Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
May 22-23, 2018
Sometimes I just want to shave my legs, boil water with the touch of a button, and watch Netflix without worrying about my phone battery, so paying the fees for a campground is money well spent.
Other times I just want to soak up the quietly busy natural world, watch for wildlife, and see a million billion gazillion stars without seeing the glow of giant televisions radiating from RV’s parked right next door, so the inconvenience of boondocking is a pleasure.
During the first year of our full-time RV adventure, we were pretty hesitant to do much boondocking (dry camping in more remote areas, usually free of charge). We were unsure of how long it would take our gray, galley, and black tanks to fill. (Yes, our rig has a panel of buttons that are supposed to tell us how full they are. No, they do not work.) We also didn’t know how long our batteries would last, and we’ve never invested in solar or a generator to supplement our power supply. We can live without turning on lights or our electric appliances for quite awhile, but we need a little bit of electricity to ignite the propane flame of our frig and water heater, to power our fresh water pump, and to make financial ends meet – Brad must be able to charge his laptop.
So we started out trying a night or two here or there until we got more knowledgeable about what Stumbo was capable of and more confident in our own abilities to “make do”. We got better at conserving water and power, more aware of our usage, and learned that it wasn’t the end of the world to fill a tank or kill a battery.
Throughout year 2 we have perfected this funny dance of boondocking. It’s a very different way of daily life than when we have full hookups in a campground. It’s not better or worse – it’s just different.
Boondocking means dressing differently for bed based on the weather forecast instead of adjusting the thermostat. It means using paper plates and bowls to minimize dirty dishes and extend the lifecycle of a gray tank. It means occasionally showering outdoors, and sleeping with my phone powered-down and under my pillow to keep the cold night air from destroying my battery. It means playing in the evenings until it’s too dark to see, and maybe only turning on 1 light long enough for the girls to brush their teeth. It’s using water from portable gallon jugs to cook and drink, in order to save the water in the fresh tank for washing hands and flushing the toilet.
Brad’s ABC’s of boondocking are “Always Be Charging”. We have a variety of chargers in our truck, and anytime we drive ANYWHERE, at least 2 devices are plugged in – a laptop, a wifi hotspot, a tablet, or a couple of phones.
Being out in beautiful places makes all the hassle worth it, until it doesn’t any more. We get to a point where the galley tank is almost full, but dirty dishes can no longer be ignored. Or someone runs out of clean underwear, or just really wants to make a smoothie, and then we hurry back to civilization where we can waste water & electricity as much as want like good Americans.
During year 2 we’ve learned that we can most fully appreciate both – the boondocking & the campgrounds – if we alternate between the two.
And in my opinion, boondocking doesn’t get much better or easier than Utah in the late spring.
We left Moab with 2 weeks to kill before a month-long stay in a campground, so we were determined to appreciate some of the beautiful, free parking spots in Central Utah in between.
Our first stop was a BLM parking area right outside of Capitol Reef National Park. (Our final N.P. to visit of Utah’s “Big Five”.) Shortly after we arrived another trailer pull in nearby with small bikes attached to the back – this is one of the indicators that Sunny & Coral watch for to spot other campground kids. They immediately ran over to knock on the door and asked, “Do you have kids?!”
Capitol Reef was not an exposed fossilized coral reef as I had supposed…it is named that because it presented a great challenge for early travelers, much like a reef would have for sailors. The colorful wonderland of sandstone domes, cliffs, and monoliths was thought to resemble the skyline of Washington D.C. with it’s Capitol Building and various monuments. So it came to be known as the Capitol Reef.
On this hike we went through a narrow canyon where early Mormon settlers scratched their names. It seemed to have become a kind of “register”, or at least a rite of passage for being part of the community here. Some were carved right around eye level, with dates in the early 1900’s carved next to many names. Others were dozens of feet off the ground, high up on the canyon walls, begging the imagination for an answer to how they achieved such a feat.