Where to Camp in Joshua Tree

Where do you camp when all the campgrounds are full in Joshua Tree?

With no real plans except for a few campsites in mind (e.g. White Tank, Jumbo Rocks) Kevin and I arrived at Joshua Tree National Park late on Saturday afternoon to a full park.

We were informed that the only campground with open sites was Cottonwood.  However, Cottonwood was 30 miles away within the park, basically at the South entrance/exit.  So instead, we decided to weigh our options and scout out the backcountry sites.

I had read of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping which is free and primitive camping outside the National Park (and from what I’ve read quite desolate).  However, we found out that you can do dispersement camping (pack-in, pack-out) at designated Backcountry Boards inside the park.  These are located throughout the park (look on the map for the blue B’s).  All you need to do is find the Backcountry Board, and fill out a free permit that basically provides the information for your car (so you can park overnight) and some accountability for yourself going out there.  The only real restriction to backcountry camping is that you must be 1 mile from the road and 500 ft from any trails.

After driving through the White Tank campground and realizing that even though all of the sites are divided by huge boulders, there is still a lack of privacy.  Going off the grid was exactly what we both wanted, needed and liked (camping is all about isolation!).  We ended up using the Twin Tanks location (you can see 12 other spots within JTNP here).  With just enough time to carry 2 loads from the car (we’ve worked on condensing since our first dispersement camping experience) and set up camp, we took a hike to the nearest …

Cioppino Recipe – November: Thing Three

I know it’s the 2nd of December, but let’s finish up the “Three Things: November.”  For my last thing, I wanted to “cook something new,” specifically, cioppino.  Originally, I thought this would be something that would take all day; that’s why I set my sights on Thanksgiving (side note: it didn’t take more than maybe an hour and a half).  As a result of this decision, my Thanksgiving was the most unconventional thus far.  No turkey. No stuffing.  No sweet potatoes.  No pumpkin pie.  However, it did produce the best leftovers known to mankind…or maybe just me, since I am the cioppino fiend.  Everything was amazing, and for once I didn’t feel stuffed to the brim, or sleep-induced by tryptophan.

Cioppino
by Giada De Laurentiis, slightly modified
INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
5 cups fish stock
1 bay leaf
1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound scallops
1 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as sole, cut into 2-inch chunks
DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste.
  3. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.
  5. Add

Chocolate Chip Streusel Banana Bread

For a while, I was on the Pinterest hunt for the best banana bread. And I think I just about found it. To me, the best thing in this world, on anything (besides ice cream), is a streusel topping. Pair that with a filling of layered chocolate chips and spiced banana cake, and you have yourself a win (or the best banana bread!).  Bake this in a disposable banana bread mold, wrap in cellophane and tie up with some bakers twine, and this makes the perfect holiday/housewarming/birthday gift!

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chip Streusel
From A Cook At Heart
INGREDIENTS:
2/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
3 very ripe mashed bananas
3 tablespoons milk
DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×5-inch metal loaf pan.
  2. For streusel – stir chocolate chips, brown sugar, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Sift all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into medium bowl.
  4. Beat sugar, butter, and egg in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in mashed bananas and milk. Add dry ingredients and blend well.
  5. Spread half of batter in loaf pan. Sprinkle with half of streusel. Repeat with remaining batter and streusel.
  6. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.