We managed to get a pretty sweet campsite here at Valley of the Gods. We had an okay spot for the first two days we were here but when the guy left the site we’re at now, we jumped on it and moved the mile or so down the road to snag it. We’re perched up on a hill, at the base of Rooster Butte, with panoramic views of Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley in the distance. A lot of spots here offer similar views but this one sits a mile or so from the main road offering some nice privacy. The road to get to our spot is rough, narrow and rutted in areas so we’ve seen very few people go by. Just the way we like it.
Last night we were surprised to see a giant Class C motorhome turn off the main road and on to the road we’re on. We were more surprised when they turned the corner to climb up the hill to our campsite. It was Monday, sites weren’t scarce, I guarantee they passed at least a half dozen before getting to ours.
The guy pulled up right next to our trailer, got out of his motorhome and in a perfectly friendly but high-energy fashion, explained to Mark how “I camped in this spot last year and hiked up the butte with my kids and I brought my kids back with my nephews this time and I wanted to do it again just like last year but the spot’s taken so we’ll get our of your hair…”. He rambled on while six kids and his less-than-thrilled wife waited in the RV. It was nearly 9:00pm and almost dark out, I know how not fun it is to be looking for a spot at that hour. Mark explained how there was a spot much easier to get to on the other side of the butte, they had driven right past it on their way in. The guy went back and forth with Mark three times on whether or not they could hike up the butte from that side. “Because last year they hiked it from this side and they want to do that again.” Which was totally possible from the other side, if not even easier.
Again, he was perfectly nice but he was obviously thrown off that his plan had backfired. He was trying so hard to force something so specific to happen and had blinders on because of it. He lost a good 30 minutes of daylight driving all the way up to our small site (which you can easily see is occupied from the main road a mile away), carefully maneuvering his 35’ RV in and out of our spot and getting back out to the main road. In the meantime, his wife and 6 kids were getting antsy. With the windows rolled down, we could hear the tension coming from the cab of their coach as they slowly drove away, dragging the bottom of what looked like a brand new RV in the process.
Here’s the thing about RVing, specifically dry camping on public lands. Being flexible and fluid is KEY. You can’t make reservations for spots like these. You can’t predict when a road is going to be closed or washed out. You can’t control inclement weather that will make camping in your preferred destination totally miserable. I understand the desire to re-create a memory but that’s not always possible. And it means you’re always going to be measuring this trip against that trip, which kind of feels like you’re not giving this trip a fighting chance.
RVing creates an opportunity for spontaneity, which can be a really beautiful thing. We never know exactly where we’re going or what we’ll do or find while we’re there, so we’re always keeping our eyes open for opportunities. And almost always we’re delighted by what transpires. But if you’re the kind of person that likes structure, itineraries and organized activities, dry camping may not be for you.
I don’t know this family’s story, all I know is that I sensed a dad trying a little too hard to force the fun. A solid motive, yes, but probably why a lot of RVs end up parked in storage lots. There’s a decent learning curve to RVing, especially when you choose to forgo reservations and hookups. It takes patience, flexibility and a sense of humor.
I hiked around the butte this morning to see if they found the spot that Mark had pointed them to. They did. I saw the kids out running around and thought to myself, I hope they’re so busy making new memories that the expectations have been forgotten. Because when it comes to camping in wild places, it doesn’t get much better than this.