May 22, 2007

What is Guerrilla Camping?

At a local mutual support meeting a couple of weeks ago, we did the round robin bit where we each explained “what we do”. My mention of this blog caused a bit of confusion. “You write about trespassing?” “Illegal camping?” So I decided to explain what Guerrilla Camping is.

Guerrilla Camping is simply camping where you aren’t supposed to. The term is in vogue with cross country cyclists, while distance hikers seem to prefer the term stealth camping. Either way, it is an option that allows a more direct experience of the wilds we find ourselves retreating to. It is also an option forced upon the increasing numbers of people who set out to bike or walk incredibly long distances.

The act of guerrilla camping comes with great responsibility. As you are often camping in pristine environs, it is your duty to assure that when you leave, no trace is left of your presence. No burn scars from cook fires, no mounds from cat holes, to trash and only the flattened grass gently rising for a day after you depart to hint at the one time presence of your tent or sleeping bag.

I adopted the practice in the mid ninties when I spent my long weekends hitchhiking and walking throughout the deep south. I discovered that the best nights in towns were spent camped out with the resident street artists and hobos who knew the back sides of the cities. I found that camping in a hidden corner of some farm’s grain field was always quieter than that developed campsites on national forests, lacking the throngs of RV driving loudmouths who must live in war zones to consider a night in the woods with a generator, camped out next to a dozen others with generators to be relaxing.

To me, the act of guerrilla camping is one of empowerment. Especially when on foot. Increasingly today, there are places that are legally unreachable on foot, boxed off by no pedestrian signs, freeways, no-trespassing signs and other imaginary lines. The first time you walk someplace distant, without a trail, without an authorized path, you realize how much we have forgotten about our land and about ourselves. Weather you are camping in a hidden clearing in a national forest hoping to avoid the rangers, or camping behind an abandoned paper mill in a half forgotten boomtown hoping to avoid the sheriff, guerrilla camping shows you that the world is not the place of ownership and fences we believe it is. Going guerrilla teaches you that camping is what you can get away with.

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