Your eyes haven’t betrayed you, IT IS snowing in Baja! We housesitting off-grid in the mountains of Baja California, Mexico and we received 6″ of snow in a 24 hour period. In this episode we walk you through some of the systems and planning that we use to be comfortable during a white out!
We have settled in to the off-grid lifestyle at a housesitting assignment in the remote mountain wilderness of the Sierra de San Pedro Mountains in Baja California, Mexico. We have spent 6 weeks living in a completely off-grid house 70 kilometers from civilization and have experienced record snowstorms, temperatures below freezing, as well as mechanical malfunctions and so much more in our short time here. After this article you should have a better idea if off-grid living is for you or if you should avoid moving to a cabin in the woods.
You Are High Maintenance
You might say, “I am not high-maintenance”, but how many showers have you had this week? Was your water really hot? Did each shower last longer than 5-10 minutes? If you take a shower every day, want your shower to be the same temp as the sun, and want to scald your flesh for 20 minutes or more, you are likely not ready to live on limited water in an off-grid home. That is not to say that you can’t enjoy a hot bath on occasion, but you have to plan ahead and insure that your bath isn’t going to deplete your drinking water supply for next week.
Are you accustomed to modern HVAC and are used to having your living space at a comfortable 72.5 degrees? Unless you are using a very sophisticated solar setup, modern heat and air is an unrealistic comfort. Learning to be comfortable in an off-grid home is often a matter of planning ahead (see below) and layering up or down. If you are cold in the winter, grab a jacket or sweatshirt. Hot in the summer? Run down to the stream for a quick dip to lower your body temperature. Small adjustments like these are a major part of living off the grid.
You Can’t Plan Ahead
The Boy Scouts of America motto has never been more relevant to us as it has while living off-grid. Being prepared for anything is vitally important when living away from the security of society in an off-grid home. You must make the most of your trips to town and make sure you are bringing back enough fuel, food, and supplies for anything that might happen before the next trip to town.
We have developed a schedule of resupplying every 2-3 weeks. We could easily resupply once a month, but we really enjoy fresh produce and seeing the sights of Baja. On our last resupply trip we topped off fuel, visited the hardware store, fish market, electronics store, Walmart and two grocery stores in a matter of 24 hours. Lists and discipline go a long way when shopping for a month’s worth of groceries and the process was a real adjustment for us compared to keeping 4-5 days of food in our bus and literally camping in grocery store parking lots on occasion.
You Need Instant Gratification
If you need to exist in a world where you must have fast food, fast internet, and fast traffic, off-grid living might not be for you. Although this isn’t the case in all off-grid applications, in our case we are 70KM’s from a town (a small town at that) and over 2 hour’s drive from the nearest market. The closest McDonalds is over 200 kilometers away, a 4 hour drive!
Your average work on an off-grid property will likely not be instantaneously rewarding either. Consider a garden, you will need to wait through an entire season of hard work and dedication before you ever see a reward from your labor. However, once you enjoy the spoils of fresh produce the work will be some of the most rewarding you have ever done. Parts for repairs are hard to come by in a timely manner, fuel is a long drive away and wood piles don’t cut down, split and stack themselves. At the ranch we are on, mail is delivered to Ensenada for pickup, near the closest Big Mac which you will remember is 4 hours of driving at minimum. Amazon 2-day shipping doesn’t apply here.
If you think there is a chance that you are going to have an urge at 2AM for a cheeseburger, hopefully you read there first point about being prepared and you have some ground beef in the freezer and cheese in the fridge and not have to rely on the minimum wage employee to greet you at a drive-thru window with your sustenance.
You Aren’t Mechanically Inclined and Won’t Learn
Do you often break something in your house and immediately call a repair man or relative for help? Do you refuse to learn new skills and techniques to fix things yourself? If so, off-grid living might not be for you! Off-grid homes are built on systems, often times redundant systems so that if one fails, you aren’t out of water, electricity or heat. So what do you do if the nearest plumber is at least 2 hours away and you have a toilet that is running or a water filter that is clogged? You learn how to fix it yourself. Most things in life, on or off grid can be fixed with common sense and hard work. The same is true when living off the grid.
In our limited time on the ranch we have replaced toilet fill valves, replaced PVC pipe, rebuilt a water sump pump, and have repaired a few roads and trails to avoid washouts from the seasonal rains. I had never repaired a sump pump before, but by following the owners manual and paying attention, I was able to restore our drinking water supply.
You Are Afraid of Hard Work
Similarly to above, if you don’t like working hard and don’t want to learn how, off-grid living is likely not for you. Between managing a garden, livestock, firewood supplies, house and property repairs, vehicle repairs and more, the work of an off grid property can seem like an endless endeavor. If you are able to put in the hard work early and often, the work is manageable and satisfying. Similarly to life, if you procrastinate and let up, you are often the one suffering because of it.
We have experienced a colder (and wetter) than normal winter in Baja, and therefore we have needed more firewood than expected. This means that instead of kicking back and binging Stranger Things on Netflix, I have to load up the chainsaw and tractor and bring back wood for the rest of the season. This is not an inconvenience if you plan ahead and work hard early in the season to maintain a large back stock of firewood, but if you let it get out of control, you can be left in a very cold house.
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Join us as we travel from the nearest paved road to the house that we will be house-sitting for the next 4 months. The road into the ranch is roughly 6 kilometers long and takes approximately 40 minutes to drive. In this video, our commute to civilization is sped up 8 times to give you the full experience of traveling into the remote interior of Baja Norte. Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRVDfzibhxyN1I-niylEiKg
We are traveling in our 1986 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 with a set of Old Man Emu leaf springs and Bilstein shocks. The ride is rough, but would be much worse without the suspension upgrades. Our tires are Bridgestone All Terrains that have plenty of grip for all of the sand, slick rock, and mud that we experience in Baja. The tires were aired down to roughly 70% of highway pressure for the road and will likely be aired down a bit more the next time we leave the house.
Free Camping in Oregon was as easy as we expected but not nearly as beautiful as we had thought. These campsites, however, allowed us to explore so many different parts of this amazing state without ever paying for a campsite. One thing to consider in Oregon is that the beach is public land, if you can get to it, it’s free game for boondocking. We are not equipped for driving through deep sand, so we avoided the beach. Your mileage may vary.
Coquille River Boat Launch
GPS: 43.163189, -124.362145
Nestled back in the corner of quiet Bandon, this boat launch parking lot is a perfect spot for a good night’s sleep and exceptional wildlife viewing. We were 1 of 3 rigs parked here on a Sunday night and all was quiet. A government research boat was parked there when we were and it looked to have been there a while. Seemed like a very safe and calm spot to boondock.
There are vault toilets and picnic tables near the launch and great access to the Coquille River a few miles before reaching the coast. We used this spot to investigate the nearby mountain bike trails close to Bandon.
Dorena Mining Camp
GPS: 43.627432, -122.703511
This little pull-out along a scenic back-road was a peaceful spot to relax and prepare for entering Eugene. Miners use this pull-out to pan and dredge for gold and black sand and have left several deep pools in the creek that are perfect for swimming.
The site was in poor condition when we arrived with shell casings and trash everywhere. We picked up and you should to. Trashing out such a beautiful area is really sad. We left it better than we found it as did the locals that hung out for a while.
Phil’s Mountain Bike Paradise
GPS: 43.970190, -121.513552
The heart of Bend’s Mountain Bike Mecca is the Phil’s System and there is Forest Service Camping all around the area! This spot was right off of the trail and really pleasant. This is a true boondocking spot with no services, but we really enjoyed getting to ride and explore this area.
Oakridge Green Waters Rest Stop
GPS: 43.739128, -122.459006
This is a rest stop with flush toilets and river access. This lot is near the highway, but the noise wasn’t bad. The facilities were clean and this location is in close proximity to town and nearby mountain biking trails.
We tried several boondocking spots near Oakridge and got an uncomfortable vibe from most of the locations, near the railroad tracks. The rest stop was well lit and seemed much safer. There is a park adjacent that hosts music festivals in the Summer and Fall.
Evergreen Air & Space Museum
GPS: 45.204028, -123.142602
Talk about a unique camping spot! Dry camping is offered for free in the back lot of the Evergreen Air & Space Museum. Parking is amongst airplanes and helicopters in a quiet corner of the property. Bathrooms are open during business hours and there are no facilities after the museum closes.
Hood River Dispersed Camping
Hood River, OR
GPS: 45.419751, -121.530729
Hood River is a treasure trove of dispersed camping! We found a spot out in the middle of nowhere and we really enjoyed our time there. It was quiet, wild, and fairly easy to get to.
Remember to Pack-it-in and Pack-it-out when wild camping in National Forests and insure that your campfires are fully out.
Lumber District Sand Dunes
Coos Bay, OR
GPS: 43.400069, -124.288338
This campsite is one of those instances where 4×4 and recovery equipment would have been ideal. The sand dunes near Coos Bay are beautiful and vast, plus entirely unreachable by our Skoolie. We camped at the trailhead and walked around the are. It was fairly quiet until the timber company down the block started work at 5:00AM.
There are no facilities here and it can get busy and full on the weekend. Some cars were left overnight with no problems. Much better and more affordable than the $75 KOA a few miles away.