This vintage photograph shows the author’s father rocking a bright-red Picasso shirt while taking a brief snoozer near Shadow Lake.
Welcome to the brand-new Under The Stars website. For one thing, this site will be the best and fastest way for me to get the word out about my upcoming book, Under The Stars: How America Fell In Love With Camping, readings and other events. But this will also be my way to celebrate camping itself, to call attention to a few Heroes and Anti-Heroes of American camping, to share stories about wonderful as well as wondrously disgusting camping foods, and to collect and publicize camping stories from all over America and beyond. This website is the direct result of a long obsession. I’ve been camping as long as I can remember, initially in Yosemite, where a rank cabin and bear prints all over our dusty station wagon prompted a quick retreat to Mammoth Lakes, where we returned year after year for three decades running. For the first few days we would acclimate to the high elevations by hanging out in the rec room at Sunshine Village condominiums, banging the Elvira Mistress of the Dark pinball machine until it had robbed us of every last quarter in our pockets. Then we’d spend an idle afternoon renting some foul-tempered pack horses, which would kick and spit and bite like crazy. Then we’d hit the slopes for a few days of backpacking and camping in the high country, cavorting with pikas and marmots, crossing creeks that crept up to my chin, and eating flatulent food washed down with tongue-parboiling Hot Tang. (see website entry below) And yet I loved it all in retrospect. Sometimes, during an especially grueling campout, I would say to myself, “When, when, when, is this ordeal going to end?” And then the moment it ended, I would wish I was back out there again. Why did that experience take such a hold on me and so many other people? How did this practice begin — this crazy notion of going out and braving the wilderness for fun? My upcoming book is my way of unraveling this mystery for myself. Looking forward to sharing my stories with you. Looking forward to hearing your stories, too.
By the way, if you were reading my Cactuseaters blog, you might have wondered why it suddenly vanished off the face of the earth. I want to point out that it hasn’t really vanished — it has only been subsumed into this new site, and if you are searching for Cactuseaters content, it has all been stored, safe and sound, within the catacombs of this new website.