09: The Great White Buffalo
A Good Spot

A Good Spot

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.

South of Hungry Horse, Montana, we headed off on a dirt road that led into National Forest. We came across Emery Bay campground, complete with a “Camp Host”, trash bins for your convenience, and perfectly manicured turn-outs in which to park. We drove through and out and found this little gem: Abbott Bay. Free and you can stay for up to sixteen days. Yes, please.


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.

A beautiful place we camp upon just in the nick of time, as the sun was setting. Ashely Lake, west of Kalispell, Montana.
Cold, clear water makes for an invigorating bath!


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.

Ashley Lake was a beautiful spot but no cell reception and I needed to start back on some work projects so after a day and a night, we headed out.


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.

Now, this picture does not convey the extremely bumpy and narrow nature of this road. The problem with bumps is that if they are high enough and the troughs deep enough, we will break The Buffalo.
See, The Buffalo was made for big, open, flat spaces – like this. I’m pretty sure its original designers did not intend for her to be an off road vehicle but she has done surprisingly well with us so far.


But I digress.

So, we’ve hit the jackpot – this camp spot is great – right along the river (view), free, cell reception, legit…but can we get in there?
I have no pictures of the actual event, but it was just that: an event. Stéphane navigated The Buffalo slowly and carefully through the minefield of bumps and the narrows, but the turn at the end of the road – literally the last fifty feet, was just too much. We couldn’t make take the turn wide enough. The Buffalo’s wheels stopped against the hill on the side of the road and that was that.
We couldn’t go forward and we couldn’t reverse. So, we started digging a path out of the hillside. We had no shovels but we found some rocks that worked good enough. For an hour we pounded the earth to loosen it and pulled it away from the hillside, flattening it in front of the tires, essentially widening the road so The Buffalo could fit through.
And we got her through! But now we aren’t sure about getting out. So the next day we took our “shovels” and pounded and moved more earth, widening the road even more.
We also pruned the trees along the narrow, bumpy road, widening it ever-so-slightly. Hopefully just enough…to be determined.
Here is our finished road. Tomorrow will be the true test as we head out to another camp spot we found just down the road…wish us luck. If you see no further posts on eeeeeep, send a tow truck to the Blankenship Bridge – we’ll be just off to the left, digging…



**** Update: ****

Well, we got The Buffalo out, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty.

Nearly up and around the little hill, we have to stop and dig out more of the road. 
Having lost momentum halfway up the hill, we are now stuck. We build a more solid foundation for the tires to grip and, after some crazy maneuvers by Stéphane, we get unstuck and OUT!!!
The aftermath.
The next stretch of road on the way out. Yep, that narrow.

2 thoughts on “A Good Spot

    • Author gravatar

      Went on a 6-week trip to Alaska and only paid for two camp nights!

    • Author gravatar

      Oh my gosh! what a predicament you were in. The two of you working together got it handled – but please stay away from those isolated places. The Buffalo needs the right klnd of roads – and some space. Michigan could use you here tio hekp rebuild some of our roads! They are so so bad..
      Love you lots, Hugs XO Grandma

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