I love the outdoors and I like to think I’m more outdoorsy than I probably am. For years I had dreamed of roughing it, and getting close to nature by spending the night at a great campsite in a tent. Inexperienced, but, hey how hard can it be (fake it until you make it, right)? And that’s how this whole story of camping at Zion National Park went.
We went on a road trip to visit all 5 National Parks in Utah in our RAV 4. We packed it up with hiking clothes, road trip snacks, and camping gear. We had one night pre-planned to camp inside the grounds in Zion National Park with another possibility at Arches National Park a few nights later. Camping in Zion was far from roughing it. There was a general store that sold wood for $10 per bundle alongside gummy bears and deodorant. And there were restrooms with running water. Our RAV 4 was parked 5 feet from our tent (you can see it in the picture – that picture was the best part of the evening, it all got worse from there.). Not exactly roughing it, but we were still so proud to be camping and getting close to nature.
When the glorious day arrived, we hiked Angels Landing Trail and some other trails during the day, had a drink at the lodge, then made our way to the campground and, despite bending a dozen tent stakes, finally got our tent set up (here’s a hint: when camping in the Southwest, take extra tent stakes and heavy mallet so you aren’t trying to pound in stakes with a flat rock).
We made mac n cheese on the fire and it took AGES to get the noodles to soften. But we conquered. When the wind started to pick up we put out the fire and decided to call it a night. It was freezing (literally), but our sleeping bags were pretty toasty until the wind started roaring. The first time the tent collapsed and hit me in the face, I just about jumped out of my sleeping bag from surprise. I looked around and turned on the lantern to see what had just assaulted me. I didn’t see anything, so I rolled over and tried to go to sleep over the freight train sounds. Then “smack”, another blow to the head. This time I was awake enough to figure out who the assailant was. I was reaching for the lantern and “wham” another blow. The tent was launching an all-out war on getting any rest that night. Then the straps holding the tent down outside started to vibrate like a chorus of screaming cats serenading us in our nightmares. I reached over to see if Todd was still awake and got belted again by the tent as it kept collapsing in on us from the hurricane that was going on outside.
But we had made the decision to camp, and camp we would! We probably laid there for another hour getting pummeled by the tent that had made me so happy and proud earlier. Now I was having thoughts of using the tent the next time we needed kindling for a fire.
Finally, we couldn’t take it anymore. We were tired, we were freezing, and we were abused. We got up, crawled out of the tent, and stared at it. I expected to see it flopping around like a fish out of water. But there it was, looking innocent and stable without any cat noises on the outside. We discussed taking it down in case it would blow away, but decided that if it was going to blow away, that was fine with us. So we crawled into the sturdy RAV 4, zipped up our sleeping bags, and slept the night away.
The next morning, we looked out and there stood the tent. Still fastened securely to the ground, standing proudly like nothing ever happened. And there we were, cricked necks, cold feet, and a camping failure. You won this time tent, but only this time. (Although we stayed in the warmth and comfort of a hotel at Arches and haven’t camped since….)