The internet makes research easier and quicker than finding the proper books or sending away for brochures and such, but so much information is available online, that it’s almost impossible at times to process this plethora of riches.
I’ve been researching campsites and campgrounds for my upcoming adventure in May, and last night, when I realized I did not end up with a single hard fact after a couple of hours of perusing various websites, I closed down my computer. It would be nice if I could just drive for as long as I wanted, then magically find a perfect campsite when I needed it, but unfortunately, most campgrounds or campsites are down a side road. I could pass within fifty feet of one such and never even see it.
So, as frustrating as it is, if I don’t want to end up in motels every night for lack of a more interesting place to stay, I have to do the research. Besides, some places are only available on a reservation basis. I’ve been told you need to reserve a space six months in advance for Yosemite National Park, and though I really should visit the park, without a firm grasp of my itinerary, making a reservation seems a bit risky.
Most of the online camping directory sites seem to be geared for RVing rather than tent camping. For example, in one listing of places to camp, I found Walmarts, truck stops, turnouts, and various other places that might do in a pinch for parking an RV (though does anyone really get excited about sleeping in a Walmart parking lot?) but there is no way to pitch a tent. Or if tents are allowed, which I cannot imagine, there is no way I would ever tent camp in a Walmart parking lot.
Even some campgrounds in national parks and other national lands seem to be geared solely for RVs. One campground I researched that seemed ideal had a single spot for a tent camper. And that spot had to be reserved.
There are still tent-only campgrounds, but those all seem to be the hike-in kind. I might be comfortable out in the wilds by myself, but I am not comfortable parking my ancient VW and just leaving it at a trailhead for a few days. Besides, although wilderness hiking and backpacking is generally safe, I’m not sure the same would be true of a campground on the edge of civilization. And anyway, would I really feel comfortable walking five miles to camp? (I’m laughing at myself. I don’t know why this is even a blip in my head — five miles? Carrying a full pack? That is so ridiculous at my stage of fitness — or unfitness — as to be a non-issue.)
I know there are plenty of places out there for me to stay — after all, I found them when I was on my road trip. Admittedly, the parks and monuments where I camped were not insanely over visited like Yosemite and other parks in the Pacific states, but still, May is not the height of the tourist season, and I do not need to see the popular parks just yet. (After all, I have never been to the Grand Canyon, which everybody knows, but I did stay at Chiricahua National Monument, which few people ever heard of, and it was wonderful!
It’s a good thing I have four months to research. At the rate I am going, I will need every day of that time to prepare if I don’t want to stay in motels or (heaven forbid!) sleep in my car in Walmart parking lots.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.