Boondocking Report: Dixie National Forest near Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, US

Free, off-the-grid camping (boondocking) in lightly forested and open areas for up to 16 days within about 10 miles, a 15-20 minute drive to Bryce, with more than a few nearby sites big RV accessible.

Site Location: GPS:  N 37.72837, W 112.24389. Turn north (left) off

Looking north from my camp
Looking north from my camp

UT 12 coming from 89 onto Tom’s Best Spring Road at N 37.71973, W 112.25539. Tom’s Best is not all that well marked. Look for a sign on the left, maybe 50′ off of 12, as soon as you come out of Red Canyon and the landscape flattens out and opens up. Traveling west on 12 Tom’s Best you’ll be getting close to the the hills you’ll see in the near distance, assuming it’s daytime. GPS coordinates may not align with roads shown on map. (They didn’t for me–see the map below.) To get to my spot turn east (right) off Tom’s Best Spring Road onto unmarked spur road at N 37.73059, W 112.24600, marked Dixie BD Turnoff, then bear right at the Y. READ MORE…

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In case you’ve been wondering…

Shampoo
Shampoo

As a long time backpacker and back country traveler I’ve come to rely upon those little polyethylene containers for carrying small amounts of shampoo, vitamins, antibacterial cream, etc. Like the one in the photo to the right. You may have seen them at camping stores or other places.

Last night I was soaking the cap to my little shampoo bottle in the bathroom sink of my RV because it had become clogged with dried up shampoo and I hoped to soften the clog by soaking it for a while and squirt it out. When I was finished soaking the bottle cap I pulled the stopper out of the sink’s drain to let the water out and down the drain with the water went the bottle cap. HOLY CRAP!

It fits!
It fits!

So, just in case you’ve been wondering whether or not the little squirt cap from your polyethylene bottle would fit down your drain and clog up in your plumbing… the answer is yes!

BUCKSKIN GULCH, WIRE PASS

I’m in Utah now, boondocking in the Dixie National Forest just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Having  arrived here just yesterday afternoon I don’t have much to write about this area yet, so I’ll save that for a future post. Right now I’ll tell you a little about the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon which I visited a couple days ago.
There are many excellent, even famous photos of Antelope Canyon, which have been widely published. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon in Arizona: a narrow canyon with high vertical walls of beautifully sculpted sandstone and at times, in places, shafts of light which come beaming down as if heaven sent. According to Wikipedia, Antelope Canyon “is the most-visited and most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest”. I’ve read that Upper Antelope Canyon, as opposed to Lower Antelope Canyon is the place to go for the shafts of light, by the way.
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon

I visited neither of the Antelope Canyons. Rather, I opted to visit the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, the longest slot canyon in the country, not too far away from Antelope Canyon. While more famous, Upper Antelope Canyon is but 100 yards long, requires the purchase of tickets in the neighborhood of $30, and is thronged by visitors on guided tours, which, I imagine may make photography difficult. The Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, on the other hand, goes on and on and on and on, and you’re likely to spend long periods of time without hearing or seeing anyone else. It too bears a cost to enter, but here the price is a $6 BLM self-issued permit which can be purchased at the trailhead.  It is spectacular in its own right, with canyon walls about 100′ high in places. I saw a raven fling through the canyon which was barely wide enough for it to flap its wings and it was maybe midway from the top to the bottom of the canyon walls. This was a most surprising sight. I also saw a coyote, not in the slot canyon–that would be scary–but rather on the trail that leads to it.

Along the Road to Wire Pass
Along the Road to Wire Pass

The BLM web site cautions that a 4-wheel drive vehicle should be used for the 8 mile drive on the unmaintained dirt Houserock Valley Road to the trailhead but I think that’s probably silly if the road is dry. It’s perfectly passable by an ordinary passenger sedan when dry and there were any number of them at the Wire Pass trailhead. When wet, however, even a 4-wheel drive may have problems at points along the way.

Patterns in the sandstone: Buckskin Gulch
Patterns in the sandstone: Buckskin Gulch

You may not find the famous lights beaming down from the heavens in the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, but it’s still a terrific place to visit with many beautiful surprises along the way from unexpected patterns in the canyon walls, beautifully colored sandstone, to patches of flowers, depending on the season.

Patterns in the sandstone: Buckskin Gulch
Patterns in the sandstone: Buckskin Gulch
Buckskin Gulch shares the same trailhead as “The Wave” a very famous geologic formation that people come from around the world to see. Permits for The Wave are extremely difficult to obtain. I mention it because if you plan on being in the area it may be worth a shot at getting a permit to hike the trail to The Wave. You should begin your quest for permits a year ahead of time if you can.
Wildflowers at Bucksin Gulch
Wildflowers at Buckskin Gulch
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon

HOLY CRAP!

As each day passes and I think of what I might write for blog entries, so many of them it seems might start with the phrase “HOLY CRAP!”

I’m at Glen Canyon NRA (national recreation area) in Utah. I came here to camp in my RV for a couple or three days because, I wanted to get my fridge serviced, there are some things in the area I want to see such as slot canyons like Antelope or Wire Canyon, and a curlicue in the Colorado river (I assume it’s the Colorado) called Horseshoe Bend. That, and it’s on my way to the famous national parks of Utah such as Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands and Monument Valley. I’d be less that truthful if I didn’t say the economic appeal of $5 per night camping didn’t play a roll in coming here. That’s the discounted rate if you have one of several passes such as the interagency senior pass I have.

Lone Rock Beach, Glen Canyon NRA
Lone Rock Beach, Glen Canyon NRA

After arriving at the Lone Rock Beach area within the NRA and paying my entry fee to an automated kiosk that took some cypherin’ to figure out (not sure if I every really did but it issued me a sticker for my window all the same) I headed down toward the beach where I saw a number of other RVers apparently enjoying the warm, summer like spring day by the waterfront. Now this is where the holy crap begins to fly. At the end of the dirt road leading in, the camping area spreads out into a wide field, if you can call gravel and sand a field. Heading for a gravelly spot that looked level and firm I saw I’d have to pass through a sandy patch to get there. Seeing other RVs on the other side of the sandy patch I figured it was passable. WRONG! About halfway through the sand became too deep for my RV and I was hopelessly, irrevocably, intractably stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck! HOLY CRAP! See what I mean?

After about 30 minutes of attempting to dig my way out by placing various manner of things under the rear wheels to gain some traction, only to find myself digging a deeper and deeper hole each

This is what I did to a Camco leveling block using it to try to dig my way out of the sand trap. That gray and black stuff you see is melted leveling block and tire rubber.
This is what I did to a Camco leveling block using it to try to dig my way out of the sand trap. That gray and black stuff you see is melted leveling block and tire rubber.

time I stepped on the gas–all the while sweltering away in the hot sun on my hands and knees in the sand with the wind whipping it around into my eyes and ears, my nose… my shoes filling up with sand and sweat pouring off my forehead and running into my eyes making them burn–I gave up and called CoachNet, the “we’ll save your ass” roadside assistance program I belong to. They promised to call around for a towing service in the area to come to my rescue, but since I was more than 100′ from solid ground where a wrecker could safely park it wasn’t covered under my policy and it would be “very expensive” to get rescued. HOLY CRAP!

While waiting for CoachNet to call me back with the good tidings that they’d found a knight in shining armor to come to my rescue, I continued my efforts to dig my way out. I made one last effort to place blocks and boards behind my rear wheels in order to back my way out of the sandy mire. No good. HOLY CRAP! I tried one more attempt at plodding forward, keeping my foot firmly down on the accelerator, and what do you know… inch by inch, at half a snail’s pace my RV moved forward until I was free from the sandy morass. HOLY CRAP! I called CoachNet to say I’d saved myself, thank you very much.

Having landed on the nice gravelly patch I’d so amorously eyed prior to my Saharan-like misadventure, I leveled the RV, popped out the slide, and made myself one of my famous green smoothies for lunch. I opened the windows, the door and roof vents and reveled in the warm but pleasant breeze that swirled around me and through the RV. In a little while, however, I noticed everything inside the RV was becoming covered with sand carried in by the brisk winds. HOLY CRAP!

I decided to move my RV to a nearby spot which was not so near loose sand that could be so easily blown inside, and also to turn the tail of the vehicle toward the wind which I thought would mitigate to some degree the infiltration of the substance we so enjoy spreading our towels upon at the beach, but so do not enjoy having to clean out of our cars, shoes and homes.

I spent the next while, maybe 30 minutes or so walking around the area looking for a better spot to park, and just as importantly, a way to get there as apparently there were other “sand traps such as the one to which I’d fallen prey. It came as some relief to the “gee I’m such a dumbass for having gotten stuck in the sand” mood I’d fallen into that during this walk I helped push and guide the no fewer than three other hapless souls and their vehicles who’d fallen victim to similar sandy fates. There was no way around it: getting off my little gravelly perch where I’d been so happily sandblasted required… you guessed it, another trip through the RV sand trap from hell. HOLY CRAP! This time I picked a slightly firmer route and got up a good head of steam before plowing into the deepest area and fortunately I had enough momentum to make it through, barely.

It’s still hot and windy, and there is sand blowing about, but I’m better situated with less sand blowing my way and it’s coming more from the rear than the side. Nevertheless, the widows are CLOSED! and I’m keeping the heat at bay by running the A/C and the generator to produce the electricity it requires. This creates an other-worldly cacophonous drone which is not particularly pleasant. Hopefully the winds will abate and the temperature subside, and I won’t find any more reasons this day to say HOLY CRAP!


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Valley of Fire to Grand Canyon Boondocking

Today, the 14th of May, 2014, marks the beginning of the second week of my USA RVing road trip. So much has already happened along the way that I fear I’ll never be able to find the time and energy to blog adequately about the adventure. By way of doing some catching up, in brief, I left the San Francisco bay area on May 7 with the idea of seeing our country’s natural beauty and to take in, perhaps to a lesser degree, some of the cities and their cultural aspects. I’ve aways been a big fan of nature which I suppose is why I put that first. As a somewhat unimportant aspect of my travels I aim to set foot in the 34 states which I have not already set foot in so as to be able to say I’ve been to all 50. Well, we can cross one of those 34 off the list now as I’m writing this entry in Tusayan (pronounced… hell, how would I know?),  Arizona. It’s my first time in this state.

Tusayan, for those of you that don’t know, is a tiny town just south of the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. It’s the last stop before you fall off the cliff into the great gorge… if you’re heading north, that is. My exact location, for you RV boondocking types, or others who may wish to camp for free, is along NF-302, a dirt road in

Boondocking near the Grand Canyon
My boondocking site along NF-302. It’s a 7 minute walk to the main road in town.

the Kaibab National Forest, at GPS coordinates N 35,96821º, W 112.12428º. The elevation here is about 6100’. The weather today is sunny and clear, brisk, with last night’s lows in the high thirties and today’s highs predicted to be in the mid to 60s. This spot is close to the Grand Canyon airport so it’s abuzz with small planes and helicopters packed with sight seers zipping by overhead during the day. At night, at least last night, the first of several I expect to stay here, it was quiet.

Today’s weather is one reason that although I’m so close to the Grand Canyon—I rolled into this lovely little campsite late yesterday afternoon, by the way—I will not go up to see it until tomorrow when the weather is predicted to be warmer. I’m also in need of a little decompressing after a whirlwind week of driving and sightseeing. Plus, I figured if I didn’t make some effort to write a little about my trip thus far, that catching up later would become increasingly difficult as I fell further and further behind. So, I’ll hang around Tusayan and NF-302 for the day. A day at home…

After leaving the bay area, my first stop was Washoe Lake State Park just north of Carson City Nevada. I spent one night there before heading on to Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area operated by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). The following day my intention was to boondock at the Pahranagat Wildlife Refuge but I missed the turn off and wound up spending the night at the Hitchin’ Post RV Park in North Las Vegas. From there it was on to Valley of Fire State Park (VOF) which I had been eager to visit and considered my first main destination. My intention is to add more to the blog about Washoe and Hickison at a later date.

_D7K8018_Atlatl_800
Atlatl RV Campground, Valley of Fire, Nevada

I spent three nights at VOF. It’s a glorious place full of visual treats for those inclined to feasts for the eyes. The first day was rather hot and later including gusty winds which rocked the RV all night long. The next days the weather was milder.

View along the White Domes hike, Valley of Fire, Nevada
View along the White Domes hike, Valley of Fire, Nevada

For anybody who visits VOF with the intention of doing anything more than a quick drive through I suggest purchasing the large map sold at the visitor’s center because the free handout maps omit much of what you may wish to see. I didn’t learn about the big map until it was too late. There is a hike of several miles length that passes arches and plants that I would like to have taken but had no idea it existed. The freebee map does mention the short White Domes hike which I highly recommend, and for you photo buffs, before too late in the day because the hills in the distance fall into shadow making photos of the vista less than they could be (see photo). At this time of year I’d say be there no later than 2 PM or so.

Contrasts in the Valley of Fire
Contrasts in the Valley of Fire

VOF has a $10 per day use fee. If you want a camp site, RV or otherwise add $10 more, and if you want an RV campsite with water and electric hookups add another $10. I think Nevada residents get a discount on these fees.

The Atlatl campground–named after and ancient spear-chucking device– has some sites with hookups, others without. The Arch Rock campground has no hookups. It also has a more private and intimate feel to it as the sites are nestled in among nooks and crannies of the sandstone whereas Atlatl is a larger, more open basin. Sites are gravel and most require some leveliing.

From here? It’s either going to be Utah or Page Arizona which is supposed to be a cool place to visit with some wonderful nature to see nearby.


This blog takes an enormous amount of time and energy to build and maintain . If you have found something useful or entertaining please Favorite (bookmark) this Amazon.com link and use it when you shop at Amazon. Doing so will cost you no more and in some cases I may receive a small commission. Your support in the form of using my Amazon.com link or making a PayPal Donation will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

My Great Generator Adventure

In October of 2013 I purchased my RV Charlene with the thought I’d perform some interior mods, add an inverter, backup camera and do a few other things in preparation for an extended trip around the USA. Now nearing the end of March, 2014, I’ve taken but one trip since then, a two day sojourn to a lovely spot not too far away, but despite the fact I’ve yet to finish the mods I want to make, and to leave on my big trip, I’ve had no shortage of great RV adventures… before ever hitting the open road, that is. Here’s one of them:

Recently when checking the oil level of the Onan generator built into my coach–I’ve been using it to power my electric drill when making mods–I noticed that portions of the exterior of the generator were coated with oil. This is never a good sign. Oil belongs inside the generator, not on the outside. I was worried about a leak, but also realized that gasoline engines can sometimes seep oil over time without there being any problem of real concern.

Choosing the cautious route I decided to have a qualified technician look at the generator. A quick Google found only a couple places within a reasonable radius where I could get service for the generator and one of them was an Onan factory service center. I phoned Onan and was told it would be $157 for them to pour some oil dye into the generator, run it for an hour, then check for leaks. It would cost more if they had to first clean the existing oil off the outside of the generator. I decided $157 seemed like a lot of money to essentially do nothing for most of an hour except to let the generator run before checking for leaks. I also thought that I could probably do a pretty good job cleaning the oil off the generator myself.

Air filter cover and other parts covered with oil
Air filter cover and other parts covered with oil

Air filter cover and other parts after cleaning
Air filter cover and other parts after cleaning

A little more Googling and I discovered what oil dye is all about. Apparently it fluoresces under UV (ultraviolet or black light). It’s added to the oil of an engine, the engine is run for a while, then the black light is shined on the engine looking for the yellow glow of dye that has leaked out. I also leaned I could buy a small bottle of the stuff (Dye-Lite) at the local auto parts store for under $6.

I called Onan to say I’d clean the generator and add the dye myself, run the generator for an hour or two then bring the RV into their place to have them look for leaks with the ultraviolet light. I explained that $157 was a lot for me to spend for essentially letting my generator run for an hour. So, after about an hour of cleaning the generator with paper towels, kerosene and an assortment of objects I could wrap a paper towel around in order to get into nooks and crannies I could not otherwise reach, I had a fairly clean generator with the exception of a few places I just could not get to.

Next I poured in a little oil dye and ran the generator for about an hour. I couldn’t see any signs of leaking oil, so the next day when I took the RV to Onan I ran the generator for about another 45 minutes during the drive. Arriving at Onan there were still no visible signs of leaks, not to the naked eye, anyway. It was a disappointment to learn that Onan didn’t have a functioning ultraviolet light after I’d driven 45 minutes to get there, preceded by a 30 minute drive to get to the storage facility where I keep my RV, and knowing I’d have to drive the reverse route to get home. After spending about 5 minutes with me looking at and talking about the generator, and another 15 minutes looking for a functioning ultraviolet light, Onan’s technician seemed to think that the most likely explanation for the oil mess I had was oil from the breather hose. I think that’s a method of ventilating gasses from the crankcase as pressure inside the engine increases from the buildup of heat. That system can carry a little oil with it which over time can spread over parts of the generator’s exterior. While relieved that there was no obvious reason to have the generator serviced and that for the time being it seemed OK to keep an eye on it for leaks and judiciously watch the oil level, there exists a degree of uncertainty that everything is really OK. Also on the plus side is that Onan didn’t charge me anything.

When I arrived back at the RV storage yard I bumped into a gent I see there with some frequency and I told him my tale. He told me he had a black light. I said “What? Here? You’re kidding, right?” He wasn’t kidding. In a couple minutes he returned to my RV, black light in hand. We started up my generator to supply the AC power needed to run the light, but there was none. We checked the GFI outlet. No power there. We checked the circuit breakers for the GFI circuit flipping them off then back on. Nope. I called Onan and left a voice mail for the service writer asking if they’d possibly done something to shut off the current from the generator. Then I called Coachnet (I’m a subscriber to their services) to talk to a technician to see if they had any ideas. Their technicians were busy with other callers and I was promised a return call. Just after hanging up with Coachnet I got a call back from the service writer at Onan who told me there was a circuit breaker on the generator itself and he instructed me where to find it. Sure enough, it was in the off position. Apparently the Onan tech had flipped it while looking at my generator and he didn’t turn it back on. I dragged my neighbor with the black light to my RV one more time and we turned on his light only to find, drumroll… nothing. We decided it wasn’t bright enough, or that it was too bright outside for it to be useful. Previously, when I poured the oil dye into the generator I’d spilled a little which I couldn’t effectively wipe up so my thinking was we should see that dye fluoresce whether or not there was any leaking elsewhere. We did not. I’m uncertain if it needs to be mixed with oil in order to fluoresce, if the light wasn’t the right wavelength, if it was not bright enough or too bright outside, or what. In the end I felt a certain amount of reassurance that the generator was OK, but a certain amount of doubt about that. I’d say the 80/20 rule applies here: 80% reassured, 20% doubtful. I learned about the circuit breaker on the generator and I saved about $150-$200 cleaning the generator and adding the oil dye myself. And so ends (or has it?) another great RV adventure, before ever hitting the open road.

a.k.a. Travels With Charlene

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