Welcome everyone! This post is for anyone looking for ideas on what to do in California or camping enthusiasts or for those who haven’t had that night under the stars yet!
Before I got to California I had never been camping before, my family prefers home comforts, so people were always surprised when I admitted this. Thus I knew it had to happen when I arrived in California! Equipped with a van, tents, sleeping bags, coal, lighters/lighter fluid, coolers full of food and bottled water my friends and I hit up two camping hot spots: Joshua Tree and Sequoia National Park.
California is way hotter than Scotland and even at night it was bearable but one of the biggest differences between the places is the environment. Scotland is rich in lush green grass, trees and rolling hills but everything is green due to the constant rain; however California is dry, hot and is occupied by deserts. Both landscapes are beautiful in their own right but one thing they share is the amazing night sky. My favourite thing about Scotland being so small is that we don’t have that much light pollution so the sky is always full of twinkling stars but not many places are that lucky. So to be standing in the middle of a desert overcast by stars is what made my camping experience.
Tips before heading out to any camping spots is to book ahead of time…like months in advance because avid campers will already know how popular Joshua Tree and Sequoia National Park are. How to book: each area will have it’s own website that you can book via that or you can call, make sure to research each camping site in terms of where in the parks they are and to make sure you can actually camp there. For Joshua Tree we ended up booking in the equestrian area because everything was full but the thing is you kind of need a horse for those ones! Another big tip is to try and arrive at the park when there is still daylight as it will help with finding your camping spot as well as making it easier to set everything up. This wasn’t possible for both of our camping trips as we left immediately after work and we were at least 5-7 hours away. So if you know that you will be arriving late bring a torch or have the torch widget on your mobile enabled and be mindful of the other campers who might be asleep when you arrive.
Joshua Tree National Park is named after all of the Joshua trees within the park – I’m not really sure who this Joshua is but the trees are pretty funky looking. Joshua Tree was my first experience in the desert and with wide expanses of space, funky looking trees and massive stacks of boulders that you can climb, it was a great time. What was nice about the park is that each camping spots and in picnic sites were barbecues so all you need to do is bring your own coal and you can cook up your food. However this means you have to bring all of your cooking utensils and pots too! There were 8 of us on this trip and between one small barbeque is took a while to cook everything, some eggs may have accidentally tipped off of the grill in the process, but it was nice to be with everyone.
Once everyone was fed, we set off to clamber up one of the boulder stacks and because each boulder is so big you don’t have to reach the top for an amazing view. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself as me and two friends chose not to risk going any higher because we weren’t that confident on the rocks. If you’re into boulder climbing Joshua Tree is full of various piles of rocks of varying heights and shapes; if you aren’t then you can choose to go on one of the hiking trails throughout the park. With hidden cave paintings, waterfalls and huge valleys – Joshua Tree was a great first camping experience. The only thing I wish I had was a better camera because my phone only captured one star out of the night sky so if you don’t believe me about the night views then deffo check out the link about for more info on the park!
Sequoia National Park is less desert and more forest with huge trees, as in the world’s largest trees, sharp mountains, fishing, wildlife and really scary but awesome mountain roads that hint at the true height of the park. If you’re coming here to camp you can hire a log cabin for those who prefer the safety of an actual building. The wildlife seem to be well acquainted with us hoomans as it wasn’t long after we entered the cabin that there was a raccoon chilling on our door step! You can check out the Park’s official website on the full list of activities that are available but my friends and I just took this opportunity to relax away from life – even if it was just for the weekend. Just walking around, there was a lake, deep fire pits on the ‘beach’ and various birds waddling around. Surrounded by mountains and trees the air was crisp maybe even a bit bit chilly but the serenity of the park made it a perfect recharge spot. Except at night when you tried to close the curtains and you just hope that nothing is going to pop out of the darkness at you! Again at night, the sky was illuminated by the full moon and accessorising with countless stars! The moonlight even highlighted the eerie mist rolling over the lake at night, it was almost spooky if it weren’t for the ducks playing in the water. Camping for me now means a sky full of stars and campfires! The deep fire pits – that had wood provided – were excellent for keeping everyone warm, roasting s’mores and sharing stories
One of the funniest things about camping or at least going to either Joshua Tree or Sequoia is that there is no phone signal! So you can see which of your friends starts freaking out first and falling into withdrawals, I was glad for the forcible cut off as I spend a lot of my time on my phone messaging various friends or endlessly scrolling Facebook so it was good to have no distractions. Even though I’m still a beginner at this camping life, it’s something that I would like to do if I’m staying somewhere for a long period of time and by long term I mean a few months so I can book my spot in advance! If you’ve been to either campsite what did you like the best/what did you do there; or if you haven’t do you think you’d try camping if you had the chance? Let me know in the comments below, thanks for joining A Scot, A Broad for a night under the stars!