The West is opening back up and we’re just as excited as everyone else.

Hugh Garvey in Pioneertown
Thomas J. Story

It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, a last-minute road trip to a campsite a mere 30 miles from my house. I’d had my second shot, the skies were clear after a week of rain, and evening temperatures were in the delightful slumber-inducing low 50s. On the California Parks website I found the last spot available in Malibu Creek State Park, possibly the closest, cushiest campsite in the L.A. area. Here, between the coast and Calabasas—Kardashians notwithstanding—you can commune with herons, hawks, ground squirrels, and coyotes, amble through oak savanna, and wade a stream where steelhead trout swim. It was the sort of outdoor hard reset I needed. 

I closed my laptop, threw a steak in the cooler, and in an hour we were eating that steak in the quiet of nature, crickets and sizzling hibachis and the laughter of families our new soundtrack. We weren’t very far from home, nor were we deep into the wild, but it was exotic and welcome and profound. We fell asleep at a preposterously early hour the way you do when camping. I never thought I’d be so happy as I was the next morning simply watching strangers brush their teeth, kids with bedhead playing fetch with the dog, folks drinking their coffee, everybody with a smile on their faces, grateful to be outside again. 

After a year marked by separation and isolation, being surrounded by other people going about their mundane daily routines was surprisingly powerful. Campgrounds are villages without walls and can remind us that we leave the comfort of our homes to commune with other people as much as we do with nature. Yes, we wandered those oak savannas and looked for steelhead in the stream, but what will stick with me is that morning, with the dew dotting our pop-up tent, the smell of bacon wafting over from another campsite, and the lovely site of families, car campers, and vanlife vagabonds, maskless in the open air, waking up to a new day. 

To help you make the most of these longer, warmer days, in our newest issue we’ve assembled a manual for easing into the summer: We’ve got a 12-page guide to hitting the road; tips on how to set up an all-ages summer camp in your backyard; an eclectic outdoor kitchen that flips the design script (no grill!); the best grilled chicken recipe we’ve run in years; and elevated roadhouse cocktail recipes from Pioneertown’s Red Dog Saloon. We also wanted to give you that feeling of waking up to a new day. So on a cold and blustery high desert morning we barreled over washouts in an offroad-ready Land Rover in search of the perfect sunrise over Joshua Tree National Park. (We found it. It’s on the cover of the print edition). 

Here’s to a summer of thriving outside, together.