It saddens me that one of the first post for this summer’s trip is going to be a sad one. But, unfortunately, that is the way it is sometimes with this way of life. Can’t all be sunshine and Kumbayas. We have had many days of point A to point B travel. We’ve stayed at Walmarts overnight and two overnight stays at RV campgrounds. It is after all almost 1,800 miles from Florida to Colorado. So, it was time for some real camping and relaxation.
Jim and I spent hours combing through the different maps and apps that we use to find our next stop. I googled dispersed camping (usually means camping with no hook-ups on public lands or private lands that allow it.) I came across Hipcamp. It looked promising. After all, I told Jim, we heard about it from one of the many RV You-Tubers that we watch, so it was probably good. And maybe it is, but not in our experience.
I found a site that looked promising, but it didn’t have any reviews, so decided maybe not. Then I found one that did seem to fit the bill, Mountains, Trains, and Sand Dunes. $88 for 5 nights. Not bad. Property near Fort Garland and Blanca owned by Barry de Haan. Loaded with new bought groceries and excitement we headed that way. It promised scenic views. That it had. It was beautiful in the surrounding area. Mount Blanca in the far distance. Rolling mountain hills. Definitely open land, but it was craggy and pitted. Not conducive for 33ft RV. Plenty of sunshine. And wind. Lots and lots of wind! Okay, not a good thing, but not a deal breaker so far. And that was discussed in the host’s description.
It promised wildlife. Yay, no problem there. I would expect it. However, one of the people that lives in the area said, “Keep your kid close; there are mountain lions out here.” Okay, I got that. Will do.
Now, the difficult part. Each of these apps always have a set of parameters for you to look at to see if this is a good fit for you. For example, if you are not into boondocking (no water, electric, sewer) than that is something you need to be aware of. This site obviously was for boondockers only. No problem; Jim has worked all year on getting Betty Deux ready with solar panels, extra water containers, etc. This isn’t our first rodeo. Always check to see if they recommend the site for RVs. This host’s description said, “Bring your own tents, vans, and truck campers, trailers, RVs.” Okay, we’re good! Then check the size because there are so many different size RVs out there. My brother has a little Tab. He’d have no problem up there. Then we’ve seen campers that are massive! 42ft+ pulling cars, off-road vehicles, even a boat! Crazy right? We’re no way in that category. We’re somewhere between. We have a 33ft pull-behind camper, pulled by a strong diesel dually. Again, we were prepared.
And again, part of being prepared is checking for size limits. Under Mountains, Trains, and Sand Dunes Camping Vehicle Details it states Max Length 45ft. NO WAY!!!!! No way should a camper over 20ft go up these dirt hill roads and then when you get to the property try to turn around. As Jim explained to me, “Yes, we can probably pull in to this area here, however, you have to turn around to get out.” We did actually get stuck out there and it was scary, but my focus here is that we as campers have to trust the information we are given from what we believe to be reputable websites and this was not the case.
The description promised beautiful sites and there are even photos that lead you to believe in this description. However, this too was not the case. Jim found discarded tires and a burned out battery. With all these things going against us he said that no way we were going to stay there and out we headed.
Upset, tired, frustrated and angry we headed to the Alamosa Walmart. New frustrations abounded. I immediately contacted Hipcamp to cancel my reservation. The app would not allow me to click on cancellation (I couldn’t officially cancel until 2 days later from my laptop and the desktop site.) In order to get full refund it needed to be cancelled prior to the trip, so Hipcamp said I needed to contact the host. Which I did. And that lasted the rest of the afternoon. Back and forth with this guy. Over 23 messages from him and then more than that from me. He kept saying sorry that we had a bad experience. Said we went to the wrong place. No we didn’t. I described it to him and even sent pictures. He kept saying he didn’t get the pictures and blamed Hipcamp saying maybe they don’t allow it. Then I sent them to his email. Once again, he said he didn’t get them and once again he blamed Hipcamp. Hmmm. Interesting. Are you new to this? Never once did he offer to refund us. Instead he wanted us to go back to his land and if nothing else stay on the main road. What? Are you kidding? No way would we drive back an hour to put ourselves back in that position. He was nuts. So, I finally told him I was done.
What the man needs to do is to change the parameters of his description so no future RVer gets into the same situation we did. I stated this over and over to him. He just did not get it. As I told Hipcamp support, we believe this guy does not have a clue about RVs and has probably never even been on this land or hasn’t for a long time. (Some of his messages even alluded to this.) I want my money back, but understand that this may not be the case. Expensive lesson. From now on I make a call and if you can’t give the right answers, I move on. What I want the most is for this guy and Hipcamp to change the parameters. To be more careful in their descriptions. Our experience there could have been so much worse if it hadn’t been for Jim’s cool-headedness and the help of a neighbor who showed up just at the right time.
As far as resolution of this matter, I have again been in contact with Hipcamp support. We’ll see. Unfortunately, they won’t even allow me to make a review. Not fair Hipcamp, not fair.