In Search of the Ideal Camping Spot
Over many years of camping, through varied landscapes, whether alone or with friends, I have come to realize that what constitutes the ideal campsite depends greatly on the kind of camper you ask. My type of campsite over say, my friend Raul's preference (also a big time camper and outrageously amazing 4 x 4 dude), would differ greatly.
When I go camping (as well as in my normal life), I'm a bit of a hermit. So when I'm looking for a site, I really want to be as far away from the person next to me as possible. Basically, I don't want to be able to see any signs of man (meaning paved roads, sidewalks, lights), so I love places like Convict Lake or Rock Creek in the high Sierras. I love places that are a little harder to get to, and may not have the luxuries like hot water or showers. Give me a secluded spot near a creek or a lake, and I am literally a happy camper.
Granted, that's not everyone. My friend's recommendations for campsites are pretty opposite of what I typically go for: he does a lot of group camping and desert camping. In a community camping environment, a neighboring camper may bring hotdogs, someone else may bring the beer, another may provide chairs, and so on. A lot of the fun is being part of a group, seeing old friends, and sitting around the campfire exchanging stories.
For me, it's more of a personal retreat: I want to be able to do my running or take a long hike, I want to be able to bathe in the stream, listen to the wind through the trees, and dry off in the sun. My goal is to feel like I'm in the woods by myself-- no adjoining campsite, no hum of generators in the distance. I prefer to be completely self-sufficient, using what I bring along with me to build my perfect home away from home. I do have pockets of friends come to visit, but when they do, we have our own spaces. I visit their camp one day, then host at my site the next.
When deciding on a place to camp (or whether to take someone else's recommendation on a site), the key is to first identify what type of camper you are: Do you like to group camp? Hanging out with your friends, sitting around telling the old stories, maybe singing or playing guitar? Or are you the more solitary type, only wanting to hear the sound the stream and the rustle of the wind going through the trees? When you imagine yourself on a trip, is it in the woods, up in the mountains, by the beach, or in the desert? Or maybe you're more of a backpacker, leaving everything behind for weeks at a time, forging your own trail. No two sites are gonna be great for the same person. The first step is discovering what you want out of the camping experience, and you can have a lot of fun along the way while you're figuring it out.