Monday, January 8, 2018

Solo Woman Cyclist: Stealth camping

I love camping. I love the silence and communing with nature. What I don’t like are the crowds at state parks and commercial campgrounds. I hate camping tent row to tent row, right next to someone, hearing them through the thin walls of nylon.

I feel much safer stealth camping.

First off, hidden away in the forest, I feel better leaving stuff and riding into town for a meal. There are stories of people getting robbed at commercial campgrounds. There are no locks for those zippers. I also get a better night’s sleep away from kids screaming and people playing their guitars/radios until midnight. You wouldn’t believe how loud your neighbors can be. You’d think we’re all out here to appreciate nature—until the bottle gets passed around while sitting around the campfire. You’re left stewing in your sleeping bag wondering how much longer are these #%&@ going to do this?

Some principles I use when stealth camping. 1) Pulling off the road. I look for dead-end roads. I try to go pretty far from the road as the occasional noise of passing vehicles can keep me awake. There are also logging roads. 2) Go up rather than down. The higher you go the less likely people will come up looking for you. 3) Nature reserves that are closed after dark are great. Usually these are off-limits to cars but easily accessible to cyclists. I stay there and use the bathrooms unless locked up by a grounds keeper. 4) Edge of town I look for graveyards. There’s usually water and they’re quiet. Nobody thinks to bother you at night. Unless you believe in ghosts.

I use a tent that blends in. I like to camp near clumps of trees or under them for added protection. My favorite is finding abandoned campsites in forests where there is a fire ring and sometimes a three-sided hut.

What about a bathroom? Let me simply say I leave no trace. You will not find tissue on the ground in the a.m. When I leave and no one knows I’ve been there.

One of my favorite stories is once on my way home to Chicago from Grand Rapids I couldn’t make it to the state park so I pulled over into some woods. After heating up some soup, I settled in for the evening. I slept so soundly in the quiet cold that I didn’t realize until the next morning when I unzipped the tent that it had snowed. All around me was a white world—soft and unstained. A winter wonderland. The only trace when leaving was the trail my tires made through the snow.

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