Although we’re enjoying biking, hiking and the company of our friends, our stay in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho has definitely caused us stress and cost us money, with giving up the cats, Jim having a tooth extracted on Tuesday (which went fine, by the way), and then yesterday getting kicked out of the forest. Yes, we were given two hours to leave our dispersed campsite because we overstayed our time.
Mind you, we thought we were fine since we moved over ten miles from our previous site off Prairie Creek Road, but the rules south of Galena Summit are not the same as north. North of the summit it is legal to move at least ten miles after the 16 day stay limit and begin another 16 days. South of the summit you must actually leave the forest and stay away for 14 days before you can return to another dispersed site. So counting the days we spent at both sites, which unfortunately are south of the summit, we stayed 22 days.
The two Forest Service employees who stopped by our site said several warnings were placed on either our RV or somewhere at the site, maybe under a rock or something. We told them we never received any warning, and had we gotten one and realized what the rules were we would have packed up and left. The woman, who did all of the talking, then said that maybe someone came along and pulled off the warnings. Extremely unlikely, since the only people who came past our site were from the couple of other RVs down our road. We don’t believe for a minute that anyone left us a warning.
So at 10 yesterday morning we were told we had to leave by noon, and were given a citation for overstaying. She was kind enough to tell us we could have been fined $100 for each of the six days we stayed over the limit, but she just gave us a fine for one day, which also included a $30 processing fee. Guess $130 for 22 nights is pretty cheap camping, but it certainly left a bad taste in our mouths. What made us angry is that she lied about the warnings, and said at least three times that notices had been left. My theory is that either the Forest Service employee whose job it is to issue the warnings did not do his job, or this is just a way to get revenue.
As soon as they left I called George and Tina, who were parked about a mile away, to tell them what happened and to be prepared for the visit. Funny, the woman never mentioned to them that they left any notices, but did ask George if they owned a house. Good thing they didn’t ask us, as we’re thinking had we said we were full-timers they may have also fined us for taking up residence in the forest. But that’s another story.
Since it was our fault for being ignorant of the rules we will quietly pay our fine, although Jim has sent a letter to a couple of higher ups in the Sawtooth National Forest. Our friends have been coming here every summer for about 6 years for a month or more, moving every 16 days like we did this time, and have never had an issue. The woman also kept mentioning the posted signs, which state the 16 day camping limit and nothing more. None of the signs we saw say anything about having to leave for 14 days before returning, and when we looked it up on the website could find no rules for dispersed camping. I just clicked on everything until I came to “Alerts and Notices” and scrolled down to “Occupancy and Use”, Order #0414-04-051, where it finally spells out the regulations. Certainly not an easy thing to find, and although I’ve been in the Sawtooth NRA visitor center multiple times, don’t ever remember seeing anything posted there, either.
Jim was initially pretty aggravated and wanted to leave Idaho, but he was only one day out from his tooth extraction, we still had mail coming, and there is a big parade in Ketchum we planned to go to this weekend. Although we were kicked out of the forest it was okay to move into a campground, and Murdock just happened to be another mile down the road with several large sites open. So we are parked next to George and Tina again, in decent well spaced sites, for $7/night. At least they didn’t wait until Friday to throw us out, when it would have been a real challenge trying to find a spot for the holiday weekend.
And we can get a Jax fix anytime we want, now.
Never a dull moment in the life of full-time RVers!