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My First Camping Trip in the West by Anastasia Vylegzhanina

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at DU chapter.

Despite the pandemic, my friends and I did not put our heads down. We arranged a 10-day round trip through 3 states: Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona! Have you already guessed which National Parks we checked? Well, I’ll make it easy for you and tell you that it was Grand TetonYellowstoneBryce and Grand CanyonsZion, and Arches National Park

August 28 – 30th, 2020 “Grand Teton, Yellowstone, & Sleeping In Tipi”

Five in the morning: a tent, sleeping bags, extra blankets, food supplies, and hiking backpacks found their place in the car’s trunk. We began our adventure in Denver; I felt excited but with a growing anxiousness deep inside of me. Truth be told, I am used to pretty intense and long hikes, but I’ve never experienced sleeping in a tent in a sleeping bag under the open sky. I was ready for the worst ahead. The worst awaited all of us at the first stop in Grand Teton!

Nobody suspected anything bad before the night took its place. Does anybody know what a tipi is? In case you are not acquainted, it is also known as a tepee. In other words, it’s a lodge or a type of tent that is traditionally made of animal skins upon wooden poles. In our situation, it simply had a canvas covering. As a result, when the temperature dropped drastically down at night, miserable feelings arose immediately. It was unbearably horrifying to get out from my (more or less) warm sleeping bag to go into the unknown dark of the night for the bathroom! My personal advice: do not drink too much water before having a night in a tipi.

Soon after unpacking all our stuff, our small team of fours did an easy hike to Taggart Lake. The hovering mountains in Grand Teton left an enormous impression in my gut. The first freezing night was behind us, and the second day was entirely spent in Yellowstone National Park! It was my fourth time there, but the outstanding Grand Prismatic Spring cannot be missed under any circumstance. On the third day, a ten-mile hike to Cascade Canyons in Grand Teton National Park filled our morning! To be frank, we cheated a little bit and took a boat through Jenny Lake to reach the bottom of the terrific mountains. There were plenty of positive vibes on the 10 minute ride across the lake with the gusts of wind and water splashes. 

On our last night here, we all agreed to have dinner in Jackson Hole. Jackson is a small, authentic cowboy town. Real western mixed with the modern days! Walking the town’s streets brings you back in time a couple centuries.

August 31st – September 5th, 2020 “Utah’s Adventures and Our Unexpected Trip to Grand Canyon”

In Utah, our first quick stop was in Salt Lake City where we did a brief walkthrough of the downtown and visited the Bonneville Salt Flat. No kidding, it’s just a huge flat area that is covered by salt! If you are keen on driving fast in any direction, you are more than welcome to try it in the Utah desert. There are no rules, no stress on this salty desert that is just 2 hours from Salt Lake City. Go ahead and get your dosage of adrenaline!

The next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park. There you can find astonishing red and golden colored canyons. Peek-a-Boo trail is perfect for meeting the sunrise in the canyon. A little bit later Zion National Park opened its heart to us. Here we come real camping and only a six-minute shower per person! There were many other adventurers around. I am sincerely glad that my first experience setting up a tent and sleeping among other campers was in Zion! It was a magical time with the sweetest memories, indeed.

After the morning in Zion on Walter’s Wiggles zigzag hike, we drove to Grand Canyon to watch the sunset on the North Rim. My old dream to see the Grand Canyon came true! I almost cried from happiness to stand on the edge of the gigantic canyon and feel like an ant in front of the breath-taking open area. Grand Canyon is much, much more mesmerizing than you can see in some documentary on T.V.! 

The next day we visited Cedar City. We were surprised by the fact that this really small town held the Southern Utah University established in 1897! At the same time, there are so many cozy coffee places, so we ended up resting, drinking delicious coffee, and reading books. Later on, we arrived at Panguitch Lake where I tried fried meat in Korean style cooked by new friends. Other homemade, yummy Korean food like grilled kimchi filled my empty stomach and made me feel complete. During the time on the lake, my friend and I even managed to fish but I couldn’t catch any trout to my deepest regret.

August 5 – 6th, 2020 “Arizona Sceneries & Scorching Weather”

In Arizona, we checked out Navajo BridgeHorseshoe Bend, and saw Powell Lake from the distance. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the long hike we had planned in the Grand Canyon was cancelled due to unbearably hot temperatures that reached almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit! My friends and I figured out how to kill the time, hence, we simply watched the new animated movie “Mulan.” From then on, the motto for our hikes became the phrase from the movie: “There is no courage without fear.” Resting comfortably during the hot day was a good start for ending the trip in the best way!

August 6 – 8th, 2020 “Utah, Moab, and Arches National Park”

From Arizona, the trip circled back to Utah, or more specifically, Arches National Park. On the way, we took pictures of various national monuments that were mostly intricate red mountain formations. 

In Arches, there were two short hikes we did on the first evening. Double Arches along with the most famous Delicate Arch took our breath away. It is hard to believe that all of the arches were made by mother nature. Furthermore, Utah turned out to be a state of unexpected meetings. While having a peaceful walk to the famous Delicate Arch, we ran into our other international friends! Everybody agreed to meet for sunset and wait for the first stars to appear in front of Delicate Arch. Was it beautiful? Well, beautiful is the wrong word to describe what opens in front of your eyes with the dusk.

The night caused us to hike back down in the complete darkness. Thankfully, handy torches and phone flashlights resolved the issue. I even was able to speed up in the last mile which was an awesome experience of running with the Milky Way above me.

A 7.8-mile hike on the Devil’s Garden Trail marked the beginning of a new day in Arches. There were a ton of unique rock shapes during this hike! No kidding, be ready to slide down on your butt a couple of times while hiking on those paths. I assure you that the Devil’s Garden Trail is 100% worth it!

Meanwhile, my buddies had gone for a jeep rally. Moab’s downtown entertained me with its swirling street life that I calmly watched in the quiet nook of a coffee shop. All of my body screamed with pain from the hikes and I was glad to have such relaxing evening in the company of myself.

Unfortunately, the day we were headed home met us with rain. As a consequence, we packed everything in the car, grabbed a coffee, and headed to Denver. Colorado National Monument was seen only from the car window because of bad, gloomy weather. Closer to Denver itself, the strong wind and snow started. Yes, real SNOW at the beginning of September! What can I say other than welcome to Colorado, ladies and gentlemen!

 I never thought that I would get a golden ticket to join my amazing friends for a road trip during this unprecedented time. I would be right to say that you never know how things will turn out or where you’ll end up by the end of it. Trips, travel, and various adventures let people experience the pure magic of our world. It is out of the question that even a short reunion with nature through camping or hiking reboots bodies and refreshes minds for new discoveries and achievements. You want to be the best in something, go for a trip and get inspiration, positivity, and whatever you can out of it! I appeal to each of you to travel more and, especially, travel with your best people in order to have precious memories to reminisce about while drinking a cup of coffee somewhere on the Earth in your mid-60s. So, what’s next on your list to conquer?