For the past year, I’ve been prepping myself with information on what it takes to sustain camping in an unplugged, self sufficient location. Everyplace we’ve camped to this point has been at paid campgrounds with full facilities and hookups. With Arizona’s plethora of free BLM land, we knew we wanted to at least try boondocking somewhere in AZ if only once.
Boondocking or Dispersed Camping is the official terminology for camping without hookups (No Power, Water, or Sewer)
Some of the most incredible locations in the country are in or around places that allow you to camp for free or next to nothing; so long as you can be self sufficient and leave the area in the same condition you found it. As we drive into and through Arizona, it becomes quite obvious the landscape is completely different than everything we’ve seen so far. These pics were taken by the girls as they too were impressed with some of the unique mountain shapes
We researched locations that might be suitable for our size RV by using the website https://freecampsites.net/ . This is a crowd sourced directory of locations and information each potential campsite might offer. The first location we were interested in checking out was Buckeye Hills Regional Park. As we pulled in the road was hard packed and partially paved so that was a good sign that we would be able to drive the RV through it. We drove into the park about a mile and to our right was this site that looked like it could potentially fit us although it was clearly a site configured for a trailer about half our size.
The location itself was at the end of it’s own driveway area and quite breathtaking to say the least. Quickly after setup the girls took to the area and began playing. We arrived at Buckeye Hills Regional Park a little on the later side so we didn’t have a ton of time left to do anything except enjoy the sunset and have dinner. Despite the numerous warnings of rattlesnakes that will be found in the area, we knew that their likelihood of being out was nominal due to the colder temperatures that we were having during our stay. As evening turned to night, we had a crystal clear sky full of stars and the brightest moon I’ve ever seen. So for the first time we took out our telescope and explored the skies a little. Honestly, though; I hadn’t done enough research as to which types of animals inhabited the area we were staying in, so out of fear of the unknown, we retired into the RV early and regrouped for an early morning start and day of exploring. Morning came and we got to officially utilize our Honda generator. A full tank of gas can see this baby running for 8 hours and that was plenty of time to get some schooling done, and some office work on the computers. Leighton had a little trip and fall incident, but Dr Shayla quickly sprung into action and treated her patient with premium healthcare. Surprisingly Leighton actually allowed her to take care of the life threatening wound. With a fresh Doc McStuffins bandaid, they were back in action only minutes later. Setting up in a dust filled park (it is the desert after all), daily vacuuming was necessary to keep the RV safe of too many allergens etc. Shayla enjoys this chore the most I think. Having central vac in the rv has proven to be a huge benefit to keeping it clean and the air quality inside at it’s best. Jen schooled the girls while I worked on the computer inside. Cole took in as much sun as possible, as usual. Leighton finally got to break out her new Christmas gift of a compound bow. We swapped out the real arrows for suction cup ones and she made short work of the side of the RV as a target. Shayla on the other hand decided that since we were in Arizona, she would just tan. Our family hike took us to the top of the mountain situated behind the RV. As the afternoon was coming to a close, the girls wanted to head back to the top of the mountain and catch some scenic photos with their cameras. It was a relatively short hike but we were still very cautious of small cactuses and the ever present danger of rattlesnakes. Somebody tossed this tube tv out halfway up the mountain. #litter and #art His super wide shot shows the whole park and our RV is smack in the center about a 1/2 mile away. The sunsets impressed the girls for the first time during our trip. They both tried to capture them on their cameras but became frustrated with their results. I took a few minutes out and sat with Leighton and tried to help her capture what she was intending to get. The photo below on the left is hers. As night fell again, I took this chance to capture some stars and also capture a 30 minute exposure. Although our scene would have been amazing for some milky way photos; the moon was almost full during our stay. That near full moon was so bright here that we actually had full blown shadows under ourselves at night, and I knew that was going to be too much light for really amazing night shots. This was my best compromise of a long exposure sky shot. Camera settings for this shot are Nikon D4 14mm f20 ISO100 for 30minutes.
These last two photos are 360 Degree Panoramas that we experimented with. I had purchased a Google Cardboard viewer and with my Nexus 6P and Google camera I can capture 360 photos and view them in virtual reality through the Cardboard. If you want to see how they look on your phone, You can download the first one here. And the second photo here. They came out pretty cool when using the cardboard viewer. We are definitely going to have to do this more in the future.