Bryce Canyon, Utah – August 30, 2009

Years ago, I had enjoyed a vacation to the Four Corners states, especially enjoying Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Other tourists had told me that I should visit Bryce and Zion, and I always hoped to return. I finally decided that this would be the year.

Unfortunately, my friends were busy with work or school and thus I had to go by myself. I hadn’t been camping in a while, and about the only equipment that I still had was a sleeping bag. I also had an old “closed cell” sleeping pad, which is useful for providing padding under the sleeping bag, though I had doubts that it would fit into the duffel bag I planned to use.

I bought a Eureka Backcountry 1 Tent. It’s a one-man tent, but unlike some one-man tents, which are sized for a child or small woman, this one has a generous 3′ x 8′ of floor space. Many people buy a “footprint” to put under the tent. The idea is that a camper puts an additional layer of material under the tent, to protect the floor of it from being punctured by any sharp stones or pine needles that may be present. If the footprint is punctured, it’s easy to replace. However, for some reason, Eureka only makes a few sizes of footprints, and the one they advertise as being appropriate for my tent is 4′-9″ x 6′-8″. That makes absolutely no sense for a tent that is 3′ x 8′. The 6′-8″ dimension would mean that there’s 1′-4″ of the length of the tent that’s not protected. And the 4′-9″ dimension means that there’s 1′-9″ of footprint sticking out from the sides of the tent, ideal for collecting water in the event of rain and allowing the tent to then sit in a puddle of water. A footprint is supposed to be sized for the exact size of the floor of the tent, or perhaps an inch smaller. I considered buying a plastic paint tarp and cutting it to fit, but didn’t have enough time to go to a hardware store before my trip.

I bought a tiny little LED flashlight, a Gerber Infiinity. I bought some camping cutlery from E-Bay. From Lands End, I ordered a rain jacket and a couple of pairs of very lightweight pants, made from a cotton/poly blend. They are lightweight to carry, to wear, and they dry very quickly.

I still had an olive cotton bucket hat from long ago, and sometimes I wear it, but in a heavy rain it will become soaked. So I instead bought a Teva Goretex boonie hat.

I went to Sports Authority to try on boots, selecting a pair of Columbia boots. I had previously worn cotton socks when hiking, but have read that cotton is horrible because it retains moisture. I decided to mail order some mid-weight Merino wool socks, Columbia Falmouth II. A few weeks before my trip to Utah, I went hiking on a Sunday in New Jersey, and I was very happy with both the socks and boots. The socks didn’t itch, and while some people think that wool socks are too warm, I didn’t have any complaints.

Sunday, August 30:

As I had suspected, my sleeping pad wouldn’t fit in the duffel bag, so I left it. I took the bus and AirTrain to JFK, where I checked in my duffel bag. I was nervous that Delta would lose it, or that the zipper would fail because I had stuffed it so full, which would seriously affect my vacation. After all, it’s hard to camp without any gear. My carry-on only held a few items, such as my lunch for the flight and electronics: GPS, digital camera, portable video player, cell phone.

My flight left JFK at 9:30 a.m. and took over 5 hours, flying into a headwind. However, Utah is on Mountain Time, so I gained two hours flying there, arriving around 12:40 p.m.

The Salt Lake City Airport is surrounded by mountains, and the view from the terminal is prettier than most airports can offer.

Salt Lake City Airport, UT

Airport in Salt Lake City

By the time I walked to the baggage claim, my duffel bag was waiting for me, which was a big relief. I walked to the Hertz counter. I had reserved a midsized car, and their website had indicated that a typical car in that class was a Mazda 6. However, they instead give me a white Toyota Corolla. I wouldn’t have thought of the Corolla as a midsized car, but maybe it’s not any smaller than a Mazda 6.

My first stop in Salt Lake City was to REI, where I purchased a sleeping pad, a Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4. You open the nozzle, and it is supposed to self-inflate, though you can blow more air into it if you wish. Then close the nozzle and put your sleeping bag on top of it and go to sleep. To put it away, open the nozzle, fold it and sit on it, continuing to roll it as you squeeze out the air. I also bought a Rubbermaid cooler at REI.

I then drove across the street to a Smith’s grocery store, a division of the larger Kroger chain, and bought food, four gallons of water (and also a 1 liter and 700 ml bottle) and two bags of ice.

By the time I got out of there, it was 2:30 p.m. I had estimated the drive to Bryce Canyon would take about 4 hours, though the GPS estimated it would take 5-1/2 or 6 hours. I wanted to find my campsite and set up my tent before dark.

I left Salt Lake City, driving south. I stopped at a WalMart about a half hour away, where I bought a few additional food items and toiletry samples in tiny containers.

I then resumed driving southwest on I-15. Signs marked the speed limit at 65 mph, then 75 mph, and then finally there are at least two “test areas” which were marked at 80 mph.

I arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park at 7:15 p.m. and for $80 bought an annual pass good for all National Parks and Monuments. I found my campsite and set up my tent, which only took a few minutes. I unrolled my brand new sleeping pad, which didn’t do a great job of self-inflation. (They supposedly don’t when they are brand new, but do a better job later—we’ll see.) So I blew air into it and tried to move the air around to inflate the edges of the pad. I put that in my tent and then my sleeping bag.

Here’s my campsite. My tent is tiny compared to the space available.

Campsite, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Campsite at Bryce Canyon

I turned on my cell phone and got a signal, roaming. I called my mother and reported that I arrived in one piece. I ate dinner, got in my tent, and using my Cowon S9 video player, watched 20 minutes of Warehouse 13. I then went to sleep. I had expected temperatures as low as the upper 40s at Bryce Canyon, which is about 7,900 feet above sea level at the campsites and top of the canyon. However, it was even colder than that, around 42. My sleeping bag is supposedly rated down to 30, I believe, but I don’t find it to be adequate for that. Also, the design of my tent is such that I don’t think it’s great for keeping in heat. So I had to add a couple of layers of clothing, and even then I found it a bit cold.

Next: The best three mile hike in the world!

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