I do not like paying for a camping place (except for New Mexico State Park Pass and the LTVA). I like to be remote. This is how I find a yummy place to stay for free. (This is lots easier out west.) The rules say stay for two weeks or less. (Do it. Don’t overstay. Pack it in, pack it out. Take only pictures. Leave nothing.)
How did I find this magical spot? Passion. I was hunting for meteorites. I made a map of the known meteorites found in the state. Then I overlaid that map with the state’s federal land (where camping for 14 days is allowed). That led me to a tiny dot on the map that said “Spring”. What? A spring out in the far away desert? And nearby there was a fabulous place to search for trilobites. Perfect. Getting there I was lost several times. Very nervous driving on sandy roads far from cell service, far from anything but desert. No buildings. No street signs. Almost turned around twice. Then I found the spring. I learned much about trilobites, about quartz crystals, about fears, about the transformative power of boredom. The physical maps, with Google Earth and the historical data of meteorite finds, led me to the above place. I stayed 2 weeks. Want to go back.
How did I find this magical spot? It was on the way. With the DeLorme New New Mexico map I picked out a 2 lane route heading south. This camp spot appeared on freecampsite.net. They listed 4 free campsites along this part of the route. It was on the physical map, also. Delicious free spot that even had a pit toilet, birds, huge trees, tables, and great hikes. Needing a place to spend the night along a specific route I found that camping spot above. I spent 2 weeks here 3 times. Hope to go back.
How did I find this magical spot? I was confused, tired and lost when I stopped in the Forest Ranger Office. I was new to being on the road. The folks in the Office were exceptionally kind. They taught me about the Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM). Each district in each Forest Service has these maps. The rangers taught me how to read the maps, which show where in the National Forest its OK to camp. For 14 days. For free. I have stayed in the area above 3 different times for 2 weeks each. Each time thanks to the MVUM map.
How did I find this magical spot? This was a wandering moment. I looked at the paper map of the area I was in, circled the BML land, and drove onto the first road I got to. Then drove further. Then turned left. Then left again. Then stopped for 14 days. Almost got stuck leaving. Thank goodness for 4wd. Haven’t been back, but the map has it circled.
Thank you freecampsite.net. Stayed here only a week. All of a sudden there were hordes of atvs. Drones. Campers. But a great week.
Still love the paper maps. With Google maps I can mark a good place to camp or have camped. That does work, if there is cell service or WiFi. (I seem to forget to download them.) Thanks to the Motor Vehicle Use Maps (these are free and great in paper, but awkward to handle) and the DeLorme maps and the Benchmark maps I can find my way around. Thanks to freecampsite.net I can always find a place. Another helpful site is campendium (some dispersed camping, mostly for RV’s). The rangers, the librarians and gas station employees have given me the best spots. Some too precious to mention.