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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    12

    Default First-Timer (04/01 - 05/01, GA to CA)

    Hi there...

    First, let me say that I have just recently found this site, and I am flabbergasted about the helpfulness and content. This is truly a well-managed forum with tons of useful information.

    Now, to the good stuff:

    Preface: I am 26, in good health and am deciding to live out my dream of moving to San Diego. I have decided to add another life dream (why not?) and get to CA via a month-long solo camping trip. I would have preferred to travel Northern US, but I am deciding to start in GA and stay relatively south for the trip, due to April weather conditions.

    I have all of February and March to get my ordeals in order, find residency in San Diego, and save up as much as possible.

    My goal with this thread is to garner as much info/advice as possible, regarding suggested paths, campsites, solo-camping/hiking, etc.

    I am going to leave a lot of room for spontaneity on the trip, but this is what I do know:

    - Once in GA, I will avoid all freeways for the trip, unless necessary.
    - I want to spend some good time in Arizona, New Mexico, California
    - I may try to incorporate a few days south of the border.
    - I will avoid anything but tent camping at all costs-at least now i say that :)

    I would have liked to bring a friend along for company/entertainment, but I am really looking forward to the Pros of going solo. I imagine it will be a soul-enlightening experience.

    To begin some of my questions:

    - What are the pros and cons of bringing a fire-arm for protection?
    - And, is it even possible for me to bring a gun across all these statelines, and possibly Mexico (doubtful, I think)?
    - I will be driving a Ford Explorer. Do I take advantage of all the space and pack heavy, or pack light and try to really get in touch with nature and go backpack camping mostly?
    - How far north can I go in April (say, Midwest) before I am experiencing "cold" nights - i would say to the point of being uncomfortable ~30F?

    Thanks again for any advice you might add. I look forward to adding more info and any plans as they come about to keep you up-to-date.

    Cheers!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,585

    Default

    - What are the pros and cons of bringing a fire-arm for protection?
    - And, is it even possible for me to bring a gun across all these statelines, and possibly Mexico (doubtful, I think)?
    Different state laws make it virtually impossible to legally bring a gun along for "protection." In general, you can't carry a concealed weapon, and any gun would have to be in a case during any transportation. Certainly crossing into Mexico armed would not be possible.

    More importantly, what are you planning to do where you would need a gun for protection? Staying out of such a situation would be a far better plan, which can typically be done with common sense.
    -
    I will be driving a Ford Explorer. Do I take advantage of all the space and pack heavy, or pack light and try to really get in touch with nature and go backpack camping mostly?
    That really is a personal preference, based on how you want to travel. Some people love backpacking, others are perfectly happy camping within a short distance from their car.
    - How far north can I go in April (say, Midwest) before I am experiencing "cold" nights - i would say to the point of being uncomfortable ~30F?
    Its entirely possible to see 30F temperatures at night in April almost anywhere in the country. The average low temperature is above freezing in april almost everywhere in country, except high elevations (in every western state), and areas pretty close to the Canadian border. Averages are just that though, and don't reflect the possibilites/extremes of what you could see.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    12

    Default

    Thank you Michael for the great info.

    - I plan on visiting many parts of the country, including mountains, deserts, and other wild-animal friendly parts. I just thought I would feel better,doing this by myself, if I had some extra protection.

    - I think I will do a combination of camping by the car and hiking to remote sites, so I will pack somewhat heavy for those luxurious nights by the car.

    - You are right - 30F is being sort of idealistic. I am just a wimp for the cold - I guess I will just try to stay as south as possible, unless I here some warm fronts are coming in north.

    Again - Thanks!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    12

    Default

    Okay - so I am really going to try to be spontaneous on this trip, but last night I decided to see what it would look like if I had to plan it.

    This is what I have:

    March 27 - Leave Columbus, OH for Charleston, SC to hang out for the weekend with a good friend that I havent seen in years...

    March 30 - Drive down to first stop in GA

    March 30 - May 2 - hiking and tentcamping (averaging 2 nights at each location - 3 at some, 1 at others). Driving from camp to camp in morning/day, depending on distance.

    1. Cumberland Island NP, Crooked River - GEORGIA
    2. Chattahoochie/Fort Mountain - GEORGIA
    3. Little River Canyon - ALABAMA
    4. Petit Jean - ARKANSAS
    5. Devil's Den - ARKANSAS
    6. Lake Carl Etling - OKLAHOMA
    7. Lake Meredith - TEXAS
    8. Carson NF - NEW MEXICO
    9. Canyon de Chelley - ARIZONA
    10. Coconina NF - ARIZONA
    11. Glen Canyon - ARIZONA
    12. Grand Canyon - ARIZONA
    13. Mojave - CALIFORNIA
    14. Death Valley - CALIFORNIA
    15. Yosemite - CALIFORNIA
    16. Channel Islands - CALIFORNIA

    Between May 1 and May 5 - Arrive in San Diego

    Any thoughts? There are so many places to choose from, I am open to any thoughts/suggestions....

    Thanks

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    7,609

    Default Looks Good to Me

    Your general plan looks quite relaxed and enjoyable, and you seem to be hitting some of the best sites available as you cross the south and west. If you plan to stay off the Interstates, you may want to consider some of the roads and stops discussed here and here. I do have to wholeheartedly agree with Michael on the issue of carrying a gun. I have been camping in some seriously wilderness areas of both the US and Mexico and have never had the need for a firearm or felt less safe without one. Indeed, given the number of self-inflicted gunshot wounds and the tendency to use a weapon as a matter of first resort rather than last, I have felt considerably less safe on those occasions when a companion has been packing. You absolutely will not be allowed to take a weapon into Mexico raising the question of what do you do with it if you want to cross the border.

    As for other spots to stop on your journey, the first places I'd look, since you obviously enjoy the outdoors, are the state park web sites for each of the states you plan to drive through. These usually aren't on the scale of our national parks, but offer rewarding stops and great hikes nonetheless.

    AZBuck

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,266

    Default Getting caught with one is very, very bad

    I can share a personal experience with respect to the notion of carrying a firearm into Mexico. With the current level of banditry in parts of Mexico, a firearm might sound like a great idea... but don't.

    A few years ago, in the middle of the night, I was stopped on a beach road just north of Ensenada by some local police (+ a Federales a/k/a as a Federal Agency of Investigation officer, who rolled up in the middle of the event) for a "routine traffic stop." In the ensuing search of the car, (I was sitting in the passenger seat) one of the officers found a loaded .38 revolver under my seat in a cigar box -- the car was not mine and I didn't know it was there.

    Immediately, I found myself in the undesirable position of having a fully-loaded automatic weapon pushed into the side of my head, with considerable vigor, by an overly excited police officer (who has it turns out didn't speak much English). What ensued after that was a protracted and costly negotiation to avoid being taken into custody by the local police. It was a potentially lethal situation and not one I would ever recommend anyone voluntarily participate in. (Obviously I survived, as did the other members of my party, but it was a very challenging couple of hours....)

    Best advice -- don't carry a firearm -- use other forms of self defense while in Mexico....

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 01-24-2009 at 11:44 AM. Reason: added space for clarity

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    12

    Default

    Well - thanks for the input Mark and AZBuck.

    You guys have convinced me that a firearm is not necessary, nor the smartest idea. I think what it comes down to is not that I would feel safer, more so that I dont think I could actually kill someone or something via a pistol. I am a camper and fisher, never been much on hunting.

    I also decided, looking at time of travel and geography, that I will keep my trip to the US, and save Mexico for another time. Too much in the US for me to see, without wandering south of the border.

    I am a little skeptical about time frames. I think I managed to keep all between-camp traveling times to under 8 hours (freeway, unfortunately) in my fantasy trip plan, but that would mean if I leave by 8 in the morning, I can reach next spot by 4, assuming same timezone, and have a couple hours to find camp and setup.

    Do you think I should keep driving times under 6 hours and cut a night out from either site, or will 8-9 hours be enough time, assuming the new camp will be a base camp and not a hike-to camp?

    Thanks!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,266

    Default A couple of more notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Coast2Coast09 View Post
    - How far north can I go in April (say, Midwest) before I am experiencing "cold" nights - i would say to the point of being uncomfortable ~30F?
    Weather prediction is a bit challenging, of course, but you need to be ready for 30 degree weather anywhere in the southwest in April. I was in a full-on blizzard in the Chiricahuas on April 15th one year (less than 60 miles north of the Mexican border).
    Quote Originally Posted by Coast2Coast09 View Post
    I am a little skeptical about time frames. I think I managed to keep all between-camp traveling times to under 8 hours (freeway, unfortunately) in my fantasy trip plan, but that would mean if I leave by 8 in the morning, I can reach next spot by 4, assuming same timezone, and have a couple hours to find camp and setup.
    Can you really expect to break your campsite everyday by 8:00 am? Personally I like to sleep in once in a while when camping -- if it were me, I would limit the driving time to six hours per day and allow more time for kicking back and enjoying the camping time.

    Mark

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    12

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    Weather prediction is a bit challenging, of course, but you need to be ready for 30 degree weather anywhere in the southwest in April. I was in a full-on blizzard in the Chiricahuas on April 15th one year (less than 60 miles north of the Mexican border).Can you really expect to break your campsite everyday by 8:00 am? Personally I like to sleep in once in a while when camping -- if it were me, I would limit the driving time to six hours per day and allow more time for kicking back and enjoying the camping time.

    Mark
    Wow - I guess I am going to need to prepare myself better than the equipment I have, which is predominantly 3 seasons-type.

    Good advice on the driving times. I am fooling myself (as you alliterated) to think I will be up, motivated and packed by 8am. I, too, enjoy to sleep in. I will check out some stateparks, like you mentioned, to find some decent half-way points.

    Again, I am in a dilemna of planning my stops, or just hitting the road and knowing the final destination and date of arrival, and wing it from there. Tough call...

    Anyone done both (planned a trip/winged it) and have advice on the pros and cons of both?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    3,653

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Coast2Coast09 View Post
    Again, I am in a dilemna of planning my stops, or just hitting the road and knowing the final destination and date of arrival, and wing it from there. Tough call...

    Anyone done both (planned a trip/winged it) and have advice on the pros and cons of both?
    All my travels are with a plan, but without an itenary. Rarely do I book anything, and when I do, it is not more than 24 hours ahead.

    Why do you need to plan stops? The only important stop is the one at the end, to be at your destination at the scheduled time.

    Personally, I would just hit the road, know where you are going to aim for on that day, and look for a camping spot on arrival.

    I do like to carry with me a good publication listing campsites (or print them off from the internet), both parks and commercial. That way I have some idea what is available and where. Only once did I have difficulty finding a camp, and that was near Zion in the busy season.

    And as for carrying something for protection? As a senior female solo traveller, I have never felt unsafe or insecure. Be sensible and calculate all risks carefully!

    Lifey who likes to go where the wind blows
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 01-24-2009 at 04:22 PM. Reason: spelling

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