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Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please!
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alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please! on 04/10/2014 01:58:54 MDT Print View

I'm writing from England where it's not technically legal to wild camp (camp away from proper campgrounds). However if you act with courtesy, common sense and discretion nobody minds at all and nobody even notices.

Next week I will spend a week doing a few different overnight microadventures around the Hill Country of Texas.

I'd like to know people's thoughts on wild camping there.
I don't want to cause problems, I don't want to offend people, I don't want to get shot. But nor do I want to sleep in a campground with loads of other people unless I have to...!

I would appreciate a steer to what is the 'right' thing to do in the US regarding wild camping.
Thank you.

ps - anyone got any good tips of beautiful wild places to go vaguely within reach of Austin? (My hub for the week, though I will have a car).

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Not There on 04/10/2014 05:20:58 MDT Print View

Hiking across a private ranch in Texas probably won't work for a variety of reason. You won't get shot but the chance that someone will see you and call the police or come to run you off personally is pretty high. "Wild Camping" just isn't part of the culture. If someone sees you on the wrong side of the fence they are going to assume you're up to no good because no one does that.

Here is what you can do

-Paddle a river and camp below the high water line i.e on a gravel bar.

-There is a trail being built in the Austin area, not a complete wilderness but its public access.

-Bike along a public road in Texas. Some roads are more conducive to this then others. Do some research there are some popular routes.

Texas is a great place, but I doubt wild camping would be welcomed.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Thank you on 04/10/2014 05:24:47 MDT Print View

Much appreciated.

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
Re: Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please! on 04/10/2014 05:39:21 MDT Print View

Depends on where you are with respect to the patchwork of land ownership in the States. Wild camping on National Forest land is generally legal within certain limits (minimum distance from trails and water sources, for example). Same for BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Trying to wild camp on private land in Texas might get you shot.

The term you probably want to look up if you're researching is "dispersed camping" - as usual we're separated by our common language.

Bear in mind that we don't have any equivalent to the public right of way laws that encourage hillwalking in the UK. Private land is presumed to be private without explicit permission.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
?! on 04/10/2014 05:59:23 MDT Print View

"Trying to wild camp on private land in Texas might get you shot."


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re ?! on 04/10/2014 06:21:40 MDT Print View

You probably won't get shot but the assumption would be you're up to no good if you're walking through the middle of a private ranch. They would not see you and say "oh another walker" they'd think you're poaching or (in south Texas) a smuggler.

Don't be scared off, just follow the local laws. If you want to camp check out Big Bend and the Guadalupe National Park. Very nice place. You need to camp in designated site but its worth it. The Guadalupes are very nice and not that crowded.

If you really must hike and camp I know a place that hosts mountain bike races on a private camp in the Hill Country. They have 1400 acres and might let you camp on it as a paying guest. Depends on dates though, if its summer season you don't want to be there.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please! on 04/10/2014 06:27:56 MDT Print View

Born and raised Texan and Hill Country ranch owner here. This time of year is really best for DRIVING the Hill Country West of Austin. Rent yourself a sporty convertible and head out HWY290. Lot's of wildflowers along the roadways. Camp in state parks or private campgrounds.

Would not advise wild camping on any posted private ranch property as you will likely find a firearm pointed at you either by the landowner or the sheriff. Some ranches still are hunting Turkey and hogs too. Another problem you will have with wild camping is the total lack of water sources while daytime temps are already approaching 90F.

FYI, a good time to visit San Antonio for the annual Fiesta celebrations. Basically a 2 week long street party.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Thank you on 04/10/2014 06:32:13 MDT Print View

Hi Rick
I will have a hire car so I can zip around from place to place.
But what I really want to do is hike (and / or possibly cycle / packraft) in beautiful places and camp as basically as is possible / legal to do.
Thank you very much for your advice.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
cycle and packraft on 04/10/2014 06:38:24 MDT Print View

If you have a packraft and a bike you could do a cool raft/bike trip on a publicly accessible river and backroad in Texas. I've thought about trying that myself. Howeve do your research because we've had a drought and many rivers will be low.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Thank you on 04/10/2014 07:03:47 MDT Print View

Hmm, methinks what you really like to do and what you can do is at odds in most of Central Texas! Most of the "beautiful" Hill Country nature areas are around water features. But the drought has really had an impact and many rivers and lakes are dry or near record low levels. And almost all lake or river side land is private so you can only enter/exit from a few designated points. These public or private commercial access areas will be developed with picnic facilities and most camping sites are of the car camping type. Only out West and in Big Bend will you find trekking accessible only camping.

But you can FLOAT in a tube along the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers in the towns of San Marcos and New Braunfels south of Austin. But you will do it with hundreds maybe thousands of others!

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please! on 04/10/2014 07:10:35 MDT Print View

There are some hiking trails on mostly state and county public lands but they are mostly day use areas (think you can pay to "car-camp" though - a former assignment sent me there 1 week out of every month but always required a hotel stay). Not sure of the status longer 100-mile plus one being connected which starts to the south of Austin that was in the Texas thread. That area of Texas is mostly privately owned and, yeah, I wouldn't cross property lines. Texas cities are pretty mellow in the tourist areas/some burbs but the rural areas can be "gun city". My female college German instructor (decades ago) tried to do a "Sound of Music" hike on a TX farm (...."all this open land"...) but was escorted off by a gun-wielding property owner .... and she was a cheery Bavarian type of German.

Add: Not sure how popular established campgrounds are around Austin and San Antonio as most people will be attracted to the nightlife and restaurants of those two cities, requiring a hotel. Then there's the seasons. Texas is hotter than Hades in the summer (my former organization did a "fun-ruck" around Lake Travis just south of central Austin one June or July - we had to start at 3 AM to beat the heat). There were some people fishing the wee hours, a couple of couples coupling in the moonlight as we hiked by ... but no one was sleeping by the banks).

Edited by hknewman on 04/10/2014 07:23:27 MDT.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Re: Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please! on 04/10/2014 07:48:47 MDT Print View

Texas definitely doesn't have the amount of public land that states further west do. I'd second the recommendations for Big Bend and Guadalupe Mtns.b

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please! on 04/10/2014 07:54:03 MDT Print View

I found this website that looks like a good starting point:

Bon voyage and welcome to the colonies :)

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
rules on 04/10/2014 07:55:47 MDT Print View

Wow - all these complicated restrictions make me even more admiring of Scotland's (and Scandinavia's) Right To Roam policy.

It's also interesting for me to see how it feels to be a 'novice' about an area.
People often email me for advice about wild camping and it feels like no big deal to me. So this is a reminder of how everyone is a novice at some time and it's good to try to help them find their way to be comfortable in the great outdoors.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: rules on 04/10/2014 08:07:30 MDT Print View

Hi Alistair,

I'm new to Texas myself - having moved here in September (I live in Austin, by the way, if you need a contact) and I have been STRUGGLING to find good places to do quick weekend hikes around here. Yes, Big Bend is AMAZING and there's no one there. Yes, there are established sites and zone sites, but no worries - you won't see another soul. It's not a campground, they are individual sites that are far apart. You also won't see any water. That's the bad part, but easily managed.

I've checked out Colorado Bend state park and Lost Maples State Park, both of them Hill country and both rather nice. Not big long trips, but enough to get away and sleep in a tent and get some miles under your belt in two days. I've heard good things about Government Canyon a bit further south closer to San Antonio but I've not been yet.

You'll find the long mileage further west into Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains. Seriously gorgeous country and if you can do it I highly recommend it.

But other than that, no, Texas doesn't appreciate your tramping on other people's land. They like private property here and they mean it. The one thing I just can't stand about this place, that's for sure.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: rules on 04/10/2014 08:10:00 MDT Print View

Texas is another country :) The national forests in Pacific Northwest are less restrictive and large enough for some exploring.

The free access rules in the UK are much a result of small parcels of farmland with no direct access. With inheritance issues and farmers owning a patchwork of small parcels, it was (and is) a much different approach to farming. Only our old colonial towns had commons.

If you look at a detailed map of Kansas, you will see a fine grid of access roads based around the homesteaders farm land. The smallest homestead tracts were 160 acres (640 acres per square mile).

MDry land ranching requires huge tracts of land and cattle rustling is a real thing, both adding to the unique Texas "culture." :)

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re rules on 04/10/2014 08:12:52 MDT Print View

Its not that bad, its just that different land agencies are different and face different challenges in managing recreational use. The canyon lands in Utah have to be managed differently the forestland in Virginia for example.

To keep things simple

-National Forest land is pretty much free to "wild camping" with a few exceptions (motly in CA)

-National Parks normally require a backcountry permit and camping in designated sites. Normally its not a big hassle, just stop at the office near the trailhead and get your permit. Its normally a good chance to chat with rangers and get their ideas on the best places to go.

-State Parks are typically smaller piece of land along a river or lake and are mostly for car camping.

The Brian Green's blog is a very good resource. There is some nice day hiking but overnight hiking is somewhat limited in the Hill Country. If you can get to Big Bend, Big Bend State Park or the Guadalupes you'll have a great time.

Edit - Let me know if you want to go further afield. I can tell you about hiking in Arkansas and New Mexico but I imagine you don't want to go that far.

Edited by Cameron on 04/10/2014 08:14:51 MDT.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Re: pollen on 04/10/2014 08:13:20 MDT Print View

Another concern is it is peak Oak and Juniper pollen season in the Hill Country now. All my family has been suffering terribly the last 2 weeks.

Edited by rmjapan on 04/10/2014 08:19:45 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Pollen on 04/10/2014 08:16:56 MDT Print View

Good grief Rick we'll scare the poor guy away, "I could handle the rattlesnakes and guns but then I heard about the pollen and that was the final straw.."

I've lived in the Hill Country and most of us were fine, its just a seasonal allergy thing. Bring some benedryl or something like that just in case.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Re: Re rules on 04/10/2014 08:20:49 MDT Print View

That's a great summary. Thank you.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Re: Re: rules on 04/10/2014 08:22:38 MDT Print View

Thank you very much!
I've only got a week spare.
Following all this information I'm considering jumping on Amtrak and heading for Big Bend...

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Texas hiking on 04/10/2014 08:23:18 MDT Print View

Another vote for Guadalupe NP, though it's closer to car camping than true backpacking because of a shortage of water. A decent overnight is Lost Maples State Park in the Hill Country. You'll need reservations to camp.

I was in Dallas last week [and I lived there for 25 years before moving here] and it's great spring weather now. Driving around in a convertible, preferably with a pretty girl, sounds appealing too.

If you plan on Big Bend or Guadalupe, be aware that it's at least an eight-hour drive from the Hill Country.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Re Pollen on 04/10/2014 08:24:54 MDT Print View

Luke, rattlesnakes are May's worry when their breeding cycle kicks in. Only animals to worry about now while camping are wild hogs and javelina. Oh, and vampire bats.

Edited by rmjapan on 04/10/2014 08:27:30 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Guadalupe Mountains on 04/10/2014 08:31:38 MDT Print View

I've done almost every trail in the Guadalupe Mountains and love them. I don't consider them "car camping" they are plenty wild.

You'll have to pack all your water in because the park is dry. But the scenery is amazing. Just bring a sturdy pack that can handle a gallon of water per day. You don't need a tent though, I'd just bring a tarp. Its pretty warm now too so you can go pretty light on insulation.

If you have time I'd do a day hike up Guadalupe Peak. Then I'd do a loop in "Bowl" as its called, basically a high mountain basin that gets enough moisture to support a pine forest more like what you'd typically see in the Rocky Mountains. I'll try to post some trip reports soon. You can buy park maps online (and maybe at REI stores in Austin) but they are also available at the park office. Plan on getting there during office hours to grab a permit, map and chat with a ranger.

I don't know if there is an Amtrac to the trailhead in Big Bend. If there is I imagine driving yourself would be about as fast.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
No Amtrak to Big Bend or Guadalupe. on 04/10/2014 08:52:04 MDT Print View

You can get to Alpine on Amtrak and then you will need to rent a car there and then it is a two hour drive south. Guadalupes would mean probably renting a car in El Paso then an equally long drive. I would just keep your rental car and drive the 8 hrs out to Big Bend (farther to the Guadalupes), unless of course you are then headed further west on Amtrak.

Guadalupes only allow camping in designated sites. Big Bend has designated sites in the Chisos mtns. only, the rest of the 800,000 acres is open "zone" camping as long as you are 1/2 mile away from a road. Getting hot out there now down low (below 5000') but from your desert experience that should be no problem.

Edited by abhitt on 04/10/2014 08:56:09 MDT.

Jacob Hammond
(woodpewee) - F

Locale: Central New York
Re: No Amtrak to Big Bend or Guadalupe. on 04/10/2014 09:03:26 MDT Print View

I rented a car in Austin this February and drove to Big Bend. I had about a week as well. The drive is about 8 hours in total, but there are some convenient stops on the way, like Junction and Fort Stockton. Also, you can drive through the Hill Country and stop in Johnson City and Fredericksburg (I stopped at LBJ's home in Johnson City as I'd just finished the four Caro books on him and was part of the reason why I planned the trip like I did - highly recommended to anyone, but not as highly recommended as Caro's biography of Robert Moses!).

In my weeklong trip I was able to do an extended solo Outer Mountain Loop hike, a separate hike to the mule ears, smokey creak junction and lots of other small hikes in the park. I didn't have a high clearance vehicle, so I missed out on Pine Canyon, which is one I hope to do in the future. It was all amazing!!! When not on the trail, I car camped at Paint Gap - which I really enjoyed.

Not 100% sure it will work, but here's a link to some of my pictures from the trip:

Anyways, Guadalupe sounds great too. I hope to get out there next, but I agree that El Paso is a much better starting point for that trip. I also wanted to make the trip work with Amtrak at first, but it just seemed like too many hoops.

One side note, I went to an REI in Austin before heading out and I would suggest having a good set of printed directions or a GPS. Around Austin, stores are often set back from the road in a way that, for me, made them difficult to see. The signage is relatively small. I can see why it's a nice thing, but it makes it hard for the first time driver there.

Also: you'll see if you drive through the Hill Country, that most of the land is fenced-off rangeland - beautiful, reminded me of Central Spain, but not great for secret camping... There are some nice state parks in the area though, on the llanes and pedernales rivers.

Edited by woodpewee on 04/10/2014 09:57:34 MDT.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: No Amtrak to Big Bend or Guadalupe. on 04/10/2014 09:12:59 MDT Print View

Glad you enjoyed your visit to the hill country. Next time you're in the area, check out Enchanted Rock or Pedernales Falls. Both areas have some great day hikes and unique hill country geology. X2 on Austin being hard to navigate; I still get lost every time I go into town!

Jacob Hammond
(woodpewee) - F

Locale: Central New York
Re: Re: Re: Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please! on 04/10/2014 09:13:17 MDT Print View


Edited by woodpewee on 04/10/2014 13:34:46 MDT.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Re: No Amtrak to Big Bend or Guadalupe. on 04/10/2014 09:33:37 MDT Print View

Just a note to those unfamiliar with the "smaller" Texas cities. They've grown up so make sure your travel plans avoid the morning and evening commutes. El Paso just surpassed Detroit in terms of legal population, and Interstate highway 10 backs up at 3 PM (Mountain). Also Austin's commute problems are legendary. especially Interstate 35 but other highways too.

Texas is so large, it spans 2 time zones btw (Central and Mountain) , so plan according if renting a car, catching a bus/train.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
papers on 04/10/2014 09:51:08 MDT Print View

Maybe this goes without saying, but if you do go to south Texas bring your passport and other ID papers everywhere, because you are very likely to get checked. I went to Big Bend with my then postdoctoral fellow and his family (from Poland) and we assumed that since he was employed in the US and we would be inside the US the whole time they would not be necessary. Unfortunately, if you are anywhere near the border and you don't have full ID they will detain you on the spot until they get proof. I suppose it may sound extreme to carry your passport on a backpacking trip, but highly recommended just in case.

In our case the accepeted a call to the University where we worked to verify his employment and identity. If we had gone through that checkpoint after business hours I'm sure they would have been detained overnight.

Jacob Hammond
(woodpewee) - F

Locale: Central New York
Re: Re: Re: No Amtrak to Big Bend or Guadalupe. on 04/10/2014 09:56:34 MDT Print View

Thanks, I will. I did get to Pedernales falls and it was well worth the detour. I also loved all the peach orchards and wineries - it seemed strange to me at first, in the middle of Texas, but seems like a really interesting blend of the land and the people that settled there (like the German immigrants).

Edited by woodpewee on 04/10/2014 09:58:29 MDT.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: papers on 04/10/2014 10:32:05 MDT Print View

Not sure about other parts of the US but am familiar with "the borderlands" of southern AZ, CA, NM, and far west TX.

Unless you have a US drivers license and accent, also bring your papers if traveling on Interstate 10 or US Highway 70 through El Paso or Las Cruces. Through international treaty from the Kennedy days (1963 - the Chamazal dispute and resulting treaty ..., there's a ring of border patrol checkpoints on the outskirts of those two cities. Mexican citizens can shop in those US cities (and vice versa) but cannot travel any further. The stations are there to really check their passports (wealthy Mexicans can afford their own Mexican visas but not the less wealthy), ... but the checkpoint will check other nationalities too, ... plus if there's anything out of the ordinary, even questioning US citizens. If you are US they just ask you and wave you through, though there's normally a state trooper if they suspect one is breaking driving laws.

I also recall a Border Patrol checkpoint somewhere around the Big Bend's Presidio County too, but it's been several years.

Edited by hknewman on 04/10/2014 10:40:08 MDT.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Back to Texas "proper" on 04/10/2014 11:15:39 MDT Print View

Also when are you thinking of traveling? Credit to Mitch Kilby for the following from a recent thread in "General Backpacking":

"Just to comment - the name of the new trail in Austin will be the Violet Crown Trail. Supposed to be 30 miles and stretch into Hays County. The city also just developed an 8 mile paved trail on the east side called the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. It's not too bad. In downtown Austin, we also have the Barton Creek greenbelt (which the Violet Crown will connect too) which is about 16 miles round trip and longer if you add in the connecting shoal creek greenbelt and the town lake green belt. This is great if you just want to hike on a Saturday or weekday evening after work. Lots of rock climbing, mountain biking and swimming (in the springtime generally) on this trail too.

For local backpacking I always like the Goodwater Trail in Georgetown [neighbors northern Austin] which is a good one night trip. " statement in italics mine.

Maybe they will have the Violet Crown trail finished by the time of your trip? There's also a good music and bar scene in Austin to enjoy esp during the weekend.

Edited by hknewman on 04/10/2014 11:16:59 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: rules on 04/10/2014 11:27:39 MDT Print View

The United States has a different concept of private property. The rules aren't really that complicated. If you step onto private property without permission from the owner you are trespassing (a crime).
I hear there are some mountains in New Mexico, could be an option if you don't mind driving.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
state parks on 04/10/2014 11:49:04 MDT Print View

I grew up west of Austin and have been to nearly all of the places you could go. I'd hook you up on family land if I still lived in the area.

I'd suggest you check out the state parks first as an option. They are smaller and each could be done in a day. Most if not all will have camping for a small fee. Most are drive in sites, but some are walk in. Water is already in short supply.

You could couple visiting state parks with visits to San Antonio (Alamo and Riverwalk), Fredericksburg (German food and beer with a touch of Texas), and local wineries and historical sites. You could visit the highland lakes.

If you really want more backpacking and camping, then you have to head west. Forget the train. Enjoy the drive out there. Half of it is through interesting landscape (half is boring). I like Big Bend better. Getting up in the basin to avoid heat is nice.

If you have any specific questions let me know.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: papers on 04/10/2014 12:04:12 MDT Print View

Wow - all these complicated restrictions make me even more admiring of Scotland's (and Scandinavia's) Right To Roam policy.


"I suppose it may sound extreme to carry your passport on a backpacking trip, but highly recommended just in case."

Yeah that's smart weight to carry. USBP has the right to stop someone if they have reasonable suspicion to believe they're not a US Citizen regardless of proximity to the border. You'll obviously have a greater chance of encountering a Patrol Agent closer to the border but they have some stations fairly deep into the interior. Having your PP helps to keep that conversation short, sweet and from going sideways on you.

I understand there are regional differences throughout the U.S. but Amtrak is a far cry from the trains I experienced through much of Europe. Much of this has to do with the issue that most of the tracks are privately owned so Amtrak will get bumped in line if cargo needs the right of way. It's mostly an enjoyable way to travel but we've had trains arrive several hours late. No surprise in Germany, I could set my watch to the train. Our interstate system is easy to navigate on so I'd stick with the rental car if Amtrak's inability to keep on schedule would be a problem for you. It is possible that things are much different for Amtrak in Texas than in Washington State too (and I hope so).

Hopefully the responses you've received here haven't been too discouraging. I've yet to see Austin but I thought San Antonio was a wonderful town to visit and would love to go back some day. My Father in law lives in between the two so I hope to catch Austin the next time I'm in the area. I'm sure you've gathered by now that it's famous for music so I'd save some time for that if you enjoy live music. Don’t forget to bring some cholesterol medication and grab a Po’ Boy sandwich and some of their BBQ too. Both tend to be decadent.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Size matters on 04/10/2014 12:53:41 MDT Print View

Alastair, you're probably clued in enough to not need this, but every once in while I've encountered a European planning to, say, fly into LA, grab lunch in Vegas, hike in the Grand Canyon that afternoon, and spend the night in New Orleans. So for reference:Texas versus Europe

But I can't leave it that, because, as we Alaskans like to point out, "Texans are nice and all, but if they don't stop talking about how big things are in Texas, we're going to split Alaska in two and then they'll be the THIRD largest state."AK vs USA

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Size matters on 04/10/2014 13:19:16 MDT Print View

David, I was going to mention something like that - LOL. If you rent a car in Austin then it is more or less full day's drives to get to Big Bend - almost 500 miles. Prague to Paris, but without the point to point rail. More and slower if you take the "scenic route" though Del Rio. In Texas this does amount to the "local area", but I don't imagine that classification could be applied anywhere in Europe to 500 miles distance.

I lived in Austin and made the trip a few times. It is definitely worth it, just need to keep it in mind. Very hard to get to the park via public transportation, and Amtrack will be slower AND more expensive if paired with a rental car - another big difference with Europe, there is no way in this country to do point-to-point rail travel.

That said, if you have the time, and want to break things up there is a pretty good half way point with legal drive in campground nearby - Seminole Canyon. There is a very interesting archeological site with VERY early native American cliff paintings dating back almost to the time of the Lascaux cave paintings in France. This is if you take the slower scenic route and break thing up. This is not to mention the nearby Judge Roy Bean museum ("Hangingest Judge in the West"). If you have watched a lot of westerns then that might be of some interest in a campy sort of way. Ahem...but we adventurers don't go in for that sort of tourist pablum of course.

Edited by millonas on 04/10/2014 13:50:55 MDT.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Size matters on 04/10/2014 14:27:28 MDT Print View

"But I can't leave it that, because, as we Alaskans like to point out, "Texans are nice and all, but if they don't stop talking about how big things are in Texas, we're going to split Alaska in two and then they'll be the THIRD largest "


Just wait. Once global warming starts up again and all the ice melts, Alaska will be the 2nd largest state...

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Size matters on 04/10/2014 14:30:39 MDT Print View


Amtrack presents its own issues for Europeans or even New Englanders. I had friends take the train out of Seattle at 6 o clock, arriving Oakland at 6 o clock. They figured a 12-hour trip (cause it was a long way). Nope. A 24-hour trip. To cover a tiny fraction of the lower 48.

Also, don't miss your train. There's not another one along in a hour. There's not another one along until tomorrow.

As much as I drive, I still find there is an aspect to "conditioning" for a long drive akin to "I've been hiking a mile every day" not meaning "I'm ready to hike 40 miles in a day". 10- to 16-hour days behind the wheel can be exhausting for someone not used to it - mentally more than physically. Tunes help. Getting out and walking a bit helps. But slows you down.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Size matters on 04/10/2014 15:21:29 MDT Print View

David, definitely! There are the German trains, and then there are the Italian trains that are always late, then there is 1000 feet of shit, and at the bottom of that are all the Amtrak trains that don't run on the east coast corridor between Boston and DC. Really only good if riding on the train is your actual GOAL and you don't have a firm timetable. On the other hand you can rent a car in this country pretty cheaply by comparison, and the gas is cheaper in Texas.

Edited by millonas on 04/10/2014 15:24:41 MDT.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Sam Houston National Forest on 04/10/2014 16:32:44 MDT Print View

Surprised no one has mentioned Sam Houston National Forest. From Austin, it's about a 3 hour drive but if you check the first link out below you can see a map of the Lone Star Trail. The second link is to the National Forest website for Sam Houston National Forest. In summary,

"The 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail, a portion of which has gained National Recreation Trail status, winds through the Sam Houston National Forest. The trail, marked with two-inch by four-inch aluminum markers to guide hikers, has recreation areas available at three different points. Except during deer hunting season when camping is restricted to designated camps, primitive camping is allowed off the trail. Potable water is available at Double Lake and Stubblefield recreation areas."

I have backpacked several sections of the trail. It's a very thick forest and so visibility is limited to the trees except for the occasional clearing. No elevation gain or loss so the hiking is very easy.

Edited by randalmartin on 04/10/2014 16:34:50 MDT.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Love on 04/11/2014 14:03:07 MDT Print View

I absolutely love this website, guys.
What a treasure trove of information.
Thank you!
(Thank y'all...)

HElinTexas C
(Helintexas) - MLife
Texas on 04/17/2014 20:58:01 MDT Print View


There are 2 national parks in Texas....way out west. You can do dispersed camping in some parts of Big Bend NP...but not in the mountains.

There are a number of state parks. Go to the Texas state park website and take a gander.

In central Texas I recommend looking into the Enchanted Rock State park. It has primitive campsites that only cost $5 a nite.

There are also 700,000 acres of (someone mentioned Sam Houston ) under the US Forestry service where you can disperse camp in eastern and northern sections of Texas. Google national forests in Texas.

I would not recommend dispersed camping on private land without permission in Texas. However, if you ask and tell them you are international traveler who likes to camp out, you most likely would get permission. Most people are very hospitable....they just want to know who is on their land. But, at the same time, it might be hard to find out who to ask. is true that you might be met by someone with a weapon if you just set up. I was at my sister's house (she lives out in the country) and a large truck came up in the driveway very late one evening. My brother in law grabbed his weapon and went outside. I was shocked. But my sister said that they get worried because they are so far from help.

Edit: read above posts..and realized that a lot of my info is already covered. Oops.

Edited by Helintexas on 04/17/2014 21:00:54 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Love on 04/17/2014 23:07:45 MDT Print View

>"(Thank y'all...)"

You may already know this, but "y'all" is singular. And plural.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Love on 04/18/2014 07:37:50 MDT Print View

In the states ya'll is generally a dead give away you are from the south. Kids in northern states and California always think I'm funny when I say that. Once I was unloading a bus full of kids at an outdoor center in California. I said something along the lines of "Okay ya'll come over here." This little 6th grade girl looked up at me all wide eyed and said "Are you a cowboy?" I guess the only time she'd heard someone talk like that was in Western movies.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
re: ...but "y'all" is singular. And plural. on 04/18/2014 08:27:35 MDT Print View

We need a true southern good ol' boy to help us with this. My understanding is that "y'all" is seldom used as singular, but almost always is plural. 2-4 people--Y'all; a room full of people--All y'all. My favorite is the plural possessive--"All y'all's." You gotta love those apostrophes.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: re: ...but "y'all" is singular. And plural. on 04/18/2014 11:00:04 MDT Print View

Gary has it. Ya'll is rarely singular, in fact, I can't think of when it is used in a singular form off the top of my head. I could list 100 other similar "southernisms".

Ryan - local TN redneck

Edited by ViolentGreen on 04/18/2014 11:02:35 MDT.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Re: re: ...but "y'all" is singular. And plural. on 04/18/2014 11:16:09 MDT Print View

Indeed, all ya'll is the plural at least for large groups. All my family is from Tenn. and Ark.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Wild Camping in the US - advice for an Englishman, please! on 04/18/2014 11:27:04 MDT Print View

This may be the only time I am smarter than David Thomas about something. "Y'all" is definitely plural. I've done 48 years of testing. I've got a pretty high degree of certainty on this one.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
re: 100 other similar "southernisms". on 04/18/2014 12:05:10 MDT Print View

Ryan, it won't really help Alister much, but why don't you list a few for us? In the interest of cultural diffusion, you understand.

Y'all's truly,

"Billy Bob" Dunckel, master of the thread drift

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
re: ...but "y'all" is singular. And plural. on 04/18/2014 12:08:19 MDT Print View

Y'all ain't gonna believe this!!!!

Y'all = you all

Yep, it's plural.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Okay, y'all outvoted me. on 04/18/2014 12:48:33 MDT Print View

I'll retract my statement. Mostly. I remember hearing it used (by Southerners) as a second-person singular pronoun but maybe they meant it in the sense of "you and all you people (from snow country / who can't barbecue / with all your teeth)". H. L. Mencken knew more about the American Langauge than any of us and said, (the plural nature of y'all)

"is a cardinal article of faith in the South. ... Nevertheless, it has been questioned very often, and with a considerable showing of evidence. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, to be sure, you-all indicates a plural, implicit if not explicit, and thus means, when addressed to a single person, 'you and your folks' or the like, but the hundredth time it is impossible to discover any such extension of meaning."
— H. L. Mencken, The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, 1948, p.337

Since "y'all" is plural, then "all y'all" is, what? More plural?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Okay, y'all outvoted me. on 04/18/2014 13:01:40 MDT Print View

"Since "y'all" is plural, then "all y'all" is, what? More plural?"

All y'all means a whole mess of people, as in "C'mon all y'all."

When I was in the military, I was stationed with many Southerners, so I picked up their dialect temporarily.


Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Y'all listen up, now. on 04/18/2014 13:17:45 MDT Print View

"All y'all" is probably an conjunction of "all of you all." Before making too much fun of "y'all", note that it exists in most other languages. "Y'all" is really a useful word that I think we should adopt as proper. I don't stick up for all things southern, but "y'all" is a good one.

While "y'all" is fine, there are a few things a southerner just wont say:

We don't keep firearms in this house.
Has anybody seen the sideburn trimmer?
You can't feed that to the dog.
I thought Graceland was tacky.
No kids in the back of the pick-up, it's not safe.
Wrasslin's fake.
Honey, did you mail that donation to Greenpeace?
We're vegetarians.
Do you think my hair is too big?
I'll have grapefruit instead of biscuits and gravy.
Honey, these bonsai trees need watering?
Who's Richard Petty?
Give me the small bag of pork rinds.
Deer heads detract from the decor.
Spitting is such a nasty habit.
I just couldn't find a thing at Wal-Mart today.
Trim the fat off that steak.
Cappuccino tastes better than espresso.
The tires on that truck are too big.
I'll have the arugula and radicchio salad.
I've got it all on a floppy disk.
Unsweetened tea tastes better.
Would you like your fish poached or broiled?
My fiancee, Paula Jo, is registered at Tiffany's.
I've got two cases of Zima for the Super Bowl.
Little Debbie snack cakes have too many fat grams.
She's too old to be wearing that bikini.
Does the salad bar have bean sprouts?
Hey, it's an episode of "Hee Haw" we haven't seen.
I don't have a favorite college team.
I believe you cooked those green beans too long.
Those shorts ought to be a little longer, Darla.
Elvis who?
Be sure to bring my salad dressing on the side.

Now THAT'S thread drift.

Edited by alexdrewreed on 04/18/2014 13:25:35 MDT.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
re: Y'all listen up, now. on 04/18/2014 14:07:26 MDT Print View

That's too funny, Ben!

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Y'all listen up, now. on 04/18/2014 15:31:05 MDT Print View

"Checkmate" -- Out of all of them, that one made me laugh the most for some reason. lol

The South will rise again!


Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Y'all listen up, now on 04/18/2014 15:44:19 MDT Print View

Ah, I forgot my favorite: "You can't fix that with duct tape."

Glenn S

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Y'all listen up, now on 04/18/2014 16:32:31 MDT Print View

Seems to me...

Y'all is plural. (Contraction of you all)
As in "Y'all come back now, ya hear?" To a group.

Ya'll is singular. (Contraction of you will)
As in "Ya'll gonna get a lickin' now!"
Or "Ya'll come back now, ya hear?" To a person.

Seems there's also some confusion over what's a "southerner" and what's a "redneck hillbilly".

Leigh Baker

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
more thread drift on 04/18/2014 16:40:23 MDT Print View

LOL Ben, I have tears running down my face!
This one really hit home to me, being a native Texan that also spent time in GA.
"I believe you cooked those green beans too long." Lot's of ya'll won't get it, but I've lived it. I didn't eat an "al dente" green bean til I left home!

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Even more thread drift on 04/18/2014 18:46:17 MDT Print View

Also it the south you can say anything about anybody as long as you preface it with "Bless his heart"
As in "Bless his heart, he's dumb as a bucket of rocks"

A similar one that seems older is "God love um"

As in "God love um those two aren't the brightest kids in the world"

In Arkansas I heard "carry" in place of "take"
As in "I'm gonna carry my grandma to the doctor tomorrow."

Also among church folk gossiping is frowned upon. Ladies would never sit around and "gossip" about someone's life problems. However saying "We need to pray for..." makes it all okay.
As in "We need to pray for Susie... (insert gossip here)."

A very old phrase in Virginia if your chatting with someone in the driveway and want to invite them in is "Why don't you step on down' Apparently it dates back to buggy days when you'd invite someone to step down off their buggy for a glass of tea.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Even more thread drift on 04/18/2014 23:15:44 MDT Print View

Born Mississippi, raised Houston, lived San Diego, work with Vic from New Orleans.

Southern grammar with a Texan drawl, SoCal vocabulary, peppered with phrases from the yat dialect. Oh, my mother is from England so I spell colour and pronounce Aluminium correctly.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Y'all listen up, now. on 04/18/2014 23:48:43 MDT Print View

When English dropped "thee/thou", "you" became both the singular and plural second person pronoun. We could no longer distinguish between singular or plural with a pronoun in the second person. Southern dialect has addressed this lack with the form "y'all", which is frankly an advancement in English pronouns. We owe a debt to Southern folk for allowing English speakers to once again distinguish between second person pronoun singular "you" and second person plural "y'all".

I lived in Texas for a couple years back in the 80s, realized how useful "y'all" was, and have used it regularly ever since! If all y'all don't use it, you should!

Owen McMurrey
(OwenM) - F

Locale: SE US
Y'all on 04/19/2014 00:09:50 MDT Print View

I'd try to explain it, but y'all aren't sophisticated enough to grasp the perambling and permutative nature of our vocabulatin' :D

btw, Southern is always capitalized, we are not "about to" do anything, we're "fixin' to", we drop a lot of g's so words roll off the tongue smoothly, and a Coke is a Coke(so is a Pepsi).

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
object on 04/22/2014 21:18:35 MDT Print View

"Unsweetened tea tastes better."

Born and raised and truly a Texan. I hate sweet tea. During the rationing during WW2, my family gave up sweetening their tea. We never took it back up, so generations of us don't like sweet tea.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re object on 04/22/2014 22:03:02 MDT Print View

I don't know, a Texan that doesn't like sweet tea... what is the world coming too.

Kevin Gurney
(kwgurney) - M

Locale: SF Bay Area
"Y'all" in Irish-English (thread drifting to another continent) on 04/23/2014 08:39:37 MDT Print View

I work with Irish folk, and in our Skype chats/emails they use "ye" as the 2nd person plural, as in:

"Are ye ready for the 10am meeting?"

Very cool. So "ye" still exists in English, just not American English. Do Brits/Scots use "ye", or this only an Irish thing?

Joel Stephenson

Locale: Northumberland, UK
Re: "Y'all" in Irish-English (thread drifting to another continent) on 04/23/2014 14:38:09 MDT Print View

And I thought getting chased off patch of land by an angry farmer with a stick was bad... How am I going to cope in America where you have bears and guns? Oh well, at least I'll be able to communicate with them now.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Thank you on 04/23/2014 16:07:57 MDT Print View

Thank you all for your help.
I had a great 7 days in Texas.
7 days, 7 different sleeping spots.
A few pics here -

highlights were Big Bend (wonderful) and various barbecue meals (equally wonderful!)


Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
other Southernisms on 04/24/2014 14:15:47 MDT Print View

I think you uns got the yall form figured out. how about

Yonder comes Aunt Mable

Did you take the trash out? Well I mighta did.

Did you go to town yet? I had already did that.

Can you bring me some salt? I might could do that.

You aint tellin me nothing! (that I don't already know)

the best water I've ever tasted was branch water. (stream or creek or crick water)

me: "I just hiked for 27 days without crossing a road." Southern relative: "Why?"

that is easier said than did.

Edited by rshaver on 04/24/2014 14:25:53 MDT.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Thank you on 04/25/2014 02:45:28 MDT Print View

Yeah, you musta had a good chuckle with the advice in this thread!

Edited by rmjapan on 04/25/2014 04:11:38 MDT.

David Halterman
(poedog) - F
Merka on 05/08/2014 22:39:11 MDT Print View

Nice Al. The missus and I just completed our first transcontinental and spent 31 days crossing Texas alone, wild camping almost nightly.

As you said before, courtesy, common sense and discretion is all it takes. Even in Texas.

Edited by poedog on 05/08/2014 22:42:19 MDT.