Monday, June 7, 2010

How to not choose a camp site

You would think that after all those years of hiking and cycling I should be able to find a decent camp site - but no such luck. I proved to be a complete idiot 2 days ago....
Utah generally is a great place for free camping because there is so much public land. So 2 nights ago I was targeting a little State Park as my camp site. Although I had looked it up on my GPS I sort of overlooked that I had to do a 100 m elevation gain off the main road. That does not sound much, but at the end of a long day (120 km at that point) this is a lot. I should have been warned by the sign post saying something about campground and golf course.... I still had visions of all these Arizona State Parks that were closed due to budget cuts. So I dutifully cycled up to that state park hoping that nobody would be there at 7 pm. I was so wrong! The whole place was teeming with people and they still charged entrance fee! Even I do not want to consider camping on a golf course and so I grudgingly turned around downhill to the main road. 

I had still 1 hour of daylight left and decided to cycle 5 more miles to a WMA (Wildlife Management Area). That place looked much better, although I had to pass the Sheriff's office on my way to it. I turned onto a minor dirt road and things looked pretty good for camping - when I realised that I was looking at an outdoor shooting range! Well, it was about half an hour of daylight left and there was nobody there and so I decided to take the risk and camp there. BAD decision!
I was just about to set up my tent hiding behind some bushes next to the shooting range when the shooting started. I nearly wet my pants... Of course I was a little bit away from the shooting range but what where these people shooting at? Maybe at the tree I was hiding behind? I decided to lay on my back and seek cover - just in case. Surely the shooting would not last long - but it did!

I pondered my options. I could come out of my cover and make people aware of me, but what if they shot me once I was out of cover? Also I was wondering who was practice shooting there? Maybe the sheriff's people? Ok, I was on public land and theoretically not doing anything wrong, but I really did not want to explain to the sheriff what a German woman was doing hiding behind a tree next to a public shooting range at night..... I remained in my shelter and did not even dare to cook dinner. 
Eventually, when it was almost dark the shooting ceased - and then it was too late to look for another camp site. I set up camp, cooked and ate and had a very uncomfortable night - partly due to rocky ground and partly due to nightmares involving shootings...
I left early next morning and will never ever camp next to a shooting range again.

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