After having our LP blue flame heater installed in El Paso, we were ready for our first attempt at boondocking. (The reason we needed this “Blue Flame” heater for boondocking when we already have a furnace is because the furnaces that are built into RV’s use a lot of electricity to run their blower. When we’re boondocking it would quickly burn through all of our batteries. The link below is the one we purchased. -Tim)
What’s cool about staying in a National Forest is you have the option to boondock where ever you want. The park rangers call it “dispersed camping.” The first night at Gila (pronounced He-la), we stayed at the sparsely populated Mesa Campground for 15/night for water and electric hookups. Tourism doesn’t pick up until May in this part of the country since it still gets really cold at night in April, hence why we needed the LP heater. We decided to go ahead a pay for one night so we could fill up our water tank to prepare to boondock. The next day we went to the ranger station north of Mimbres to inquire about our options for dispersed camping with a large fifth wheel. The ranger suggested going up road 150. When we approached the road there was a sign warning proceeding with vehicles over 20 feet in length. After contemplating a few minutes whether to go back to the ranger’s station to ask him again or just go for it, we decided to go for it. It turned out that he was right. We easily made it up the gravel road to our sweet spot on a little plateau off the road. We had an almost 360 degree view of the forest. It was a little windy since there wasn’t much tree cover, but the old Yellowstone held up quite well against the gusty wind. To get the trailer leveled was a bit of a challenge. Up until now, we hadn’t really needed to try and level it. At first we tried to use those plastic orange levelers, but after a couple attempts and breaking one or two of them we determined that trying to back onto them with double axle wheels on rocky ground wasn’t going to work. The orange levelers worked fine on the front two legs and we ended up using wooden 2×4’s to level the wheels. If anyone has advice about this please comment below.
The next day, we drove over to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. It’s a scenic drive with lots of places to pull over and marvel at the mountains and cliffs. When we arrived we realized dogs are not allowed on the trail to the dwellings, so Marilyn had to wait in the car. One lady couldn’t help herself and brought her Boston Terrier in a bag. It looked ridiculous with only it’s head popping out of the bag. As the tour guide explained the dwellings, the dog obnoxiously whined and eagerly licked the woman’s allowing hand. It was only slightly distracting. We hadn’t planned on doing a tour but when we got to the dwellings one had just begun so we merged in with it. It was interesting because the tour guide pointed out things I wouldn’t have noticed. On the way to the dwellings I noticed a canyon ridge that I thought would be awesome to hike. When we drove up to it on the way back, I told Tim to pull over. It was the first off trail hike we have done. I was constantly looking for rattlesnakes or arrowheads. I thought to myself how the Apache would of probably used the ridge for hunting, taking advantage of the high ground. It was awesome because I’m sure not many people have walked down that ridge and seen the views of the canyon from that perspective.
On our departure, we decided to take a different route leaving the forest. Since we had to drive out of the way to head to Mesa campground to dump our tanks we decided instead of going back the way we came we would make a circle taking 15 South, thinking we would save time. Boy was I ever wrong. We ended up going down an extremely steep and treacherous road that took 2 hours to go 20 miles. It was stressful on both of us. We had to pull over twice to let the transmission fluid cool. (Lucky I had purchased an OBD II connector that let me view our transmission temperature on my phone or tablet, along with other important data, super useful. The one below is what we have, it’s only for android but there ones for IOS also. It works with most cars made in the last 20 years or so. -Tim)
Our lesson learned?? Be more specific when asking the ranger on what roads to avoid. Poor Oso (our truck).