Sensationalism About the Homeless in National Forest


There is a New York Times Newspaper article  going around the net that has thrown a lot of people into confusion and fear. Numerous people have sent me the link and asked me if I thought this was the end of our way of life–vandwelling on Public Land. They told me that they had been planning to buy a van and move into it, but after seeing stories like these, maybe they would change their minds and give up on that dream. Hear is a link to the story.

To summarize it, it’s the story of a few towns in Colorado, where the National Forests backs right up against the town and homeless people are living very close to town and creating problems for the local folks. They often leave terrible garbage piles and some are mentally ill and even appear dangerous. To make matters worse, they routinely miss-manage their fires and create Forest Fires very close to town. Overall, they are a problem for the town and apparently creating a lot of fear, loathing and anger.

When people write me, they ask these questions:

  • Is this a game-changer for us?
  • Should I abandon my plans to become a nomad?
  • When I read something like this should I make major decisions based on it?

Absolutely not to each of those questions!! This is just more nonsense! It’s pure sensationalism to sell more advertising and create a climate of fear!!

Some thoughts to consider:

  1. The homeless are only a problem in a tiny percentage of the National Forests. Once you get away from larger population centers, the problem just stops entirely because they can’t afford to get out there and back to get supplies. I’d guess in 99% or more of NF there is ZERO homeless problem!! But, the Media is going to create a firestorm about the teeny, tiny percentage where there is a problem. Just go camp somewhere they aren’t at!
  2. It’s already illegal to reside in the Forest and no new laws are required–all they have to do is enforce the existing laws. On one hand, I’m very surprised they have allowed this to go on this long. But the simple fact is the FS doesn’t have the budget to enforce the laws already in existence. In 2015 they spent 3/4 of their budget on fighting Forest fires and so in the Coconino NF where many of us stay because of it’s close proximity to Flagstaff, there was an obvious downturn in enforcement. Numerous people spent the entire summer camped there with nary a word from the Rangers trying to stop them.
  3. Homeless camps in the woods have one problem–winter! It’s too cold to try to live in most NFs in the country, and all of them in Colorado. If you don’t have money, you’re not buying propane. Come winter you are moving into town
  4. Snow, the majority of roads in NFs aren’t plowed in winter and are impassable. If they are occasionally passable, you never know when a storm will hit and they will become impassable, locking you in for who knows how long.

If local communities convince the local Rangers to take action, that won’t impact you and I at all.  We can easily just drive a little further from towns and be all alone with no homeless anywhere in site. With less use on the Forest, there will be less Ranger activity and we’ll be left alone.

Nationally, people can cry all they want and Congress can pass more laws, but they won’t give the FS the budget to enforce it so nothing is going to change for you and I. If we go further from where the homeless are, nothing will change for us.

This was a homeless camp near me on BLM land in Arizona. The trailer was obviously not roadworthy and there was a lot more trash than you can see in this photo. He had obviously been living there year-around for years.

My Experience With the Homeless

I’ve run into the homeless in my travels and in fact experienced something very similiar to this, except it was on BLM land. When we first started camping in the Arizona desert at Ehrenberg, AZ, there were at least a dozen homeless camps on the road back to our camp. They were huge filthy messes and these people had obviously been living there full-time for years. They had towed in old RVs that could no longer be driven and had been living in them.

Apparently the County finally got tired of it and worked out an arrangement with the BLM because they came in with huge dumpsters and front-end loaders and simply scooped the entire camp up–including the trashed RV–and put it in the dumpster and took it to the landfill! That next fall when we returned, they were all gone and the place was spotless.

That whole winter there was rampant speculation about whether we would be next on the County hit-list. After all, some of our group spent the whole winter camped on one spot–although no one was there more than 5 months–and everyone kept a neat, clean camp.

I tried to reassure everyone that we were at no risk, but some just loved to fret and worry about it anyway. And I turned out to be right, we’ve camped there two winters since then and have not been bothered by anyone, County or BLM.

The simple fact is they don’t have the budget to spend much of it harassing us. If you keep a low-profile and  avoid being noticed by staying remote and keeping a neat, clean camp, you aren’t going to have a problem. If you are nearer to a large population center, you can expect the 14 day rule to be enforced, that leaves you two choices, 1) follow the rule and move every 14 days, or, 2) camp further out where the Rangers are unlikely to patrol.


The bottom line is this is just more sensationalism meant to profit off of our fear and to keep us in line and obediently serving our corporate and government masters.

Don’t let it work on you!!

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I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

158 comments on “Sensationalism About the Homeless in National Forest
  1. Avatar not a hyporcrit says:

    Oh no, let’s not let reality undermine your agenda to milk the uninitiated to further your own gain. You should be ashamed, amazon endowed supporter that you are.

    • Bob Bob says:

      And yet, I’m not in the least bit ashamed. In fact, when I get the hundreds of emails that I get thanking me for saving peoples lives, just the opposite is true. I’m extremely pleased with the course that has been laid out for me.

      • Avatar Esmeralda says:

        Bob, I am curious to your response to the question (which surely you’ve been asked before now): What is your plan when you reach the age when you are physically or mentally unable to continue living a nomadic life? Where will you be at that time?

    • Avatar Larry Stone says:

      All that camp in the top photo needs is some shade cloth and reflectix to spruce it up. BTW 50 watt solar starter kits have been lowered in cost to just the price of a single panel for Prime members. Use the link provide please to purchase.

    • Avatar Alan riggs says:

      The government doesn’t want you living the way your living. They want you confined to your home and work. Contributing to the master. They want your money in the back, electronically cause it’s not your money. They can take it if you get out of line. I am surprised they are not labelling can dwellers as survivalist so they can lock you up as a domestic terrorist. The country is in decline. Soon more homeless will join the ranks. They may spill over into where the van dwellers dwell. It only takes a few bad apples to spoil it for everyone. When the rangers or Leo can’t police the areas I think it invites even more danger esp. If the community gets involved. They may shut down camping to “regulated areas only” justified by lack of funding or preservation of land. Areas highly regulated. Maybe even increased costs to camp in areas to weed out the impoverished.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Alan, I don’t have nearly as cynical a view as you have. If any of that happens, it will be a long way off.

        • Avatar Alan Riggs says:

          I guess I have been accosted by the police to many times. Nothing like waking up at a secluded camp site to helicopter and stormtroopers. Oh, we are just checking for illegal activities up here. Can we search your van. Yes sure if you could please holster that weapon sir. Moral of the story. It only takes one noisy civilian to pick up the phone and call the police to complain about nothing to make a problem. If these need articles keep showing up in mainstream news will there be sympathy for the homeless or a cry for more laws and regulations?

          • Bob Bob says:

            You and I have had very different experiences with the law. In fact you have had different experiences than the vast majority of the 100s or thousands of vandwellers I know. Perhaps you need to examine your patterns of camping? Bob

        • Avatar Mary K. says:

          Hi. I appreciate all the good information & interesting comments. I’m moved to respond to the idea that closing public areas could be a long way off. As a former State Park Summer Ranger, I can tell you that Lawmaker’s answer to the perception of increased pressure on “problem” areas is often not more enforcement, it’s a gate & a lock on the access road. Freedoms can disappear with the stroke of a pen. Is there more that can be done to ensure our camping rights?

          • Bob Bob says:

            Mary, I think it’s very different at the State level than at the Federal level. The Feds can just print more money and have a lot more pressure on them from the people! Bob

    • Avatar Curtis says:

      Definition of hypocrite :a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.

      Bob has always made sure people know if they follow these links he makes money. Why should he be ashamed? Please explain this to me.

      • Avatar Curtis says:

        The comment above was for the first person leaving a comment.

        Great article Bob. Kind of silly really because I doubt people who own a full size rv stay awake at night wondering if they will be able to get into the national forest.

    • Avatar Geos says:

      You’re nothing a self righteous finger wagger. Bob provides a very valuable service for those who choose this lifestyle. If you don’t like it screw off.

    • Avatar Michael J. Canoy says:

      But – you are here. Does that not make you a hypocrit too?

  2. Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

    I’m not encouraging panic. Non-military government services in general are dramatically under-funded, and the wildfires are taking a big chunk out of what reamains. However, I would like to note a few things.

    First, in the eyes of the people in those towns, vandwellers are homeless exactly the same as those people leaving the messes. I know, you have a real income, keep a clean camp, and all the rest. The problem is, the people having and giving the stress don’t see that. They only see that you have no address (and no clean, conventional RV, if they even look at that). I live in a fixed location, so that makes me “not homeless” whether or not I have money, maintain my place, or anything else.

    Second, I don’t know about the people out West, but around here the outdoors homeless go south in the winter. They’re homeless, not stupid.

    Third, I would appreciate on a personal level if your readers would see the (other) homeless as real people. “Scooped up the entire camp, put it in a dumpster . . .” means they took away what little those people had left. Would anyone here like to unexpectedly wind up with only what they wore or carried on their person? Me neither.

    • Avatar LaVonne says:

      I have worried about what happened to those people since I saw that the camps were cleared out last year. Where do you go to everything has been taken away? So sad.

      • Bob Bob says:

        LaVonne, I think some of them just moved deeper into the desert. The ones down by the Flying J were just asking for it by being so close to view and being so messy. I was a little surprised when they cleaned out the ones on top by us.

    • Avatar Rob says:

      From what I heard the Ehrenburg people were told to get out & take what they wanted to keep. Sort of a “as much justice as you can afford” thing, then they were removed.
      I’ve heard it said that “sleeping under bridges is just as illegal for the wealthy as it is for the poor”.

      • Avatar Lucy says:

        LOL,LOL,LOL…the thing of it is, I have never known of a wealthy person that sleeps under a bridge !!!

      • Bob Bob says:

        I’m pretty certain that was the case. The Sheriff came out and warned them and the county posted signs warning that it was coming.

        • Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

          So how would they do that? It’s hard to hitch hike with a tent big enough to live in, even minimally, and enough camping gear to get by. Besides, hitch hiking is illegal in the U.S. and those are exactly the kind of people who would draw enforcement.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Calvin, that’s why my advice is simply to move further away so the people in town don’t know you exist. If they don’t know you’re there, they won’t hate you or form an opinion about you.

      How far south do you have to go in Ohio to get warm? My guess would be Florida. The homeless there can afford that?

      At Ehrenberg they were given notice and they could move and take anything they wanted with them.

      If my mentally ill son had not taken his life at 24, there is no question he would have ended up homeless. I am extremely sympathetic toward both the homeless and the mentally ill. Neither were the subject of this post.

      • Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

        They don’t exactly drive or fly down. One or two at a time, they can plan it out, take the most essential stuff that they can carry, abandon the rest, and either hitch hike or somehow acquire a bus ticket to Tampa or somewhere about that latitude.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Wow, I wasn’t aware of that. Bob

          • Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

            In a few places, some sort of private charity will help out. Some can get enough money from family or friends. The rest hitch hike.

        • Avatar Michael J. Canoy says:

          I hate it when the “System” does that. In cities they get funds to buy defunct hotels and condominions as homes for the homeless – then the middle class religious neighbors get up in arms, demonstrate, and block opening. Reminds me of Equal Housing for Minorities in the ’60s.
          No! We are not “Homeless”, just “House-less”. Stay off the Grid. Get an “Address” (see Bob). Show income, tax payments, voter ID (where ever your address and property tax is paid). Be scruplous about order, laws and being good neighbors. Do NOT try to set up permanent living on any public land – the automatic assumption is that you are homeless, or dope growers, or terrorists.

          You you give bad vibes, you are going to attract bad attention.

      • Avatar Amalia says:

        Dear Bob,
        I have been borrowing your dream of freedom and fantasizing my escape for a few months now. Thank you for sharing what must be a very private and painful thing. I too have a son with mental illness. He is a paranoid schizophrenic and he is unable to take non-psychotic medications because he has a metabolic reaction to them that causes a toxic condition in his body. I worry about him almost every minute. Almost every minute. His struggle has enriched my life with his daily bravery and enormous kindness and profound understanding.

        But there is always that chance that he may lose complete control.

        Sometimes I think it is only a matter of time…

        The bravest people in our society are the mentally ill that struggle to survive in a world that is afraid of them, is repulsed by them and does not make room for them. And they are legislating this cruelty more and more each day.

        • Avatar Michael J. Canoy says:

          I have 2 kids (1 adopted) with mental problems and they have lived deep in NF, and fear. I have social problems, but people expect that from scientists.
          The new National attitude is to throw all the homeless and mentally ill under the bus. The same attitude seems to condon individual cruelty against the poor and ill. More violence each day.

          What’s the answer? For us as individuals?

    • Avatar Van Dweller says:

      This is what I was thinking when I saw that. What a horrible thing to do.

      And yes, that is the exact issue. Its “guilt by association” so van dwellers should be particularly careful to not LOOK “homeless” e.g. keep clean, keep your van clean and neat, don’t overload it with junk, make sure its not an eyesore.

      You can try to snub your nose at the fact, but regardless of whether you like it or not, you will be the subject of public scrutiny. Being in public spaces nearly 100% of your time, you need to respect that fact.

  3. Avatar Scott says:

    We spent a month last winter near Lake Havasu. It was a great place, on BLM land. There were many people there who had set up homesteads. Those that we met were pleasant folks who kept clean camps. Although there was zero enforcement, I believe those people knew that thier situation was precarious and having a clean camp would most likely buy them much more time.
    There was a situation while we were there where some off road buggy enthusiasts tore the place up. The ranger who responded had a two day response time due to the huge amount of area that he had to cover alone.
    I felt very safe knowing that if there were an issue of a life endangering nature that the local leos would come quickly. I also felt comfortable that I need not watch the calendar to closely.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Scott, I am actually very pro Ranger, they have a very hard job to do and most do it extremely well! lake Havasu is a great place to winter!

  4. Avatar Kevin J says:

    Bob – have you read this article about how homeless are living? Was mentioning this to my girlfriend that we need to be certain we will not live like this. Knowing that this might be 90% mentally ill who do this. Still subjects us both the the media hype on problems.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Kevin, I think one of the most important reasons to live in a van is the reasonable certainty that you will never have to be homeless. A surprisingly large percentage of the US population is just a paycheck away from being homeless and as far as I am concerned they should all be looking into vandwelling.

      • Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

        Bob, you may be comfortable but you are also homeless by every definition I have found. The reason that matters is that laws about the homeless using those definitions are being passed often and will affect you sooner or later.

        • Bob Bob says:

          I agree. They are trying hard to twist “residency” laws into a tool against us. But they seem to be backing off on that.

          I don’t think we disagree on much here. Bob

    • Avatar Curtis says:

      Another example of hand picking one desperate person to write an article about and never following up with an article of a happy vandweller.

  5. Avatar Joy says:

    Just my 2 cents, but I don’t see why people push the two week time limit to more. By gosh, you are getting FREE campsites for two lovely weeks per place….What a Deal! Over here in Fl, most of the BLM land is swamp land, and gators are your neighbors. Not nice like on the west coast.

    When I am out vanning it , I keep an address, and just tell everyone…I’m on vacation, or on some kind of ‘humanitarian project’. Etc…etc.

    Keep your camp clean and neat…leave it better than you found it, and I’m sure we can all continue to enjoy America.

    • Avatar Wayne (Wirs) says:

      I’m with Joy. Four words: Break camp more often.

      We live on free land. We have wheels. If you keep a simple camp, one that is easily packed up, then moving is nothing. I’ve lived between John Day Dam and Mt. Hood for two months now with no problem. I haven’t stayed in the same spot for more than four days. I may return to a spot after a week or so, but I won’t “occupy” it. I don’t squat. If you keep a simple camp (see this example: ) then it’s nothing to move. 10 minutes tops.

      If we are good neighbors—if we are obviously temporary neighbors—then neither the neighbors or the law will have a problem with us.

      Be good. Be kind. Don’t take advantage. Don’t push the limits. Play nice and you’ll be rewarded.

    • Avatar Wayne (Wirs) says:

      Thinking more on this… All the government needs to do is pass a law that a permit is required to camp on public lands. One sentence and our way of living is wiped out.

      Be considerate. Don’t squat. Move often. Don’t set a bad example. Don’t give anyone a reason to complain. If you feel you need to make excuses or hide from the law, then you’re risking the lifestyles of all of us.

      We’ve all got wheels. Move often and no one will be offended.

      • Avatar Francisco says:

        Remember many of the homeless are mental ill., those will be the ones without the permits.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Very true Wayne!!

        But on the other hand, if you camp where there never is anyone else there, no one will be offended either.

        And no, I’m not hiding from the law–I just like being alone.

      • Bob Bob says:

        I basically disagree and think the possibilities of them making dispersed camping illegal are non-existent because the practicalities of the budget reigns supreme. Passing a law that prohibits dispersed camping will be a total budget-buster. You’ll have to double the number of LEOS EVERYWHERE in the National Forest to enforce that. Plus, it will create a GIGANTIC uproar with the public. The homeless residing in the Forest is already illegal, no new laws are required. Not a chance in hell that is going to happen!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        No, by far the easiest and cheapest solution is to shift more LEOS to the few problem areas and that leaves less for the areas where they aren’t a problem.

        We’ll come out ahead with less enforcement if we simply camp a little further remote where there are no homeless folks.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Very wise joy! Thanks! Bob

    • Avatar Larry Stone says:

      There is no BLM land located in Florida. Most of the free water management camps are located in oak hammocks which is the high ground.

      Now the real trick in Florida is to be able to camp/park in the most desirable coastal areas.

      For instance, I can stay (park) at Fort DeSoto park in Tampa Bay this winter without paying $40/night for a proper campsite or even a parking fee of any kind and still have access to the free hot showers.

      Unfortunately, I cannot divulge how I can do this as not to be overrun by others and lose the privilege.

  6. Appearances count a lot, whether we’re camped on public land or just parked in town while getting supplies. People in the “normal” world fear poverty and anything that looks like it. So the less we, our rigs and our encampments can look like homeless refugees, the more it looks like were just visiting rather than digging in for good, the less we’ll be hassled.

  7. Avatar Canine says:

    Tiny groups of dysfunctional people happen nearly everywhere, but people are quick to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Subjective bias and intolerance applied toward entire groups of people is easier than taking the time and energy to apply scrutiny and treat people as individuals.

    If I stopped in the middle of an urban slum, I wouldn’t think that entire city and the people within it were a mess. I would drive a mile or two and be fine. Easy-peasy.

    • Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

      I completely agree based on living in a city. I ride the transit buses to get around. Despite my country friends reeling in horror, I have had only one really unpleasant experience in riding the bus around ten years. That was caused directly by the older, white male driver.

      Most people are as reasonable as they can be, but fear and nonsense keep most of them from living well.

    • Bob Bob says:

      That’s very true Canine! Bob

  8. Avatar Cae says:

    I camped in at least 5 different national forests this summer and I noticed signs up in most of them reminding people of the 14 day limit. I also noticed some people leaving their trailers for a day or two at a time. I don’t remember seeng this ten years ago. So I’d say there’s some abuse going on, or at least complaining. But, as others have mentioned here…’ll get trouble the moment you attract attention to yourself.

    With very limited resources, the authorities can only go after the obvious abusers and respond to complaints. Like most things in life, stay below the radar and you’ll be fine.

    • Avatar Scott says:

      We plan on leaving our truck camper at a fixed location for a day, 2 days, or even 3 while getting further in the backcountry or visiting somewhere else. I don’t see that as an issue as long as the 14 day limit is followed. I don’t think the rules state that you have to be with the camping vehicle at all times. Am I right or wrong on that point?

      • Avatar Cae says:

        I’m pretty sure you’re ok, especially if you’re parked near a hiking trail head. And you’re within the 14 day limit. i just noticed trailers with no cars near it for days. legal, probably -yes, but it gets your attention if you’re in the area.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Scott, to be honest i don’t know. Bob

    • Bob Bob says:

      Very well summarized Cae. Bob

  9. Avatar Izaak says:

    Thank you for sharing this article. It’s a shame the media tend to focus on the few people who give the homeless/people living out of their vehicles a bad name. As we all know it’s all about control, pulling people back into easily regimented lifestyles: Rent/Mortgage. Car Payment. Consumption. Control with Debt and allusions towards the “American Dream.” All we can do is, as you said, is be the good example and show locals/authorities not all homeless people are a negative in their communities.

  10. Avatar Vagabound says:

    Interesting NY Times article, Bob. I wasn’t fully aware of the situation. Thanks for sharing it.

    That article and this blog post bring many things to mind for me. However, one more pressing than the others. It regards attitudes about and treatment of the homeless.

    I understand that a person has to protect their own interests. I also understand that there are benefits — stability-wise and psychological — to vandwellers siding with the “normal folk” over the homeless. “We’re not like _them_; we’re like _you_ … with wheels!” After all, who wants to paint a target on their own back?

    That said, I agree with the third point made in the comments here by Calvin Rittenhouse. It all makes me wonder, who can stand with the homeless? Who might be well suited or qualified to help bridge the gap between them and the rest of society?

    It often stuns me that a citizenry like ours, steeped in Christianity whether we like it or not, can be as unempathetic and hard-hearted as we are sometimes. What ever happened to the once-common notion of “There, but for the grace of God, go I”? Are we really so full of ourselves now that we cannot see that we either have been or could very easily be in that same boat? That luck more than superior ability separates us from them? That people who have next to nothing have very serious problems, onto which we do not need to pile prejudice and harrassment?

    Back in 2011, there was a little-known movie starring Ed Harris called “That’s What I Am”. He was a high school teacher back in the 60’s who was eventually suspected to be gay. He was questioned about it, and refused to answer, either admitting or denying. Few, if any, of his friends or co-workers could understand his approach, specifically why he just didn’t deny it. He suffered for refusing to answer.

    By the end of the movie, it became clear to me that he neither admitted or denied for some very important reasons. First, it simply was none of anyone’s business. Second, a denial, to avoid repercussions, would also serve to legitimize the prejudice against gays. Third, any repercussions based on an unpopular answer would surely be unjust and undeserved.

    Although the situation of Ed Harris and the issue now with the homeless and the stance taken by the vandwelling community are not equivalent, there is something similar lurking in there.

    The difference might be that only Ed took the high road.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I have to 100% agree that it’s incredible that there is so little compassion for the homeless in this country, even while we pretend to be a Christian nation. Sadly, it’s the Christian right that is the source of the most hatred for them. Every time a Christian tries to spew his hate on me, I simply tell them when they start to live the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matt 25 I’ll listen to them. Until then they only get my contempt.

      • Avatar Van Lady says:

        Bob, I am sincerely sorry you have had such poor interactions with Christians and/or the Christian Church in your life.
        I am a Christian and know many others. They (I) do their (my) best with God’s help to practice Matthew 25: 31-46. None of us claim perfection…we are human. There are so many individual Christians and Christian organizations that do so much good in this world. They sacrifice time and money out of love. Please consider this and possibly recognize this when you make such harsh statements about Christians. Thank you for your consideration.

        • Bob Bob says:

          In my experience the ratio of judgement/condemnation to compassion is very sadly off-balance in most of my interactions with Christians. The exception had been the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, those are the few who seem to actually live what they preach. I did a video with a lesbian couple and the hate just poured in from the Christians. I did a video of a woman who said she had lived all her life for others and now it was her turn–and the hate just poured in from the Christians. I get tired of it.

          • Avatar Jennifer says:

            I agree, Bob. Far and wide, my experience with “Christians” has led me to steer a wide berth around anyone openly proclaiming to be one. Of course this is not what your blog post is about but it’s a topic that irks me nonetheless. Good post, as always. We are still on track with looking for a conversion van and planning our van dwelling life. Your blog/website is such a great source of information, much appreciated.

          • Bob Bob says:

            Glad to help Jennifer! Bob

          • Avatar DrBill says:

            I could not agree with you more Bob. Churchies Are Evil, so much so I went and got baptised Mormon. These people took pity on me that I had no car and lived 20+ miles out of town, they provided me a car and paid for major repairs on it. They provided me with gasoline when I was out and food when I was out of that too. They have gone out of their way to make me feel a part of their families. Soon I will be going full time RV to see my son in Vermont for the summer and they asked me if I had any money saved to pay for possible repairs and offered to make any deposit to my bank account that an emergency may call for.
            Mormons Are Christians I have only had good experiences with and I am happy to call myself a Mormon now for a year. There is hope for Christians with Matthew 25. Thank You Bob For Keeping The Light On For Me.

        • Avatar Vagabound says:

          Hi Van Lady,

          We don’t know each other, but you sound like a considerate person. It would be nice to meet someday, have a meal and a chat, maybe at an RTR (if I ever make it).

          I said that first because I wanted you to hear that first.

          Second, I have no desire to sidetrack this topic (further), but I did want to say something to you that might help you to better understand Bob’s viewpoint … one that I share to the extent that I know it.

          Rather than an opinion, it is an objective, researchable fact that, almost always, whenever we see some mean-spirited social action / call-to-action in the U.S. — one that will surely result in more harm to the poor, the homeless, otherwise marginalized people, or harm to basic human or environmental rights — there is a Christian initiating that event, and many, many more of them cheering him on.

          If a non-religious person were to act that way, I would judge them quite harshly. However, when a religious, and specifically Christian person does so, is the height of hypocrisy, as they should be held to a higher standard. When people who identify as Christian behave in such harmful ways, it is beyond my understanding and may be beyond my ability to forgive.

          To be clear, I’m not talking about lone encounters with one odd Christian. This is widespread, standard operating procedure. Christians are the ones among us who should most obviously be leading the charge for the downtrodden, but instead they are the ones most eager to do harm. Organizational charity work does not erase or counterbalance that.

          So, the viewpoint expressed by Bob here, one that I agree with based on many years of firsthand experience, is not a misunderstanding. It is not an affliction that needs to be healed. It is simply a mind-boggling and regrettable reality.

          That said, I fully realize that there are good people out there doing good things who are also Christian. I just wished it was the norm and that it happened unconditionally.


          • Bob Bob says:

            I have to agree 100%!! The loudest voices of hate in this country almost always claim to be doing it in Jesus’ name. Of course they are liars, but they really do think that Jesus is that hateful. Bob

      • Avatar bbc says:

        Contempt and compassion in the same discussion?

        • Bob Bob says:

          I’m sorry but I’m juggling numerous discussions, can you clarify which discussion, contempt for whom?

          • Avatar bbc says:

            I was originally posting regarding your answer to Vagabound. It didn’t make sense to me at the time and my ego got in the way. But you know what? I have no right to judge anyone else and so I apologize. We’re all just doing to best we can given what we know (and I’m referring to myself).

            Thanks for all you do and passing along such needed and wonderful information.

          • Bob Bob says:

            Thanks bbc,no need for an apology at all! Bob

      • Avatar Esmeralda says:

        Dear Bob, the reference you made to the Book of Matthew in the Bible relates to believers (sheep) and unbelievers (goats) – period. It doesn’t refer to good or bad deeds. Absolutely, if your life profession is that you are a Christian, then ACT like one and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give a drink to those who are thirsty, love your neighbor…It is unfair to lump people of the Christian faith together since their maturity level and their “walk” in the Christian faith are different. ALL human beings are sinful and deal with that true fact in so many different ways…some don’t do so well, while others shine like the stars. Mercy/compassion is such a wonderful and needed gift to give to one another. Because someone may (respectfully) disagree with another’s viewpoint, that lack of agreement simply put means they have opposing views. To discuss the issue(s) in a calm & rational manner is to extend grace to hear the opposition out; zero “tolerance” for name-calling. Since when did that ever accomplish anything? Not in grade school and not in adulthood. In my lifetime I have never heard a Christian spew out hatred (I am over 50 years old). I have discovered that, generally speaking, people don’t want to listen to biblical truth if they are living contrary to its teaching. First comes the guilt, then (often times) anger or contempt, then retaliation or change. We’ve all got to deal with it. That’s life. [To quote the Book of Micah…Chapter 6, Verse 8: “He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”] Who can argue with that? Sounds like wise counsel on how to live a good life. Hope to see you out there some day.

  11. Avatar Rob says:

    This was a good post Bob, thank you for passing it along.

    We’ve chosen a lifestyle that some are forced into and many fear. This is another deeply ingrained thing, towns built walls to keep out the people who didn’t live there.
    Giving a good first impression goes a long ways…

    If you don’t care about that then you don’t care & some people don’t.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Rob, I just try to be where there is no one around to impress or anger. Then there is no impression, either good or bad.

    • Avatar DrBill says:

      Then there are some towns if you not Born and Raised there the locals Hate you because you are new. This is one of the reasons I want out of the town I’m in. Interestingly enough they call themselves Christians but None of them go to church. There be 20 people in the local community church on a good day with 1 child in sunday school.

  12. Avatar Steve says:

    I started doing some searching for more articles about the homeless in the forests and public lands, and found lots of them. The main theme of most was that lots of people were complaining, and about the trash left behind, fouling the waters, and the huge forest fire problem. That is a combination for an excuse to make changes.

    And like someone said….. all that has to happen is a law gets past stating that you can only camp in designated campgrounds that the forest service will slap together…. then free and wild camping in the forests and Blms will be a thing of the past. Of course they will charge fees to campers to help cover the cost of the extra rangers that will enforce that law or laws. And if that doesn’t cover it, then the tax payers will pick up the reminder of the expenses. That’s the same thing the National parks and State parks do which works pretty well.

    In my opinion, I think things have reached a point of no return, and something will have to be done to protect what is left of our public nature areas. And just because some of us keep our camp sites clean and picked up that will not make any difference, because the authorities are looking at the nasty places that are left by others and the forest fires that do so much destruction…..and jeopardize peoples homes around them.

    Like I said that is just my opinion.
    But it is based on what I have seen in the past of what happens when the sensationalism starts to brew and spread.YMMV

    • Avatar Vanholio! says:

      The big threat right now to us with the national forests and BLM land are the politicians and special interests pushing to turn over “some” federal lands to the states. This is in the current Republican national platform, though it’s unclear which federal lands they’re referring to, probably stuff they think would be better ranched or mined. Anyway, the states won’t be able to afford even the services the feds do and will either charge more to outdoorsy types like us or (opponents predict) sell off the lands to speculators.

      Not that what you’re predicting couldn’t come to pass with enough hype. I’m just saying that the push to turn over federal lands to states has organized political momentum.

    • Avatar Francisco says:

      Not to worry, there will be a drone at every campsite looking at your every move. You’ll even be able to go fishing with your very own big brother surveillance drone who will love you very much. Sorry no donuts, but they can give you a nice picture of yourself catching the wrong fish. Do I smell a nice big fish fine. Why I sure do, check your email for the nice loving post card fine your big brother sent you. Remember you also have Uncle Sam who loves you to.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I appreciate your point of view, but I think that is very unlikely. We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. Worrying about it isn’t going to help anything or make my life any better.

      • Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

        There’s sarcasm there (I assume), but he has a point about drones and another about surveillance in general. Already in the cities, if a person is in public, they are on camera.

  13. Avatar Francisco says:

    Go West Young Man. I’ll take homeless people any time. They have found drug dealers in them there woods, hills, even underground. Many leo and hikers have gotten killed by running into the funny farm. This is also very very true with where you are at Bob, Oregon State. So being out in the woods you better keep your pea shooter ready and make good friends with all the Big Foots.

  14. Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

    PS: I don’t see it as reasonable to call New York Times reporting “sensationalism.”

  15. Avatar Linda Sand says:

    Bob’s post about shade cloth made me wonder about this topic. That shelter made his site look more permanent yet temporary which made it look a bit more like a homeless encampment. And his advice to stay beyond 14 days by camping further in does not sit well with me either. Since most of us need to either dump trash, do laundry, and/or buy groceries at least once every 14 days, why not just move then as well? The fewer rules we break the less likely we are to lose this privileged way of life. We should not blame the homeless for our own reckless behavior.

    • Avatar John Bruce says:

      That is my thinking as well. I subscribe to maybe 10 Facebook RV groups. It is amazing to me that people who own an RV are not prepared to dry camp except for sleeping in a Walmart parking lot as they travel to their next hook up. It may take some planning but 10 to 14 days seems like a reasonable time to stay in one place before going to town to dump trash and stock up. It all depends on the resources one has planned for. The really nice thing about the tribe concept is that those trips can be pooled to make it even more efficient.

    • Avatar Steve says:

      Linda, I am going to have to respectfully disagree about Bob’s camp looking like a homeless abode. I was at Ehrenberg this year and visited his campsite. Bob keeps a very neat, organized, and clean place. I have seen other people use tarps and such in parks,campgrounds etc. That is just somewhat typical type camping gear. From what I saw of his site he runs a pretty tight ship.

      What the authorities and people are complaining about are the ones that live like pigs. They leave trash strewn around and everything just looks disheveled and nasty. Bob takes pride in his lifestyle and presents what I would call a professional attitude about how he does things.

      If everyone was camping like him there would be no news articles floating around complaining about people trashing our beautiful forests and lands.
      I am just going by what I personally saw.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I appreciate your viewpoint Linda, thanks for sharing it with us. I’m not sure what you mean by saying we blame the homeless though. I make it a very specific point to try to never camp anywhere near towns or houses where homeowners know about me. That’s a certain way to get a knock on the door from a Ranger. For some reason some homeowners have a skewed sense of time.

      One time I broke that rule and camped where homeowners could see me coming and going. I’d been there 2 days and a Ranger came into camp and told me that a homeowner had called and said I had been there for more than a week. I set him straight and he left. Ever since then I try very hard to be unseen by any homeowners. Bob

    • Bob Bob says:

      Linda, one more comment about the shade cloth. That was at our Ehrenberg camp that is on BLM land, but that they do not enforce. I’ve had a Ranger tell me in person they don’t enforce there and we can stay as long as we like. That’s why the County came in and cleaned it up, the BLM doesn’t care about it.

      • Avatar Linda Sand says:

        Bob, I have been to several of your camps and they are always tidy. My concern is with people who aren’t as careful as you about where and how they camp who then use you as a source for what they do. Adding tarps is often the first step in downgrading the look of a site so I’m not happy that you encourage that. We have to be careful not to take an entry level step down a path we do not want to follow.

        • Bob Bob says:

          I guess my experience as a campground host for 4 years impacted me. It was incredible the elaborate camps people would set up for just a weekend. They’d get there Friday, spend half the day building camp, and leave on Sunday and spend half the day tearing it down.

          Rangers find big elaborate camps typical and normal–no red flags there. Bob

  16. Avatar Vanholio! says:

    A buddy of mine used to work as a federal ranger in West Texas (can’t recall if it was NPS or what). He pointed out three factors limiting their enforcement, besides not having enough agents and forest fires taking up lots of time. 1. They’re more worried about poachers of animals, minerals, trees, mushrooms, etc. And even then, they’re more worried about organized, high-volume poachers than locals shooting a few rabbits out of season. 2. The rangers tend to work alone in the backcountry policing folks who are often armed. So the smart rangers take more of a community policing approach and tend not to provoke confrontations. They just advise folks about the rules and try to generally discourage things from getting out of hand by making a presence. He said there were only 2-3 times he had to bring down the hammer over several years. 3. They were also pretty concerned with drug runners and “coyotes” (people smugglers). In other areas of the country, they worry about pot farmers. … So except in parks and forests near population centers (Flagstaff, Boulder, San Francisco etc.), people who are homeless but not otherwise a problem – or just bending the rules a bit like us – are down lower on the list of priorities. Not that you can’t run into an eager beaver of a ranger sometime or rangers getting a short-term push from administration to enforce, but probability is against it, IMHO.

  17. Avatar John Bruce says:

    Looking a the big picture, the LTVA BLM lands in the South West were set up to give snowbirds a place to plant themselves for the Winter. When you think about it, some foresightful bureaucrat(s) did a good thing, the direction could have easily been to simply not let people do it. On that land you are not able to park just anywhere, it is a gigantic area, but the actual camping is allowed on a relatively small area (big, but small!?). The same could happen on Forestry land. But as has been stated, it is about control and as anyone who has past through an airport recently if there is anything going on in our governance it is about control of the population. By the way, from experience, if you offer a homeless person a place to hang out freely the chances are really good that they either not look upon your charity as a positive thing or they will trash it in just a short time. The psychological disfunction of a homeless person is a very, very sad thing. Best thing, as Bob and others say, is to get away from populated areas.
    We all know there is never going to be a time when “the man” says “go ahead, do anything you want to do”.

  18. Avatar John says:

    Bob as I read your current post I am camped Near your RTR location outside of Flagstaff. The site I found has a fire ring and had partily burnt trash in and around it. I realize not everyone’s cares about our forests but can’t they just pickup their trash. So I cleaned up the site and will haul it out. I would hope the tribe would do the same to keep our forests clean.

    Thanks for all you do. I am just a part timer but I so enjoy the times I can get away.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks John. That’s a popular spot and I’m sure it has been used a lot in the 2 months since we were there. The Ranger gave us until noon the next day to leave and we did. I returned the next day at noon and the place was SPOTLESS!! Much cleaner than when we found it.

  19. Avatar Francisco says:

    Meet my little friend, drones drones drones and more drones flying every where. Do not adjust the horizontal, do not adjust the vertical. Your thoughts are not your own and so on forgot the rest but you get the idea. You’ll get flying police inside your bathroom no budget needed some will be the size of a small HOUSE-FLY! Wow, enter the twilight zone.

  20. Avatar Vagabound says:

    My first comment on this article was slow in getting posted, as it needed approval as my first one. A few things to update:

    * I was referring to Calvin’s first comment in the thread.

    * My better-considered revised final line is this: “‘Homeless’ isn’t a species. It’s a condition. Maybe there’s something we can all learn from Ed about being less willing to categorize and more willing to empathize.”

    * Regarding the campsite photo at the top of Bob’s article. I think we should all be against that. But not because homeless people did it. Because anyone did it.

  21. Avatar Hunter says:

    I was hungry and you fed me,
    I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
    I was homeless and you gave me a room,
    I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
    I was sick and you stopped to visit,
    I was in prison and you came to me.’

    My addition- I didn’t know what to do and you showed me.

    Right on!
    Some do it. You do with this blog. Underground Follower? Feel free to listen.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I’m okay with Jesus, if you can figure out what was literal and what was figurative. I take the quote here to be literal–GO DO THIS!! It just seems obvious the hell stuff to be figurative as in a “hell” of your creating in your heart and mind. I’ve spent a lot of time there and don’t want to go back. That’s why I try hard to follow the above words. They keep the self-created hell out of my heart and mind.

    • Avatar Van Lady says:

      I agree!
      Many do it….Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddists, other faiths and secularists.
      There are many good people left in this world!

  22. Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

    I still think seeing vandwellers as different from homeless people is naive. I know that many here have spent their lives prior to now in “acceptable” socioeconomic categories and are the “right” race. I’m almost the right race for this comment, but I never had much money. My experience is that law enforcement, courts, and society in general don’t care what your intentions are or what you used to be. If you’re “homeless” (and that means you have no fixed address, nothing more), then you fit their stereotype. Then the trouble starts.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I agree with you. I’m not in the least bit sure we disagree about anything at all. Knowing you, I would be surprised if we did.

      But, LEOs are still limited by the law. Don’t break them and you’ll be okay. The worst thing that will happen is they will tell you to move on. But I’ve never seen that unless you were over the 14 day limit. Bob

      • Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

        Bob, I literally got stopped for speeding once in New Orleans while I was sitting at a stop light. That’s what one of the cops told me they stopped me for. I was driving an older, not-shiny car with out-of-state tags, and that was enough. The two officers went through everything in the car, broke my lunch box, and stole a couple of items. Everyone in the car was white, and I bet it would have been worse if we were not. Don’t count on good citizenship to prevent trouble.

    • Avatar Vagabound says:


      In a manner of speaking, that is the point I was trying to make in my long-winded comment. Are vandwellers different than the homeless? Yes and no.

      Yes: Many vandwellers have the means — financial, mental, emotional, etc. — to present themselves better, and do make choices that put them in a more acceptable category of behavior than some homeless people (like the ones from the photo above).

      No: You already explained this from one angle, and I think you’re right about that legally, despite how distasteful it might be to those it applies to. I’ll take another “No” angle. We are all people. As obvious as that sounds, I think it is often overlooked, in practice. The other important point is that none of us are absolutely anything … except people. Nearly everyone is homeless or near it to one degree or another. For some, the bank really owns their home and they get to not be homeless as long as they are lucky and the bank agrees. Think not? Stop making mortgage payments and welcome to homelessness. Vehicle-dwellers? Partly homeless, including the guy who built the gazillion dollar conversion express van. People in a smaller but nice van? A bit closer to homelessness, in a manner of speaking. People living in a car? The smallest separation from homelessness. The lady in a tent by the river? Well, she has a tent. It’s all a matter of degree.

      What’s the point? Rather than focusing on differentiation so much, we could focus on shared humanity, need, and our ability to assist each other.

      Sorry, Bob, if I’m helping to sidetrack the conversation, but this topic gets to me. And the best conversations evolve anyway. 😉


  23. Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

    Vagabound, that’s a fine philosophy and I agree with it. The problem is that many others do not, including nearly all of the police officers I’ve encountered when they were working. I stick to the practical considerations, and it really matters whether the police, judges, and rule makers see van-dwellers as “homeless” according to a picture in their minds.

    • Avatar Vagabound says:


      At the end of the day then, the best approach — measured by practicality and feasibility — seems to be the one advocated and followed by Bob: Out of sight, out of mind.

      That said, I personally would still like to add an educational / advocacy element to my interactions. To the extent that I’m forced to have conversations with LEOs (or any other applicable person), I’m going to at least promote the view that the homeless (by negative definitions) should be seen as people needing help vs. a fungus to be removed. That said, I am not especially naive. I realize that LEOs are task-executers, not policy-makers. I’m also aware of the limitations of helping or rehabilitating hard-cord drug users / permanently vagrant / severely mentally ill people.


      • Bob Bob says:

        There are no easy answers for the homeless. I am 100% sympathetic toward them, but it is an incredibly complex issue involving the two biggest problems in America, 1)the budget and the costs of dealing with them, and 2)not interfering with their civil rights.

        We MUST do something, but NO ONE has come up with a good answer yet.

        • Avatar Lucy says:

          How I see it:
          1) To be able to get ‘ the mentally sane ‘ homeless people we need jobs for them & housing to among other things. Our manufactures are in China, Bangladesh,Nicaragua, India there are no jobs for us. Without jobs=$$$$ the displaced workers can’t afford housing, period !!

          2) The homeless that are mentally insane will strongly benefit from a place where they are able to find regular meals, a roof over their head, a clean bed,medical & psychiatric treatment… all this among others. Well my friends, how can all this take place when all the existing psychiatric facilities, one after another are closing & dumping their patients on the streets ??? Like Bob said this is a very complicated issue & seen its progression toward the negative side it makes us believe that the solution is NOT even near.

          • Avatar Lucy says:

            I should have said: ” To be able to get the mentally sane homeless people OFF THE STREETS we need jogs for them…

          • Bob Bob says:

            For some of the homeless problems the solution is just simply spend the money to fix it. But there are two reasons that isn’t likely to happen: 1) We don’t have the money to spend, 2) Way too many Americans hold the homeless in contempt and hate them–particularly the Christian Right. So if we had the money to spend we wouldn’t anyway because the good Christian people see it as immoral to help them. If they won;t work, they shouldn’t eat!

            With the mentally ill, most of them simply will not cooperate no matter what you try to do for them. Their mental illness forces then to see it as an attack. If you force them onto their meds, their fine, but that is a total violation of their human rights.

            It’s a hard problem to solve. Bob

  24. Avatar Rick B says:

    Well said Bob. I’ve seen these people all over and there will be more as time goes on and more people find it harder to live the “Normal ” Life.. The big part is just be responsible and pick up after yourselves.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Very well said Rick! Bob

      • Avatar Dust-in-the-Wind says:

        Bob said: 2) Way too many Americans hold the homeless in contempt and hate them–particularly the Christian Right. So if we had the money to spend we wouldn’t anyway because the good Christian people see it as immoral to help them. If they won;t work, they shouldn’t eat!

        Bob, it sounds as if you’ve had a really bad experience with someone who you knew to be (or called themselves) a Christian. How you knew they were a conservative, or Right-wing, or Republican (oh, the horror), I can’t say. But I have to say that lumping us (yep, I plead guilty to matching the description) all together is at the very least unfair, and at the other end of the spectrum, just downright wrong.

        Van dwellers don’t want to be categorized together with the guy/gal who left the tent and it’s mess and I don’t want to be viewed as someone who just claims Christian Conservatism as a convenient label while acting like a complete jerk.

        There’s no shortage of hypocrisy in Christianity or any other organized religion I suspect, and organized religion doesn’t have an exclusive franchise on any of mankinds’ shortcomings. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations of us. But not all of us are as bad as whoever gave you that poisoned picture of a Christian Right-winger either.

        I spent 15 years as the team leader of a group (not all Christians, but several were)who responded to natural and man made disasters from New York City to San Diego, trying to help people who were in many, many instances newly homeless, starting over from scratch with nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever they could carry with them as they left. Amongst those truly in need, there were scattered those just trying to game the system. Those who wanted to take advantage of what they perceived as free stuff. We could usually spot them a mile away, but we helped them too. Sometimes you just have to accept that there are those types of people and let the chips fall where they may and try not to let it affect your attitude about the bigger mission. The folks who thanked you in a heart-felt way with tears streaming down their face made up for dozens of the scammers.

        So, we’re not all stiff-necked, judgemental jerks. Maybe the person(s) you encountered was/were just having a bad day.


        • Bob Bob says:

          Of course you’re right, the majority get painted with the broad brush of the small minority.

          I’ve worked hard at overcoming my resentments, by far those against the church are the hardest to overcome. They just insist on giving me so many more reasons to dislike them.

          • Avatar Lucy says:

            That’s why many Christians ‘ split from church ‘ & become ‘ independent Christians ‘- I know it by experience- besides my relationship to Christ / God is a relationship of one-to-one, who needs the ‘ middle man ‘?? I don’t !!

            My humble opinion. Lucy.

          • Bob Bob says:

            That I can fully understand and agree with!! Bob

      • Avatar Esmeralda says:

        Bob, you have sufficiently flogged that “Christian right” horse. It’s gasping for breath. Perhaps, according to your rhetoric and your continuance in referring to this dreadful tribe of folks, a person might come to the sad conclusion that Christians are not welcome near your boondocking site. Yikes! You must have rubbed shoulders with a sizable number of haters during your travels…of the right-wing Christian persuasion…as you’ve mentioned…on several occasions. I had previously stated that I hoped to meet up with you some day, however, I am beginning to think that the reception to my Christian presence would be a chilly one, which is precisely the temperature I am trying to avoid (considering I am coming from N. Minnesota). ? PS. Where do you get the notion that Christians think it is immoral to help the homeless? That’s an unkind statement, Bob.

  25. Avatar Vagabound says:

    As for the main point of Bob’s article (finally) — sensationalism — I’m of two minds.

    First, I agree that taking a statistically tiny fraction and offering it up as the norm is sensationalistic. Unfortunately, that is the current trend in nearly everything. From that perspective, I think it is something that can be ignored.

    Second, the great nicely-scrubbed masses and those desiring their votes often react to and are guided by sensationalism vs. facts. It often leads to wrongheaded and over-reaching policy. Timing aside, I see no reason why perceived threats to national forests would be an exception to that rule. I really hope I’m wrong.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I basically agree, but the practicalities of the budget reigns supreme. Passing a law that prohibits dispersed camping will be a total budget-buster. You’ll have to double the number of LEOS EVERYWHERE in the National Forest to enforce that. Plus, it will create a GIGANTIC uproar with the public. It’s already illegal, no new laws are required. Not a chance in hell that is going to happen!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      No, by far the easiest and cheapest solution is to shift more LEOS to the few problem areas and that leaves less for the areas where they aren’t a problem.

      We’ll come out ahead with less enforcement if we simply camp a little further remote where there are no homeless folks.

  26. Avatar Matthew NY says:

    I’m not an RVer yet, but as retirement time gets closer, I am looking into it.

    I was thinking it would be a way to say thank you to whoever’s land you are parked on by taking a stroll with a garbage bag and pick up stray trash, and/or put the carts back in the racks at Walmart.

    Of course, a site like the one above should be avoided until the possibly mentally ill person has vacated, even if you wanted to tackle it all by yourself.

    If you do get harassed by a ranger, the bag of garbage would be something to point to to indicate you are a good RV citizen.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Very good point Matthew. Standard policy among us is to leave the place cleaner than you found it and if we all do that, we’ll be okay. For example, I’ve had the RTR in Quartzsite at the same place for 3 years and the Ranger knows us and is kind to us because he knows for a fact we leave the place very clean and we are not a problem to him in any way.

      Our reputation is critically important to us! Bob

  27. Avatar MnDreamer says:

    I thought about your blog post as I read this story reported on Minnesota Public Radio:

    First, it makes me really sad to think people are this disrespectful in our national parks. I’ve never had the means to vacation in the parks, and I am so looking forward to two years from now, when I plan to set myself free to visit these beautiful parks as a cheap rv liver.
    Secondly, I noticed that twice in the piece, people who camp illegally is mentioned as a problem, yet no specifics are given, as the focus seems to be mostly on those who interact inappropriately with wildlife. There’s no solid evidence in the article that the camping problems are actually happening, or if they are, that they are happening to a degree that they pose any threat to the parks.I had to wonder if this may be another case of sensationalizing an issue to add interest to the story.
    My selfish side has me hoping that these issues aren’t as big a problem as they are reported to be, and that they don’t cause regulations to be created that will limit my chance to enjoy the parks when I get out there.
    Do you, Bob, or any of you in the RTR tribe have thoughts about this?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Because nearly all of the National Parks forbid dispersed camping anyone spending the night anywhere outside of a campground should be very obvious and easily caught. The only exception would be sleeping overnight at trailheads but they too should be easy to catch. It’s just nearly impossible to camp there illegally so I find it hard to believe it’s much of a problem.
      Stupid people interacting with wildlife is a HUGE problem though, it’s incredible what they do.

      I don’t think this is going to have any impact on our lives at all.

      • Avatar MnDreamer says:

        And it looks to me like there’s very beautiful and desirable free camping or low-cost forest service camping near almost every national park, so one can go in, see and enjoy, and then get the heck out and find some solitude, yes?

    • Avatar Vagabound says:

      Two words — Darwin Awards.

  28. Avatar Bob says:

    Why is the New York Times picking on the homeless? There are plenty of messes in the city. You would be amazed at how filthy some homes are. As a repair technition I have seen it all, and it is very common. Most of the people have a job, wealth and a home but choose to be a slob.
    You said it best “we are being buried by all our stuff” they need to read your blog.

  29. Avatar Roxy says:

    It won’t stop me…I’m just a nature lover who loves to be out in pretty or beautiful places. So far I’ve never had any trouble from the law (I got a warning ticket once, because I left a tent up for a week). I think being respectful of the land, and keeping a VERY clean camp makes a world of difference. I also don’t stay in one spot for long, usually not more than one or two nights. I do know other people that have been searched regularly, and I have no idea why, they don’t do anything to draw attention. The dumping of trash in the National Forest in Colorado, has led to many free camping places being closed. The homeless are being blamed, but many times it happens over night, and I feel sure that it’s locals just using the area as a dumping ground. Yes, a few people can ruin it for us all…Sadly, so many humans have no respect for anything or anyone 🙁

  30. Avatar Tommy Olsen says:

    “This land is your land, this land is my land.” Sounds like Woody had it correct when this song was recorded. Maybe it is time we put actions to our words and take care of the public lands by gathering the tribes to work hand to hand with the NFS and help them to take good care of the lands we cherish. Anyone can volunteer a couple hours a week to clean up and be a service to the NFS. I’m sure they would appreciate people who have a reputation for helping them out instead of the people who are there to trash the land.
    It’s my plan to do it when my time comes to go vandwelling.

  31. Avatar Matthew NY says:

    I saw this article a couple of weeks ago about Utah wanting to seize all the federal land within its borders for itself:

    Could the recent stories about homeless mentally ill squatters messing up BLM land be planted stories by friends of the real estate developers that would profit if the National Park System was scaled back or dismantled?

  32. Avatar anewbiewannabe says:

    Something in the background of this election year that hasn’t been explained thoroughly or gotten very much press is the GOP platform on removing some lands from Federal control. The timing on the articles coming up about the homeless or reckless or what have you on lands controlled by National Park Service or other Federal lands feels like a manipulation to me—another manipulation of the “regular” folk who jump on party bandwagons without doing their own research once the sensationalism has been put into play. There’s some questionable choices being made in gubment at national level about who can log or graze on public lands already so turning land over to the states just seems like another politician’s way to make more bucks. (BTW, this isn’t meant to be a political remark but it does involve politics.) I think having National lands and parks is very important to preserving wilderness, natural, and open areas.

    A link for a little reference: Don’t have time to find more atm so do your own research.

  33. Avatar Francisco says:

    Here is what may be happening in the forest service.

    Closures And Prices

    This may be only the beginning. Maybe soon, no free camping.

    First in December 2009, came the news that the U.S. Forest Service was looking to end the half-off discount program for seniors over the age of 62-years-old that started in the 1960’s. Seniors were granted the “Golden Age” passport and the disabled were granted the “Golden Access” passport, both offered 50% off of the price of federal campgrounds run by private concessionaires…for life.

    Now, however, it seems that the U.S. Forest Service is having second thoughts about that lifetime guarantee. The jury is currently out on the decision to do away with the 50% off discount and instead change the discount to 10% off for these same groups. For retired RVer’s who often use federal campgrounds for RV vacations, this could be a significant price increase and a large burden on those living on Social Security that hasn’t increased in years. To be fair, Jim Bedwell, director of recreation for the Forest Service points out there’s still free admission, still a discount at sites managed directly by the government, and more benefits to come, including discounts on rentals of “day-use” facilities such as picnic grounds.

    The second blow that seems to be going against retirement RV owners is the fact that many state parks might be closed because of State budget cuts. Some State officials think that closing State Parks will help solve their budget woes that they are currently facing. Whether closing State Parks will actually help budget problems is yet to be seen, but there are some naysayers and RV travel supporters out there that suggest that closing State Parks will not have the implications that State’s hope. Reasons listed include the fact that:
    1. State Park attendance continued to be strong in 2009, even during a recession

    2. Building and maintaining State Parks helps to create jobs

    3. State Parks help to promote tourism, and more.

    What do you think? Have the recent developments in the closures of parks and increase in park fees tainted the dream of retirement RVing that you had when you first went out to buy an RV and charted out your dream retirement?

    • Avatar Calvin Rittenhouse says:

      The State Parks in Ohio probably will see few to no closures. Prices are high (by my standards; “from $30” for an electric site, with very few primitive), but the campers keep coming. Ohio’s government is very business-oriented and they would not give up anything that makes money.

      The RVNewsletter has a recent series on “The Death Spiral of the RV Industry” that includes discussions of profitable campground practices that will eventually cause more and more trouble for campers in general.

      • Avatar Francisco says:

        To me decent built RVs that don’t fall apart are a rich persons toy. Soon camping will be for a rich person.

        So I just go all stealth with a van, and use simple camping equipment.

        I avoid the middle man, upper head honcho man, and the lower man worker on strike for more money. No reservations needed, and no private information taken, being kept track of, extra fees, hidden fees, overpriced scams, or tourist traps, and last of all the wonderful overly priced sales of the monster size RV that will never never ever stop costing money.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Thanks Calvin, good information! Bob

      • Avatar Steve says:

        I stayed at Eastfork on a trip I took to Cincinnati when I was in the Runaway,then after 4 days I went to Stonelick SP. I payed $32 a night after their silly charges and taxes. On the weekends the places were completely full. The price didn’t phase them.

        It was just about as expensive as staying in a motel. And as a matter of fact when I went to Cincinnati here recently I skipped the camping and stayed at a Studio 6. To my pleasant surprise, the price of staying there was about the same as if I would have camped at one of the State Parks. The only difference was that I had a nice comfortable bed to sleep in, long hot showers in a nice clean private bathroom, a nice kitchenette with microwave, coffee maker, and fridge, oh….nice TV, and wifi. And from there I went and visited nature areas and attractions with no problem.

        But like you said, they are not going to shut down the State parks because people will pay the price even if it was $50 a night or more. They want to get out and enjoy nature. I think that the same attitude may be taken about the National forests and maybe even the BLMs after awhile because they know people will pay the price because they are in demand. And you know what happens with supply and demand.

    • Bob Bob says:

      I’d be very interested in learning more about what you’re saying about the Forest Service. Can you send us links to your information. I’d very much like to see the source material. My experience has been that when you track down the actual source material from the Federal Government, what people are saying has been very distorted. I’d like to see if that is true here.

      I do know that many RVers use State Parks so it could be a big deal to them. No question they are raising prices and closing Parks that are too expensive.

      However, I don’t think it will have any strong impact on us boondockers. In 14 years I’ve never stayed in a State Park Campground and doubt I ever will–what they do has no impact on me.

  34. As of this time I know of only State that has it worded in their States constitution that State Parks have to be funded by the State that State is Arkansas. This was put in there to give the people of that State a place to go to. I learned this years ago it could have changed. I stayed in a Forest Service campground this summer. I got to know the campground hosts and they were cool and I got to stay past the 2 week limit. Y’all can take this for as many grains of salt as you want. When I am in a campground State or Forest Service I get to know the hosts, rangers, and anyone who has anything to do with where I am at. The way I see it is if they know me see I keep a clean camp I never have a problem. That way if I catch the vibe they may have a problem with me I leave the next day. This is just my experiences because it works for me it may not work for you. Wishing everyone safe travels!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Richard, that sounds like a great policy. It’s hard to argue with being a good, friendly person!! I think most of us believe that life goes better if you are just reasonably kind and compassionate person. Bob

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