Our first disbursed camping experience:
We’d been reading up on disbursed camping, and were anxious to try it. Disbursed camping is basically “dry camping” in approved areas of the national forests, BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management), or other government managed lands. Dry camping means that there are no facilities: No clean water source, no bath houses, etc. You’re responsible for taking along whatever you’re going to need, and you’re responsible for packing it all back out (cleaning up after yourself).
With disbursed camping, your campsite is really just a roughly cleared area just off the bumpy dirt road. Often times they have stone fire pits, but that’s the extent of the amenities.
We wanted to make sure we understood the rules and where to go, so we stopped in at the local US Forest Service office (Arapaho National Forest). They were very friendly and helpful. They stocked us up with maps showing the designated disbursed camping areas, as well as a brochure with the disbursed camping guidelines.
We picked a general area that we wanted to try for our first disbursed camping outing: Meadow Creek Reservoir in the Arapaho National Forest. The disbursed camping was along the long and windy dirt road up to the reservoir. It was actually only 15 miles or so from the resort, so hubby took a day to do some reconnaissance ahead of time. It seemed safe enough, so we invited some friends (Mickey & Joy) to meet us there.
We couldn’t get there until that evening, so Mickey & Joy went ahead of us and picked a most excellent camping location. The spot was in a nice flat area that bordered Meadow Creek, with a couple of lovely fishing pools cradled by beaver dams. And it was such a quiet and peaceful spot, with no other campers in the nearby area.
It was a pretty chilly night, and we felt a little guilty. Mickey and Joy were tent camping. Meanwhile we were “roughing it” in our cozy, insulated van. We even had heat! Hubby had a catalytic heater that you fuel with campstove propane bottles. It’s a flameless heater (no open flame), and has a safety feature that shuts the heater off if it tips over. I didn’t smell any fumes, but just to be safe, we always crack a window when running that heater. That little heater worked like a charm and we were toasty warm, despite the cold night. (Hubby did have to change propane bottles about halfway through the night though. I imagine more expensive versions of the heater would last longer.)
We woke up to an amazing autumn morning up in the mountains. The air was crisp and smelled like fall. And we enjoyed a very decadent breakfast while sitting around the campfire with friends.
On our way out, we learned a lesson though. When you’re disbursed camping, you’re pretty much on your own. Make sure you’re picking a camping (parking) spot that you can easily get back out of. Our spot was easy to get into with the van, but not quite as easy to back out of. It wasn’t that we got stuck, it just was a little bit more challenging than we expected. A good lesson.