Finding our boondocking home in the Alabama Hills of California

I wake up to the sound of a screeching female voice.

Well, so much for soaking up the stillness.  I look out the window and see teenagers climbing the rocks nearby.  What?  Today’s Monday.  Shouldn’t they be in school?  Then I remember it’s Columbus Day.

Spike and Bridget go out to investigate.

I put the coffee on and go outside to sit in my camp chair next to the open door.  Now the girl is yelling to produce an echo.  This is what it’ll be like on weekends.  We’d better find a new camp.  We’re too exposed here anyway.

I pack everything up and we pull out.

This is why I rarely unhitch right away when dispersed camping.  I’ve found it’s best to live in a campsite for a day to make sure it’s where I want us to stay.

Back on Movie Road, I see in my side mirror someone behind us towing a Casita.

I pull over.  It’s “Casita Greg” and his wife.  I met Greg during the parade the day we arrived at Lone Pine. He and his wife have been camping at one of the campgrounds nearby.  He gives me directions to a level, secluded campsite they found further back in the Alabama Hills.

“A big motorhome was parked there.  They just moved out.”  Then he adds, “We’re leaving now.  We’re gonna’ camp there the next time we’re here.”

I thank them both and head for the site.

I park the BLT next to two big boulders so that they form two sides of an outdoor “room” with the BLT being the third side, and a pleasant view the fourth.  I park so that the BLT’s refrigerator is shaded in the afternoon.  I grab the patio mat out of the PTV (important to keep sand out of the BLT), unfold it, and stake the corners against the surprise wind common in the desert.  Then I position my lounger and side table on the mat.  I like this!  This is shaping up nicely!

I set up the canine condo and also put out the dog bed. 

Spike and Bridget come back from inspecting the perimeter of our site, take a big drink, and pick a place to settle next to me. Yes, this is home!

(As soon as I receive in the mail the gift of a camera promised me by a dear friend, I’ll post lots of photos of our campsite, the Alabama Hills, and Mt. Whitney.  I’m postponing reports of the area until I have a working camera.)

I do what I’ve been wanting to do for months — clean out the PTV! 

All this moving around the West has everything tangled up and dirty.  I devote one day to taking everything out, sorting and setting aside things to donate or throw away, cleaning out the dust, sand, pine needles, etc., and putting my possessions back in an organized way.  A side benefit is I find the cheapo sewer hose that came with the BLT!

Later the crew and I make the short trip into Lone Pine.

I pick up some groceries and drop some trash in the bins by the park.  At the Visitors’ Center at the south end of town, I buy a postcard for my aunt in northern New York who doesn’t go online.  I find the post office (closed for Columbus Day), the movie museum, a thrift store, a hardware store, and the library. 

I’m going to enjoy staying here for two weeks!



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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55 Responses to Finding our boondocking home in the Alabama Hills of California

  1. The Good Luck Duck says:

    Southern NY like downstate, or like the southern tier? We’re from Ithaca.

  2. WJ says:

    Sue, Enjoy your two weeks there. Spent time today tidying up my RV as taking it south for five months next week or so. Found lots of things I don’t need in here. Leaving MD oceanfront tomorrow for home/farm to do laundry and catch up w/daughter who is there. VERY nice and quiet here at Assateague State Park. REALLY enjoy your posts—Hi to the dogs; I have four GREAT cats, but they do not RV w/ me. Jane

  3. a dear friend says:

    Camera is on it’s way. Had to wait for new batteries to arrive from Amazon.

  4. Sue says:

    Can’t wait to see pictures. Are all the boondocking/public land stays found by word of mouth or are you also looking on line and/or in a book too? If it is online and in a book could you pass along the name of both. I would love to do some research.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      My usual way of finding boondocking places is to do a search like “boondocking near (name of town).” This will bring up the usual websites like, but also blogs and forums where a boondock has been mentioned in the locale I’m interested in. In the case of Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, I learned from other people who boondock. Several people told me, online and offline, that there were a lot of places to camp for free along Route 395 and around Lone Pine.

  5. Kim says:

    Sounds like the perfect new homestead. Can’t wait to see the pics. (My current desktop background is Bridget rolling her eyes at the camera and Spike is settled into the condo in the background. Too funny!).

  6. Hi Sue,

    Sometimes I feel so much in common with you. I also would’ve pulled up from the “popular” campsite and fled the upcoming crowd. So glad the three of you are peacefully settled – hope it stays quiet.

    Trotters are heading south down the East coast this weekend, our first long drive since buying the trailer. I admit, I’m a little nervous – been tossing and turning the last few nights. I know, I know, it’s no big deal.

    Truth is, I’m having so much fun with this lifestyle, I sometimes feel guilty!

    Lisa and Trotters

    P.S. Glad to hear Bridget is on all four paws, even if just a bit.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I love your line “I’m having so much fun with this lifestyle, I sometimes feel guilty!”

      I’ve had that feeling, too. Usually it occurs when I wake up before daybreak and feel like I’m supposed to be somewhere… and then I realize I don’t have to go anywhere I don’t want to or do anything I don’t want to… I’m retired, I’ve got wheels, and I call the shots!

      Have a great time, Lisa! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. CT says:

    Can’t wait to see pics of your current site – sounds heavenly!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I want to show off our campsite so badly… A lot of the tourists that come to the Alabama Hills are photographers. I see them with their cameras and I’m ready to pull the hair out of my head.

  8. Sra. Julia says:

    I feel the same way about campsites that you do …. I prefer peaceful camps not in the middle of a noisy bunch of people. All the disturbances to my tranquillity have been people generated not the area the weather or equipment malfunction. I hope your camera arrives safe and sound we enjoy your photos.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You know, I was thinking the same thing, Kay Julia. People wonder how I can stand being alone, away from people. I wonder how people can stand being around other people so much… It’s other people that cause disturbances, irritations, noise, etc. Being alone avoids all that.

      I miss the photos, too. They inspire my writing.

  9. Cathie Laurent says:

    Bet it feels good to clean out and get rid of some stuff!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It sure does, Cathie. It got so I was just throwing things into the back of the PTV because it was so messed up anyway. So when I wanted to get anything out, I’d pull out a tangle of stuff… so annoying!

  10. Timber n' me says:

    Wow sue, last time i been thru ther i camp’d et th’ Ft. Indapendnce camp groung just north of town fer a week with th’ donkee’s,,back in 05′ wen we headin nort from Holcome valley,Ron-D-Voo. is town jus as ol’ fashion as it was back then

  11. Jean Burke says:

    Enjoy reading about your travels
    I can’t wait til I can retire and do the same. I went to Rice, TX and toured Casita plant and that’s what I want when I travel !
    Being in the airline business for 25 years an airport is last place on earth I want to go when I retire

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’ve never been a big fan of air travel. I smiled to read you’re planning on a Casita. I think a Casita is perfect for one person who wants to be able to get off the main roads to camp. Another reader is touring the Casita plant this week.

  12. Marcia says:

    Sue, you are in one of my all-time favorite areas. Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, Mt. Witney are soooo beautiful. I hope your camping area stays quiet and peaceful. Any plans to try Death Valley?
    Can’t wait to see your pics!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      We’re in a peaceful spot now. You’ll see what I mean once I post a long-view photo of our campsite!

      I don’t think we’ll try Death Valley this year.

  13. TexCyn says:

    Sounds like your little piece of Heaven! CAn’t wait to see the pics.

  14. earthdancerimages says:

    So nice to have such good friends to send you a new camera! I miss your photographs and can’t wait to see where you are! Sounds wonderful! Enjoy your 2 week vacation! Hugs to the crew too! I’m so glad Bridget is healing so well! Your angel is still watching over you and crew!

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      You would absolutely love being here with your camera. I see groups come in — photography classes maybe — on the Movie Road. Everyone has a tripod and a camera that looks like a cannon (not a Canon, a cannon!) . . . lenses out to here! Right now the clouds are being very weird and beautiful, hanging on the mountaintops.

      Bridget is doing great! I try to keep her from jumping, but sometimes she scoots around me when I try to lift her up, because she wants to show off how she can jump. I hope she doesn’t tear something doing her little antics. She’s irrepressible!

  15. Glenda Cornwill says:

    Will look forward to seeing photos of your new camp………………better luck with this new camerea too…………no more break downs!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I try to be good to my cameras. I’m just hard on them, I guess, like I am on clothes. I’m going to try very hard to take good care of this one, keep it in a case, not let the sand and moisture get at it.

  16. Sherry says:

    I too leave campgrounds if it becomes just too many people and their noisy toys and inconsiderate behavior. I know they have to have fun to the max on their 2 days a week but I much prefer as far out of the way as I can get.

    It’s great that your black and gray tanks will suffice for a full 2 weeks and so does your fresh water. And so wonderful that you have all the electricity you need from your solar panels. That’s how self sufficient I want to be so that I too can get WAY OFF the beaten path. I do love being alone with the natural world as my only sights and sounds.

    Hugs to you and the crew.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Sherry,

      I drove up Whitney Portal Road to a campground, just looking around. It’s nice, but I’d rather be where I’m camped. Like you wrote, “alone with the natural world as my only sights and sounds,” excepting Spike’s gas-letting, talking in his sleep, and barks, of course.

      The first thing that will probably need attention is the black waste tank. If I need to, I can take the BLT up to that campground to dump.

      It may sound crazy, but I actually enjoy the problem-solving that comes with this life… where’s the laundromat in a new town, do I have enough propane, where do I dump tanks, etc.

      Warm wishes to you and David.

  17. Cari says:

    Hi, Sue! It’s official – I got my new ID card from the military that says USN-RET (US Navy – Retired) on it. I’ll get my military pension check starting Nov. 1, and I’ve even got health insurance now! I’m still going to work my part-time job for another year, to save up to pay cash for an RV and/or tow vehicle. I may not wait that long, depends on how I feel, and reading your blog, and those of other full-timers, is inspiring and educational.

    I found your comment about not hooking up the first night when dispersed camping interesting. I would not have thought of that. I’m like you in that I don’t like a lot of people around. When I’m at a state park cabin, I want peace and quiet, not company. I’m sure I’ll feel the same when I start RVing.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Congratulations on your retirement, Cari! Good for you!

      There are other reasons not to unhitch right away when dispersed camping, in addition to checking out the noise/people factor. I like to watch how the sun and shadows play across the BLT and my outdoor sitting area… Am I warmed by the sun in the morning? Is there shade on the fridge and me during the hottest part of the day? Is the solar panel getting enough sunshine? Does the campsite “feel” right? Sometimes, the second day, I change the angle of the BLT. I might move the BLT and PTV forward or back so more sun hits the panel.

  18. Alison says:

    I’ve been camping and boondocking alone, including backpacking, for many years. So many people have said “aren’t you afraid being alone in the wilderness?” No! I’m not afraid of wilderness, not even bears (I’ve seen lots). But I am occasionally afraid of people. (Hardly ever though.)
    At some point, when you feel like it, would you say more about your decision to carry a gun?

    • Alison says:

      I love the quiet of being alone in nature. Actually it’s not quiet at all, there is so much to hear when there are no loud people or machines around. Have you heard of the “one square inch of silence” project in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Alison! I don’t know what you want to know about my decision to have a gun. I assume you read my post about going for orientation at the gun range….

      I don’t like guns. I was not reared around guns. With no brothers, ours was a female-dominated house. Nevertheless I was talked into acquiring a gun and now that I have one, I’m glad. I probably won’t ever have cause to use it, but it’s nice to know I have that option. I will never allow myself to be victimized, if I can in any way help it.

      In a year on the road I have not had any scares, human or animal. Even the mama grizzly that lumbered in front of the PTV left us alone!

      • Alison says:

        Fear and guns are a dark topic and you’re in a good mood so please ignore or put this off if you want…
        I too was not raised with guns but have at times wondered if I should have one on my solo adventures. But then I think more about it and I wonder how I’d know for sure it’s time to use it. By the time it’s 100% sure I’m in serious danger it could be too late. So what percentage certainty would I need before I cross the line? I figured you’d thought about this.

  19. Kathryn says:

    I love the quiet too Susan. I love the sound of quiet when all I can hear are multiple kitties purring. I hope you enjoy your new spot. Guess what..I am in a hotel tonight. I had a big tmj procedure and the next biggy will be next week. Maybe I am ending 10 years of face and head pain. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Thinking of you often and the crew too. K

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Kathryn… I hope and pray the surgery gives you relief. I’m sorry you have to go through the procedures though. I can see you at home relaxing with “multiple kitties purring.”

      It’s so nice to hear from you. I was happy to get your long email. I never have anything to say in an email because I’ve already blabbed in this blog! Take care, sweetie… all the best to you.

  20. Timber n' me says:

    AAAw sue, Like muulaa n’ company, ya got ta have a little sometimes, you told me that a while back,,,,,, not those ones, that pulls right et yer door to camp n’ show how much they got, there noiszee toys, but the ones off a distance ,like’ is that aaaaa camo truck way down there

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I often read your entrys to Hubby…we both enjoy your writing and sharing your experiences. Also the helpful hints are great!!

  22. Dianne says:

    We enjoyed our stay in Lone Pine in the fall of 2010. We also enjoyed the movie museum and a bakery in Bishop. It’s definitely a place we plan to return to! Envious that you could camp right in the Alabama hills!!

  23. Ron says:

    I get sort of amused at folks attitude about guns, It is a machine that will not do a thing until you make it fire, It could sit in your trailer for a hundred years and never hurt a thing. Now a butcher knife is dangerous , you can bump it and cut your self , drop it and have it stick into the top of your foot,fall on it. Well you get the point.
    Glad you are carrying.
    I was raised around firearms and love them ,it is a good hobby just target practicing.

    • Timber n' me says:

      No pun intend’d’ but a long time ago, i knew this fella, who would jus clean his shootin iron n’ let all see him do it,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,nobody botherd him ever

  24. Caron Chris and Dixie says:

    Its great to see you in Lone Pine Sue. We were there last Christmas. It is a wonderful area, lots of fun and we hope to return some day. Glad to see you guys are doing well also. Maybe we’ll see you back in Darby Wells this winter. Dixie says woof to Spike and Bridget.

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