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  1. Default Michigan->Appalachian Trail->San Diego->Seattle->Michigan

    Not sure if my first post got deleted, or if it's going through a pending process so if this is a double post please delete it :D

    The title says my plans pretty much. Right now, my plan is to leave in late May or early June, I'll be pulling a popup camper with me, and I'll have my dog as well. My plan is to spend a couple weeks to a month in a national forest or two in each state/city until it gets too cold then I'll head south or go back home for the winter.

    I may or may not make it back from Seattle to Michigan going through the Dakota's and actually camping, depending how long it takes me to get there and how cold it may be once I'm there.

    I won't really have any time frame apart from the maximum time allowed per year per national park, so if I love it in one area, I'll stay there the maximum time allowed.

    The reason I joined the site is to look for some advice/tips towards my potentially year long trek around the states. From mom and pop restaurants and places to see, to camp sites off the beaten path that are breathtaking. I do plan on taking a rather straight path from each place to place, but like mentioned I will have no required arrival time so if there's a must see place I may go out of the way.

    All advice, supportive or calling me a fool is welcome. I need to look at this from all angles, as this is a pretty big decision.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Quite an adventure !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    That sounds quite some adventure you have planned ! With a trip on such large scale it's hard to give meaningful advice about restaurants and Mom and Pop motels and even places to see as they would potentially run into thousands of possibilities. If you have any specific questions in any given area we will be pleased to answer them, but for now I would recommend you browse around the forums and other areas of this site as the more you gig, the more you will find. As you begin to discover all the things to see that might interest you then you might start to change your mind about travelling so direct between States, it just seems a shame that with so much time you will limit yourself to visiting so few places, but of course that's a matter of preferences.

    If you have 'up to' a year to travel I would perhaps consider hitting the road earlier, perhaps even March so that if winter comes early and you decide to head for home you have at least maximised your time, as you can't rely on the weather too much in winter no matter how far south you go. If you have the time and budget available to take on such a trip and the freedom to adjust as you travel, then I think you will find all the support you need here.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Use local resources.

    Nope, you're not a fool.... you're an adventurer. That is very much how I travel, though I am limited to six months.

    Some of the information for which you ask is available locally. I make a habit of speaking to the locals I meet along the way, in supermarkets, at the visitor centres and even down the streets where I park. There is nothing like extending your hand - 'Hi, I'm oopslala,' followed by your questions. Ask where they'd eat, or where their favourite local place they would spend a weekend, or whatever. You will find it will be amazing the information you will get locally wherever you are. Other sources I have found useful are law enforcement officers (they know all the places), local librarians, BLM offices and rangers offices.

    There's so much out there which is not on the internet, which is not in guide books. Go find it.

    From my experience most free public land campgrounds have a 10 - 14 day limit.

    Be sure you have good detailed maps with you, they are essential. The rangers and BLM offices do have topographic maps, a bit pricey, but great information.

    Lifey

  4. #4

    Default Nice plan!

    And sometimes the thinnest of plans is the best one.

    A few suggestions are:

    Become familiar with the National Forest (NF) websites. In the Southeast, and in particular along the Appalachian Trail (AT) you'll want to be up on the Chattahoochee, Nantahala, Pisgah, Cherokee, Jefferson, and George Washington NFs. Each NF's web pages show campground facilities, complete with driving directions and sometimes maps.

    The same goes for NF websites elsewhere in your travels.

    Be aware that few NF campgrounds are free of charge, and the ones which are are typically very small, primitive, and very remote.

    A fine and free website devoted entirely to NF campgrounds, complete with reviews, is available at forestcamping.com.

    Be aware of the state park, county park, Corps of Engineers (COE), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and public utilities (mostly at power generation lakes) camping facilities.

    Be aware of the availability of "disbursed camping" in most NFs. Generally speaking, disbursed camping is allowed most anywhere in a NF unit which is not posted to the contrary.

    Get a good highway atlas--I like the Rand McNally series, annually updated. If you plan to spend a lot of time in one particular state, consider purchasing a DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer for that state. For the Western states, substitute a Benchmark Road and Recreation Atlas for the DeLorme.

    Start with the Rand McNally and some NF websites and let the daydreaming/planning begin!

    Foy

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Advice worth following.

    In my 'adventures' I have often followed suggestions made by Foy. Without exception they have been more than worthwhile.

    Lifey

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Foy View Post
    And sometimes the thinnest of plans is the best one.

    A few suggestions are:

    Become familiar with the National Forest (NF) websites. In the Southeast, and in particular along the Appalachian Trail (AT) you'll want to be up on the Chattahoochee, Nantahala, Pisgah, Cherokee, Jefferson, and George Washington NFs. Each NF's web pages show campground facilities, complete with driving directions and sometimes maps.

    The same goes for NF websites elsewhere in your travels.

    Be aware that few NF campgrounds are free of charge, and the ones which are are typically very small, primitive, and very remote.

    A fine and free website devoted entirely to NF campgrounds, complete with reviews, is available at forestcamping.com.

    Be aware of the state park, county park, Corps of Engineers (COE), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and public utilities (mostly at power generation lakes) camping facilities.

    Be aware of the availability of "disbursed camping" in most NFs. Generally speaking, disbursed camping is allowed most anywhere in a NF unit which is not posted to the contrary.

    Get a good highway atlas--I like the Rand McNally series, annually updated. If you plan to spend a lot of time in one particular state, consider purchasing a DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer for that state. For the Western states, substitute a Benchmark Road and Recreation Atlas for the DeLorme.

    Start with the Rand McNally and some NF websites and let the daydreaming/planning begin!

    Foy
    Foy,

    Thank you for your advice. I've spent time in the Pisgah National Forest quite a few times, it's really a remarkable place. I'll certainly be using forestcamping.com to do some researching very soon.

    I do plan on staying as much of my time 'of the map' as I can, just to reduce cost and increase the thrill of the trip. I'm hoping to find as many free spots that allow popups as I can.

    When you say be aware of availability of disbursed camping, does that man that those sites are already established and only a limited number of sites? Or do they allow you to go and set up camp anywhere, with the popup of course in my case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Nope, you're not a fool.... you're an adventurer. That is very much how I travel, though I am limited to six months.

    Some of the information for which you ask is available locally. I make a habit of speaking to the locals I meet along the way, in supermarkets, at the visitor centres and even down the streets where I park. There is nothing like extending your hand - 'Hi, I'm oopslala,' followed by your questions. Ask where they'd eat, or where their favourite local place they would spend a weekend, or whatever. You will find it will be amazing the information you will get locally wherever you are. Other sources I have found useful are law enforcement officers (they know all the places), local librarians, BLM offices and rangers offices.

    There's so much out there which is not on the internet, which is not in guide books. Go find it.

    From my experience most free public land campgrounds have a 10 - 14 day limit.

    Be sure you have good detailed maps with you, they are essential. The rangers and BLM offices do have topographic maps, a bit pricey, but great information.

    Lifey
    Lifey,

    Thank you for your input, I will surely do my best to meet the locals everywhere I go to try and figure out the hotspots for each area I stay along the way.

    In my short time researching, I have only managed to find an exact chart of prices and campgrounds for Death Valley, which was 30 days in the same spot. Of course, Death Valley for 30 days isn't too appealing at this point.

    Once I have figured out a rough route I'm taking I do plan on buying an atlas, then lining that baby with sticky notes of potential places I'll be making a visit to.


    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    That sounds quite some adventure you have planned ! With a trip on such large scale it's hard to give meaningful advice about restaurants and Mom and Pop motels and even places to see as they would potentially run into thousands of possibilities. If you have any specific questions in any given area we will be pleased to answer them, but for now I would recommend you browse around the forums and other areas of this site as the more you gig, the more you will find. As you begin to discover all the things to see that might interest you then you might start to change your mind about travelling so direct between States, it just seems a shame that with so much time you will limit yourself to visiting so few places, but of course that's a matter of preferences.

    If you have 'up to' a year to travel I would perhaps consider hitting the road earlier, perhaps even March so that if winter comes early and you decide to head for home you have at least maximised your time, as you can't rely on the weather too much in winter no matter how far south you go. If you have the time and budget available to take on such a trip and the freedom to adjust as you travel, then I think you will find all the support you need here.
    Dave,

    I agree due to the fact that the trip has literally zero details when it comes to time restrictions, time spent in certain places etc it's hard to give any recommendations. I should probably figure out a rough draft of my route from each national forest/park to the other then look for suggestions if places to see and go afterwards.

    As for seeing many places, I'm not sure if you misunderstood my intentions or if you mean inner-city places. It will only be myself and my dog for most of the trip, so I have to be sure I remain in places that we will both be comfortable and allowed in. I'm sure that won't be much of a problem as long as I stick to National Forests for the most part. I do plan on doing some site seeing after I'm set up at the NF's, I just feel a little nervous leaving a small popup camper there alone for the taking.

    Leaving in March and doing the AT or going across the Northern states to Oregon or Seattle seem out of the question in my mind since it will still be freezing cold at that point. The only way I see that working is if I bypass AT and go straight to Georgia then start working my way to the West coast.

    I will certainly have the time, and I'm hoping when I leave for the trip I'll have enough money made as 'spending' money. I'm not touching the savings or anything for this trip, have to just put in the hours in the next months. I'm hoping to have anywhere between $15,000 and $20,000 saved up by the time I leave for the trip. I've calculated that I will spend about $2500 on gas if I drive straight through to each destination, so I'm just going to assume $4000 is spent solely on gas. The remaining $11,000 to $16,000 will be for food and lodging along the way. I do plan on "roughing it" most of the time, which should save on lodging for the most part. My camper has a gas grill in it, so I'll be expecting lots of pasta dishes and easy things along those lines when it comes to meals. I haven't fully calculated the lodging/meal situation because I don't know the NF camping prices yet.


    I have a couple more questions I forgot to mention in my original post.

    If you're caught with a dog off the leash in the NF's, what exactly will happen?

    For those of you that have done this type of a trip, avoiding hotels and just camping, what meals did you take with you? It seems it's in my best interest to begin stocking up on non perishables now to prepare for this long journey.

  7. #7

    Default Disbursed camping

    oopslala,

    The term "disbursed camping" is used by NF personnel to define the act of overnight stays, be they by those sleeping in a vehicle, tenting, or in a camper, within a NF unit, but away from designated campgrounds. Again, generally speaking, and with particular focus on the West, disbursed camping is allowed essentially anywhere one wants to camp so long as there are not signs prohibiting it. The signage I've seen in recent years has been the tent icon within a red circle with a slash through it.

    For a couple of examples, have a look at the Lolo NF and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF in western Montana. Look at the canyon named Rock Creek just east of Missoula. Its headwaters are in the Beaverhead and lower down it crosses into the Lolo NF. There are 7 or 8 named NF campgrounds in Rock Creek Canyon. From MT 348 to I-90 the canyon runs for 41 miles, and there are dozens and dozens of well-trodden disbursed campsites scattered in between the campgrounds, most of them streamside. Similarly, the Wise River valley , upstream of the village of Wise River in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF, is home to 6 or 7 NF campgrounds and many, many disbursed sites.

    Later this summer, my wife and I plan to cut a swath along the MT-ID border, diagonally across WY, then diagonally across NE, to Grand Island, NE. It will be nearly 10 days of mostly gravel and sand road travel with our hardside A-Frame popup in tow. Some nights will be disbursed, some in NF campgrounds, some at commercial campgrounds, one in a BLM campground, and one night in an off-the-grid resort in Montana. With the exception of the commercial campground in Jackson, WY, and one in Mullen, NE, none of the campsites require a fee.

    In the West, the NFs are generally in the mountain lands (since that's where forests grow!), and the Forest Service roads, normally well-maintained graded gravel, typically course in and out of the mountains along stream canyons. The majority of locals camp via towed camper trailers of various sorts or in large slide-in truck campers. As a result of these factors, you're likely to find much in the way of fairly easily accessed stream canyons with good-sized well-trodden disbursed sites. They won't be very close to towns and cities, but they won't require a 4WD pickup or SUV to reach, either. You can get a small popup camper into many such sites. These generalities apply to most NF areas I've traveled over the last 40 years in CO, WY, ID, and MT.

    I am not aware of "leash laws" within NFs. Certainly within National PARKS, but I do not recall seeing posted leash requirements in NFs.

    With a May/June departure, you'd be in line to catch the "bubble" of AT through-hikers among the Class of 2016 if you were to venture just as far southeast as Bland/Wytheville, VA, where the AT crosses I-77 and I-81, respectively. There are a goodly number of NF campgrounds and abundant disbursed sites within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and adjacent portions of the Jefferson NF. Frequent daily interaction with the thru-hiker community is a guarantee, and you need not go all the way down to the Smokies or north GA to do so.

    Foy

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Available information.

    It might be an idea to check out the forums on the various vandweller sites. They are experts at living, cooking, etc. in small spaces, esp with dogs. As well they have some of the best ideas for keeping clean, know how long to stay where, and probably answer all your other lodging and housekeeping questions. Very few of them rely on pasta. It is amazing the meals many cook up with very little equipment.

    I certainly have learned tons from them.

    BTW, I rarely plan a route. I might have an interim destination in mind, but my route is not set. You never know what the locals might suggest, which could be very different from what you had planned.

    Lifey

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