EX­PE­DI­TION CAMP­ING TRIP: PART 2

Part 2

4WDrive - - Contents - Words and Photos by Brady Melville of Path­maker Pro­duc­tions

If you’re fol­low­ing along from part one you’ll know I had left my full­time job, equipped a small pop-top camper, put it on the back of my Chevy, and hit the road with a very ba­sic itin­er­ary and a wish to see some of the un­touched cor­ners of the United States as I trav­elled from off-road event to event. With one to two weeks in be­tween events, I had a ton of free­dom to choose my path. The route would take me to­wards Colorado for a

W.E. Rock and Dirt Riot Event, through Utah, Ne­vada and Cal­i­for­nia, for an Ul­tra4 race, then back north through Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton for an­other W.E. Rock event. Along the way I planned to hit as many Na­tional Parks as I could, but be­cause of my tight bud­get, I tried to find free camp­ing ev­ery night of the trip (which turned out to be easy once I learned a few tricks on the road.)

Set­ting off from home base in Vic­to­ria, BC, ev­ery road trip starts with a ferry ride, which costs you around $80 for one per­son and a ve­hi­cle one way. Af­ter first trav­el­ling south through the Peace Arch bor­der cross­ing, I started head­ing east with eight days to get to Rangely, Colorado. Af­ter a long day of driv­ing and get­ting all the way to Spokane, I had the fan­tas­tic luck of start­ing the first night of my trip in a fender ben­der while lis­ten­ing to the GPS. We ex­changed num­bers and no one was hurt, but I learned a valu­able les­son, if you’re not in a hurry don’t drive for 11 hours straight! Wal-Mart al­lows camp­ing in their park­ing lots, and while it was great in a pinch, it wasn’t re­ally what this trip was all about, so I vowed to leave my­self more time each afternoon to find a place to camp.

I started to learn that if I re­ally wanted to see any­thing (and not burn a ton of fuel at 65-80MPH) I should stay off the In­ter­state and look more for the smaller State High­ways. I stuck to mostly two lane roads so that I could go through the back­roads and small towns that I was look­ing for. The other ben­e­fit of the smaller high­ways was a much bet­ter chance of find­ing some back­coun­try to camp. My num­ber one tip for back­coun­try camp­ing in the States is to keep an eye out for “Na­tional For­est” not Na­tional Park. If you pick a high­way that trav­els close to these forests, you’ll find small brown signs that say Na­tional For­est Ac­cess and they

are un­gated roads into the back­coun­try of the Na­tional For­est. Some­times driv­ing a few kilo­me­tres down a gravel road al­lowed me to find a small camp­site with fire ring that had been cre­ated by a pre­vi­ous trav­eller, al­low­ing me to camp for free in some of the most beau­ti­ful places on earth with noth­ing more than a 4x4 pickup.

Fig­ur­ing this out as I trav­elled from Wash­ing­ton, through Idaho and into Montana, I be­gan to get a daily rou­tine. Get­ting up early for break­fast, and on the road in time for the morn­ing stop at a nearby gas sta­tion, al­lowed me to sur­vive quite well with­out a wash­room in my camper. I also learned that buy­ing a Wi-Fi range ex­tend­ing an­tenna is in­valu­able with all the free Wi-Fi of­fered these days. I could park in the back cor­ner of the Star­bucks park­ing lot (faster free Wi-Fi than McDon­alds) and up­date my daily blog, stay­ing con­nected with the world. Next I would drive for 3 to 6 hrs, de­pend­ing on stops, and in the early afternoon I would start look­ing for a camp­ing spot. On sunny days I would toss my sun-shower on the roof of the camper to warm up and take Axel (my dog) for a bike ride to ex­plore and take photos.

En­ter­ing Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park at the north en­trance I learned that a 12 month Na­tional Parks pass for $80 would grant me ac­cess for the next year at all Na­tional Parks and save the $10 to 25 daily fee. If you plan on vis­it­ing more than four Na­tional Parks in the next year, the pass is a fan­tas­tic in­vest­ment! With all the camp­ing in the park booked up (and packed with peo­ple), I ex­plored for the day then headed out of the park to set up camp in Wy­oming. This let me cross back into the park the next day (with my new pass) and see more of the sights.

On to Colorado and my first off-road event of the trip. Af­ter the Dirt Riot race

I headed into the Rock­ies, camp­ing for free near glacial streams and hik­ing at over 4200 me­tres near In­de­pen­dence Pass. I then worked my way out of the moun­tains and into Utah, pass­ing through Moab (of­ten re­ferred to as the mecca of off-roading). Free camp­ing op­tions were slim near Moab, but some search­ing on www.freecamp­sites.net found me a place to stay for the night, al­low­ing me to visit Arches and Cany­on­lands Na­tional Parks, a must-see if you’re in Moab. Con­tin­u­ing south­west to­wards Ne­vada I stopped by Bryce Canyon and Zion, be­fore head­ing across the desert to Cal­i­for­nia and my only paid night of camp­ing on my en­tire trip at Joshua Tree Na­tional Park. Sum­mer be­ing the “off-sea­son” the park is quiet and fan­tas­tic for ex­plor­ing, hik­ing and night pho­tog­ra­phy.

Next up was an Ul­tra4 race at Glen He­len Race­way. Af­ter the race I con­tin­ued north through Cal­i­for­nia, find­ing a lot of great camp­ing on US395 as I trav­elled along the Sierra Ne­vada’s, and the east en­trance to Yosemite Na­tional Park.

Head­ing west I saw the Pa­cific Ocean for the first time in 47 days, but I also found a lot less free camp­ing as I made my way through the Red­woods and up the Pa­cific Coast High­way to Gold­en­dale for my last off-road event of the trip. Leav­ing Gold­en­dale, it was a sin­gle day drive back to the Cana­dian bor­der af­ter trav­el­ling 18,000 km over 63 days, hit­ting 11 states, 13 Na­tional Parks, 4 Of­froad events and count­less photos. Check out the en­tire story at www.path­mak­er­pho­tog­ra­phy.com/blog.

Axel and Brady tak­ing a minute to en­joy the sights in Yosemite Na­tional Park.

Kick­ing up dust at Dirt RIOT Agate.

A bi­son at Yel­low­stone.

Axel check­ing out the moon­scape at the Alabama Hills. Brandy Southall does a huge drop in her cus­tom moon buggy at WERock. Camp­ing in the Grand Te­tons.

Ja­son Blan­ton at Ul­tra4 Glen He­len Race.

Sun hangs in the sky over Canyon Lands Na­tional Park Moab.

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