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Boondocking—Tethering with Nature

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

travel stories with landscape photographic artist

kent j burkhardsmeier

9 more miles

Serene Sunrise on Grand Teton with Morman Row Ban in Forefront
Sunrise at Goosenecks State Park

Table of Content

Boondocking—Tethering with Nature

Child's snorkel gear left behind on shore of Lake Washington, Seattle
Tethering with Nature

October offered new possibilities after departing Denver (CO) with a solar system added on to Whispers. It provided RV freedom from RV resorts and limited campsite availability. Now, we could comfortably go boondocking!

Boon, what?

Boondockingan RVer term for "dry camping", "dispersed camping", or 'free camping" on public land. No hookups.

From Colorado, my journey continued into the geological wonderlands of Utah, Navajo Nation, and the Mojave Desert while motoring back to San Diego (CA). October ended while dry camping in Death Valley National Park.

Solar Installation - Recap

(September 24 - 29)

Lafayette (CO)

Recall from the last blog, RV solar specialists David and Roland from Camping Express LLC (dba SolarPowerMyRV) installed 1000 Watts of solar panels, 600mAh of lithium batteries, an inverter/converter, solar control unit, and all the necessary components on Whispers.

After an "independent, third-party" inspection of the roof-mounted, solar panels by my sister-in-law, I felt comfortable to continue my adventures, venture deeper into nature and go "off-the-grid".

Golden Aspens to Mesmerizing Moab

(September 28 - October 4)

Glenwood Springs (CO) Green River SP (UT)

Liquid Nitrogen vaporizes from specialty drink at Loupe Lounge on top of Seattle Space Needle

Golden aspen leaves quake in autumn like fans clapping in adoration of an artist's performance. This year the aspens along I-70 between Denver (CO) and Avon (CO) seemed to be enjoying an encore performance.

Further west, I-70 follows the Colorado River through the scenic Glenwood Canyon. The same river carved many of the west's mesmerizing wonders: De Beque, Horsethief, Ruby, and the connected seven canyons from Moab (UT) to Needles (CA): Meander, Cataract, Glen, Marble, Grand, Boulder, and Black Canyons,

The first stop out of Denver was in Glenwood Spring (CO) for one night while making my way to Green River State Park — located in Green River (UT) and situated along the Green River (Flaming Gorge campsite was on the Green River). This state park provides a nice reprieve in the high-country desert and operates as the launch point for a 120-mile float through Labyrinth and Stillwater Canyons of the Green River.

While camping at Green River SP, I scouted several locations along US-191 to test out the new solar system—several boondocking locations and a couple dry camping state parks.

Boondocking / Dry Camping

Once you enter the RV lifestyle world, you'll begin hearing the term "boondocking" over and over. It is a modern-day term referring to free camping without connections to water, sewer, or electricity. Usually, boondocking refers to dispersed camping on public land such as those under the jurisdiction of the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management.

Boondocking set up in Mojave National Preserve

Dry camping refers to camping without hookups (connections to water, sewer, or electricity). Many public campgrounds are set up for dry camping only or have designated dry camping areas. Some private RV parks have dry camping areas, too. Most often there is a fee to use one of these campsites and reservations may be required.

Boondocking is dry camping with no fee and no reservations.

There are organizations dedicated to boondocking, apps for finding free campsites, and numerous articles offering boondocking advice. I will let you do the research if interested. My favorite website and app for boondocking is Campendium.

Layers of Time

(October 4-6)

Goosenecks State Park (UT)

Navajo Nation (USA)

Flagstaff (AZ)

Dry docking along the rim of Goosenecks State Park
My RV is the 3rd one from the right along the rim

Goosenecks State Park was a gem find on Campendium. I scouted several dispersed sites and a couple dry camping parks but immediately knew this park was the place to camp.

For 300 million years, the San Juan River has been carving layer-by-layer a 1200 ft deep canyon through the desert. Standing on the rim looking out across the vast carvings of the twisting river invokes timelessness.

The land whispers endurance through eternity.

300,000,000 years!

1200 feet deep.

250,000 years per foot!

4 feet per million years.

Homo Sapien (you and me) date back between 200,000 and 300,000 years on Earth. The oldest discovered link to modern-day humans dates back 6 million years. Dinosaurs roamed the Earth from 220 million to 60 million years ago.

Using simple math and a gross assumption that time evenly carved this canyon, then the canyon was 320 ft deep (think Statue of Liberty) when the first dinosaur walked on the Earth. It had deepened to 960 feet (think 30 Rockerfeller Plaza + 100ft), by the time of their extinction. The canyon was already 1186 feet deep when the first human walked and 1199 feet deep when the first Homo Sapien walked on the earth (its current depth roughly equals the height of the Empire State Building).

Our dry camping experience was successful!

Surreal lave flows at the Crater of the Moon National Monument
Entering Navajo Nation

Navajo Nation

Southwest along US-191 past Mexican Hat (UT) is the Navajo Nation—the largest land area retained by a Native American tribe. Navajo Nation is larger than 10 states and crosses Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Many geological wonders are situated on the Navajo Nation (Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the Shiprock monadnock, and the eastern portion of the Grand Canyon).

Even if you have not been to the Navajo Nation, you probably recognize parts of it—like my image shown above. Many movie scenes have been filmed in Navajo Nation. Some recent movies include Forest Gump, Hitch, Lone Ranger, Back to the Future Part III, Easy Rider, How the West was Won, National Lampoon's Vacation, etc.

Large cumulus clouds sweep across the mojave national perserve at sunset
Serenity and Solitude

Mojave Serenity and Solitude

(October 6 -9)

Mojave National Preserve (CA)

Newberry Springs (CA)

After spending one night at a crowded KOA RV Park outside of Flagstaff (AZ), serenity and solitude whispered out from the Mojave Desert. No reservation required! No hookups available! No neighbors! No problem!

To many people, the desert might not seem like a good place to camp, let alone boondock. Not true if you are prepared and love being in nature. With food, 110 gallons of fresh water, empty holding tanks, 1300 watts of solar panels, lithium batteries, fuel, generator, Criss, and Whispers—we were ready.

Some people venture into the desert to discover themselves, seek visions, or prepare ye the way. My goal was simple:

celebrate life—on my 60th birthday!

The sunset 'celebration' was AMAZING!

Nature's celebration started with the sky in hues of blue with clouds accented by hints of soft pink painted across it. Then as the lights dimmed, the setting sun sent forth a spotlight of golden rays announcing that the evening's main attraction was about to begin. The clouds blazed with molten red, crescent orange, and flaming pink colors during the 360-degree crescendo!

When you invite nature inside, she celebrates you with awe!

Boondocking was successful!

Route 66

Fall foliage in front of Grand Tetons alongside Snake River within Grand Teton National Park

Probably the most famous route of the original US highway system is Route 66. Established in November 1936, US-66 ran from Chicago (IL) to Santa Monica (CA). The route was removed from the US Highway system in 1985. Portions of the route have been designated as a National Scenic Byway referred to as "Historical Route 66."

Criss guided Whispers along Historical Route 66 through Amboy (CA) and then on to a section of the infamous route at Newberry Springs (CA)—best known as the setting of the 1987 motion picture: Bagdad Cafe. We'll encounter Route 66 again during our RV adventures.


Full Circle

(October 9 - 27)

San Diego (CA)

The maiden voyage for Criss and Whispers began on July 1st departing San Diego. We safely returned to our starting point 100 days later. Here are some interesting stats from the first 100 days of our adventures:

  • 12 states (CA, NV, OR, ID, WY, UT, SD, ND, MT, WA, CO, and AZ)

  • 24 campsites (Private RV Parks, State Parks, Army COE Campgrounds, US NPS campgrounds, and BLM sites)

  • 4 family gatherings (Big Sky, Seattle, Denver, and San Diego)

  • 1820 photographs captured

While in San Diego, Criss and Whispers were scheduled for routine maintenance services. I flew to NYC for a rescheduled family wedding. It had been 6 years since my last visit to NYC. I enjoy NYC and it was fun to capture city images.

Wasn't I just saying we'd encounter Route 66 again? I had learned that the road only went from Chicago to LA, but NYC has everything!


Desert Time in Death Valley

(October 27 - November 1)

Death Valley National Park (CA)

With successful experiences boondocking and dry camping, the next off-the-grid adventure would be dry camping in Death Valley National Park for 4 nights. Typically, late October in Death Valley has plenty of sunshine, daytimes are not too hot, and evenings are not too cold. So, if we can manage our water consumption and holding tanks usage, then we should be okay.

Whispers is fitted with a 110-gallon freshwater tank, and three 52-gallon holding tanks. Unfortunately, poor plumbing design has the shower, kitchen sink, and main bathroom sink feeding into a single gray tank. The main bathroom has its own black tank, and the back 1/2 bath shares a second black tank with the washing machine. For Whispers, gray water management is critical for dry camping of any kind (boonies or campsite).

With some basic water management, we can easily make it 3 days without filling up the gray holding tank. Thankfully, the campsite at Furnace Creek has a dump station, which we used midway through our 4-day stay. The downside is that we have to retract the 3 slide outs, strap things down, and hitch up Whispers to Criss even though I am only driving 1/4 of a mile to the dump site. Good practice.



shadows and light accent shapes

bush thrives amid dunes

Shadows form as sunlight descends on lone bush in Mesquite Dunes
innermost being

Feel free to share a story from your journeys in the comment section.

Or, add a comment on connecting with nature.

highway us-9 shield

how much longer?

are we there yet?

how far to the next rest area?

9 more miles

9 more miles segment is a place where I share random road tidbits along the way during my capturing whispers from nature adventures.


In case you are wondering "are we there yet?"


“just 9 more miles"

8 comentarios

I look forward to your posts. You are always somewhere I would want to be. Some places that I have been to and others I haven't heard of, but always your narration brings me along on the trip. Your love of the open road and sense of adventure is an inspiration. Lucky for us, you happen to be a fine photographer to boot. I am so happy to know you both and have nothing but good wishes and encouragement for your unfolding adventures. Happy belated birthday (it was just 80 for me). Stay safe!!

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Elisabeth Murray
Elisabeth Murray
27 ene 2022

Love reading your travel adventures and seeing your images - I am so glad we met and that I know you personally. Happy belated 60th! Also proud of you and you solar panels on the RV. I have to show this to my son as his dream is to live in an RV (being only 27 years old). Good luck on the continuation of your travels.

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Contestando a

Thanks Elisabeth!! We will see each other again when we visit you in Sintra. We are thinking that after our RVing we'll come over there and look for a place. Living in an RV is great and filled with lots of wonder and excitement. I highly recommend it. keep biking and keep photographying.

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26 ene 2022

Enjoyed the reading and seeing some pictures from your recent travels. As always, every shot was breathtaking. When I was younger, about 65 years or so ago, (I think I was about 12 years old) we would visit an old man who lived in the backwoods of Indiana, "Boondocks" as my father often said. The old-timer's name was Mid Coop, Mid lived totally off the land and "off grid" as we would say today, in a log cabin/horse barn. (Maybe 12 feet by 12 feet) for the cabin and horse barn. Mids, sleeping area (about 12 x 6) was separated from where the horses lived by a couple of boards that kept the horse out of his living area. Th…

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26 ene 2022
Contestando a

I'm sure he had lived there for a long, long time. I know he never married and when I met him, he was probably in his late 70's. I remember he wore lots of layers. Several old dirty coats and bib overalls plus other items of clothing. He always had on the same clothing in the same order every time I saw him. Amazing how far we have come in this world!

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Steven Greenbaum
Steven Greenbaum
25 ene 2022

Hi Kent, Enjoying hearing about your adventures. Vicarious excitement. I just read a novel for my book club - The Lincoln Highway. It was built in about 1910 and goes from Times Square to San Francisco. Not sure what part of the west it traverses. I think it still exists. Would like to hear about it if you ever encounter it.

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Contestando a

Thanks, Steven!

Interesting that you mention the book The Lincoln Highway. We listened to it via while driving as we headed east. It was the book for my wife's book club as well. Based on their feedback, the audio version is so much more interesting since there were 3 people doing the reading and giving different voices to the characters. I am sure we must have crossed US 10 at some point but at that time we had not heard of the Lincoln Highway but once we depart South Florida in May and head up north, we will be on the lookout for the Lincoln Highway - stay tune. Be well - stay safe - and Thanks for reading. Kent

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