At the end of the day, it’s really all about finding a spot for The Buffalo. The requirements for said spot are, surprisingly, many:
a. Spot must be legit.
As we learned in McCall, Idaho, you can’t just camp on a piece of land off the side of the road, even if there are no Private Property signs to be seen. Because, more than likely, the owner of the seemingly unclaimed 100ft x 50ft piece of dirt just off the roadside will most certainly stop by your camper to inform you of your mistake (thank you, kind sir, for letting us stay the night).
b. Spot must be accessible.
The road in can’t be too bumpy, steep, angled, or narrow. More on this in a minute.
c. Spot must be free.
We have come to learn that if you pay for camping, you will more than likely find yourself squeezed into a small, paved area filled with noisy neighbors, stinky outhouses, and people that give you dirty looks because your dog is off-leash. The plus side of paying for camping is that you can “plug in” and receive endless amounts of amps, water, and wi-fi. When you go free ranging find your own spot, it is quiet, more rugged, typically near a nice trail, and you are free to do what you will. We carry our own water, supply our own amps (generator), and – if we have cell reception – our own wi-fi. Oh, and it’s free.
d. Spot must have a view or be near trails.
Because, well, that’s kind of why we’re taking this trip! To see our country, to explore new places, to enjoy all that our public lands have to offer. We’ll take a quiet dirt patch up in the forest over the Wal Mart parking lot any day of the week.
e. Spot must have cell reception.
Well, not REALLY, but if I’m working, then yes, it really does need to have it. We have pulled up to more than one lovely spot that fit the bill, items A through D, but zero bars = zero internet access. Move along, move along.
After spending a very social week in Idaho catching up with Stéphane’s (now mine too!) friends from flight school, we head east and into Montana. Monday is looming just a day away and brings with it the need for me to get some work done: item E on our list (cell reception) is now priority numéro un.
We drive as close to Glacier National Park as we can get without actually entering – passing Ray’s RV Resort, Glacier View Park, Mountain Home, and even a KOA. I pull up the map and look for green (green = national forest) and shout “turn left!” to Stéphane.
Bouncing slowly along over the washboards of the gravel road, a man pulls up alongside and asks “are you lost?”
“No,” we tell him, “just looking for a place to camp”.
“Go down the road, across the river. Not sure you’ll be able to make it in there but it might be worth checking out – good luck!”
As we near the river, I pull out my phone and check – yep, three bars – if we can get ourselves into this spot, we are golden.
But I digress.
**** Update: ****
Well, we got The Buffalo out, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty.