My wife and I love exploring old, forgotten places that seldom (if ever) receive mention in a travel guidebook. That is one of several reasons why you will find us camped in the boondocks.
Seldom-visited attractions in remote areas equate to lack of supporting services like motels, restaurants, and RV parks. Such is the case with Bickel Camp in California’s El Paso Mountains.
Like the thousands of people before him, Walt Bickel came to the El Paso Mountains in the 1930s in search of gold. His diggings became known as Bickel Camp.
While he didn’t make much money mining gold, he did scratch out a living and called the place home until 1987 when the BLM came to evict the elderly Bickel considering him a squatter. Hours before their arrival, Walt suffered a stroke and was taken to an area hospital.
Outraged friends and family rallied to save Walt’s home of over 50 years, plus his impressive accumulation of equipment. A settlement was reached allowing the camp to remain as a museum for the benefit of the public.
Today the camp is cared for by the Friends of Last Chance Canyon. The cabin and grounds have been left pretty much the same way Bickel left them in 1987 and are considered to be a true representation of a depression-era mining camp.
Items at the site include antique tractors, mining equipment, vintage travel trailers, antique appliances, rock samples, and Rube Goldberg contraptions that only Walt himself knew what they were designed to do.
Visitors are welcome when the caretaker is on site (mostly weekends). The grounds are considered closed when a caretaker is not present. If the caretaker is not present, much can be seen and enjoyed from the perimeter of the camp. You can learn more about the camp by clicking here.
Bickel Camp is miles from the nearest paved road. It can be reached by high clearance two-wheel drive vehicles piloted by seasoned drivers, but a four-wheel drive vehicle or ATV is better suited as there are sandy washes along the route.
Where to camp:
Boondocking: If entering from Highway 14 from the “billboards” via EP15, the first decent camping spots can be found at N35° 29.600 W117° 56.565
If entering from the Garlock side via Mesquite Canyon, there is a nice boondocking spot just a ways up the road at N35° 23.443 W117° 48.982
The nearest developed campground is at Red Rock Canyon State Park. There are no hookups, so you might as well camp for free in the boondocks.
Exploring the enterprising spirit of Walt Bickel, just another adventure in RVing!
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.