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    Bring the Family

    Camping in a yurt. A what?

    Joanna Weiss’ children Ava, 8, and Jesse, 4, in a yurt in Nickerson State Park, Brewster.
    Joanna Weiss/globe staff
    Joanna Weiss’ children Ava, 8, and Jesse, 4, in a yurt in Nickerson State Park, Brewster.

    WHO: Globe columnist Joanna Weiss, husband Dan DeLeo, their kids, Ava, 8, and Jesse, 4

    WHERE: Nickerson State Park, Brewster

    WHAT: Camping in a yurt (in the rain)

    I am no natural camper, but I have come to terms with my camping family: husband who camped as a kid, daughter who loves s’mores, son who would sleep outdoors every night if we’d let him. I have learned to accept insects and submit to dirt. But I have demanded perfect conditions: pleasant days, warm nights, and no precipitation whatsoever.


    This past Memorial Day weekend changed me. I found camping bliss. In the rain. In a yurt.

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    A yurt is a modern replica of an ancient Mongolian tent, a small circular structure with a raised floor and a wooden frame, surrounded by waterproof canvas. A half-dozen or Massachusetts state parks have a few yurts on their campsites, available for $30 a night, dotted among the traditional sites where people pitch their tents.

    But yurts require no pitching; that’s the magic. The one we occupied for two chilly nights at Nickerson State Park in Brewster came equipped with a double bed and bunk beds, a table and benches, an overhead light, and a table lamp. And outlets. Into one of which we plugged in a small space heater, which warmed up the space in no time.

    Unsurprisingly, yurts are popular. To reserve one, you usually have to plan months in advance. But we’re inclined to camp spontaneously, and here’s where the rain comes in. As the forecasters made their dire predictions for the holiday weekend – constant showers, temperatures dipping into the 40s at night — people dropped their reservations one by one, and we swooped in.

    When we told friends we were going camping that weekend, they thought we were brave or hard-core. The yurt allowed us to be anything but. We arrived in Brewster in the middle of a rainstorm, flicked on the lights, cranked up the heat, read books on the bed, and watched the rain pelt the clear plastic dome at the peak of the roof.


    By the second night, when we gazed at the roof, we saw stars. And when the weather finally turned glorious on Monday, there we were. Outdoors.

    Yurts are available at Otter River State Forest, Baldwinville; Wells State Park, Sturbridge; Willard Brook State Forest, Ashby & Townsend Boston Harbor Islands (Paddocks), Boston; Nickerson State Park, Brewster; Shawme Crowell State Forest, Sandwich.

    Joanna Weiss can be reached at weiss@
    . Follow her on Twitter @JoannaWeiss.