real boondocking in CA

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Well-known member
Mar 9, 2015
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i've got gold fever, i want to get into gold country and find some creeks few people ever get to.

suppose i go driving down some small roads like this one here,-120.664892,16z
then assuming there are no fences or private property signs posted, is there anything to stop you driving off road a bit into the trees and camping out for a night or 2?

i know about and those places and they look good but i don't mean that, i mean find a nice spot with no one around, get off the road a bit and camp out for a night or 2. is that ok? what's the worst that can happen if someone comes by to complain?

i just found this
Dispersed Camping
Eldorado National Forest

If you like to camp “away from it all”, but you prefer to drive there in your car, the National Forests have just what you are looking for.
Most of the land in the National Forest is open to camping free of charge which is referred to as “dispersed” camping. Visitors can camp just about anywhere in the national forest, unless specifically prohibited*.

Maps and staff are available at most Forest Service offices to assist visitors in finding a suitable spot. Not being in a developed campground
means that there will not be certain conveniences:

No piped water: boil any lake, stream or spring water for 5 minutes, or bring your own water.

No restrooms: Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep to bury waste at least 200 feet from campsites, water sources, or trails. Digging
animals will expose waste buried in shallow holes.
I have done that several years ago 15 or 20 and the only resistance I had was from pot growers and gold diggers "claim Jumping" high banking and stealing pot plants. which neither interested me.
 Yep, nothing to stop you from driving down a small road and finding a nice camping spot. A lot of us do. You just have to follow a few rules which may be slightly different from one forest to the next. A few years ago new rules were implemented because too many people were driving off the roads and causing damage. Some roads have been closed and other have restrictions on the type of vehicle use. Some forests have restrictions on how far away from the road you can camp. It can be as close as 20'. Most prefer that you use a spot that has been used by other campers ( look for old fire rings) to avoid new damage - compacting the soil, destroying native plant growth, etc.

 Check for more information on road use in each forest -  

Get a forest service or blm map that shows their land, generally dispersed camping is allowed on it.
I would be EXTREMELY worried about growers defending their plots.

Many people have vanished in N. CA wilderness. Talk to the LEO about your plans to make sure on the safety of the local befor you go. There are war zones out there.
Steve, check the member list for HighDesertRanger. I believe he's done (does) a lot of prospecting in CA.
GotSmart said:
I would be EXTREMELY worried about growers defending their plots.  

Many people have vanished in N. CA wilderness.  Talk to the LEO about your plans to make sure on the safety of the local befor you go.  There are war zones out there.

is it really that serious? if i'm not there to steel their weed, why would they care? and what's a 'LEO'?
Yeah, growers are that serious. They don't ask ahead of time whether you're a thief or not. LEO---Law Enforcement Officer.
LEO. Law enforcement officer.

The point is so many of the growers in that area are squatting on government land. They are competing with Mexican cartels for growing land. Shoot first and do not ask questions is the custom. People vanish because they were in the wrong place. I grew up in N.CA, and have school friends that I am still in contact with.

ANY STRANGER is suspect, and runs the risk of just vanishing.

When I was up there last fall, my brother who sells real estate told me he and the company he works for will not deal in land outside the established towns, as they do not appreciate being shot at.
Some thoughts:

1) Dispersed camping is common and easy in most of the NFs in CA.

2) The risk from pot growers is greatly exaggerated, people love to worry and make a big deal out of nothing.

3) Gold prospecting on all public land is heavily regulated. Violate the laws and get a ticket.

4) If it hasn't been a historically good gold bearing area, the odds are excellent there is no gold there.

5) If it is a historically good gold bearing area, other people will be there working it and the Rangers will be watching it to enforce the rules.

You're excited, and that's good. But it's not 1848, you're not just going to find gold lying around begging to get into your pocket.

Thousands of others are excited just like you are so rules have been put in place to protect the land from being "loved to death." Those rules are enforced.
I have been to that area. yes you can camp as you described. the pot growers are a problem, in some areas it's worse then others. the area you showed is not really known for growing pot. however these days they seem to be popping up everywhere.
be careful about prospecting on someone's claim. one way to avoid this for beginners is to join a club. this way you get access to their claims. I actually prefer the Klamath river. the gold is a lot more plentiful, however most of the good areas are claimed. I belong to the new 49ers, they have 60+ river miles on the Klamath. here is a little secret, they have a deal with the forest service where you can stay longer than 14days in one spot if you stay at one of their long term camps. they have several of these camps. the camps are free, you must be a member though. highdesertranger
hum, well what to do. i guess just hope for the best. i drive a motorcycle in Thailand everyday and i'm still alive so i guess luck is still on my side
HDR, that new 49ers looks interesting but $3500 membership! ($2500 special offer at the moment). that is a lot of money, i'm not sure i'm that committed to gold at the moment. do you think its worth that kind of money?
may sound stupid but how about a hang a big sign on my van in English and Spanish saying 'i'm only here for the gold, i'm not interested in your pot'
All this hype about pot growers drives me crazy!! I did a google search and tried to findreports of crime by pot growers (other than the act of growing the pot) and couldn't find a singe incident of a passerby being harmed by pot growers on the National Forests. I searched on missing man in National Forests in Northern Caifornia and find dozens of lost hikers, hunters and others, but not one story in any way linked to pot growers.

We're being told there is an epidemic of crime and innocent bystanders being slaughtered in California NFs. I'd like to see the news reports backing that up. Out of the huge numbers of people who visit those NFs (maybe millions of visits a year) can you find 5 reports of crime by pot growers against them? I doubt it!

Does that really warrant huddling in fear instead if going into the NFs? Do we need to paint signs on the sides of our van in the vain hope to try to stay safe?

I spent 5 summers in the Sierra NF above Fresno, CA. I spoke to many Rangers and LEOs about the pot growers and there is no doubt they were there, every so often we'd hear about a big bust. THERE WAS NEVER ONE REPORT OF ANY CRIME AGAINST ANYONE USING THE NF!!!! NEVER--NOT ONE-ZERO-ZIP-ZILCH-NADA.

Can it happen? Yes. Has it ever happened? Probably.

Should we have any fear of it happening to us? NO, NO NO!!

Maybe, i'm wrong, I'd like to see the evidence though.
I've gotten ran off at gunpoint twice over the years in Northern California. No explanation either time, just leave or else. Once was West of Yreka, and once was East of Grass Valley.

Similar happened in Tennessee one time, but it turned out to be a bootlegger, and we wound up being short term friends. He decided that since all I was doing was camping I wasn't a threat to him, and he even shared a little moonshine with me. Never seen him since, but it turned out to be a pleasant experience.

In my case, if someone asks me to leave, in town or out of town, I just leave, because it just isn't worth a confrontation to me. I can be happier somewhere else without any friction. Luckily it's a rare occurrence.
thanks bob, good to put it in perspective. if you read the news about where i live it sounds dangerous, and there certainly have been many instances of tourists and expats hurt and killed here, but in 11 years i've never had a problem here and feel way more safe than any large US city, so it is important to keep things in perspective.

i think the thing that worries most people, me included, is if you are in the middle of no where, there is no one to call for help if there is a problem.
OK, Challange accepted.

I have lived there, and will not lie about anything.  You believe what you want.  I know of a canyon where vehicles and bodies are buried. It is not known to LEO.  It will never be found.  I just would never go off the paved roads in Northern California unless I was invited.   Even then, it depends on the season.  My life changed when my first child was born, and I left that lifestyle.  Still I have friends and acquaintances there.  Just like my grandparents moved out of Moonshine country, I moved out of Marijuana country.  

A new element has moved in that does not care for the land or the community.   

[font=Georgia, Century, Times, serif][font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Last year, Wood said, saw a large increase in home invasion robberies and other crimes connected with agricultural marijuana grows — including the shooting a teenager in April at a Fresno-area marijuana farm. Two brothers, both Laotian, will stand trial in the slaying of the teen and burying him in an orange grove.[/font][/font]

People shoot at cars they don't know. At people they don't know. Deep graves in the backwoods nobody's gonna find. And it does happen, unfortunately, because people are stupid. The greatest risk posed to growers is the theft of their crop by other growers or groups of armed local thugs, both in and out of uniform.

[font=Georgia, Century, Times, serif]Humboldt County police and private investigators are working to find Garrett, but investigator Chris Cook doesn't have much hope he'll be found alive, remarking to the Lost Coast Outpost that, "Is he alive? Probably not... I really want people to know that if you are coming up here, you could be taking your life in your hands."

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This worries me the most.

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