Searching for the perfect camping spot, I drove on a road with my trailer that I shouldn’t have been on.  As I usually do before my travels, I research where I can potentially camp before I leave.  I had found a good camping spot that looked like it fit into the middle of nowhere category.  I wouldn’t have to stay in the Death Valley National Park’s parking lot campground at Stovepipe Wells.  But somehow in my research I missed the information that it was not a good road to travel with a trailer.  I’m puzzled how I missed that critical information because I am typically very cautious.  But I missed it.

What I was searching for.  The view from the campsite I sought.

When I got to the turnoff for the road there was a sign that indicated four wheel drive and high clearance was required.  The first dumb thing I did, was that I didn’t stop and check my information and I ignored the sign.   I forged ahead on a narrow twisty road thinking that all would be OK.  I thought the sign was being overly cautious.  And then I came to a steep section with large dips.  Someone had placed rocks on the road to help get up this bad section of road.  

Crap-oh-la.  There had been no place I could have turned around anywhere on the road as I drove in.  So my choices were to go forward, back out one mile with a trailer, or send out an InReach message requesting help.  But what kind of help?  Second dumb thing I did.  I looked at where to place my wheels and “went for it.”  I could have gotten my shovel out and filled in the dips/holes.  I could have waiting for someone to come and spot me.  Dumb.  Dumb.  I made it up the grade with the trailer, but I think it was shear luck that nothing terrible bad happened.  The trailer had tilted enough, that items in to the upper cabinets were on the floor and there was some small damage to a trailer fender. Some of the screws had popped out of the fender.  But everything still worked – the water system, the electrical system and propane.

My on-site fender repair.  Silicon adhesive with larger diameter screws than the original.  All covered with gorilla tape.

Later I took my shovel to the problem location and worked on making it better for an hour or so to help me get out the next day.  I did not want to rely on luck twice.  The next day I headed out carefully and made it to the paved road with no more damage.  I drove to the Stovepipe Wells parking lot campground.  I never thought I would want to camp in a parking lot, but it looked like heaven.  Safe and easy.  

Stovepipe Wells Parking Lot Campground
The edge of the parking lot campground was popular. I got a spot on the edge.

A final thought came to me about the event.  When I was a kid I thought the best job in the world, was to be a park ranger.  As an adult, I remember a park ranger describing her job as:  “Helping people after they make a poor decision.”   Not the glamorous job I had dreamed of as a kid, but one that is needed when dumb decisions are made.  I’m glad I didn’t need to get a park ranger involved.

Some Facts

The Family Dollar Store

I drove to Beatty to get supplies to create some kind of fender repair that would last the remainder of the trip.  I found out the Beatty doesn’t have many stores, but I was introduced to the Family Dollar Store.  It is a modern day mercantile. It had silicon adhesive and application gun.  Plus a little bit of everything else one may need.  I’m now a fan of the Family Dollar Store while traveling.  They are small, simple, and the prices are good.  

Parking Lot Camping

It wasn’t bad. I had a nice neighbor on the edge of the parking lot and we sat out each night chatting, looking out into the distance. Friday and Saturday nights were the busiest (3/4 full) and then the other nights it was about 1/3 full. I would park there again when I needed something functional.