First Thoughts on Boondocking

first-boondocking-1My first day boondocking. I’ve been waiting for this experience since I first started dreaming about full-timing five years ago. When I purchased Cas and Bertha, I had fully intended to buy solar equipment and other boondocking gear at the start, but then I decided I couldn’t take it at my vet tech job any longer and I hit the road with about $1,500 less in the bank that originally planned. That was what got cut out.

When I imagined what boondocking would be like, I thought about laying in bed at night with the windows open, watching the stars. I thought about sitting in my camp chair in my pajamas reading, with no one nearby to care about what I was wearing. I thought about being able to step outside my door, picking a direction and start walking, and immediately being surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Well, lows here in Quartzsite have been in the mid 30’s to low 40’s, so no sleeping with a window open. In fact I put the reflectix up in the windows at night to hold in heat so I don’t see the stars in bed. So far, I’ve been camping near groups, so no sitting outside in my pajamas either. Then, I have to be careful about where I take my walks, so as not to invade other’s privacy.

My first boondocking camp, at the RTR

My first boondocking camp, at the RTR

But these are temporary circumstances, easily rectified if I had a mind to. Even here in the bustling RV metropolis of “Q”, there is plenty of open space to go park in, far away from others, where I could enjoy a morning cup of cocoa in my pajamas or a leisurely stroll without seeing another human being. I could drive south to Yuma, where temperatures are a bit warmer for nighttime star viewing, or invest in a colder weather sleeping bag or be less stingy with my Little Buddy heater.

For right now though, I’m happy where I am. I’m getting to meet a lot of folks in person finally who’ve I’ve been friends with online for years and am thoroughly enjoying my first two rally experiences. And just because I’m camping with groups, doesn’t mean I can’t also get out and do some exploring. On Wednesday (the 13th) I left the Casita and started walking east, where the land is designated day use only and no overnight camping is allowed.

Unknown cactus, and a gravestone along a dirt road

Unknown cactus, and a gravestone along a dirt road

The desert around here is very rocky, what folks call “desert concrete”. You can drive over it safely, it’s a hard surface. Where you see sand is where care is needed, it’s not likely to be packed down and trying to drive over it can result in sinking and getting stuck.

desert concrete

Desert concrete

Saguaro cactus are the most showy plant out here, but there is a surprising amount of vegetation for a desert. Green barked palo verde trees and at least one other type of tree (ironwood maybe?) stand alongside dry washes, waiting for rain. They don’t grow as tall as trees in wetter climates do, but they’re still undeniably trees. Creosote bushes still have some leaves on them, brittle tiny green spades that break off when touched.

Palo verde tree

Palo verde tree

Barrel cactus with their distinctive red spines and cholla with their furry appearance are easy to identify, but smaller ones remain a mystery. Lizards dart between thickets of brush at my approach, too fast to catch more than a glimpse of. Far from being a wasteland, the desert is surprisingly alive.

Left to right: barrel cactus, saguaro cactus, cholla cactus

Cactus galore! Left to right: barrel, saguaro (with an ocotillo growing at the base), cholla

About twenty minutes into the walk, a thick line of vegetation stretches ahead. It’s a wash, a really big one.

I wonder what it looked like during the rains last week. Judging by what I saw flowing across the road in Maricopa, I bet it was quite impressive. In some places, the ground is still visibly damp, but any puddles have long since soaked into the ground.

Big wash

Big wash

I sit along the edge overlooking the wash and be still for a while. A light breeze plays through the trees, and high wispy clouds drift over the sun, dappling the mountains in the distance. All is calm and peaceful.

Yep, the wait was worth it!

Finally got one of those mind-blowing Arizona sunsets on Wednesday, wow!

Finally got one of those mind-blowing Arizona sunsets on Wednesday. Colors have not been edited, woohoo!

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  1. Blaize Sun on February 3, 2016 at 11:14 am

    It was nice to meet you in person, Becky.

    I was introduced to some really wonderful boondocking areas near Ajo, AZ and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The camping is on BLM land. I will have a blog post about it soon (I hope). Once the post is up, I will add a link for you here in your comments section.

    • Becky on February 3, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      Yes Blaize! Good times.

      I’ve heard Ajo is a beautiful area for boondocking and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Organ Pipe cactus before so that area is definitely on my list.

  2. Rob Getman on January 30, 2016 at 6:47 am

    Have enjoyed your writing. I’ve been on the road 5 years and went solar about 1 year ago. Boondocking ever since. Amazing the savings in RV site expense (2012 $30 daily avg, 2015 $7.91 daily average). I combine solar boondocking with NOMADS service work for churches & disaster sights as well as staying at Walmart, Cracker Barrel, etc for my 1 day in route stops. Hoping to get below $5 daily avg in 2016. We shall see.

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Sounds like a good goal Rob. Yeah, so far costs are way down for not being on a job somewhere (that’s still a bit cheaper than boondocking for me as I don’t have to pay to go to dump stations and take on water) but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than staying in parks!

      Glad you’re enjoying IO and thanks for reading.

  3. Lindsay on January 21, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Your pictures look amazing! I look forward to hearing more about boondocking, my husband has been trying to get me to open up to it since last year!

    • Becky on January 22, 2016 at 10:17 am

      I’ve enjoyed it immensely Lindsay! One of the best reasons to try boondocking is all the great photo opportunities to be found, I hope you’ll at least give it a chance. πŸ™‚

  4. Snayte on January 18, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Temps in the 20s and 30s sound great. We are expecting a high below zero here in Wisconsin today.

    • Becky on January 19, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Yeeeeah, my friends and family up there tell me it’s been cold. One of the reasons why I moved away from Wisconsin six years ago. πŸ˜‰ Stay warm Snayte!

  5. Jim Schmechel on January 18, 2016 at 9:58 am

    I am so happy to hear you are enjoying the desert! πŸ™‚ Isn’t it interesting how things don’t turn out like you imagined they would? You imagined star gazing out your windows and sipping cocoa in your pajamas. But you found something else that is calm and peaceful to your soul. I hope this time of contentment continues for you!
    Jim Schmechel recently posted..Who am I?My Profile

    • Becky on January 19, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      I’ll get my star gazing in another month or so when the weather warms up a little. Actually I got to do a little star gazing last night at the outdoor movie… more about that soon. Thanks Jim, enjoy Wisconsin.

  6. Jodee Gravel on January 16, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    If you were at the Boondocking talk at Xscapers on Friday I’m so bummed I missed you. Our weather is so great – glad you’re enjoying your time here.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Quartzsite Starts Off With a Bang!!My Profile

    • Becky on January 17, 2016 at 4:17 pm

      I was Jodee! It’s sad that we missed each other, but I’m sure other opportunities will arise. The weather has been great.

  7. Jeff Agueda on January 16, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Winterhaven is where the nice weather is, just saying. Ha-ha. Looks like a fun time up there in Q though! I will try to push some warm air up to all of you boondockers πŸ™‚
    Jeff Agueda recently posted..Insulating a Pop-up Camper using ReflectixMy Profile

    • Becky on January 17, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Not that I’d call the weather here “bad” per say but thanks Jeff. The Xscapers group has moved to a new location in the dome rock area, it’s really pretty!

  8. Sue on January 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Becky, I just found your blog and wanted to say Hi….I’m getting ready to go full time and wanting to connect with other RV women. Looking forward to following your adventure

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      Welcome to IO Sue, glad to have you here! If you haven’t found it yet, I have a lot of good articles for prospective full-timers posted under the “Useful Stuff” tab at the top of the blog. Best of luck to you and hope to hear from you on the road soon!

  9. Dawn from Camano Island on January 16, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Hey, Becky! So glad you’re enjoying your boondocking experience & the desert! We’ve been down the road at La Posa South Tyson Wash & love it. Very quiet, a lot of privacy (especially when the Big Tent closes) & we have water, garbage & dump for $50/2 weeks. I’ve heard the Main St. Laundromat has really nice showers if you’re needing one. It’s a great laundromat too & has a nice little restaurant attached.

    Oh, the other tree is a mesquite. It’s got thorns & rough bark–I love the Palo Verde. The creosote or greasewood bush is what gives the desert is’ amazing smell, especially after a rain.

    Worker-force was at the Bug Tent today recruiting. There were also people recruiting for Grand Canyon & Balloon Fiesta. That’s where I want to volunteer–just trying to figure out how I could drag Jim away from home during salmon season.

    Have fun! Stay warm.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      Ahh, thanks for the identification Dawn! Glad to hear you’re enjoying La Posa. I have been making use of the laundromat shower. πŸ˜‰

      Yeah, it’s Nancy and Joni in the CamperForce booth, the HR ladies from Haslet. I’m going in to bug them probably Monday or Tuesday. If you’re looking for a summer job, Q is a good place to go to find one. Maybe some year you can drag Jim out. πŸ™‚

  10. Terri on January 16, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I love meeting people in person that I have been talking to online – it’s so awesome when you meet someone and feel like you’ve known each other for years. Because you have! πŸ™‚

    I do love the AZ sunsets – I have family in Bullhead City/Fort Mojave, and I loved how the mountains would turn pink in the sunset light. Btw, what are you doing about the shower situation while you are there? I know you haven’t used it much or at all since you got Cas, right? Do they have showers or stuff set up that you can use while you are there?

    FYI, I will write you privately on facebook about the rig search!
    Terri recently posted..No Matter How Old You Are, You’re Still Someone’s BabyMy Profile

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      Yep it’s neat Terri, both the sunsets and meeting people I’ve known online, haha.

      The laundromat in Q has pay showers, as do other places.

  11. Diane on January 16, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Boondocking is so enjoyable in the right place, of course! The east coast is really limited, but on the west coast and southwest, opportunities pop up all around! We’ve had great experiences! Glad you’re getting the feel for it!

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Yep so far so good Diane!

  12. David Swanson on January 16, 2016 at 8:35 am

    And guess what? Boondocking keeps getting better and better! I’ve done 18 months of mostly boondocking and moving every few days. Except for the wonderful people at the RTR , honestly, this is the least interesting place I’ve found so far…

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      People always ask me which place I’ve loved the best of my travels and I can’t give an answer because I love them all in different ways. I imagine boondocking will be similar for me. πŸ™‚

  13. Jan on January 16, 2016 at 7:20 am

    Glad you are enjoying your time at Q. This is the coldest winter I have experienced since living here, not that long however only since Jan. ’09, but plan to sell my condo in Scottsdale and buy a RV and make it my home on wheels. Thanks for your great writings, may you have nothing but happy trails.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks Jan. It sounds like El Nino is to blame for the colder weather this year, but it’s still a heck of a lot warmer than other parts of the country so I’m happy!

  14. Nancy on January 16, 2016 at 7:11 am

    If you’re interested in the amazing amount of life in the Sonoran desert, visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson would be a real eye opener. You’ll be able to see animals that are likely keeping you company where you’re camped without your knowing it and learn the identities of all those cacti and other plants as well. Well worth the time and admission fee! I lived in Tucson for a couple of years of grad school and was surprised to find myself falling in love with an area I’d previously thought of as dry and barren.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks for the tip Nancy! Sounds like a place worth visiting.

  15. Chuck McConkey on January 16, 2016 at 6:27 am

    Thank you so much for your wonderfully written and pictures. Since I can’t enjoy this lifestyle yet as my wife says there’s “no way in hell” she’s doing this I’m at least able to experience the life through your posts. Again. Thank You

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      You’re welcome Chuck!

  16. chuck on January 16, 2016 at 3:52 am

    BTW…what writing did the grave marker have on it?
    just wondering if its someones pet?

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Nope, a woman.

  17. chuck on January 16, 2016 at 3:48 am

    any thots on getting a traveling companion like maybe
    a dog or a cat?
    you paint a nice picture on your walk out in the desert….
    keep up the good work.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      I’m mentioned in past posts about adopting someday Chuck, but the time’s not right yet.

  18. PXLated on January 16, 2016 at 12:48 am

    Is Quartzite – with thousands of other campers – considered boondocking? I always thought it was just dry camping.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Everyone’s definition of boondocking (and even full-timing for that matter) varies PXL. If I was in a parking lot, or a designated camp site without hookups, I call that dry camping and there are certainly places like that in Quartzsite. I’m farther out of town though and it’s not like that out here.

  19. mratlas on January 15, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying your time in Q. This place grows on you and I always look forward to my yearly visit. The RV show starts tomorrow and the big tent should have alot of organizations recruiting work campers if your interested in checking it out.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      I’m definitely stopping by the big tent Mr Atlas, probably on Monday though to let the initial crowds disperse some.

  20. George on January 15, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    The wife and I ear pj’s in the evening even in campgrounds. Never had anyone complain.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Not a problem of people complaining so much as what I feel comfortable with.

  21. Gary on January 15, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Glad you are engulfed by the beauty of the desert. It’s an amazing place. Like the ocean you need to respect it and prepare for it. Water is the most important essential here. I’m definitely jealous. When I pack up camp here in Mesa in March, I am headed that way for a few days before moving on to California.

    Great post. Made me feel like I was there. πŸ™‚
    Gary recently posted..The Flu Hits AgainMy Profile

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Gary! It is an amazing place, and the longer I’m here the more I appreciate it. Enjoy yourself when you get back here!

  22. RGupnorth on January 15, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Will be curious to know if you end up getting solar or if you will be able to do enough with just lp. Did you get your refrigerator fixed?

  23. Dawn on January 15, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Glad you got to enjoy one of the spectacular AZ sunsets. I remember those from a trip years ago. I’ll be interested how you feel about boondocking once you get an opportunity to be out there alone. It should be wonderful. This is wonderful too of course..and you will learn a ton from others in your group.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Yep Dawn, hoping to get out and try some of that type of boondocking soon!

      Yesterday’s sunset has the potential to be like that one with the high clouds in the sky but it didn’t quite make it there. Wasn’t shabby though by any means.

  24. Marilyn, Dania Beach, FL on January 15, 2016 at 3:30 pm


    Another excellent entry. You certainly have a gift as your writing is so interesting. Maybe it is the subject matter but I doubt it.

    Enjoy you boondocking time. It should be a wonderful experience.

    Marilyn, Dania Beach, FL

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Marilyn, thanks for reading!

      It’s easier to write about things I enjoy than things I don’t, and I have certainly enjoyed my experience here so far.

  25. Swankie on January 15, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Nice to finally meet you, if only passing on the road. Actually the black tarnish on the rocks out here is called Desert Asphalt. Someone in the “vandweller” circles confused that and called it desert concrete but I have never heard it called that before. There is so much to see here. Hope you get to learn some of Q’s secrets.

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Several people at RTR referred to the rocky areas as desert concrete, and they definitely weren’t talking about the color of the rocks but the presence of them. Maybe they’re two separate things?

      Either way yes, it was great to meet you Swankie! Hope you’re having a good time. πŸ™‚

  26. pamelab on January 15, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Hi, Becky –
    I am so happy for you to be having this experience – RTR and the boondocking! Staying dry and enjoying those sunsets and sunrises are so wonderful. Happy Trails and, as always, thank you for your blog and all the good information you provide.
    Pamela in Houston

    • Becky on January 16, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Thanks Pamela. Glad you’re enjoying IO and thank you for following along! The desert is an amazing place…

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