Part One – the Blog
This blog was created to keep me out of trouble by creating an outlet for my more constructive interests. I enjoy writing and I enjoy camping so viola, another travel blog. With the information and stories I share on this site, I hope to encourage and help folks to get out and visit our public lands. I will try to describe what they are, where they are, how to get there, and what gear you might need, how to be safe getting there and while exploring, and ultimately how to camp in “undesignated” camp sites. I hope to instill confidence and empower people who may not have ventured out to these lands to get out and enjoy some of the more remote areas of the Golden State [link]. For those perhaps somewhat familiar with these areas, I hope to energize them to get back out there and explore new areas, different types of country, and maybe go at a different time of year. Ultimately, I hope we all will appreciate and value these lands that have been set aside for all of us to enjoy, with free admission, whenever we want.
California is about 101 million acres in size; the [US Forest Service (USFS)] manages about 21 million acres acres in California and the [Bureau of Land Management (BLM)] manages another 15 million acres in California. There are other federal government agencies that manage land in the State ([Department of Defense], [National Park Service(NPS)], [Fish and Wildlife Service], [Bureau of Reclamation], [US Army Corps of Engineers], [National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)], [Bureau of Indian Affairs(BIA)]), but it is more difficult to access, more difficult to find, not free to enter, has more restrictions and regulations, or isn’t open to the public at all. Also, some of these federal agencies have designated land as Wilderness areas, which means no vehicle/motorized access and a host of other rules and regulations, so we won’t be going there either.
Some “public lands” are managed by other levels of government such as the State, county, city, regional and/or some form of combined or shared jurisdiction, but these are few and far between, typically charge an entrance fee, are heavily used, and heavily regulated. There are of course private lands and large parcels of land held by trusts, conservancies or other preservation-leaning non-profit groups. These are all well and good, but access to these lands is discouraged or totally illegal, which brings us back to the two biggies – USFS and BLM.
This is where I spend the majority of my time. Why? Because all you need to enter the vast majority of these 35 million acres throughout California (about1/3 of the entire State) is to get there. The forest roads typically aren’t gated or closed. The desert doesn’t charge an admission fee (except in Blazing Saddles when all the bad guys had to stop at the gate and drop their quarters in the slot to raise the arm), you don’t need no stinkin’ reservations, it isn’t closed for the season, you don’t have to apply or hope to have your name drawn in a lottery to receive a permit. You can camp almost *anywhere you want on USFS or BLM land for free, you just go there, find a spot, and settle in. The only permit you need if you want to have a campfire, is an annual fire permit and you can get that for free once a year and you are good to go. Within some USFS and BLM boundaries, there are “Special Use Areas” such as Wilderness, Study Areas, Sensitive Habitat Zones, Breeding/Nesting Grounds, etc., which do have restrictions, but they are well marked and signed. If you like to get away from people and noise and get into some country that has not been developed, is still pretty wide open, fairly natural and wild, and full of birds, animals, plants, and trees, you should be taking advantage of these lands.
There are plenty of spectacular [National Parks] and [State Parks] set aside in California and they should all be visited in one’s lifetime – and/or in the afterlife if you can swing that. These are very special places – preserved for their spectacular beauty, special geologic/hydrologic features, vital natural habitat, historical significance, or other values. However, these parks attract a great number of people, often throughout the year, and therefore the managing agencies are forced to control and often limit access, charge an entrance fee and other fees, and provide an array of visitor amenities such as lodging, restaurants, shops, and a variety of services. These are not places to get away from people, to treasure the silence, to experience remoteness and a true sense of being “away”.
So, my goal with this blog is to educate people about their public lands, how to access them, the gear you might need, how to be safe, how to cook, sleep, and what might make the trip enjoyable and comfortable while exploring a few of the millions of acres of “your” land . I will focus specifically on “undesignated camping” – that is setting up a camp site just about anywhere you want to (there are some restrictions even on FS and BLM lands so you do have to pay attention) and staying one or multiple nights to make your trip long enough to enjoy your exploring. Since there is no campground, there will not be bathrooms, water, table, fire ring/pit – nothing. Only what you bring with you; so it is important to bring what you need, what you might need, what you might need in an emergency, and yet not bring a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Knowing which is which and what is what is the subject of this blog.
The web site has several tabs with specific information (lists of gear and equipment you might need, a sample menu, resources and links to a vast network of other helpful and interesting information. But mostly I will share some informative and hopefully interesting and entertaining stories about some of the trips I have taken with my friends and family throughout northern California and northwestern Nevada, perhaps tell a few tall tales, and hopefully cause a few smiles and a little laughter. I might also share some of things I learned while I was an altar boy that helped me prepare for the unexpected.
I hope I cause some of you to get out and find some of the many beautiful “out of the way” places in our Golden State or at the very least, to share in some of the adventures I have had with my friends and family exploring and seeking adventure car camping on California’s public lands. Thanks for visiting with me.
Part Two – The Photographs
An ulterior motive for this blog is to have a place where some of my photos can be seen, mostly by me, but for whoever else stumbles across them. I have over 4,000 slides (yes, I said slides – meaning I am old) in a closet that rarely get out, so I am glad to be able to post some of them here. I also wanted to motivate myself to start taking pictures again, as during a cross-country trip in 1987, all the film I had shot from California to New York were stolen, and that shook me so much that I just about stopped taking pictures entirely, with few exceptions, since then.
But I am over that now and I have gone on so many trips and have explored so many places, I feel stupid not to have taken any pictures on the vast majority of these trips. It is time to get back to taking pictures and, at the same time, I thought it would be fun to share some of my older photos with the universe. All of my old photos were taken with a Pentax K1000 my brother Steve gave me for my high school graduation in 1979. I still have it and have not had another camera until recently. A couple months ago, I reluctantly entered the digital era and bought a Pentax K01. I first used it on a boys trip to Monitor Pass on May 24, 2013, and I have been trying to figure it out since. To this date, it has not been out of “Full-Auto” mode so everything you see is done 100% by the camera. I hope that will change over time, but I hate to learn new things, so it will be slow.
My friends and I have gone on well over 100 camping trips since 1995 and I have camped just about every year of my life with my family. I worked for the USFS on two different forests over several seasons while going to Humboldt State. I have traveled extensively throughout northern California. I have explored some of northern Nevada and parts between San Francisco and Missoula Montana. Should you be interested in purchasing any of them, they are all for sale. Please contact me by using the “Contact” tab on this site to discuss quantities and pricing.
I hope you enjoy the pictures and the site; I hope you have a few laughs; I hope you learn or maybe are reminded of a thing or two that helps you get out and enjoy some of the wild places we still have left.