Boondock Saints

by Cristina | Last Updated: July 1, 2021

You may or not know that my family and I are currently in West Yellowstone, Montana in the middle of a 6 state road trip on an RV.  HERE is the story as to how that happened, but in a nutshell for you it’s 2 RVs, 4 adults, 5 kids (ranging 7-12) and 2 puppies.  We decided to join Bobby’s sister, Leann and husband Alex when they told us they wanted to plan an RV trip out west.  Fast Forward many nights of planning and here we are.  

After a (somewhat) smooth week of staying at campgrounds with full electrical and water hookups, we decided to up our game and boondock.  

What is boondocking?  Boondocking is essentially camping, but in an RV or camper.  This means there is no electricity, and no water but you still have the other comforts that come with an RV, like a bed and a toilet (the poop just has no place to go so you better think about that before you go for the deuce).  Boondocking makes regular RVing seem kind of glamorous.  

Obviously, I was adamantly against this idea. Why on earth would we make our life any harder? RV life, as is, isn’t easy. But I was out numbered, and betrayed (but that is for another day).  We were off to boondock, and there was nothing I could do to stop us.

We found the spot on Hipcamp.  Out of the utmost respect for the owner’s privacy, we shall call him Sam.  Sam was a lovely man.  He was a father of 6 and had about 100 acres of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen here in Montana.

The welcome instructions to Sam’s Hipcamp listing said “text us when you’re at the gate, and Sam will be right out to lead you to the spot.  Remember if you leave, please be sure to close the red gate behind you.  We have cows.” 

This should have been our first clue.  Cows? We are staying in a proximity so close to cows, that if we were to leave the gate open they would what? Mosey out?  I was spiraling.  

The red gate that keeps the cows in

We pull up to the red gate, and text Sam per the instructions.  While we are waiting, I notice these rather large bugs begin to land on the RV rear view window.  One at a time.  First one on my rearview, and then on the side of the RV.  Each landing, slowly and in almost formation after the other. Were they taunting me? I was sweating.

Sam comes to meet us.  He gets into his car and begins to drive down this road for what felt like eternity, but was actually just 5 minutes.  He starts to turn to a plot of land that has visibly higher grass and just seems unkept.   When I say unkept, I don’t mean in a vintage cool Gen Z way, but in a very Texas Chainsaw Massacre way.

This grass reeks of a Texas chainsaw massacre

Sam slowly just comes to a stop. He puts the car in park and over to our window. We have a lovely conversation about his six kids, and he joked that we “are just a bunch of quitters,” for only having 3 kids.   {Which in hindsight, was an interesting choice of words}.

Once Bobby and Alex park our campers, the men get out of the car to talk to Sam some more.  I had no plans to exit the vehicle.  There were now about 100 of these bugs surrounding our car (ok really just about 15 that I could see). For the love of God what are these things?! 

I see Alex and Bobby laughing and looking really nervous.  It takes a lot to make Bobby look that nervous.

As their conversation comes to a close, I roll down the window ever so slightly, “Excuse me. Sam.  Hi, can you tell me what these bugs are all over our RV?”  He comes over and analyzes the one on the rearview and ever so casually says, “oh those are just deer flies.  They bite, and it hurts much more than a mosquito. But that’s alright. You guys will be fine.”  

The Beyonce of Deer Flies

“Oh.  Great.  Yeah sounds good. Totally fine,” as I quickly put the window back up.  Immediately Tristan says, “mom I’m not getting out of the car!” 

I looked him right in the eyes and said, “Don’t worry kiddo.  Me either.”  What are we going to do?

Alex comes to my window, and I refused to put it down. So he yells, “What do you think?” I had no words. I just took off my sunglasses and stared back at him.  This was madness.  

Suddenly we look up and see that Leann is getting out of the car.  We don’t understand why.  Go back Leann! Save yourself!!

She seems totally unbothered by the bugs or the Texas chainsaw vibe going on here. Suddenly I see her look down and she starts to panic. Ahhhh She’s jumping, moving, and spazzing out.  What happened?! 

She has stepped in a red ant pile.  She’s running back to her car. Alex is right behind her.

Bobby gets into the car, and says “Ok we are leaving.”  Finally. Someone was making sense. I was already buckled up. 

We backed out of our spots, and started to drive back up the road.  Bobby turns to me and says, “you want to know what the deal breaker was?”

I mean the whole situation seemed like a dealbreaker to me, so I just answered “Your sister getting attacked by red ants?’

No. He says.

“Sam told me if you’re going to have the kids play in the playground, check for rattlesnakes first.  He said they typically get one per year, and had already killed one this year.  Come to think of it, we killed 8 last year.”  CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE!?!

I was relieved. Maybe we could drop this whole “boondock” idea and go stay at a hotel. But Bobby had found another “boondock” camp about two hours away.  We figured it either was going to be a better spot than this (not hard) where we could hopefully unload and have a good night, or it was also going to be another rattlesnake den and would just have to stay in our RV’s and deal with it.  Awesome

Those two hours were a killer. High stress.  My anxiety was bouncing me all over.   What kind of animals was this next spot going to have waiting for us. We finally make a turn onto a gravel road.  The directions say we would have to go down this gravel road for 5 miles and then arrive at our location.  

I’m going to take this moment to tell you (as you might not know) that a gravel road is an RV’s nemesis.  Every shake on that road brings your items one bounce closer to falling out.  You also can’t go over 5 mph.  So the next five miles were going to be an actual eternity, and not just something I overly dramatize.

The scenery. Now the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.  We were so taken with the surroundings, that we didn’t realize we had now lost all signal.  We were driving 5 miles down a gravel road into the middle of Yellowstone (we think) without our phones.  Hopefully they can track me down from all the data I stole from Bobby on the way up to the road. Where the hell are we?

We kept driving down the road, slowly, and arrived at a bridge that took you over this beautiful little river. After careful examination we all decided, in our expert opinion,  that crossing the bridge with our RV and the Airstream would not be a good idea. 

Our panel of experts determining whether the bridge could handle the weight. Side note: isn’t it so pretty.

It was 7 pm, and we had two options, do as the instructions said and drive over this wimpy bridge to the correct Hipcamp spot, or pull into the open clearing right here before the bridge not knowing who it belonged to, where we even are, or what animals could come to this area to drink from that cute little river.

Cute little river with the cute little monsters

So we pulled into the clearing. We were half a mile from the spot we were supposed to be in.  We had no phone or internet.  We had no way of even knowing what the weather would be.  We had no way of telling anyone where we were.  Not a single one of us had ever boondocked before.  But the view was so pretty. How bad could it be? We poured drinks.

Option 2: the open clearing right before the bridge unsure who it belonged to, where it was even located, or what animals could come drink from the river.

Turns out, boondocking isn’t so bad. We were even kind of good at it.  We were sort of prepared.  At this point we were good at setting camp and making dinner in our campers. We even made tacos. Right? So impressive.

Tacos. In the woods. No electricity. Boondocking ninjas.

Sure we couldn’t take showers, but there was vodka, beer, tostitos, salsa, and I can neither confirm nor deny an edible. It could be worse. As the sun began setting, I wondered out loud, “Does anyone know where we are?” God, I miss wifi.

Once the kids went to bed (without showering), the four of us took the risk and hung out outside.    When else are we going to have a chance to have a drink and watch the stars in the middle of The Rocky Mountains (your guess is as good as mine as to where we are at this point). There were bugs everywhere. Ewwww I also held that flashlight for dear life. If there was a brush of a bush, I was on it.   We were not going down to a bear on my watch. You have to love edibles.

It was worth it though. The night sky was breathtaking. We sat there in the clearing in silence for a little. Definitely a little drunk. Definitely a little crusty. But it was cool (if I have to admit it). Remember cool in a I’m dusty and dirty and there are bugs but hanging out with your people with this outrageous backdrop is a once in a lifetime amazing experience.

We woke up the next morning, and no one had been eaten by a mountain lion.  It was a total win.  But I was more than ready to get to packing and moving on. I needed a toilet that was connected to the ground and a hot shower if you know what I mean.

Would I do it again? I think this whole boondocking business, like camping, is complete and total insanity.  Why do people hate running water so much. But I guess there is some value.  I was wrong.  It is definitely worth doing, to be in the middle of nowhere taking in an environment you could not see any other way.  Having my morning coffee looking over the beautiful hills of the Yellowstone (I think the most likely spot).  But I think one night is more than enough for me without a shower and access to google.  Two max.

*** Upon further review and access to the internet the second Hipcamp spot we were in McLeod, Montana. McLeod is an unincorporated community in Sweet Grass County, Montana, United States.

Gratuitous puppies playing in a field post