Dear RV Shrink:
I don’t mind boondocking. We spend several months a year on the road and camp a majority of the time without hookups. My ex-Marine husband will camp anywhere, but I do not care to camp in remote areas by ourselves. My husband says I am being silly.
Recently we camped in Big Bend with a backcountry permit. We found several sites that we could drive our rig without doing any damage. I admit it was beautiful, with no noise or light pollution, and we love natural settings and hiking. However, I felt we were too isolated at the end of a dead-end road.
Am I being silly? Should I develop an attitude like my husband and throw caution to the wind? I love the places he finds to legally park, but some of them keep me from feeling comfortable. —Apprehensive in American Outback
Caution is good, but safety has no guarantees. Many boondocking sites come with the disadvantage of not offering the margin of camping security that you expect from regular campgrounds. Most are not monitored on a regular basis by authorities and you are basically on your own. All campers have to make their own calls on these situations.
You should do what makes you comfortable, but don’t make yourself paranoid by reading too many newspapers. Rural America is not as dangerous as you might imagine. Many RVers find safety in numbers and hook up with other campers to share boondocking sites.
Quartzsite and BLM lands all over the West find groups circling the wagons together. Some groups form to stake a mining claim for no other reason than camping on it. The sites you mention in Big Bend are just large parking areas off unimproved roads that would accommodate several rigs.
It doesn’t hurt to “drive softly, but carry a big stick.” If you constantly camp alone in primitive areas you should consider some form of protection. I’m not suggesting you mount a .50 caliber on the roof of your rig. Although it might be intimidating, it’s way too heavy and will put a dent in your fuel budget. I recommend something more subtle. If you do not like guns, carry some bear spray.
Twenty years ago this might have been more of a problem. I find as we move more and more into this age of “The Boomers are Coming,” there are becoming fewer boondocking sites that are not already crowded when arriving – you just have to look harder for the uncrowded ones. In my RV Shrink practice I am dealing more frequently with the “Greta Garbo syndrome.” People are constantly occupying my couch and groaning, “I vant to be alone.”*
Find your comfort zone, compromise with your husband and enjoy the places that make you happy. There are thousands of natural campgrounds that offer peace, quiet and a shade more security than some of the boondock sites. Often the more familiar you become with an isolated site, the more comfortable you are occupying it. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
[*Editor’s note: "I never said ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is all the difference.” —Greta Garbo]
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