Homer's Travels: A Backcountry Camping Desert

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Backcountry Camping Desert

Since my third camping experience I've been looking for a location for my fourth.  My selection criteria are that it has to be within three hours of Omaha and the campsites must be backcountry (also called backwoods, dispersed, or hike-in) campsites.  Turns out there are only three places in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa that meet these two criteria and I've camped in all three of them.  I live in a backcountry camping desert.

I prefer backcountry campsites for their closeness to nature and their distance from other people.  I guess I'm a bit antisocial when I'm camping.  There are plenty of places within three hours drive that offer camping but they are all campgrounds where you are relatively close to your neighbors and on the edge of nature, not in it.  Not exactly what I'm looking for.  I plan to do camping trips four, five, and six in the same parks I've already camped in just at another spot within each park.

As I was conducting my unsuccessful search for a new campsite I came to the realization that, to extend my camping to the two or three day camping trip - something I want to do next year - I would have to travel farther from home.  I want to be able to hike to a campsite, spend the night, hike to another the next day, spend the night, etc.  None of the parks in my area are big enough to do that.  Typical hiking time between backcountry campsites in local parks is about thirty minutes to an hour at most.  I would end up spending over twenty-four hours at a campsite.  I'm not sure I could fill those hours.  I would rather spend some of that time hiking and exploring in a larger park.

So, I'm expanding my search.  I already am thinking about a five day camp in Rocky Mountain National Park sometime next summer after RAGBRAI.  I am also looking at the Badlands and parts of the Black Hills in South Dakota, both offer places where backcountry camping is permitted and are within eight hours driving.  The only thing about these places is that these areas only permit backcountry camping off trails.  In other words I would be hiking off trail navigating by map, compass, and GPS.  While I would love to do this I'm not sure if I am ready for that.

I was hoping to work up to that five day camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I'm starting to wonder if I will have that luxury.

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