I want to show you some pics of the neat boondocking area here.
If you’re traveling through southern California in the Barstow – Victorville area, free camping is available at Sawtooth Canyon Campground (as I write this in November 2012).
It’s not going to remain free forever though.
However, free dispersed camping is available directly across from the campground entrance, across route 247, in the “limited use” area.
Yesterday I have a long lean-on-the-pick-up conversation with Ranger Jim.
Limited use, I learn from Ranger Jim, is the term for an area designated by the Bureau of Land Management for camping and Off-Highway Vehicle riding, while at the same time protecting the plants, wildlife and character of an area. People are allowed to camp and ride OHVs on those roads within that area that have a post at their beginning which states “open route.”
“The trouble is people won’t stay on the open routes,” Ranger Jim tells me with exasperation. “So for people like you (meaning people who camp and don’t OHV ride), that’s great.”
Ranger Jim sees my confused look. “Because if they keep tearing up the desert over there, it won’t be limited use any more. The OHVers won’t be allowed at all.”
Then Ranger Jim shares a little history about Sawtooth Canyon Campground, which he’s been associated with since its creation.
“This used to be an OHV place. One weekend there was a big bunch of OHVers in here, tearing up the vegetation. It was a mess. The district director had an emergency closure declared and, that very same day, the OHVers were shut out of here forever. Now the plants and wildlife are coming back. People from Los Angeles can bring their kids out here and see coyotes and chukars and desert tortoises.”
Today the crew and I wake up to a cold morning and grey sky with heavy cloud cover.
I fire up the PTV’s engine, turn on its heater, and pop Bridget and Spike inside. Soon it’s warm and toasty inside. We head into town to do laundry, pick up a few groceries, and fill a propane tank.
This is the first time in the fifteen months I’ve been on the road that I remove the propane tank from the BLT and take it somewhere to be filled. Up until now I always needed to dump or fill a tank in the BLT at the same time, so I drove the BLT to the propane place. I don’t need to dump or fill any tanks right now, just need propane. With this cold snap, I don’t want to be running out of propane for our little Wave 3 heater.
Driving around Barstow, I look and look and can’t find a gas station that sells propane!
Then I see a big propane tank sitting in the parking lot of the U-Haul place. I didn’t know U-Haul sells propane! I zip right in there and buy 4.2 gallons at $3.33 a gallon.
I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let’s back up a bit .
Driving out the dirt, campground road to the paved highway, I stop, bring the window down, and listen to the coyotes. A jackrabbit dashes across in front of the PTV.
The dirt road is narrow in places, but it wouldn’t be hard to maneuver a big rig over it.
I find some great campsites suitable for a rig of any size. There’s a section where you can look out over the immense valley to the north, to Barstow and the mountains beyond. I try to photograph the view but in this gloomy light, my photos don’t do it justice. I turn the PTV around before we get to the end of the road, but I can tell the road goes a long way back into the desert from the highway.
If it weren’t for the possibility of OHV riders, I’d consider this a perfect boondock area. I’d pick a spot next to a tall pile of boulders for shade and a windbreak, but close enough to the open area to set up a chair and enjoy the wide-angle view.
Today I don’t see one OHV, probably because it’s windy. (I take the photos from inside the PTV to protect the camera.)
This is good-to-know information.
If for some reason you don’t want to camp at the Sawtooth Campground or it grows in popularity and is full when you arrive, the dispersed camping across the road is an excellent second option. (I no longer recommend this area for dispersed camping. See note at end of post.) Both places are about fifteen miles south of Barstow on Route 247.
Ranger Jim told me a desert tortoise is over in the sand of the playground area.
I go over there to take a look and a photo, but I don’t see it. I hope my luck at viewing a tortoise isn’t like my luck viewing elk!
Bridget and Spike sleep a lot when we’re in cold weather.
Right now they’re in dreamland in the middle of the afternoon. Last night I enjoyed my first hot chocolate of the season. A cold wind still blows, which is not very good weather for weekend campers and rock-climbers. Fulltime vagabonds like me and my crew, however, will hunker down and see it through!
IMPORTANT NOTE: ONE YEAR LATER . . . The OHVers wrecked the road, smashed vegetation, and turned the campsites into parking lots. I no longer recommend the area across from Sawtooth Canyon Campground for dispersed camping.