We have found some AMAZING places to camp in our travels. On a good day, we know how to find a campsite! BUT…WHAT DO YOU DO when it’s getting dark, you’ve been driving for hours, you’re tired, hungry and SUPER CRANKY, and OH SH!T, the campsite found on iOverlander was taken? NOW WHAT??? What goes into how to find a campsite, and what went wrong this time? Read on!
Finding a campsite in civilization
Did you know you can stay in a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or BassPro parking lots overnight? For free? While in civilization, these can be a good options. But what if you are on the road to somewhere else?
Finding a campsite using technology
This is how WE find a campsite. Personally, my favorite apps are:
- US Forest Service
- Public Lands
- Google Maps
- The iOverlander app which I use the most, is a compilation of campsites, restaurants and other services entered in by other campers, in a map or list format. It shows services near your location, and once loaded, uses GPS not cell service to work.
- USFS shows US Forest Service and KOA Campgrounds nearby.
- Public Lands shows all government owned land, including BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands, on which you can usually camp for free for 14 days at a time.
Most times they have come through for us in finding a great campsite. In the South, however, there are few entries on iOverlander and almost no USFS land.
Next, we try Google Maps. We search for State Parks to see if there are any in the area, or you can also enter in “campgrounds” and many will pop up in your general area (most of these are RV parks).
Finding a campsite when those don’t work!
On this particular night, we were on a mountaintop with no cell service. WHAT DO WE DO??? Do we go to the next campground and hope something is still open and that they have space big enough to fit a truck camper on one of the busiest camping weekends of the year?
WHAT I DID: Paralyzed by indecision, I headed into the minimart to think and pee, of course! Just as I was leaving, an old southern gentlemen walked in. He was hard to miss as he was driving a bright blue Mercedes Kompressor 2 seater, and I kid you not, he was pushing 90 years old.
Something about him, made me stop and and have a conversation.
- Are you from around here?
- “Yes Ma’am,” he said.
- “Is there camping around here?” I asked.
- “Yes, Ma’am. Do you want close or do you want free?”
- “Whatever you think will have spots available,” I replied.
- “Go to Big Snowbird.”
WAHOO!! WE JUST MIGHT HAVE A CAMPSITE! Panicking, though, because I was starting to lose the precious turn by turn directions he was giving me, he pulled out a napkin and said, “I’ll draw you a map.”
I headed back to the rig, armed with my napkin map. Sean, looking super-skeptical and cranky as all get out finally agreed to try it. 25 minutes later we pulled into Big Snowbird Campground, much to our relief! WAHOO!!!! We found a BEAUTIFUL, AVAILABLE spot right along a babbling creek. A campground, I might add, that wasn’t on any app or map I had! Go figure!
Excitement at the campsite!
We spent a peaceful night along the creek until about 6 am, when cars, barking dogs and ALOT OF PEOPLE started pulling in. I looked out and could not believe my eyes: 15 people WITH GUNS AND DOGS were swarming our campsite. HOLY SH!!!TAKE!
WHAT SHOULD DO? PANIC OR BE COOL? I vacillated between oh sh!t, there’s people with guns outside my camper and wow that’s cool. The giggles of little girls swung me more soundly into the wow, it’s cool camp.
LO AND BEHOLD a bear had traipsed through our campsite, and the dogs were tracking it. For the next hour and half WE WERE TRANSFIXED. Eventually, the scent of bear took them away and peace reigned again. SHOULD WE STAY ANOTHER NIGHT? Nah, too much activity here for us!
Sharing Campsite Fun
That morning, I had a text conversation with my son, who asked if Sophie, our dog, had smelled the bear. Yes, she had smelled it, and RAN in the other direction, but she still ran faster than me. Always the survivalist, referring to Sean’s broken shoulder, he said this: (and I am still cracking up!)
Sometimes finding a campsite is so easy, and other times you are sitting in the middle of nowhere at sunset wondering HOW DO I FIND A CAMPSITE tonight? It’s those times when the path isn’t obvious that turn into the MOST AMAZING ADVENTURES AND MEMORIES! So, now YOU KNOW how to find a campsite, and that SOMETIMES, what goes into it is NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, BUT WHO YOU KNOW!