Magazine article Sunset

The Secret Season

Magazine article Sunset

The Secret Season

Article excerpt

My family's earliest attempt at fall camping seemed to devolve rather quickly into disaster. Picture a pleasant autumn afternoon at Tamarisk Grove in California's AnzaBorrego Desert State Park. Envision lively rounds of Yahtzee by lantern light. Cut to the sky-rippingest rainstorm we'd ever witnessed. See wet sleeping bags and a drenched, sagging tent; three kids, two adults, and a huge, sopping collie shivering in a VW bus.

As the oldest sibling and designated preadolescent contrarian, I'd been iffy about this trip. I recall deeming the landscape "too beige" and the timing "weird." I thought the desert in autumn was a dumb idea, and said so all that thundery night.

But oh, the next morning! The place had a glittery beauty that even my younger sibs recognized. The air was fragrant, the sky a burnished blue, the vista not beige at all but a subtle interplay of ivory, cocoa, silver, and pale green. The campground was uncrowded and quiet. The timing, I had to admit, was perfect.

So began a long tradition of delightful off-season camping in a range of terrains, though we were often drawn to desert spots that would have been untenable and untent-able in the hot months. …

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