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!

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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!

The Professor Goes West//Day 4//Sleeping Bags

Day 4—Wednesday, May 23, 2018

We arrived at our hotel in Moab, Utah late last night. The dark drive down into the valley on US-191 with the ominous ridges on either side filled me with a sense of dread. In the morning I read in On the Road about Sal’s dream of a shrouded traveler following him through the desert:

“Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sign and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die? In the rush of events I kept thinking about this in the back of my mind.” (Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Pt. 2, Ch. 2, p. 124)

 This is what the desert stirs up in me—the awareness of death—but for every dead tree and bare branched bush there are hundreds of living sagebrush and juniper bushes, cactus flowers, red ants, and little lizards.

 The red rock of Arches National Park made my heart swell with emotion and a kind of ecstasy when we climbed up into the North Window, stood under it and looked out over the rocky canyons below. The full breeze swept through the arch and I simply felt my prayer of awe and praise and desire for God.

We lunched after a hike to view the less mighty but iconic Delicate Arch. Later we drove up the cliffside to the Island in the Sky. I have longed for years to go to the top of a mesa, mostly because of the story of Tom Outlander in Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. Tom falls for a mesa while cattle herding:

The hillside behind was sandy and covered with tall clumps of dear horn cactus, but there was nothing but grass to the south, with streaks of bright yellow rabbit brush. Along the river the cottonwoods and quaking asps had already turned gold. Just across from us, overhanging us, indeed stood the mesa, a pile of purple rock, all broken out with red sumac and yellow aspens up in the high crevices of the cliffs…It was the sort of place a man would like to stay in forever. (Pt. 2, Ch. 2)

Our mesa was a red-orange rock which they had cut a road in up the less steep side. When on top it just looked like normal range land except for the steep drop and the canyon beyond. We sped along through the park with mountains and canyons and mesas on the horizon. We hiked out to the mesa arch, and then just sat on the yellow rock in awe of the steep drops and the maze of canyons of black and red below. It was incredible. I think I will long for it even more now that I have seen it. With reluctance we left and returned to our hotel for showers and supper.


Besides having a good sleeping pad, a good sleeping bag is essential. The professor has a mummy bag from his scouting days rated to some crazy temperature below zero. I used it once sleeping outside in the Fall on a retreat college, and it was extremely warm (but as I did not have a good sleeping pad my sleep was not so great). He is super happy with it.

I asked the professor to pick out sleeping bags for the rest of the family. He did quite a bit of research and settled on the Coleman Palmetto Cool Weather Sleeping Bag. We decided on the adult size bag all of the children, since we figured it was worth the investment. It is designed to be used in 30-50° F. We do not currently plan on doing extreme winter camping as a family, but the Minnesota summer nights often drop below 50°, especially if we camp up the North Shore. This range was perfect for the high elevation camping we did at the Grand Canyon and Great Basin National Park, but also worked well for the campsites near the coast in California. The coldest night we slept out in was upper 20s in Custer State Park, South Dakota, and we all stay plenty warm.

In case you were wondering we used our own pillows. I put them all in washable pillow protectors to keep them free of outside dirt and bugs. The covers worked well—we still use them inside for the kids!

Tomorrow I will talk about nighttime sleepwear.

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The Professor Goes West//Day 3//Sleeping Pads

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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The Professor Goes West//Day Two//Camping with Little Ones

Day Two–Monday, May 21, 2018

We woke up to a cool, crisp morning, sunshine streaming through the trees in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The mountains are covered in tall pines. Our campsite is right above a beautiful, sparkling lake that we have to climb a hill in order to see.

We spent the morning driving through the Black Hills to get to Mt. Rushmore–the American Icon of four presidents’ faces carved into the granite of a mountainside with dynamite. T, the two year old, was not impressed. We later all agreed that the stunning natural beauty of this landscape surpasses the work of dynamite and calculated blasts.

We lunched at Sylvan lake which sparkled reflecting the stunning blue of the sky. We hiked a trail that curved around the lake and took us over and through giant six storey tall rocks.

It took the professor years to convince me to go camping with him as a family. My only previous experience had been as a Girl Scout with an inadequate sleeping bag on the hard ground. He, on the other hand, is an Eagle Scout with much experience in pitching tents, camping cooking, roughing it, and knew all the supplies we might need. I eventually agreed on one condition, that I be neither pregnant nor breastfeeding.

We made our first attempt when my youngest was two years old—our others were four, six, and eight. He slept in a travel crib. It went surprisingly well. He did wake up for a stretch and needed to be resettled—but we made it through the night. I personally would not attempt taking ones younger than two camping. Even at two we had to keep close tabs on him as he charged around the campsite, close to the road, and made mad dashes towards the nearby river.

Our trip this past summer was much smoother with the kids three, five, seven, and nine. The older ones were able to help with the setting up and breaking down, but most of all with helping the little ones stay happy and out of trouble. And all the kids slept and stayed in their sleeping bags.

The reason I like to wait has more to do with how my babies sleep—in cribs out of my room after they have outgrown the co-sleeper bassinet. I suppose a co-sleeping family might do well on a queen air mattress. I have a friend who told me about using a camping rocking chair for breastfeeding at night while camping. Other ideas for taking babies camping would be to bring a Pack ‘n Play for the baby to go in at the campsite outside or a travel baby jumper.

I am glad that I gave it a try when I did. I look forward to many adventures to come!

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