smart idea for a beginer? I know most will probably say no.
Here is my fantasy I've weaved in my head, please chime in with thoughts.
I want to drive out west, probably Yellowstone, or that area. I will bring my bike along with me and use my car as home base. I want to be able to hike out for a week, camping out those nights and returning to my car if I need something or want to move. I am in shape and expect to cover alot of ground. I want to camp/hike by myself, I just want to disconnect for awhile. Like a month. Traveling to different spots, maybe make my way down south a bit to see the dessert (mostly drive through not camp). I really don't have a plan, I know that is mistake #1, but I do not know where to start. I am ignorant and I want knowledge. I just ordered a few books to read.
I would like to travel with a pack, sleeping bag, and 1 man tent.
Loc: Portland, OR
Hmmmm. It sounds like you are still green enough that you don't understand how much you don't know. There are plenty of places in the far western USA where you can "disconnect", be pretty thoroughly alone and still be car camping and day-hiking much of the time, with some shorter backpacking trips thrown in. Most of Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming or Montana would qualify for that kind of getting away from it all.
If I felt certain that you knew enough to survive sudden summer storms, to route-find when a trail disappears or a junction is unsigned, or could be relied upon to avoid getting hypothermic, or dehydrated, or losing all your food to a marauding bear, then I might say this was a good idea. I don't feel that kind of certainty at all from reading your post.
My advice is poke around all you like. Hike. Camp. Explore. But don't get more than a day and a half from your car for the first several weeks. Stop at all ranger stations and ask about local conditions. Buy a map while you're there. You'll learn plenty just doing that. But don't go diving into the deep end quite yet. Start at the near end and wade out.
Loc: Portland, OR
To give you an example of what is possible...
Last year when I was able to take a week in June, but wasn't quite in shape for backpacking yet, I tossed my camping stuff into the car and drove to a place in eastern Oregon I know (I live in Oregon). It is a campsite next to a creek, on a gravel road, a good 35 miles from the nearest town of any description. That 'nearest town' is a tiny hamlet of about 85 people.
This campsite is about 2 miles from the edge of a wilderness area. For one solid week I hiked every day in the wilderness. Of the five hikes I took, four of them I did without having to drive at all; I just put on my pack and walked out of camp. The one other trail head was 4 miles away, so i drove to it. Each night I returned to my camp and ate and slept in creature comfort.
During that week I saw zero people. Nada. Not one. neither while hiking nor while at my camp. Just me and some deer, ravens, thrushes, a few hawks and assorted chipmunks and squirrels.
The trails were a bit rough because they saw very little use. A total beginner might have had trouble route finding them. But this is just to give you an idea of how isolated you can get, even next to roads, in the inter-mountain west. There's some empty, empty places out here. You just have to know where to look.
Loc: Portland, OR
I expect you could visit the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in WA and experience a lot of solitude almost everywhere you went, even at the "height of the season". In OR the wilderness with the fewest visits and nice empty trails would be the North Fork John Day Widerness.
In OR/WA the trick in finding the best solitude is to get further away from the coastal population centers by going east of the Cascades. Even hiking on the east side of the Cascades themselves is a decent strategy.
Another good trick is to visit just slightly out of season. In August in OR/WA everyone who hikes is out hiking. That's when you need to get as far in from a road as you can. In June, the east side is getting opened up, there aren't many hikers out yet and you can find solitude even when you camp and day hike out there.
Most of WA's wilderness (of which I am quite envious, btw) is located in the Cascades and the Olympics and therefore not that far from Seattle-Tacoma and all those people. By contrast, in OR we have a number of small eastern wilderness areas that are infrequently visited: Mill Creek, Strawberry Mt, Steens Mt., N. Fork John Day, Monument Rock. Down south we have the Kalmiopsis, Gearhart Mt., Rogue-Umpqua and Red Buttes.
If you just shake off the desire for jaw-droppingly FABULOUS SCENERY, like you see in calendar photos, then you can find some real beauty spots on a smaller, more intimate scale and have them all to yourself 90% of the time.
One last hint: on the east side of the Cascades (or anywhere in the Great Basin), if you are car-camping, always look for a campsite by a creek rather than by a lake. Lakes draw fisher-folk, swimmers, boaters and almost all the local population. Camps by creeks or rivers are much less crowded.
There. I've given away at least half my secrets for dodging the crowds. (The other half will die with me.) <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
I believe you will need a permit to do any camping in the backcountry of Jellystone. For each foray into the wilderness there, you will have to get another permit, as you are exiting on different days and re-entering on another day. Lots of critters in the Park, should be awesome. If grizzlies don't bother you, should add a little adventure if you spot one. I was in the Park in '88 or when it burned, and one evening, my dog and I went for a short walk out of the campground we were in and saw no one beyond the cg. So if you even stay in a cg, you can leave folks behind by just heading off into the woods. Not recommended though going to far xc and after a bit the trees all look the same. The bison like to park it in the cg's too, so give them some room and the other large animals.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
As others have suggested, since you appear to be a beginner who needs to develop skills (my apologies if this is incorrect, but your posts sound like it), I'd stick fairly close to your car for a while, so you can bail out safely if you get into trouble. These skills are best practiced first in your back yard, then car-camping and then on trips only a few miles from the trailhead. You may want to stick to at least somewhat-populated trails for a while, just so you can call for help if you mess up (which we all do; that's how we learned!). Going solo has certain risks, which are minimized if you are where you meet another party several times a day.
I understand the need for solitude--I love it, too! Your best bet for that is to go out on weekdays (easy for me since I'm retired...). When backpacking, try to avoid trailhead areas on weekends (when almost everyone leaves/returns) if you can. Until you have more experience, I would avoid overnight backpacks in national parks, partly because the animal pressure (especially bears) is far more intense there and partly because of the permit system, which doesn't allow for any flexibility if you get a blister or pass the "perfect" camp site in the middle of the day--you have to go where the permit says. As Aimless pointed out, lakeside areas will be a lot more populated than streams, even though often it's easier to catch fish in a stream than a lake. If you get off on back roads in national forests, you can often find decent "dispersed" camping sites that you can use as a base camp. They may be waterless, so take a few gallons of water in your car. They may be a bit trashed (too many people think the way to get rid of trash is to pile it in the fire ring), so take a garbage bag or two--you'll have that righteous feeling that comes from doing your good deed for the day! You, I hope, will pack out everything you bring in and leave no trace!
Probably the most populated "wilderness" I've ever visited is Indian Heaven in the southern WA Cascades, on Labor Day weekend. Competition for places to put a tent was so intense that I had to stop at noon! The same area is relatively empty on weekdays, especially after Labor Day.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Stay away from National Parks. You won't get away from people, and then there are the permits. Look for BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Google it for the state you want to go to. Then go to REI and try and get some topo maps of the area.
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.
I think it all sounds like a great idea - one I wish I could pursue, but life's responsibilities (not all of them bad) gird those freedoms sometimes.
At any rate, and I don't want to sound flippant or condescending, but I've seen this thread for a few days and it keeps making me want to reference Into the Wild. Not so much as a cautionary tale, but more because the dreams and desires seem related. If you haven't read it, check it out. Also, it may in fact make you think twice about how cavalier you are about not having a plan and being adequately prepared.
Hope it all comes together for you!
You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!
This is a great place to start getting information on wilderness travel. There have been some good tips so far. You said you did not have any plans, but you should at least be prepared with the basic skills and equipment so you are not a liability to yourself and others (those who will have to come looking for you or your body). I don't mean to sound negative, but there are some real dangers in the wilderness; that is what makes it an adventure.
You will need to know how to Navigate with map and compass Keep yourself warm - Do not pack jeans or cotton anything. People can become hypothermic in a summer storm. Keep yourself fed and hydrated Not adversely impact the places you are visiting. www.lnt.org
You have the opportunity to learn a lot between now and the summer. Of course read this forum. Do web searches and read stories about hikers who have been lost and/or killed in the wilderness to learn what not to do. You want to survive to tell your tale and not end up like this guy who was unprepared and ended up dead. http://www.komoradio.com/news/16797696.html
Take a few shorter trips before heading West just to make sure you have your equipment worked out. You will find out what you need, and what what works and what doesn't. Don't be the guy who starts out with shiny new equipment with the tags still attached. You want to know how to set up your tent so that you can do so in the dark with cold numb fingers.
Loc: Atlanta, GA, USA
Anza-Borrega Desert State park in SoCal is a superb park and allows you to car camp most anywhere in the park if you are off the main road. There's a huge area behind Coyote Mtn there were I used to just park most nights...then do dayhikes etc.
I went on a 5 week car camping & hiking trip last January...drove to CA from GA...there's nothing like a long trip like that to truly be an "adventure"...and add some backpacking to the mix and it will really be exciting.
But if you are car camping, your car will probably be full of stuff and I'd be somewhat hesitant to leave my car unnattended overnight too often. It will probably be OK, but just keep that in mind.
Loc: Atlanta, GA, USA
And if you haven't been backpacking before, then obviously go somewhere near home for some one night trips and then some two day, etc. Get comfortable and proficient with it before your big trip and you'll have more fun then.
But you don't need a master plan for your trip...just get online and find some cool places to visit and then go to them as your mood dictates...it's great not to be on a strict schedule and just stay an extra day here or there or leave some place "early" if you are ready to move on.
Half the fun of my big trip was researching everything online...the possibilities out there are nearly endless, so you will find plenty to do and see.
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