Day 3—Tuesday, May 22, 2018
We woke up at 6 AM to find that T (almost 3) had rolled halfway across the tent and was sleeping at F’s (5) feet. We broke and left camp shortly after 8 AM. In Custer, South Dakota we stopped at the old historic bank which has been converted to a coffee shop to get caffeine. The old building was restored but maintained the Old West feel combined with the smell of coffee beans. Fortunately there were no fights or shooting while I filled the coffee cups.
We entered Wyoming on US-18. The Black Hills dropped away to wide open rolling grasslands covered in scattered sagebrush. Every creek out here has worn away a small canyon and is surrounded by trees—cottonwoods. They are the only trees in the vast landscape except for the firs growing on the jutting hillsides. Rocky buttes and grass-topped mesas arise out of the rolling, open fields.
At 11:25 AM in the small city of Douglass, Wyoming (home of the jackalope) we crossed a sturdy bridge spanning the North Platte River sparing us the worry of waiting a week for the water to get low enough to safely ford.
After passing through Casper, we came to the Oregon Trail crossing of the North Platte. The ferry is no longer under operation so we took the bridge across. We made it to the famous Independence Rock about 1 PM. It was a very breezy spot as a thunderstorm loomed in the distance. We walked out to the rock from the rest area and admired its large size. The professor and I could not help but touch it and sit on it as the travelers who came upon the Oregon trail must have done. It was an inspiring, unifying moment to feel the rock which so many had felt and etched their names into.
On the way back to the car things almost took a turn for the worst as we came upon a yellow snake with black markings. We made our luncheon and got back into the car and passed through Muddy Gap in the rain. We pulled over during a hail storm and then passing into the Red Desert in the Great Divide Basin faced a strong cross wind. We got gas in Rawlins and saw the old frontier prison where many outlaws must have been incarcerated. After a long, lonely stretch we finally came into Colorado where we followed a curving road through the western mountains of the Rockies.
My biggest opposition to camping was that I had never spent a comfortable night on the ground. The professor claimed that all I needed was good cushioning between me and the ground and I would be totally fine. I was skeptical and our first camping trip I slept in a camping cot raised above the ground. This was fine, but awkward and time consuming to put together.
For our big trip, I agreed to try this 3 inch thick self-inflating Therm-a-rest mattress. Let me tell you, it was very comfortable—more comfortable than our ten-year-old mattress on our bed. They are super easy to set up. We simply opened their valves once the tent was set up and unrolled the rest of the bedding. After about 10 minutes of self-inflating, we gently blew them up to our preferred firmness. The professor sleeps on his back, so he liked his on the firm side. I am a side sleeper, and as a woman happen to have hips. I made mine firm enough to keep me from feeling the ground but with enough give to accommodate my curves comfortably.
The kids all used the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam sleeping pad. They all slept great, though our nine year being a light sleeper said that she felt the ground sometimes. I think we will probably upgrade her to a self-inflating for future trips. The older children were able to help set up and roll up the foam pads whenever we made or broke camp respectively, which was a great help.
I feel like this has turned into an advertisement for Therm-a-Rest, and maybe it kind of is! They make a great product! The professor tells me that he has friends from the Boy Scouting days that bought an off-brand and regretted it.
Tomorrow I will talk about sleeping bags!
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