The Professor Goes West//Day 14//Breaking Camp

Day 14—Saturday, June 2, 2018

We broke camp right away and then took a hike on Eagle Creek trail which led us into the heart of the redwoods. We climbed into a hollowed-out redwood. The tree’s roots are very hardy—if one tree is killed in a fire, other trunks will grow out of living roots—we saw many fairy circles of redwoods around mossy stumps.

Our next step was the Santa Clara mission on the campus of the university of the same name. There was a lovely, fragrant rose garden where we overheard a student advising a friend, “If you are going to smoke, smoke a pipe.” From this we concluded that all university students are the same. In the church at a side chapel under a grotesque crucifix was buried Padre Magus Cataler O.F.M., a missionary who has a cause for canonization.

We then when to the San Josè Mission where there was a wedding—so we stayed in our car and said a quick prayer to St. Joseph—and continued to In-N-Out Burger where we guzzled lemonade while waiting for our burgers. From there we sat in an hour of traffic on the Oakland Bay bridge and made it to the San Franciscon de Asìs Mission with 15 minutes to spare before closing time. The old church was preferable to the new one. There were lots of statuts of Franciscan saints, including the professor’s friend St. Bonaventure.

From the mission we proceeded to Chinatown past classic San Francisco houses down the trolley tracks and steep streets. We had a great dinner of soup dumplings, pork and noodles with gravy, Chinese broccoli, with fried sesame balls and sesame dumplings for dessert.  T ate one soup dumpling at dinner and then ate PB&J in the car. An hour later we arrived at my friend Samantha’s sweet home in Alameda in Oakland where we showered and did laundry and visited with the family.

We tried to make leaving the campsite as efficient as possible. We usually left camp around an hour after we got up.

On mornings we broke camp we all got up early. After we got dressed, we all rolled the sleeping bags and pads together and put these items and suitcases in the car. The professor swept out the the tent while I took down the clothes line. He would break down the tent on his own while the kids got water, we refilled water bottles, combed the girls’ hairs, put away the tablecloth, and folded up and packed the chairs. When the professor was ready to roll the tent up, I would sweep off the dirt and leaves while He did the rolling. When the tent was rolled we put it in its case and put the tent in the car. The professor did the finished touches of packing the car and I made sure everyone made it to the bathroom and brushed teeth. When we were ready to go, I would hand granola bars and cups of milk for breakfast. We would purchase coffee and gas on our way out of camp.

That was it!

The Professor Goes West//Day 13//Big Sur Coast

With a long journal entry today there will be no camping tips.

Day 13—Friday, June 1, 2018

We woke 10 hours late having been lulled in our dreams by the mountain brook and the fresh sea air. The old air of the Redwoods refreshed us in our sleep.

After we broke camp we walked back to the beach and climbed on the rocks in the mouth of a stream while watching the crashing waves. Jagged rocks framed each side of the dark sandy beach as the sun shone down on us from behind.

We then went back to the van and began our drive up the Big Sur Coast. Words cannot describe the beauty of the blue-green water and foaming waves crashing against the black-grey rocks of the coast. We wound our way alongside a cliff with the ocean on the right. At every pull off cars were stopped as people got out to feel the view. We stopped to feel the wind, hear the waves, and soak in the beauty. The blue-green and bright blue water crashed into white foam against the rocks as we looked down from the rocky overlook.

At noon we stopped to take a short trail to the overlook of a waterfall. It fell from 50 feet up gracefully onto the sandy beach oblivious to the craggy ocean rocks beside it. The trees crowded up to the edge of the cliff, and little black birds with a white marking on each wing played in the water below. With great effort we pulled the professor from the scenc.

The road curved to the “town” of Big Sur where we stopped at Fiffer-Big-Sur State Park and hiked amongst the Redwood trees. They towered up into the sky with their rich woody-pine smell below. We later passed the Point Sur Lighthouse which sits out on a cliff of its own on a round hill with a road winding up it. We stopped down the coast from the lighthouse to look at the rocky shore again, and prayed together the canticle from Daniel:

Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.

You heavens, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Sun and moon, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Stars of heaven, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Every shower and dew, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you winds, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Fire and heat, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Cold and chill, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Dew and rain, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.]

Frost and chill, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Ice and snow, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Nights and days, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Light and darkness, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Let the earth bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.

Mountains and hills, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

You springs, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Seas and rivers, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you birds of the air, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

-Daniel 3:58-80

As we reached Carmel we stopped at Point Lobos and looked out over the ocean. Seals and sea lions were sunning themselves and barking as waves crashed about them against the rocks they were laying on.

We then met my friend Bobbie at the Carmel Mission where St. Juniper Serrra is buried. We lit a candle—F lit it—to Our Lady of Perpetual Help for our family. There was a side chapel to Our Lady of Bethlehem that Pope St. John Paul II visited in 1987 with an inscription from the address he gave:

“Much to be envied are those who can give their lives for something greater than themselves in loving service to others. This, more than words and deeds along, is what draws people to Christ.”

The courtyard there was particularly beautiful. The kids really liked the museum which shared the living and dining quarters of St. Juniper Serra. We camped that night at Henry Cowell Redwoods outside Santa Cruz.

The Professor Goes West//Day 12//Setting Up Camp

Day 12—Thursday, May 31, 2018

We woke up early to say goodbye to our friends. We then headed north stopping at missions along the way.

We arrived first at Santa Barbara Mission. It was packed with tourists, so we just slipped into the back of the church behind the barrier to pray. We renewed our Marian consecration in the back of the dark church to the sound of the tour guide in the front. The chapel for adoration was locked, though there was a beautiful view of the California landscape out the front door.

Our second mission of the day was Santa Inès—Saint Agnes—where my friend Gina met us with her two little boys. We prayed for our home parish, and the kids enjoyed the cemetery and the fountain. There was a remnant of the first seminary of the missions there as well.

We then drove quickly north to get to our campsite before dark. We slowed down to see the San Miguel Mission and then stopped to get gas and ice in the town. It was an old crumbly looking mission from the outside and was situated in the middle of a dry, golden valley. We headed further into the wilderness of central California. The San Antonio de Padua Mission was situated beside Ft. Hunter Liggett in the middle of a dry field. We drove up and took a quick look at the mission which was closed. From there we took a 13-mile winding road over a mountain. The road was narrow and super curvy going first through a dry savanna and then into a forest. It was 6 miles up and then the landscape suddenly changed from forest to dry, wavy grass with the endless sea at the base of the mountains. The drive down was terrifyingly beautiful as we navigated around sharp rocky curves with oncoming traffic. At the bottom we found the Big Sur Coast of steep cliffs ending in a cerulean blue ocean.

At last we arrived at Limekiln State Park where we drove into our campsite beneath the timeless Redwoods. The professor put up the tent while I made a supper of macaroni and cheese with summer sausage and salad. When we had things washed up, we walked down to the beach for the sunset. The repetition of the waves on the jagged rocks was peaceful and lovely. After a roaring campfire, we all when to sleep to the sound of a bubbling brook.

By the end of our trip, the professor had the campsite set up down to a science. The first order of business was planning where the tent would go. Some campsites had a designated tent spot, raised with fine rocks underneath—others left us up to our own judgment. When we picked a large enough, level enough spot the children would clear away any sticks, pinecones, and/or rocks. We then gave them the job of setting up chairs around the fire pit and staying out of the way. We usually had one of the girls keeping the toddler boy out of trouble while we worked.

We always stored the tent at the bottom of the trunk with suitcases above them and the lighter bedding on top. He would throw all of the pillows and sleeping bags into the back seat, stick suitcases on the picnic table. Then he would lay the tarp on the tent site and begin to set up the tent. When the tent was up, he asked a child or two to help him carry sleeping bags, pillows, and pads into the tent and lay them out in the right spots. We also brought our suitcases into the tent since we had a lot of space. He then used his Eagle Scout knot skills to hang a rope line between trees for wet towels and rags.

If we were eating a meal at the campsite, we would get out the materials I needed and I would work on the table and dinner while the professor pitched the tent. For the table I always clipped on our vinyl tablecloth on the whole table except for about 18 inches at the end where we used the propane stove. If it was buggy out, we would light a citronella candle to keep the bugs away from our meal prep. I often had the girls help me set the table, heat up food, and fetch water for dinner. After we ate, we would boil water on the stove and wash the dishes in soapy water in one tub and rinse them in the next. We put the kids in charge of the rinsing and drying. Then we could relax and and enjoy the campgrounds!

The Professor Goes West//Day 11//theprofessorsdinner

Day Eleven—Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Today is our errand day. We got an oil change and groceries for the cooler. The car said that the vintage Vavoline oil was delicious. Then we spent a quiet hour at the San Buenventura Mission where the professor and I took turns praying. The professor talked to St. Bonaventure about philosophy while the kids romped in the garden. I prayed with the intense, bloody crucifix about our recent loss and received new courage to carry it with joy. We lit a candle for our family and writing before the crucifix.

We lunched at the car by the Ventura pier which used to be wharf. Walking out on the thick wood boards was exciting, yet scary when we peered through the cracks to the ocean below. Several fishermen were standing at the end with their fishing rods. Two of them had lowered a jug leaking blood into the water—they said that it was to attract sharks. The professor may have seen a dolphin out in the ocean. All I saw were dozens of surfers out at the point. We stood there digging them from afar and hoped the sharks would stay away. I liked watching the waves from the side. We could stand on the pier right where the waves crashed before they hit the shore.

In the afternoon we met our friends we are staying with at a playground in Libby Park. Back at the house, we got ready to go on a date. The kids got to have delicious organic hotdogs and play with our friends’ chickens. The professor and I went to the Nest in Ojai with a chef from LA as its founder. The professor drank “The Ventura Fog,” an Earl Grey infused gin with egg whites and rosemary and lavender sprinkled on top. I had “The Cuban,” which was plantation rum with coconut, lime, pineapple juice, and garnished with mint. He ate fancy anchovy pizza and a giant salad with bleu cheese while I had a brisket on a baguette with cheese and chimichurri sauce with a side salad with fresh berries. After dinner we walked through the downtown to a cute little bookstore. We found a children’s book by Graham Greene, several books on art, and a paperback by Nathaniel Hawthorne. For dessert we went to a vegan restaurant and got wine and vegan “cheese” cake. It was a nice way to celebrate our anniversary a few weeks early.

We tried to make the dinners on our camping trip easy, but more interesting than the lunches. Our goal was foods that were portable with non-perishable storage (meaning no raw meats) and easy to cook.

Here is a list of things we did at the campsites:

  • Canned chili topped with cheese and yogurt and served with tortilla chips and bagged kale and brussel sprouts salad
  • Hot dogs over the fire, chips, and bagged salad
  • Boxed macaroni and cheese and summer sausage (from the ¼ cow we purchase every year) and bagged salad
  • A just add water Indian lentil dish from Trader Joe’s and bagged salad
  • Tortilla pizzas with a tortilla on top and bottom, canned pizza sauce, mozzerella, and pepperoni plus bagged salad

When we stayed at hotels we tried to have food that required no cooking:

  • Chicken salad wraps with grapes, mayo, and dill
  • Our last night we ordered pizza

Other nights we just grabbed food on the road for dinner. We often did this on nights we were coming into campsites close to dark or after dinner time. We did not want to have to deal with washing up. Though there were a few campsites where we arrived and the professor pitched the tent while I made dinner. Having a quick and easy meal option made things a lot simpler and saved us money since we did not have to eat out a lot.

The Professor Goes West//Day 10//You Gotta Eat (Lunch)

Day Ten—Tuesday, May 29, 2018

We woke up in Ojai and prepared to spend the day at the beach in Capistrano. We ate lunch and played on the beach in the sand and waves. It was cloudy and cool, but the kids still enjoyed the water. L found a long strand of kelp and wrapped herself in it making herself look like a mermaid. We collected sea shells and T finally found that he likes the ocean. He said that with each wave the ocean said, “Hello, Mr. T!”

After we left the beach we got ice cream from a shop in the cute little “downtown.” In the afternoon we showered and got ready for 5:20 PM Mass at the chapel at Thomas Aquinas College. The chapel was reminiscent of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, but simpler. Both were designed by the architect Duncan Stroik. The Mass was quick and in Latin. Campus was lovely and serene with well-manicured gardens. Our hostess made us delicious Mexican style rice and lettuce bowl buffet. We ate on the patio, and the kids enjoyed playing outside with their new friend and the chickens.

On our trip out west, our plan for lunches was to have an easy plan ready to make whenever we needed to have lunch whether on the road or at a campsite. We kept our cooler in the car with all of our lunch food. We decided that we would not bring bread but make all of our sandwiches out of tortillas, and the kids complained when I made them eat whole wheat ones. We had options of lunch meat, cheese, with leafy greens or peanut butter and jelly. I made sure to have mustard and mayonnaise in bottles with and squirt lid to make the process faster. For the peanut butter and jelly we just used a plastic knife. On Fridays we opened cans of tuna, drained them and mixed mayo into each person’s wrap without dirtying a bowl.

When we wanted lunch we would simple find a park or rest area, open up the sliding door and made everyone sandwiches on plastic plates we kept handy. We had a paring knife readily available to cut up apples—our fruit of choice on the trip—and one adult would slice fruit while the other made sandwiches. Often we just made everyone eat in the car so we would not take too long on our stops.

Sometimes we did this for dinner if we had a different lunch to make things easier. Everyone got fed, but most of us were tired of meat and cheese wraps or pb&j tortillas by the end of the trip!

Tomorrow? Campsite and hotel dinner foods!

The Professor Goes West//Day 9//Camping Breakfasts

Day Nine—Monday, May 28, 2018

We left San Diego for the first leg of our mission touring pilgrimage through the city of Ojai about 9 AM. Our plan was to go into four missions with a stop at Burrito La Palma for lunch in Los Angelos.

We arrived first at the “King of the Missions” San Luis Rey de Francia near Oceanside. It as founded in 1798 and Franciscans live there today. We particularly liked the painting of the Last Judgment with its incredible detail and a lovely painting of the Assumption. The white walled cemetery was also quite beautiful with a skull and cross bones over the entrance and a cemetery plot for babies.

The second missions was San Juan Capistrano—it was a busy, well-ordered mission. Fourth graders in California have to do a project on this mission. It had extensive grounds. The first church had fallen down in the 1812 earthquake. My favorite part here was the Serra Chapel where St. Junipero Serra had celebrated Mass with a beautiful gold altarpiece. T. really liked the gold chair in the mission treasure museum and noted the tabernacle and vestments also in the museum.

We had a delicious lunch at Burrito La Palma at the recommendation of Jacqui. We had burritos, la plata especial, and a torte sandwich with Mexican Coke. Her uncle, who owns the restaurant was very generous with our bill. It was nice to feel taken care of so far from home.

We then drove to the San Gabriel Mission. It had a neat little baptistry with a painting of the Baptism of Our Lord. I was especially moved by the painting of Our Lady of Sorrows from Mexico. The gardens had a giant trunked grape vine that was planted in 1774—the vine extended up and over the walkways all along the plaza.

Our next stop was the crowded park around Griffith’s Observatory to look out over hazy Los Angelos. We could barely read the HOLLYWOOD sign. We made a last stop at the San Fernando Rey Mission, but it was already closed so we only saw it from the outside.

Then we drove up through the sunny, hazy evening back into the mountains. Our road lead us into the Ojai Valley to the home of friends who lived in St. Paul our first semester in Minnesota. They welcomed us with wine, chocolate, and clean beds.


Let’s talk about camping/road trip food.

We traveled with an 18-gallon tub full of dry food and a large cooler full of cold food. We refilled the plastic storage containers with ice from the gas station or hotel every two or three days. This worked to keep everything very cold—even milk!

For camping breakfasts our goal was simple and easy clean up. When we have camped in Minnesota I have done things like pre-made pancake mix, but this leaves you with a pile of dishes and an hour of cleanup before you can get out and have fun. So for our three week trip we decided on simple foods. We brought granola and granola bars—I actually made enough for the whole trip. The kids drank milk out of disposable cups. If you have yogurt eaters, individual yogurt cups would work well here as well. On mornings at the campsite the professor and I would percolate coffee. On days we were breaking camp and leaving we would buy coffee on the road to save time on dishes.

Tomorrow I will talk about lunch and dinners!

The Professor Goes West//Day 8//What to Wear

Day Eight—Sunday, May 27, 2018

We woke up early to go to 9 AM Mass at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, a parish of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in San Diego. The church was packed, but a good usher managed to seat us. It was nice to assist at Mass after a week of being in the wilderness—it is somewhat like being a pioneer I suppose.

After mass we set out for Coronado Island to find coffee, pastries, and the ocean. We sat on the beach with huge chocolate chip muffins, and then had all but the professor’s first feel of the Pacific Ocean. The kids played in and out of the ocean as the waves lapped at their toes.

One of the professor’s philosophy friends invited out family to join his for a lovely brunch and I think the kids enjoyed each other as much as the adults did. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with like-minded Catholic people. The N. family is one that we would love to live closer to, but alas, half the country separates us!

We went with them to the first Franciscan California Mission of San Diego to inaugurate the pilgrimage portion of our trip. Then we had a picnic supper in Balboa Park. It is interesting to think about the Franciscans building their missions, baptizing, and spreading the Gospel over 200 years ago. While the churches in Europe are even older it is neat to see a Spanish style church in America.


I was surprised the first time I heard that the virtue of modesty in dress does not just deal with covering our bodies, but it also has to do with wearing the appropriate clothing for the occasion. For example, a swimsuit is appropriate for a beach, pool, or backyard sprinkler time, but not for church, the orchestra, or a restaurant. And in our case, perhaps our Sunday Mass clothes were not ideal for the beach. Having appropriate clothing is just as important for camping.

We camped in a variety of temperatures, and since you are always outside, some mornings you wake up freezing and want pants and a sweater. But as the day goes on you are warm and want shorts and a t-shirt. Here is a list of clothes we had for each person of our family—we planned for laundry at least every five days:

  • Hiking shoes with good treads (all sprayed with tick-repellent permethrin before the trip—more on that later)
  • Sandals and church shoes
  • 2 long pants pairs jeans
  • 4 skirts/shorts
  • 6 short sleeve shirts
  • 2 sweaters
  • 5 changes of undergarments
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 2 long sleeve PJs
  • 2 short sleeve PJs
  • Knit hats
  • Sunday church outfit
  • Rain jacket
  • Hat for hiking
  • Swimsuit
  • Towel

Everyone also packed their basic toiletry necessities, obviously, and we brought laundry detergent and quarters. This set up of clothes work really well. I think we were only cold one or two mornings, but once the sun rose higher, we were fine. The goal was to keep it as basic as possible. The kids clothes all fit in one large suitcase and the professor and I shared a medium suitcase. We use the rolling clothes method so the kids’ clothing was packed in 4 rows, one for each of them and was easy for them to find. And that is about it for clothing!

Tomorrow I will start in on how we did meals.

The Professor Goes West//Day 7//Campsite Necessities

Day Seven—Saturday, May 26, 2018

Today was a long day in the car. We woke up at 6 am and left the camp about 8 am. We did not stop until we got to Phoenix. The drive out of the North Rim park gave us stunning views of the canyon mostly due to a recent forest fire. We descended from the plateau to a vast “painted” desert. Our road led us along the Vermillion cliffs. When we crossed the Colorado River to go south it was just a medium river in a small ravine. The desert was hot, flattish, and bleak.

Flagstaff was mountainous again and reminded us of Up North. As we came out of the mountains, we finally saw a saguaro cactus—the classic ones—they grew in a little forest. We met our old friend Greg H. for lunch at Rock Springs Cafè. The green bean fries and the bourbon pecan pie were particularly good. It was nice to see Greg again and chat about everyone we knew from Ann Arbor. Phoenix (from our view) was a desolate wasteland of cacti, sand, and sunshine. All the rivers were dry—we were not sure why one would voluntarily live there (though we are open to arguments why it is a great place to live).  

The south western desert of Arizona was bleak with oppressive sun through the California haze. We grabbed a fast-food supper in Yuma. At the border of California we had to stop and list our fresh produce to an inspection agent. Then we hit the real sand desert with blowing sand across the highway. In Imperial Valley we were 64 feet below sea level, and then at it grew dark we entered into a treacherous 64 mile wind tunnel over the Santa Rosa Mountains. Halfway through the mountain wilderness we were stopped at a border patrol checkpoint that woke all of our children with a flashlight. We were let through since we are all U.S. Citizens. We finally arrived at La Mesa, California at the home of some friends. They have a lovely yard full of succulents and cacti and an elaborately decorated home.


Today, I just want to give a basic list of campsite necessities besides the tent and things that go with it. These are things that we have needed to cook meals, make coffee, wash dishes, and other items that make things go smoothly. The dishes we chose based on the food we planned to eat. Most of them came straight from our kitchen, though some we bought just for camping. We fit all but the Coleman stove in an 18 gallon tub:

  • Wash cloths
  • Towels
  • Bar of soap
  • Coleman Two burner stove with propane
  • Two lighters
  • Oven mitts and hot pads
  • Percolator Coffee pot
  • Tea kettle for boiling dish water
  • Sauce pot
  • Large pot for pasta
  • Mesh strainer
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Rubber spatula
  • Plastic spatula
  • Tongs
  • Can opener
  • Wine screw (we forgot this and bought one at the Grand Canyon)
  • Paring knife
  • Enamel or Travel mugs
  • Washable plates and cups
  • Forks, Spoons, and Knives
    Disposable paper and plastic products (for an easy breakfast on mornings we left early)
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Two tubs for washing and rinsing dishes
  • Dish soap and sponge or rag
  • Long skewers for marshmallows
  • Vinyl tablecloth with a flannel backing for the picnic table
  • Tablecloth clips
  • Rope for hanging wet towels and clothes
  • Clothes pins
  • Trash bags for dirty laundry and trash
  • Citronella candles

Here is a short list of things that we also brought for camping, but that we ended up keeping in the door pockets of the car. They were easy to grab when we needed them, and hard to lose since we always had a spot for them!

  • Sunscreen for hikes
  • Bug spray for hikes and the campsites
  • Hand sanitizer for before meals or for after using facilities
  • Baby wipes for wiping dirt of hands before using hand sanitizer
  • Lots of flashlights for walking around at night at the campsite**This post contains affiliate links.**



The Professor Goes West//Day 6//The Perfect Tent

Day Six—Friday, May 25, 2018

I woke up a half an hour before everyone else today, prayed my morning prayers and contemplated that I was laying on the ground on a ridge just a short walk from the depths of the Grand Canyon. We hiked over mid-morning to the lookouts near the lodge on the North Rim along the Transcept Canyon. Bright Angel point gave us a spectacular view of the Roaring Springs Canyon and Transcept leading into the Grand Canyon. We all found the 1.4 mile hike to be long and hot, but it was worth it to be sitting on that rock at the point where the two canyons meet and simply feel the awe of the moment.

After our afternoon quiet time we drove out to Cape Royal and the Angel Window. It was here that we saw the depths of the majesty of the canyon. We could see down to the seemingly insignificant Colorado River that carved this great canyon over the course of so many years. We went out over the Angel Window and had the canyon on both sides of us. There was a railing here so the kids seemed more secure. There was a lovely desert garden—the kind of the higher elevation with juniper, gooseberry, currant and other high desert plants.

At Cape Royal the children took great pleasure in being mountain goats as the professor and I admired the depths and grandeur of the canyon and Wotan’s Throne which was topped with trees and who knows what animal life. The North Rim campsite was a conifer forest with the occasional birch grove. Ravens flew about, but we saw no other wild animal.


Again, the professor is the one who did all the research for out trip. After childhood experiences of tents blown across the prairie, those that did not keep out water, and ones difficult to set up, he spent days scouring the Internet for the perfect family tent.

It needed to:

  • Have a full rainfly that went all the way down on all sides except for the entrance
  • Have a water-proof bottom that extended several inches off the ground
  • Be engineered in a way that one adult could to set it up and take it down alone
  • Be large enough for our six person family with room to grow

We chose the Coleman Octagon 98-2 Room Tent. It was perfect. It is tall enough for all of us to stand up inside. We ended up putting the children all on one half of it and putting up the divider down the middle. The professor and I slept on the other side, and we stored the suitcase with our clean clothes opposite where we slept. We would tuck the kids in about an hour later than normal and then read with flashlights until we were ready to fall asleep. We received compliments about our tent at almost every campsite as well. It was definitely worth the investment.

Other important gear to go with the tent included: a small broom and dust pan, a rubber mallet, a tarp to go on the ground under the tent, and extra stakes. These things come in a handy tent kit.

Coming up tomorrow: dishes and cooking gear!

**This post contains affiliate links**

The Professor Goes West//Day 5//What to Wear at Night

Day Five—Thursday, May 24, 2018

We woke up early to drive out to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I thought we were done with the mesas but they followed us West across the desert into Arizona. We stopped at a scenic viewpoint in the San Rafael Reef which was a ridge of uranium rich rock and sand. The crumbly rock was the real desert. It was still dotted with sage brush and fir trees. What never ceases to me surprise is how the canyons and ravines just appear in the surface of the desert and range land. It is so desolate, beautiful, and awful at the same time.

We stopped for lunch in Richfield, Utah. We found a friendly mechanic to take a look at and repair a few cracks in the windshield from the hail we had encountered in Wyoming.

In the afternoon, we drove through Zion National Park where the Virgin River has formed a deep canyon. We went up a steep windy road and drove through an unlit mile long tunnel which was built in the 1920s. We hiked briefly and then got in the car again for the last leg to the Grand Canyon. We grabbed buffalo burgers and corndogs at Al’s Burger Joint in Kanab, Utah and after another windy drive through the wide open range bid farewell to the mesas of Utah and said hello to the tall pines and white birches of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.


Even though we were well equipped with good sleeping bags, the professor emphasized to me that warm sleepwear at night was very important. We all brought long sleeve pajamas or t-shirts, pants, and warm socks to wear at night. Many nights I wore a short sleeve shirt underneath—and on warmer nights I took off the long sleeve one if I got warmer. I guess the point is that layers are helpful for camping, especially at night!

A friend suggested to me that we also bring knit winter hats for the cooler nights. These made all the difference for keeping warm at night—thought if you have a mummy bag, no hat needed! For my son we put him in a fleece lined jacket with a hood and/or a fleece sleep sack every night since he often scooted his way out of the bag.

Another interesting thing we figured out about sleep was to pitch the tent and lay out the sleeping bags according to the slant of the ground. If we had to sleep on even a slight incline, we all did much better if our feet were pointed downhill. My son always rolled out of his sleeping bag if he was angled any other way.

Tomorrow I will talk about family sized tents!