worth sharing that we had our SpotX satellite messenger with us in the rare event we needed to summon help.

Our viewpoint for watching the remnants of the hurricane

As the storm approached the next morning, we donned rain gear, loaded up, and headed to the spot down the road. The chosen campsite, which the previous campers had fled the day before, was on a sweeping bend in the creek. To maximize our storm-watching potential, we positioned one RV facing south, upstream, and the other facing predominately north, downstream.

The right decision

This proved to be the right decision. The prevailing wind on the first day provided a lee on the patio awning side of our friends’ RV, allowing us to sit outside under their awning, staying dry while watching the storm. The second day the winds switched direction, placing our RV’s patio awning leeward, allowing us to continue enjoying the show from under cover. We marveled as the quiet, clear stream we had crossed days before, barefoot, turned into a raging, muddy river transporting brush and portions of trees.

As we watched, gravel bars in the middle of the stream disappeared as the water rose, along with new side channels coming to life. We were even fortunate enough to see a beaver come out and frolic in the raging waters. They are stronger swimmers than I ever imagined.

While not on our itinerary, it turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences from our trip, one I am sure we will reflect on in the future and remark to each other “Remember when…?”

Camping in the remnants of Hurricane Hilary – What would you have done?

How about you? What would you have done? Would you have high-tailed it out of there or stayed and enjoyed watching the forces of nature?

In hindsight: 1) I will probably invest in a radio that will receive NOAA Weather Radio transmissions for future use. 2) I will make better use of the two-way communication capabilities of my SpotX and request weather reports from my adult children more frequently when we find ourselves without internet service via our smartphones. 3) Invest in rain gear better suited for breaking camp and hitching up during the remnants of a hurricane. 4) Carry some sweetener to make more lemonade!

Dave will be speaking at the 2023 America’s Largest RV Show in Hershey, PA, September 13th – 17th. He would love to meet readers that will be attending. Feel free to introduce yourself at one of his seminars.

Wow! Those attending Dave’s Dry Camping Tips and Tricks seminar (10 a.m. daily) can enter to win a soft start device. One given away daily!


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.


  1. Thank you, Dave! We did nothing but did enjoy the rain we got in east Tennessee from the storm. Had we been where you were, then I would have done what you did, had I thought to do it. One of my favorite things as a youngster, and still, is to open the garage door, sit just beyond the rain’s reach, and watch a storm unfold.

    I do agree with your realized adjustments. We carry a weather radio in our rig so we don’t get surprised.

  2. Nothing quite like catastrophic prognostication of the Chicken Littles followed by an slightly greater than average rain with an average wind. It was almost so bad that driving away from harm with only 1 week of warning was….. well, let me tell you, it was crazy to only have 6 days to start up the rig and drive 100 miles inland. We almost had to skip a meal.

  3. I feel I am married to a weatherman and we have all the equipment
    and apps he needs to figure out stuff while camping. We were camped at Laguna Seca in the hills above Monterey when Hilary was threatening southern California which was on our route home. We find that local weather TV and Radio people do a better job of predicting weather while avoiding all the hype. During Hilary our daughter kept an eye on her favorite weather person on TV in Monterey. On the way home we heard about Idalia which was suppose to make a direct hit on our Tallahassee home. This time we left the RV in Dallas at a relatives and beat it home. We arrived about 12 hours before the storm came ashore and our house was left unharmed. Now we can say we have experienced Hurricane warnings on both coasts and we are thankful for technology which reaches us in even remote areas when we need it

  4. During Hurricane Season, the RV is fully equipped, prepared to run on short notice.
    Amateur radio will provide all outside communications.
    Just my take.


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