12 Tips to Boondock Safely in the Desert

Boondocking in the desert isn’t for everyone, but thousands of people enjoy it. A few tips for more comfortable and safer desert living are listed below.
1- Deserts cool down rapidly at night and warm up quickly in the sunlight. Take the necessary clothes with you, and be prepared to change them according to the temperatures.

Chainfruit Cholla

2- In the winter time you are not likely to encounter nasty slithery creatures. Most of them are holed-up waiting for real warmth. Just the same, in case they haven’t read the rules, watch where you walk, and don’t reach into holes, or turn over rocks without being extra careful. You might even empty your boots before putting them on.
3- Don’t camp in creeks and washes. Distant rainstorms can turn them into fast flowing streams of mud.
4- Camp in sheltered areas to keep you out of dust kicked up by a windy afternoon.
5- Arrive with your water tanks full, and your holding tanks empty. Some Boondocking areas are visited by mobile sewage trucks, and potable water trucks, but not all. With full water tanks, and being very water frugal, we can manage for over 10 days before having to head for civilization.
6- Try to camp near other people so if you have a problem you will have someone to ask for help. But don’t camp so close you are neighbours. They are likely boondocking to get away from being really close to others.

Desert Vegetation

7- Desert plants usually protect themselves with needles and thorns. Carry tweezers to help you remove them from your skin. The teddy bear cholla is a friendly looking plant until you get close then you can see its protective needles. If one latches onto you, don’t try to pull it off with your other hand. You’ve been warned! Instead, use a comb or a pair of sticks to pull it away from your skin. It’s very sharp!
8- Don’t go away and leave your awning up, unless it’s very well secured. Desert winds come up fast, and can move anything not fastened down.
9- If you plan on driving into the desert on the trails, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Have a good map, and take water and food just in case the car has a breakdown. If that happens, stay with the car. A car is a bigger target to find than a human.

The Beautiful Desert Sunset

10- Install a house alarm system in the RV. Set it up so you can press a button to turn on the alarm. Noise will usually scare away prowlers.

11- Have outside lights on all sides or your RV, so you aren’t walking around to the back in the dark.

Desert in Bloom

12- The most important suggestion is to use common sense. Anytime you are out in a large wilderness area there are hazards. You can fall, get lost, or a host of other calamities can happen to you. There are a few more hazards here than at home. You have to make careful decisions. Your life depends on it.

Happy RVing!

For more than four decades James Stoness has travelled the roads of North America, photographing and writing about what he has seen. His travel articles and beautiful pictures have been published in several magazines and newspapers. He is also the author of five western novels.  Visit his website at:  www.stonesstravelguides.com

The Historic Town of Val-Jalbert

Along the beautiful shores of Lake St. Jean in the Province of Quebec there is a townsite hidden among the trees and hilly terrain. Development began at the beginning of the1900’s with the construction of a pulp/paper industry. The location of the mill is at the base of Ouiatchouan Falls which drops 72 metres down the cliff with a fall higher than Niagara Falls.

Ouiatchouan Falls

As the project unfolded a company town grew on the site. It was a town that would make nearby towns and villages envious because these well built homes had running water and electricity in the early 1920’s. Suddenly, it all came to an end in 1924 with the layoff of most of the workers. People moved away and the properties lay vacant for many years.

Fortunately, there was a dream to preserve the old town, and that dream became a reality. In 2009 money from the Quebec Provincial government led to the formation of a $19.7 million dollar project to refurbish the town to attract tourists to the area.

Thanks to the new 182 site campground the visit to the historic village can be combined with a camping trip in a pleasantly wooded area. The best way to get started is to join the guided trolleybus tour. As the bus makes its rounds you will learn about the workers, and their lives in the town, and see some of the more impressive buildings. The townsite location is slightly hilly and you may appreciate the availability of a ride which is there if you need it.

We preferred to start off walking by ourselves along the trail from the visitor centre to the historic buildings. It was early September and leaves were starting to turn, adding an extra element of beauty to the walk. After reaching a staircase of 115 steps we came out onto a flat area with several rows of identical houses. Worker's HomesThese were surprisingly picturesque and in very good shape. Actors in period costume occupied some of these homes to re-enact life in the early century. The furniture in some of buildings resembled homes of our parents. The cream separator, used to separate the cream from the cow’s milk, certainly didn’t look out of place in the kitchen, and the old wood stove looked as if it would provide comfortable heat on raw days in the fall and winter.

The walk continued past a few homes that will not be repaired, but left as they are to show what would eventually have happened to the entire settlement if it were not for the forward looking people who led the charge to preserve it. A steep descent in the trail led us to an open area near the mill where we could see the magnificent plumes of water cascading over the falls.

Staff workers have excavated part of the mill to reveal the old equipment. There are also facilities for a bit of lunch before exploring the waterfall and river. You have a choice of riding to the top of the cliff in a closed cable car or poke along slowly climbing the 764 steps. We rode up, and walked down them.Lake St. Jean The views out across Lake St. Jean are great and you can also see farmers working their fields at the base of the cliff.

Once you reach the top, or what you think is the top, you are met by a long board walk that takes you to an upper falls, Maligne Falls. Along  the way you pass a small wooded cabin of the type trappers and woodsmen might build for their temporary stay in the woods. Small, it was easy to build, probably easy to heat and tough enough to withstand bear attacks and also of that smaller, devilish creature, the wolverine.

On the way back down, take advantage of viewing areas of the falls, and also out over the lake below.

View from the cliff.

This is a great way to spend a relaxing day, and get lots of fresh air, and exercise at the same time.


Those responsible for the restoration of the town have also created entertainment in the form of theatrical shows, group gatherings and an old fashioned photographer’s studio where you can record your family’s visit to this great Historic Val-Jalbert.

Happy RVing!

For more than four decades James Stoness has travelled the roads of North America, photographing and writing about what he has seen. His travel articles and beautiful pictures have been published in several magazines and newspapers. He is also the author of five western novels.  Visit his website at:  www.stonesstravelguides.com