Our Search for a Camping Spot
Let’s take a little trip back in time, shall we? Back to the beginning of September….Remember my post Labor Day Camping and Cute Kid Quotes?. If you read that post, you may remember that we went camping up North with our family. Way north. It was a looooong drive, and that is a story in itself…
Tim and I decided that we wanted to break up the long drive, and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money or go very far out of our way. Actually, we didn’t want to spend any money or go out of our way at all. We also wanted to stop after 4-5 hours of driving. I know, these are pretty specific requests. Thankfully, I have a really cool husband who researched online and found out there was BLM land just 4-5 hours north of us, very close to the 5 freeway, and free to camp on.
Oh? You don’t know what BLM land is? I didn’t either, but here’s what I found out: BLM stands for “Bureau of Land Management,” and they manage and conserve millions of acres of public land. I still don’t know all that much, but I believe my husband when he says that anyone is allowed to access public BLM land, and you can camp on it as long as you follow the regulations.
We did our homework, looked at the area on Google Earth, and found a spot within public BLM land that we thought would be a nice, cozy place to camp. Tim printed out information, maps, rules, and regulations, and we were set. Well, we thought we were…
At about 9 or 10pm, we exited the freeway and were soon the only car in sight. After turning onto a small country road, we passed a sign that told us we were at the entrance of the BLM land. Tim, unlike me, has an internal compass, and he was pretty sure where we were supposed to go. (even though the view from the road isn’t quite as clear as the view from a satellite). Unfortunately, that didn’t really matter. All of the pathways leading from the main road were blocked by locked gates. They don’t show you locked gates on Google Earth.
We finally saw a place where we could pull off and read the signs with the help of our car’s headlights. We were at the Little Panoche Reservoir, and camping was allowed if you hiked in and followed a couple rules. After taking stock of our situation, we determined that our options were to try out this spot at the Little Panoche Reservoir or camp by the side of the road… Following the original plan was no longer an option, thanks to the locked gates. (Getting back on the 5 and driving to a hotel somewhere was not an option, either). The pictures below are what we saw at Little Panoche the next morning…we could see none of this when we checked it out at night…
We didn’t like the idea of leaving our very full car in a big, empty parking lot and hiking into an area we couldn’t see and knew nothing about. It was, after all, 10 o’clock at night, and they don’t have street lights on small country roads. So, we chose the side-of-the-road option…even though there were loads of kangaroo mice hopping about on the roadside.
We found a big enough turnout and set ourselves up so that the car blocked our tent from the road. Once we were settled, we laid back in our tent and took a couple of relaxing breaths. It was warm enough to leave the rainfly (and the sleeping bag) off, which gave us a great view of the clear sky. I’ve gotten used to living where I can count the number of stars I see on my hands- sometimes on one hand. It was so refreshing to see more stars than my mind could even comprehend.
In the morning, we could finally take in our surroundings. The landscape looked as if it had been painted with soft pastels, and it felt so peaceful to watch the sun rise. We were a little confused when we heard cows from the other side of the fence, and we still don’t really know what happened to our little camping spot on BLM land. But, we accomplished our goal nonetheless. We found a peaceful, secluded camping spot just off the 5 freeway, didn’t pay a thing, and got an early start on the rest of our drive.
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