An afternoon camping in the California desert

My wife and I are enthusiastic campers. When the enjoyable Southern Californian weather permits we would drive 100 miles east of San Diego and camp along a small spring fed stream. The location is about 14 miles from the nearest small town of Pine Valley and located about 5 miles off the highway and very close to the Mexican-American national line. After the paved road ends and near the end of a semi-improved dirt road there is a small jeep trail that leads up to a nice camping area with a beautiful shade tree.

We would go camping at least twice a month until the summer temperatures became too much. A small spring provided just enough water to provide a nice place to cool off from the heat. The jeep trail is pretty rough and requires a full size four-wheel drive with large tires to pass. My little compact car could only make it about 100 yards up the trail to where there was a small turn off to park the car off the trail. I often used a car cover to keep the car cooler. My car was nothing special, a two-door compact hatchback, but I did have a rather nice CD player, equalizer and stereo amplifier installed. The walk up to the campsite was about a quarter mile up the hill from the car.

One day after lunch my wife, dog and I went for a walk down the trail and found that the car cover had been removed from my car. Looking at the sand around the car there were a large number of footprints around it that didn’t match my wife’s prints or mine. There were handprints in the dust on the windows where someone had been looking inside. I put the cover back on, set the alarm, and we continued our afternoon hike down the mountain. After our hike we returned to the camp site.

Concerned about the tampering with my car I returned every half hour or so to check on it. On my final visit as I came up one of the hills running down the trail I heard a number of people talking. There are a series of five or more ten-foot tall hills that cover the last two hundred feet before my car. As I walked up and down them coming closer to my car I could see that there were now four people standing around my car. There was a young man and woman on the far side and two young men on the near side. They had not seen me approaching so I paused at the bottom of the hill three before where the car was parked to think.

If they broke into my car the alarm would sound and I hoped that they would leave. If they were trying to steal my car it would be a five-mile walk to the highway and a 100-mile trip back to my home. I wanted to stop them before anything got started. I unsnapped the hold down to my holster that carried my Smith and Wesson 5904 semiautomatic pistol. I started back up the hill to get closer to the group. A couple of the guys had their hands and faces pressed up against my windows and they were looking around inside the car.

As I started to crest the top of the second to last hill the female saw me and said something to the three guys. The two guys closest to me stopped looking at the car and turned toward me and started walking at me. I continued up the hill, meeting eyes I said “howdy” to the two approaching. They said nothing. When the two rough looking young men saw that I was wearing a pistol they both stopped and without saying a word to me turned around and started back toward the car and the other two. The guys said something and the four left quickly in a group. I heard their VW Beatle roar off down to the paved road.

This is was very unusual behavior. In the 15 years I’ve worn a pistol camping I’ve had over a hundred people stop and chat with me. Campers are good people and until this day no one ever “ran away” from a “howdy”. I’ve talked with Boy Scout troops, dozens of families with children, couples on horseback and several forest rangers and nobody has given me even the smallest feeling that they were uncomfortable with me wearing a pistol.

I don’t know what the fellows had in mind when they were looking in my car nor do I know why they suddenly decided not to continue to approach me. I can only think the worse that they were going to confront me and possibly steal the car or worse still, to harm me and my wife. In California it is still legal to wear a pistol when camping and until I left there I was never without one. Samuel Colt said that the pistol was the equalizer of men. That afternoon I was glad to have Smith and Wesson on my side.


S&W 5904 Smaller Picture

The Smith and Wesson 5904 is a third generation semiautomatic pistol. It was one of the fist of the double double nines - double action, double column magazine 9 mm. The wide magazine carries 14 rounds of 9 mm ammo but with a special follower two more rounds fit for a total of 16.

The bottom line is that often there are times and places where the police can simply not respond. Unless you’re living inside a gated community (a backwards jail) or are an elected official that rates police protection you are primarly responsible for your own self protection.

Do you believe that the "right of the people peaceably to assemble," the "right of the people to be secure in their homes," "enumerations herein of certain rights shall not be construed to disparage others retained by the people," "The powers not delegated herein are reserved to the states respectively, and to the people," refer to individuals, but "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" refers to the states?

Self Protection