Rachel Baldwin

Our first boondocking adventure!

Rachel Baldwin
Our first boondocking adventure!

As we prepared our RV for our year long adventure, we spent a lot of time and thought on how to make sure we could boondock/dry camp for the majority of our year.

This was our goal for a number of reasons-to be further away from other people, to be able to stay in more remote locations, to keep our nightly camping costs down etc...We removed the conventional RV toilet and installed a Nature’s Head Composting Toilet instead. This makes our fresh water last longer and allows us to forgo dumping a black tank and only worry about dumping grey water.  We also installed solar panels on the roof and removed the lead acid battery and replaced it with a lithium ion battery.

Our first couple weeks of traveling, we stayed at some Harvest Host locations, a state park, and an RV park, we were headed to Sedona simply because we’ve been there before, love the hiking and the weather and have read some really good reviews of dry camping sites in the area.  Our path took us through Flagstaff though and rather than continuing south to Sedona, we decided to stay for a couple days and then those couple days turned into a week.

Boondocking for the first time is a nerve wracking experience.  You don’t really know exactly where you’re going or if there will be a space to set up camp or just how good or bad the road in the area is.  You read a lot of reviews and you look on Google Earth and then you just have to go for it.

We found our first boondocking spot through Campendium.com.  I cross referenced it with a review from We’re the Russo’s blog and then we decided to check it out ourselves.  Boy, did we luck out.  

We entered Flagstaff from the east on I-40, we were leaving Petrified National Forest and the drive only took us about two hours. We stopped at a Flying J at exit 255 on I-40 in Arizona and filled our fresh water tank.  The water was free but the dump station cost $10 so we passed it by in favor of the Giant gas station we had heard about in Flagstaff with a free dump station.  Sure enough, we found the Giant gas station in Flagstaff and had no trouble emptying our grey water tank at no cost. With a full fresh water tank and an empty grey tank, we backtracked on I-40 going east and got off on exit 204, Walnut Canyon Road and followed the sign to Walnut Canyon National Monument.  A couple miles after you pass the sign officially welcoming you to Coconino National Forest, S Cosnino Road is on your left.  We turned onto S Cosnino Road and slowly made our way down the dirt road.  It was unpaved and narrow in areas but easy to navigate and we just took it slow.  The pull offs are numerous and easy to spot.  As soon as we found one that looked promising, I hopped out of the truck and ran ahead to see if we could fit and if the ground was level enough.  We passed a few pull off that were already occupied and opted to keep going until we found a private space.  Within minutes, we found a pull off area that was large, private and level-everything we were hoping for.  Alex backed us into the space and we didn’t even have to use leveling blocks.  

We spent the rest of the afternoon setting up camp and walking around the area.  We kept Jane on her leash at first but after a few miles of not seeing anyone, we let her run leash free and she loved it!

When we woke the next morning it was cold, like stay under three blankets cold but eventually we got moving.  We’ve settled into a pretty standard morning routine-Alex wakes up first, starts the coffee, then I get out of bed and make us omelettes.  That’s how we start most days.  If we’re going for a long hike, I make Jane an egg too so that I know she’s eaten something before her walk.

 On cold mornings we usually wake up to find Jane's head on the pillow in between us. 

On cold mornings we usually wake up to find Jane's head on the pillow in between us. 

But this day we just ran errands in town, we hit Camping World for a fridge vent and some roofing tape and REI for new hiking boots for me (Al threw my previous pair in the back of the truck and then forgot about them and one flew out somewhere in New Mexico-it’s cool, I like my new boots better anyway.)  Our big excitement for the afternoon was getting a message via Instagram from Jeanette and Eric of Jeneric Ramblings.  They were boondocking near us and recognized our location from a photo we posted.  They asked if we’d like to grab a beer the next day and we eagerly accepted.  We were excited to have real conversations with people besides each other and also, they’ve been on the road for a few years so we knew they would have lots of advice and cool stories for newbies like us.

The next day we visited Walnut Canyon National Monument (which you can read about here) and loved it.  We had to leave Jane in the RV since dogs are not allowed but the temperature was so mild, we weren’t worried about her at all.  We spent the morning there and then went into Flagstaff to meet Jeanette and Eric for some beer and burgers at Flagstaff Brewing Company.  It was so nice to be able to ask all of the questions we’d been accumulating over the past two weeks.  After dinner, we went to their RV to meet their kitties, Mojo and Karma.  We drank beer, ate cookies, pet cats and talked politics and RVing-basically a perfect night.  Meeting people on the road makes a big difference in overall comfort level.  Just knowing I can call Jeanette or Eric if I have a question is extremely comforting and makes me want to meet lots of other travellers.

The next few days were wonderfully uneventful.  We went back into Flagstaff to explore a bit of downtown, made a big batch of soup, did another hike at Walnut Canyon National Monument, sat at a laundromat for a few hours, Alex got his hair cut, we drank a few margaritas, it was really our first opportunity to just stop and enjoy our new lifestyle.  We felt very lucky overall, our first boondocking experience gave us a beautiful location, great weather (even when it snowed a little), new friends, and some great hiking.  We could have stayed another week but Sedona was calling so after 7 days in Flagstaff we hitched up and headed out of town.

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