When I started fulltiming almost twenty years ago, my main concerns when boondocking were getting stuck, hitting over-hanging tree limbs, difficult access roads, not having enough room to turn around, and indigenous critters raiding my campsite. None of these was serious, especially if I was careful and used common sense. But, oh how times have changed. For instance, the following headline that appeared on the internet this week.
Pot Farm Uprooted in Angeles National Forest
“LOS ANGELES—More than 11,000 marijuana plants have been uprooted in a sophisticated pot farm in a remote area of the Angeles National Forest.
“Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Forest Service and Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators participated in Thursday’s eradication and clean up operation. The 11,249 marijuana plants had an estimated street value of more than $22 million.
“Sheriff’s Capt. Ralph Ornelas notes forest marijuana grows destroy and poison public lands.
“Some 1,560 pounds of trash, including fertilizers, pesticides, food, propane tanks, camping equipment and irrigation lines were also removed in the Knapp Ranch grow area northeast of Santa Clarita.”
Twenty years ago, if one wandered onto a clandestine pot patch, you simply turned around, went the other way, and forgot about it. But now it seems that pot patches have grown to pot plantations, such as the one in the article estimated to be worth $22 million on the street. If somebody was protecting an investment of this size, what would they do to protect it and keep it hidden from drug agents? Would there be trigger-happy armed guards? Would you be threatened or harmed if you wandered into it? Are those of us who boondock in the national forests putting our safety at risk?
Actually, from the information that I have read, you will likely never have to make the decision of what to do when confronted with armed pot patch guards, as large scale growing areas are well away from camping areas and hiking trails. What these pot growers want least–besides getting caught by the authorities–is some hikers or campers stumbling onto their gardening project, so they will be well off the beaten path or trampled campsite.
However, if you are boondocking, stick to the maintained forest service roads and don’t go off four-wheeling (especially in your RV) down low grade tracks or trails. Since growers must access their farms somehow, it would likely be over little used, rough roads, by 4-wheel drive SUVs or trucks. Stay on established hiking trails. That overgrown side trail that looks like an animal trail may just be the way in to where you don’t want to go. The good news is, I haven’t heard about any RVers accidentally coming across a guarded pot patch.
So don’t let stories like the one above discourage you from boondocking in the pristine forests of our public lands, one of the more enjoyable and satisfying aspects of RVing. Instead, use common sense, stay within commonly used boondocking and hiking areas (check with area rangers), and you will avoid getting into trouble. But if you do wander onto a pot patch, avoid the temptation of picking a few sample buds–or leaving them a nasty note about trashing the environment.
When you have a chance, check out my ebook on camping in the national forests, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands