*** WARNING – this post is kinda long – but – hopefully – entertaining ***
…ok, we’ve talked about boon docking before. We wanted to try it off the grid in a National Forest at some point on our RV Adventure. We thought it would be fun to get away from everything and everyone for a couple of days. The National Forest Service refers to it as dispersed camping because it is not at a campground and there are no services. No power, no water, no toilets, no fire rings, no nothing…nada…zip…zero!
We planned to visit Tallahassee, Florida’s State Capital, on our way to New Orleans and the Apalachicola National Forest just happens to be located in the general area so we figured we’d stop there. Why not, we thought, we already tested boon docking at the Tampa Fair Grounds for the RV Show (with literally hundreds of other RVers) and the previous night in Eustis (kinda on our own). We had this thing figured out.
So, we set out to find a nice remote spot to get off the grid. Although getting into the forest on the primary road that traverses it from southeast to northwest was easy enough, finding the right dirt road to get to the Brown House Hunt Camp, our chosen destination, was not so easy. Luckily, some good ole boys leaving a National Forest Maintenance Facility at the end of their shift on Sunday evening offered some helpful guidance (maybe we should have thought a bit longer about why they were working on a Sunday?), pointing the way to the dirt road we needed. Curious as to why they were working on Sunday, we learned they were there fighting wild fires currently burning in the Apalachicola National Forest! The local guy in the group said he thought we would be ok at Brown House since he couldn’t remember hearing anything about it being closed or in the path of the current wildfires and he had heard that there might be some heavy rain within the next couple of days. Comforting…
Following his directions, we drove our rig down a dirt road for six miles to get to that remote hunt camp. That was interesting. And don’t be fooled by the name of the place. Brown House, nope, not there, just a clearing in the forest. That’s it!
Took at least half an hour to drive that distance with the washboard surface on the dusty road that hadn’t seen a drop of rain in many weeks. Drove past rows and rows of scorched trees from previous forest fires too, comforting.
When we finally (30 minutes seems like a very long time when going down a bumpy dirt road to nowhere) arrived at the camp just before dark, there was just enough time to disconnect the dirt-covered Jeep, back the RV into the clearing, set up camp and settle in for a nice quiet night of solitude in the forest. Being cool enough to leave the windows open, we enjoyed the sounds (mostly crickets and tree frogs, I think) of the forest while we fell asleep. We awoke to owls screeching with each other across the forest in the morning which sure beats the alarm clock! Nice.
The next day we spent in Tallahassee, a story for a separate post. While we were driving the Jeep back to the forest, though, we heard weather alerts on the radio for severe thunderstorms and tornados for that night across a three county area that we were smack in the middle of. It was late afternoon but the sky over the forest was already black. We thought about packing up the RV and getting outta there before the storms arrived but really had nowhere else to go. Judging from the ominous skies and increasing wind, not nearly enough time, either. We agreed to stay put and if the weather got too crazy we’d just crank out of there in the Jeep and come back for the RV another day.
What a long night. Just sitting there, waiting. Time moved sooo slowly. We kept watching the sky and the wind through the trees. Was it getting worse? Hard to tell. The rain was coming down in buckets and a new river developed right under our RV. Then, BANG! Right above our heads. We saw a lightening bolt crack out of the sky right to the forest floor, seemingly only a few hundred feet ahead of us. No longer any question about it, it was getting a lot worse. That was, without a doubt, the longest and most severe thunderstorm either of us has ever experienced.
That peace and solitude of the previous night was certainly not the case this night. While sweating through the storm, we realized a few things about being disconnected. We really felt alone. If lightening had struck, nobody would have known and nobody would have been coming to our aide either. Hell, nobody even knew we where out there. As one of my friends once advised about a white-water kayaking adventure, its all about self-rescue once you launch that thing! Cell service was almost zero (one bar once in a great while through which we could send or receive a text message) and there is no wifi. Sure wish we had a satellite phone or an emergency beacon! We had no way to know if the tornado had formed or was heading in our direction or if it touched down anywhere. No way to know if the lightening strikes started a fire. What if a tree was down across the dirt road somewhere along the six miles back to a paved road? Just a lot of wondering.
All turned out fine, other than being tired the next day for lack of sleep. Definitely learned some valuable lessons about blindly heading out off the grid without proper preparation.
Interesting adventure though!
Promise – the next post will be brief (at least, relatively 😁).