Monday, May 31, 2010

Table Mountain, Ellensburg, Washington

Backroad Destination: Table Mountain, Ellensburg, Washington

Just north of Ellensburg along I-90 is a long flat ridge known as Table Mountain.  Check out that landform in the background!  Landforms and Boondocking.  Table Mountain has lots of flat ground at an elevation of well over 6000 feet.  It does not look that high from Ellensburg.

Table Mountain has great displays of wildflowers during the month of July.  The local elk herd wanders through the area.  There are hiking, horseback, bicycle, motorcycle and jeep trails in the area.  Thousands of acres of YOUR public land to explore and enjoy.

Table Mountain is at a high elevation.  So the area is generally not accessible until late June or early July.  Check with the Cle Elum Ranger Station for current conditions  509 852 1100.  Here is a picture taken on July 22nd.  Looks rather cold for July.  But as with all mountains be prepared for anything including hot weather, rain, hail, snow, thunderstorms and two or three weather events at the same time.  July at Table Mountain is spring weather.

Here are the co-ordinates for your GPS or Google Earth.  47 15 07.51 N 120 34 39.04 W.  Do go to Google Earth for an overview of the area.  When you click on the photos you will notice that there are a lot of telescopes in the pictures!

Table Mountain is the site of the annual Table Mountain Star Party.  The star party happens during the new moon in July or August.  The association has a special use permit from the Forest Service for those dates.  You have to be registered at the Star Party to camp during those dates.  Here is the link to the  Table Mountain Star Party.

If you are interested in astronomy or have kids or grand kids that are the Table Mountain Star Party is a great place for people of all ages to discover astronomy. (photo by Peter Lind).

If you go to a Star Party, be sure to read the rules and bring a RED flashlight.  Here is a list of Star Parties throughout the United States  US Star Parties List  The dates they give for the Table Mountain Star Party are incorrect.  Be sure to click on the link and contact those all important organizers for pre-registration, rules, and directions.

The drive up Table Mountain is paved, single lane with inter-visible turnouts. Going up is easy.  Save your brakes for the trip down!  See this blog entry for more information on driving Forest Service roads.  Driving Backroads.

There is more to the town of Ellensburg than being the gateway to Table Mountain.  It is a great college town with lots of good used bookstores, great food, and some unique attractions.

That dinner out is still important for Susie.  So our recommendation is the Valley Cafe. Here is their web site: Valley Cafe, Ellensburg .  I had a great bouillabaisse that beat anything we have ever ordered over on the coast.  Great food, great wine. 

The next attraction should be on your MUST DO list if you are anywhere close to Ellensburg.  But you need to complete a homework assignment  before visiting.   At one time or another you have heard the story about a graduate student that taught chimps American sign language.  It was a simple research project.  The homework assignment is to read his book. 

The book is well worth reading.  No matter what your view of animals or your relationship to them.  To me the most moving part was when Roger Fouts tracks down some of "his" chimps.  One in particular is caged and being used for medical research.  As Roger signs his good-by the chimp signs "Roger, give me key".

In the interest of full disclosure.  I hunt. Eat meat on a regular basis.  Fish.  And my bird dog wears a shock collar.  This book is NOT about animal rights, but it will give you an interesting perspective on chimps and their world.

Roger Fouts did track down "his" chimps and moved them to Ellensburg at Central Washington University.  Here is the link: Chimp and Hunman Institute Website

The Institute is worth the visit.  Contact them for tours and visiting hours.  There is a fee for the tours to support the living facilities for the chimps.

Table Mountain a boondocking site to view the Universe.  Ellensburg a small town that embodies the best of small town America.

For those looking for a telescope to get started in astronomy I recommend the Orion ShortTube 80-T refractor as a starting scope.  You do need a camera tripod or a telescope mount to attached the telescope.

You can find my review of the ST-80 here:  Orion Short-Tube 80-t Review

Friday, May 28, 2010

Carbon Monoxide and Camping

Boondock Product:  Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Like most people, I never gave carbon monoxide poisoning much thought until we bought a stick built house.  The house had a CO detector; and every couple of months it would go off.  It was usually while we were fixing breakfast with friends also staying at the house. 

I did not think much about the detector going off until a friend mentioned that he had a CO problem.  He had the same issue with CO detectors going off, but was not concerned.  Then he bought a digital readout CO detector and plugged it in.  As soon as his generator started the CO levels slowly started elevating.  He hardly ever ran his generator, so until he got the digital readout he never suspected the generator was increasing the carbon monoxide level in the house.

Because of his experience, I bought a digital readout CO detector.  The house had an on-demand water heater that exhausted outside, as well as an outside generator and propane heat.  I noticed as soon as the on-demand water heater went on, the CO level went up.  After the on-demand heater quit working the exhaust would be sucked back into the house by the wood stove which needed the oxygen for combustion.  Somebody taking a long shower would raise the CO level enough the alarm would sound.  I thought it was cooking on the gas stove that set off the alarm, instead it was the hot water heater.  We replaced it promptly.
I shudder to think what could have happened to my family and friends or the family of five who lived there for three years previously.  We all had no clue of the potential hazard.

Carbon Monoxide is much more dangerous in a confined space like an RV.  Almost all RV's come with an alarm, but a digital readout CO detector will tell you what is going on and make it is easy to identify the appliance which is unsafe.

So what one should I buy?  Well, I own all three of the following.  You can say I have all the bases covered.  This one has a 120 plug-in, plus a back up battery.  The back-up batteries do not last long in battery mode.  These must be kept plugged in to work.

I like the quick response to CO detection; and the big fat ZERO showing in the display when all is working well.  Again, use only when hooked up to 120 power.  But it is great for troubleshooting, if your CO alarm goes sounds intermittently.

This unit is battery powered only and has a digital readout.  I use these when we are off-grid.  I have not used it for trouble shooting, since I prefer the Kidde plug-in model for that instance.  This unit would be a great back-up to your existing CO detector in your RV.  I keep TWO CO detectors in my living spaces, in case one fails.

I cannot stress how important it is to see the CO readout.  It will quickly tell you which appliance is unsafe.

There are lots of highly rated CO detectors out there.  I bought these units when CO detectors were rare and hard to find.  Nowadays, there are many more options from companies other than Kidde.  I am not sure which are the best of the new units, but it is important to GET A UNIT!

This unit from First Alert is also highly rated.  It is plug-in with a battery backup, but the battery back-up is just that, back-up.  You cannot use it with the battery.  The Kidde is the only one I found that worked on battery power with a CO readout.

I also bought a CO detector with explosive gas detector.  The explosive gas detector is VERY sensitive.  If you had beans for dinner it will detect it.  I plug it in if I smell something.  A women's sense of smell is much better than a man's.  In most cases, your wife will notice that a pilot light is out before you do.  At least, these detectors will confirm that.

I suppose I could train Bugaboo, our German Longhair Pointer, to sniff out explosive gases, but he does not have digital readout mode.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How To Find Boondock Locations--Part 2

 Boondock Information: How to Find Boondock Locations--Part 2

Well technically, the picture above is a boondock location.  But this is not what I generally look for in a boondock location, but we did have a grand time.  I want a little more privacy and scenery in our camping locations.

Now, this is more like it!

When looking for boondock locations, the first thing I recommend is to make a list of what you want to do at your boondock location. There are lots of reasons to boondock, but they are more fun and interesting when the location matches your interests.

In our case, we wanted to go camping for a week.  I want trails to hike and bicycle, lakes for fishing, and a dark sky for astronomy.  Susie wants a place to go out for dinner.  Alex wants to go fishing, ride her bicycle and find kids.

We decided on visiting the Walla-Whitman National Forest in eastern Oregon.  The first thing I did was mark all the paved and high standard gravel roads on the forest map using a yellow highlighter.  If a road is paved or high standard gravel you can access it easily in most RV's.  Also, driving on a paved road is much better than miles and miles of washboard dirt road.  Been there, done more!  I can do it if need be, but would rather avoid it, if possible.

If you have a national forest map go ahead and look at the legend and highlight the suitable roads. I am sure you will find that there are more of them than you realize.  Now, this is where landforms become important.  By looking at landforms you can see if there will be boondocking locations when you get there!! 

While looking at the Walla-Whitman map, two areas stood out.  The first was Anthony Lakes area west of Haines, Oregon.  The second area was the Fish Lake area, about ten miles north of Pine, Oregon.   We picked Anthony Lakes area.  It had lakes and enough trails so we could hike or bicycle to fish.  It was high elevation for astronomy.  There was an outstanding steak house in Haines for that all important dinner.  There were three campgrounds in the area for Alex to find other kids.    Boondocking landforms were limited to a couple of ridges at Anthony Lakes.   Fish Lake looked better for boondocking, but probably had less kids.

We liked this area so much we came back four times in the next two years.  Alex always found new friends at the campgrounds.  A couple of times we stayed in the small three unit campground and had it all to ourselves.  Wait until the 4th of July to access Anthony Lakes, as it is high elevation.

But Fish Lake is still on our list.  I came close to the area in 2007 while working on a forest fire in the area.  Nice area.  Now that we do not have to find playmates we will be heading in that direction next time.

Here is the link to the Haines Steak House.  It was good years ago, hopefully, just as good today.  It was well worth the trip down the mountain.  Haines, Oregon Steak House

The Walla-Whitman National Forest is a lightly used areas with lots of wonderful locations to explore.  Many paved roads for bicycle riding, lots of history scattered throughout the forest, great trails for hiking, and even a short drive to a steak house!!  Next time you drive I-84 tempted to take one of those exits.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chewuch River, Winthrop, Washington

Boondock Destination:  Chewuch River, Winthrop, Washington.

We first found the Methow Valley in 1979 when Susie was hired as the writer-editor on the Early Winters Environmental Impact Statement.  Early Winters was a proposed downhill ski resort located on Sandy Butte.  The concern was the rich and famous would discover the Methow Valley and ruin it forever.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court where the Forest Service finally won the case, but the ski company ran out of money!

Well, the rich and famous did discover the Methow Valley.  But thankfully, they keep their BMW's parked in their garages and drive into town in old beater trucks.  Yes, the hippes and loggers are still here and the unique flavor of the Methow Valley remains to this day.  We only live a couple of hours south of the valley so it has remained a favorite place of ours.

Most people know of Highway 20, the famous cross-Cascades route built in the 1970's.  We will cover the pass in a future blog, but for now we want to introduce you to the Chewuch River Valley.  Just eight miles north of Winthrop, it is a boondocking and camping location managed by the Forest Service and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

You will need the Washington Fish and Wildlife parking pass for the state areas and for the Forest Service all you need is your camping stuff!  The larger sites are on state lands, but there are good campsites on both sides of the river.  Here are the Google coordinates for the area:  48 37 25 N 120 09 29 W.  Additional boondocking areas are north and east of the this area.

There are three Forest Service campgrounds in the area, but Falls Creek and Camp 4 are too small for any sort of RV's.  Chewuch Campground is the only one with spurs large enough for RV's.  There are plenty of boondock locations that can handle larger rigs.

This spur can make answering the call of nature in the middle of the night an interesting experience.  Thank god, that RV's have bathrooms!

There is much to do in the area.  A short hike up Falls Creek brings you to a pretty waterfall.  There are lots of trailheads and hikes into the Pasayten Wilderness.  For an easy five mile hike go up Lake Creek to Black Lake.  It was one of our first hikes in the area.  In 1979, the trail went through thick forest all the way to the lake.  The Farewell Fire early in this decade has "opened" up the landscape so you can now see the views!  It is an interesting hike.  Check with the Methow Valley Ranger District on the other hikes.

Also up valley from the camping area is the 30 Mile Fire Memorial and we will cover that in a separate posting.

The town of Winthrop is worth a visit and a stroll.  Wooden sidewalks and lots of interesting stores to charm those dollars from your wallet.  We generally stop for ice cream, or if it is lunch or dinner time we stop at the Duck Brand on the east side of town.  Outside seating with shade trees and the irrigation ditch murmuring past the dinner area makes for an idyllic meal.  There is lots of music and places to explore in the Methow Valley.  It is hard to cover all the activities available.  Let us just say you will not be bored with this small town and environs.  Here is the link to the local chamber that gives local events and activities Winthrop Chamber Site.

All this; a huge wilderness, nice small town, rivers and streams, snow-capped peaks, great restaurants, breweries, and more just minutes from your boondocking campsite.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Music in the Back Country

Boondock Product:  IPod and Altec Lansing IM Speaker System

While looking at high mountain scenery there is definitely a need for your own brand of tunes.  My daughter bought me the following combination an IPOD and the Altec Lansing  IM600 speaker system with built-in charger for the IPOD.  She also gave me a connection for the truck radio to listen to my music instead of putting up with the Top 10 music found on America's broadcast radio.

I was skeptical the IPOD was worth the money.  Wrong again.  After taking off on a 2000 mile road trip I quickly changed my mind.   I put my entire CD collection of 5700 songs on the IPOD.  That is 570 CD's and there is still room for over a 1,000 new CD's.  You can also put audio books and podcasts on the IPOD for listening in the back-country.

This is the IPOD my daughter gave me as a present.  Well worth the price.  You need to download ITUNES to your computer and then transfer to the IPOD by syncing the IPOD with the computer.  Fairly simple and quick procedure.

Another nice thing about the IPOD is how simple it is to operate.  No instruction book needed.  At this point in my life, I do not need more clutter or things to remember.  So if I can use it without referring to a manual,  I generally buy it!

The IPOD does not come with speakers.  That's where the Altec Lansing comes in.  The InMotion IM-600-USB Charging Portable System with FM Receiver for the IPOD costs less that a hundred bucks and has great audio sound.

It may not be as good as Bose, but much cheaper and sounds great at normal listening levels and will also charge your IPOD.  Just a charger for the IPOD is around $50.  So for another $50, you get a great portable speaker system.

It does come with an FM tuner but it is only average in quality.

You also get a remote control and sub-woofer port if you want to make your sound even better.  It has an AUX input.  You can hook-up your high performance AM/FM radio or your TV and listen through the high quality speakers. 

The unit comes with internal batteries that charge when hooked up to 120 volts or 12 volts.  To use outside, just unplug and carry it out.  It folds flat for storage.

The IPOD and Altec Lansing InMotion IM600 are a great combination for music in the boondocks.  It is also the only way that you can listen to your entire Bob Wills or Grateful Dead collection without carrying several dozen CD's.

The Grateful Dead AND Bob Wills??  Well yes, those are my musical tastes developed while getting a Forestry degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972!  What is a boondock camping location without Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Find Boondock Locations using LandForms

Boondock Information:  Finding Boondocking locations

This picture is of the Enchaments Basin of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in eastern Washington state.  Just by looking at the picture you can tell that boondocking locations are missing up there.  It is a great backpacking destination and is highly recommended to anyone that can crawl up Assgard Pass.

Here is a another picture of Monday's boondock destination in Montana.  Now that's more like it.  Notice the semi's parked above the firefighters tents.

These are two different landforms.  Now Landforms are defined as "A specific geomorphic feature on the surface of the earth, ranging from large-scale features such as plains and mountain to minor features such as hills and valley.

Boondocking or dispersed camping in an RV requires paying attention to landforms in different parts of the country.  Some landforms lend themselves really well to boondocking in an RV.  Other landforms make it difficult to find enjoyable camping spots. 

Boondocking or dispersed camping locations are usually found on ridgetops or valley bottoms.  They are hardly ever found mid-slope.  When working for various federal agencies I classified and looked at boondock campsites.  Closed a few and created a few.  Mid-slope sites were only used by hunters in the fall.  The most popular sites were along water down in the bottoms.   Some of the best sites were up high on wide open ridges with great view, great radio and TV reception and of course cell and internet access.  They were also much less crowded.

Here is a picture of common landforms found out west.  I know the picture is a wonderful graphic, but it works to convey the information.

The first landform is poorly suited for dispersed camping.  This is typical of many National Forests in Idaho.  The Clearwater National Forest is typical of this landform.  When I worked there in 1972 one fall on the slope would find you sliding down a couple of hundred feet!  As you can see there are very few areas for boondocking.  The slopes are steep and the roads tend to be narrow with few areas to go off the road a short distance to camp.  On these areas you want to know where you are going before you get there!!
The next landform has broad ridges and broad valley bottoms.  This is a great area for boondocking.  Except, since these are glacial valley's in many cases getting from the ridge top to the valley bottom can be difficult due to steep slopes.  Usually there are few roads that connect the ridgetops to the valley bottoms.  Parts of the Bitterroot and Gallentin National Forest have these landforms.

The last landform is fairly flat ground.  There are many National Forests that have this landform.  The Deschutes, Winema, and Fremont National Forests in eastern Oregon came immediately to mind.  The Modoc National Forest in California has flat ground.  On these lands roads tend to be wider and there is plenty of room to park a large rig.  

Here is a typical desert camping site.  This one is in eastern Washington, but there are similar sites on the Deschutes, Winema, and Fremont National Forests.  Of course, their campsites come complete with trees.

This is one reason for learning how to read topographic maps.  The computer mapping programs such as BackRoads Topo! and Delorme are perfect for getting an initial read on the probability of finding that perfect campsite.  Learn to recognize Landforms using these mapping programs.  Close topographic lines mean limited or poor boondocking locations.  Look for widely spaced lines either on the ridgetops or valley bottoms.  Learn to "read" topographic maps.  It is much quicker and easier than Google or any other information source.  See this link for these programs:  Computer Mapping Programs.

Think landforms.  Learn to recognize them using topographic maps.   In just a short time you will be able to find boondocking locations like this one.  Instead of a tent, this site can fit just about any length RV.  It is in the Little Belt mountains of central Montana. 

Next we will talk about using Forest Service and BLM maps to find YOUR PERSONAL BOONDOCK location.  It does help being a professional Forester in finding boondock locations, but in the next several postings I will share information with you that will make you just as expert!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area, Seeley Lake, Montana

Backroad Destination:  Seeley Lake, Montana.

This is the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area just outside of Seeley Lake, Montana.  I spent 14 days boondocking in a tent during late August of 2007.  A beautiful spot just south of Seeley Lake, Montana and about 40 miles east of Missoula.   The wildlife management area is 43,761 acres of wildlife land that opens for camping and public use on May 15th of each year.

There is a fee for boondocking on this site.  Toilets are provided, but no drinking water.  If you have a Montana fishing license there is a reduction in the camping fee.  There also might be a 7 day camping limit, but it did not apply in my case.

Boondocking in a tent!!  Well, it was not to difficult, but these old bones are starting to look for all the soft places to fall.  Fortunately, these fine folks cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday for the entire 14 days.  But as you can see from the size of the rigs you can easily get a large RV into these sites.

The Blackfoot-Clearwater site was the base camp for the Jocko Lakes Fire in 2007.  The fire almost burned into the town of Seeley Lake.  We were the third fire team to take over managment of the fire.  For our team  it was four or five days of intense firefighting and then mop-up.

Here is a photo of the campground with its row of temporary office buildings.  I always preferred my offices to be yurts!

 When fires start heading into the five and six digits of acres burned a small city shows up to support the firefighters and handle the mangement of the fire.

But I am going back to this fire camp.  It is minutes from Seeley Lake and the Swan River Valley.  The Swan River Valley is one of the prettiest places in Montana and not well known outside the state.

In the other direction, 40 minutes away is the town of Missoula complete with all the city services you might need, but without the problems!  No sales taxes in Montana.  Missoula has been a favorite city of mine since I first went there in 1972.  It is larger, but that famous Montana attitude is still there.  I always thought that someday I would end up living in Montana, but it did not turn out that way.  However, Montana is special as our its residents.  See this Montana story Kindness of Locals...

Here are some pictures of the camping areas.

For a slightly different perspective on camping in this area follow this link....Hitch Itch.  Click about halfway down to get this area discussion.  It appears that they were actually camped in this wildlife mangement area which is close by to the area we are discussing...Aunt Molly Wildlilfe Management Area    So pick one or the other.  You can't go wrong.

We are running out of time and space for this blog posting.  There is so much to do and explore is this area that I will let you find more information on your own.

Almost forgot.  Here are the GPS and Google Earth co-ordinates:  47 01 14.10 N 113 23 07.31 W

Montana.  It is the last best place.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blog Summary--Backroads Products

Sitting around the campfire discussing the best products for boondocking is a common pastime.  However, when you do it with two grumpy old men it is hard to agree on anything.  So rather than muck up things with a committee here are my recommendations.  Some probably disagree.  But here is my outlook on buying things.  Buy the best product for the price.  Never skimp on anything that you use everyday or has to do with your personal or family safety.  As always click on the link to get to the article.

Cell Phone Antenna's

GPS Units for the Car

Computer Mapping Programs for Back Roads

Image Stabilized Binoculars

A Telescope for Boondockers

Handheld Radio's

As always you can support this site, by clicking and buying the product through Amazon.

There two are trying to get in there to use the internet and check out that telescope!!  Or maybe it is the steak bone?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blog Summary--Backroads Information

Every Wednesday we post information on backroads that our readers find useful.  As a retired Forester that has worked for the National Park Service, BLM, and the Forest Service I found that the public does need more information on their lands.  Now that I am a member of that public I am trying to post useful inside information that people can use to enjoy their lands.

The links below are active.  Just click on it to read that blog entry.

A Short History of Boondocking

When Is the Best Time to Visit a National Forest or Park

The Kindness of Locals

Driving Backroads

Maps....The Tool for Exploring the Back Roads

Buying Maps

Forest Service and other Federal Information Sources

Internet Information Sources

Back Road Safety

In the near future, we will be starting a series on interpreting Forest Service and other maps to find great boondocking locations.  Yes, you can find great boondocking locations just by looking at maps.  And in todays world with Google Earth you can confirm that the great spot is really a GREAT SPOT!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blog Summary-Backroad Destinations

We have been posting for almost three months now and the archive is getting crowded and hard to find information.  It is May and almost all these spots are in their prime this month.  Stop and visit them now.

We are up fishing this week in British Columbia with cell service uncertain.

All of the links below are live.  Just click on the link to follow it.

Chopaka Lake, Loomis, Washington

Blue Lake, Loomis, Washington

Columbia Wildlife Refuge & Potholes Reservoir

Seep Lakes, Othello, Washington

Quincy Lake, Quincy, Washington

Zion National Park, Utah

Tuzigoot and Montezuma National Monuments, Sedona, Arizona

Coconino National Forest, Sedona, Arizona

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

San Pedro Riparian Area, Tombstone, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Organ Pipe National Monument, Ajo, Arizona

Sunset State Beach, California

Carmel, California

Half Moon Bay to Big Sur, California

Napa Valley Campgrounds, California

Napa Valley Wine Train, California

Napa Valley, California

Limantour Beach, California

Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, California

Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California

Black Butte Lake, Orland, California

BLM Lands, Cottonwood, California

Central Valley Mendocino National Forest, Red Bluff, California

Almost all these areas are now in wildflower bloom and spectacular.  So from the deserts of Arizona to the deserts of Washington now is a great time to explore these areas.  The California coast is always special anytime of the year, but you are going to have a lot more company now than in winter. 

As for me the next week will be spent in piscatorial pursuits up in British Columbia.   And yes, I did have to look up piscatorial in the dictionary.

Please support this site by purchasing items via the blog if you shop at Amazon.  Thank you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Handheld Radios

This photo was taken with the Orion ST-80-T telescope and Pentax DSLR camera.

Boondock Product: Handheld Radios

Handheld radios are the convenient things to come along in years, especially for RV'ers .  They are useful when backing up trailers and motorhomes.  You can call in your errant fisherman for lunch or dinner.  While hiking you can keep in contact with your group should you decide to go off on your own.  Even in suburban malls they are great for keeping track of others.  They also work well for keeping in touch with other vehicles as you go down the road.

Current radio broadcast regulations have added GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) which require a $75 license to operate. GMRS uses commercial grade, UHF-FM radios identical to those used by public safety agencies, businesses, and other governmental, commercial and industrial licensees in the Private Land Mobile Radio Services.  But they still have the FSR bands which do not require a license.  So with these radio's you should use the FSR frequencies only, unless you have purchased a GMRS license.

Here are my recommendations for important features in a handheld radio set.

First, make sure they take AA batteries.  The radio's with AAA batteries do not work as long.  You will constantly be replacing batteries.  The rechargeable batteries are fine, but for boondockers they are just more stuff to carry!  The radio's should be able to be recharged by 12 volts.

I like the Midland radios because their squelch control is built into the radio.  No knobs to turn and set.  Now squelch is not that big of a deal until you hand the radio to someone that does not know how to set a squelch control.  It is just much easier to hand them a radio that works without adjustments.

The Weather Band and all-alerts setting makes it indespensable in tornado country, coastal areas or in adverse weather conditions.  All- Alert Weather Band on this radio means you do not have to carry extra radios on your travels.  For those of us that live in a area where All Alert Weather Band is rarely, if ever, used this is a cheap alternative to buying a dedicated radio.

Here are a couple of important tips I've learned using these radio:

If you mix and match radios the numbers on the channels may not match the broadcast frequencies.  So channel one on Midland might not match channel one on Motorola.  By the radios as a matched set. This is they way they are most commonly sold. If your friend has a different brand of radio, try scanning while one radio is broadcasting to find a match if they are not calibrated to work with each other.

Second, in an emergency try the GMRS channels.  Many ham radio clubs monitor the GMRS frequencies to make sure that users abide by FCC rules and have a license.  In an emergency go ahead and use the higher powered frequency.

My recommendation for a handheld radio is the Midland offering  42 channels with a 36-mile GMRS range (although this distance standard nevers seems accurate when using in real life situations), DC adapter, rechargeable batteries and desktop charger.  It even includes a headset.   For fifty-five dollars a good value.




Thursday, May 6, 2010

Using the Internet to find Boondocking locations

Boondock Information: Internet

Last section we talked about getting information from Alice or the receptionist at Forest Service and BLM offices on boondocking.  This segment is on using the internet to find those special locations.

The federal agencies are way behind the curve on providing information on the Internet.  The Bush administration years ago told the federal agencies to provide all their information on the net. Well, we might get there by 2050!!

The best government agency websites are those that  give you the same information they use for decision-making, reporting and agency requirements, without filtering.  Always visit the web site for the agency that manages the lands where you are boondocking.  Visit the lowest organization level (ie. district office) that provides the information.  This is where the good stuff is found.

Internet has become the means for providing information.  The only problem now is that everyone thinks they're an expert and you have to filter through all the stuff out there.  So the internet is the wild, wild west of the 21st century.  But just like the wild west, there are good people with good information out there.  You just need to find them.

When you find a new internet site look at areas that you know well.  Internet information is often entered on a "mass" basis.  Errors tend to get repeated throughout the website.  Your critical look at the website will reveal whether to trust the information or just ignore it.

Inquiring in various forums and newsgroups can get you poor information or very good information.  Again, filter and evaluate the information given out.

Always use Google or other web search engines.  The more specific you make the search, the better your chances of finding good information.  In popular areas, the search engine will return more items than you can read unless the search is specific.  Boondocking is a good word to use in your search string.  It is generally used only by RV'ers and so will return information that you can use.

I know of no guidebooks on dispersed camping; however, but there are lots of guidebooks that include information on boondocking.  Follow your interests.  Fishing guidebooks will sometimes include information on dispersed camping.  It is usually just a comment or two after the description of a stream or lake; but that might be all you need.  Scenic Highways and ByWays include information on boondocking, as well as books on mountain biking, hiking and horseback trails.  Explore your hobbies on the net and see if you can find information on boondocking connected with your area of interests.

Do not forget to look for boondocking around popular recreation areas.  Ask the locals and agency personnel.  Many times there are boondocking areas adjacent to campgrounds and other developed facilities.

Of course, keep on reading and and asking questions to get the best information on boondocking!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chopaka Lake, Loomis, Washington

Boondock Destination: Chopaka Lake

This boondocking location is just a few miles away from Blue Lake.  Blue Lake is suitable for large rigs,  Read the blog entry for Blue Lake here:  Blue Lake Blog

Chopaka Lake is limited by the road to trailers less than 22 feet.   It is also a road that your tow vehicle needs 4wd low or an exhaust brake to get out.   Be sure you also have an Okanogan National Forest map before you attempt to find the lake!

My advise is to make the drive from Blue Lake without the trailer to see if you want to try it.  Remember, it is the drive OUT that is the problem.  Here are the  GPS coordinates: 48 54 42.47N 119 42 03.19W

Chopaka Lake is a fly fishing only lake with all motors banned.  So it is a quiet spot to camp.  However, it is very popular with fly fishermen so the month of May and early June can be crowded with fishermen.  The crowds are gone for the summer and you just might have the lake to yourself in the middle of the week.  In late September and early October the fisherman come back as the fish start feeding again.

There is a Washington State Department of Natural Resources "campground" there with toilets and a handpump for potable water.  The DNR campground is free.   Next to them is a BLM campground.  Here is the link to the BLM site on Chopaka Lake:   BLM Chopaka Lake Brochure PDF.  

Hmm, these two fences seperate the DNR and BLM managed lands.  I suppose the area in the middle is no mans land?

If you have always been interested in trying fly-fishing I will post some helpful hints in future blogs.  Lake fly-fishing is different than stream fishing.  A float tube is like fishing from a lounge.  There is nothing to hang up your back-cast.  In fact, you can be a very poor caster and still have fun.  Throw in a good cigar while you fish and you might never fish a stream again.

The area has lots of wildlife.  On trip last week we spotted a moose standing by the side of the road.  The area is full of deer, grouse, coyotees, bears and other wildlife.

Lots of room to roam and boondock in the area on Forest Service, state land, and even BLM lands.  The boondock locations are just as good or better than the campgrounds in the area.  There are private campgrounds at Spectacle Lake, Wannacut Lake and a state park at Conconully.  More spots and campgrounds than I can mention in this short blog.

If you are headed to Chopaka Lake stop at Shannon's in Tonasket for hard ice cream and great food.  Their shaded outside dinning area is just perfect for lunch.  They are on Highway 97 right at the turn for Highway 20 heading east to Republic.

 Here is a newpaper article on Shannon's, Tonasket, and the surrounding area: Tonasket Area Sites.

Chopaka Lake and the surrounding area are well worth exploring particularly if you are a fly fisherman.  However, if not there is plenty to do in the area.

As always we appreciate your support of this site by clicking on the Google Ads and buying products through Amazon.  Thank you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Telescopes and More

Boondock Product: Telescope

Many folks are interested in taking up Astronomy as a hobby.  It can be an addictive and expensive hobby as someone with seven telescopes and two observatories can testify.  But notice that domes do not pack well for travel. 

Their first question is always "what telescope should I buy?.  Well, the answer is much more complicated than that.  What are your other interests?  Will you use it for bird watching?  Do you want to take photographs with the telescope?  Are you going to use it in town or under a dark country sky?

Pretty soon, their eyes glaze over and they walk away. 

So the question really is "What telescope should I buy that I will keep and use for the rest of my life?  Even if I lose interest in Astronomy."

Now that is an easy question to answer.  Buy the Orion Short Tube Refractor telescope know as the ST-80-T.  It has a 80mm objective lens and comes with two eyepieces.  It is only 15 1/2 inches long, but is a real telescope that will show you the rings of Saturn, the craters on the moon, the moons of Jupiter, and a thousand other celestial sights.  The cost is reasonable.  Just over $200 dollars for all this.

But as they say, wait there's more.  This telescope makes a perfect scope for bird watching or wildlife viewing.  People watching is at your own risk.  The two eyepieces give you magnifications of 16X and 40X which is perfectly suited to the scope.  It also has an "correct image diagonal" which means everything is right side up and you can read the writing on distant billboards.

As with all telescopes you need a good mount.  The ST-80-T comes with a tripod adapter that mates to any photography tripod.  Even though it is only 15 1/2 inches long, the beefier the tripod  the better.  This is the tripod I bought for the ST-80-T and it works well.  If you already have a tripod try it first before getting a larger tripod.

If you are going to use the ST-80-T  for astronomy then you should buy a cheap mount. Any inexpensive mount will be able to hold the ST-80-T.

But wait there even more!  You can buy an adapter for your single lens reflex camera and attach it to the ST-80-T and take pictures through it.  Here is a  link to a picture I took through my ST-80-T and my Pentax DSLR. Click on the link.  Elk ST-80 picture  The elk were about 300 yards away and in fading light.  It is amazing what photo processing software can do to bring out an image.  If you look carefully, you can see that the image is soft around the edges.  But for $200 and the versitility of this scope it is a small price to pay. 

For ease of use you might want to buy this universal adapter to match to the T-Ring.  Universal AdapterHowever, the T-Ring will screw onto the focuser.

 And it makes the perfect gift for a kid interested in space!  This is the perfect scope for a eight to tweleve year old interested in astronomy.  Much better than the poor telescopes sold by Costco and other stores.  This is the real thing.

And there is even more in the future!!!  The great thing about the ST-80-T is if you get hooked on astronomy and buy larger scopes in the future you will still use it.  The ST-80-T makes a great finder scope and you can still use for birdwatching and as a camera telephoto.

So there is the telescope.  You will need guidebooks to show your way around the sky.  But my advise is to buy the scope and look at bright stars and the moon.  Play Galileo and discover the universe without a guide.  Don't forget to look at "fuzzy" spots up there with your telescope.  See what you can find.

After that get your guidebooks.  But you will always have the memory of discovery on your own!  When you point that little scope at a bright star that is Jupiter or Saturn you will have a memory to treasure.