One Confused Camper
I resupplied in Flagstaff yesterday, and on the return decided to check out the “dispersed camping corridors” in the Cononino National Forest, using the MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map). According to the map’s instructions and those on the Internet for that forest:
“When dispersed camping (or “car camping”) on the National Forest, refer to the designated camping corridors shown on the Motor Vehicle Use Map. In these designated corridors, visitors may drive their vehicles up to 300 feet from the road to car camp. Also, visitors may park alongside any designated road’s edge and walk to their campsite anywhere on National Forest System lands, except where specifically prohibited as indicated in closure orders. When parking along a designated road, drivers must pull off the travelled portion of the roadway to permit the safe passage of traffic. These rules only affect motor vehicle use. Forest visitors can always hike to campsites at farther distances from the roads.”
Officially, these “corridors” seem to be the only permitted locations to camp, and doing otherwise threatens a $175 fine, which I don’t particularly take a fancy to. So I trundled down the entire length of FS545B (starting at the entrance to the Sunset National Monument), monitoring my current position on the MVUM using my old iPad. Based on past experience, I was not particularly surprised to find that this trail (and I do mean “trail”) not only offered no places to pull over, but was crossed by ravines of erosion which made it my most exciting off-roading adventure to date. Holy mackerel! I could hear the new air spring mount extensions periodically clunking in back as the air springs came off their lower mounts and then settled back into their special receiving cups below, indicating that the trail was using all the articulation that the Mighty Furd has. The trail itself was always in the valley of a high hill range and was for the most part plain dirt, indicating that interesting times awaited anyone trying to traverse it in wet weather. Technically, there were a few spots bare enough to park on, but those were all on untouched, pristine meadow. Didn’t feel right, and un-forecast rain happens. By the time I reached the north end, the sun had set.
But, being mule-headed (and I mean that in the nicest possible way), I made my way back to US 89 and headed back to the same entrance on the opposite side of the highway that I’d used to get to my previous campsite. Only, instead of turning north at the “T” intersection, I turned south toward another “corridor” on FS420. There, I found two campsites, one occupied. The other was bad for solar, required climbing out of it to leave (wet weather again), and had no cell signal whatsoever. This search in the dark brought to mind the Baja Designs LED light demo at the Expo, where cornering and backup lights would have been nice. But, I generally try real hard not to drive around after sunset, so that expense would not be used regularly. Now being 8PM and very dark, I turned around and headed back to more familiar ground. My previous campsite was occupied – this being a weekend, after all – but I found another nearby, close to the “short-cut” trail I’d walked a few days ago. Though not terrific for solar either (due to tall trees around it), it should be workable.
Many local rigs are here, scattered all about anywhere there’s an established campsite, so it makes me wonder once again what’s with the MVUM dispersed camping corridors, and why the Forest Service usually chooses the most rig-unfriendly locations possible for them. In the case of 545B, I wouldn’t expect that anything larger or taller than the Four Wheel truck camper would be able to make it at all. I like to think that I’m misinterpreting the rules, and hoping that a ranger will explain the real deal to me, hopefully not while he’s writing in his little pad of citations. But until then, daytime temps have returned to the mid-70s, and life is good. The sun is out, and the birds are singing.