A friend and I recently went camping for two nights out at the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park, and it fully delivered the leisure experience we were looking for. The scenery was incredible, huge rounded rock piles bulging out of the ground to climb on surrounded by the idiosyncratic joshua trees, like a beautifully painted background in a Disney movie or something that was placed 2 hours east of L.A. The park was not crowded at all in the middle of the week and we had a huge campsite area all to ourselves, if only the wind hadn't picked up so much on the second night it would have been perfect. All you need is a loaded Ipod and travel Ipod deck, a campfire, beer, and snacks and you are livin' easy. They have 28 miles of hiking trails there too if you are in to that. We explored a smaller 2-3 hour hike to the top of Mt. Ryan that I would highly recommend, not too strenuous with amazing views. The park is so big though, we only saw a fraction of it. The park rangers were all real friendly and helpful too. Anyway, here is the knowledge I gained on the trip that I would like to bestow upon you now:
Jump Rocks campground is the best, don't waste your time with the Hidden Valley and Ryan campgrounds, just drive on past 'um. (Joshua Tree specific)
Bring a ton of firewood, you need a lot of fuel if you want a warm fire all night. We were lucky to find a place in the Joshua Tree town that sold it when we ran out.
If you are cooking a meal at night, prepare everything during the day, in the light, and have it ready to go. It's much easier.
According to the park ranger, rock climbers are party animals, so if you wanna party, befriend some rock climbers.
Wrap some Pillsbury biscuit dough around some chocolate chips, put a stick in it, and cook it over the fire. In 10 minutes you've got yourself a warm chocolaty biscuit ball. Our own variation of the "Woof-um".
Don't buy generic coals if you plan on cooking things over them.
Don't heat gummi bears over the fire and eat them, they take on the consistency of Gak...and are gross and probably harmful to your insides.
Large fires + strong winds = not safe.
3(ish) words: FLAME HEATED POP-TARTS.
...yeah, that's it. Short post today. Go camping. Explore nature. Leisure on.