Trouble Sleeping at Dead Horse Point State Park

Evaporation ponds from the nearby potash mine resting below sandstone ridges and canyonds. Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

This past Christmas break, I made a nice little escape to the Moab, Utah area for some hiking and photography. With an 8 hour drive ahead of me, I left town as early as I could, racing down to have camp setup before sunset.

My destination for the night was Dead Horse Point State Park, a park I had wanted to explore more, as well as expand my photography gallery of. While I did technically make it to the park before sunset, sunset was cancelled due to incoming storms. Undeterred, I setup camp and went out for an evening hike in the overcast weather.

With lows in the 20s and 30s and a slight chance of showers, I was expecting to be perfectly comfortable camping in a tent. The only problem was that I forgot to take into account the wind. Since I setup my tent in a hurry, I neglected to account for the fact that it needed to be rotated 90 degrees since the entryways of the rain fly weren’t able to be pulled completely tight. Well after dark and ready to shut the lights for the night, I jumped out to fix this really quick. It was a quick and easy adjustment, and realizing I’d probably want my clothes for the next day from my car while I was up, ran to my car to grab another shirt and pants to be ready to hike first thing in the morning.

Before shutting my car door, rain began pouring without warning. Expecting it to be a short sprinkle like what had been teasing all evening, I took shelter in the picnic table for the campsite since it was covered. Twenty minutes later and the rain had only gotten stronger. I watched my tent through a headlamp’s glow as it was blasted by strong wind that came with the rain. I later learned gusts of at least 40mph were associated with the storm and wouldn’t let up for a few days.

The rain finally subsided, allowing me to dart to my tent, happy to discover that everything inside was still dry. Though keeping dry, the wind only intensified. Gusts would smash one corner of the tent, flattening a portion of it on top of me; not exactly ideal sleeping conditions. After a few more of these, I realized I might need to use the tie-downs to stabilize the tent, something I skipped due to my hurried setup. I ran back to the car to grab them, only to discover that upon my return there was nothing to tie them to – no trees, no logs, no rocks. I then remembered I had brought two seven gallon water jugs with me that were still full since I had only just arrived. I used those to stabilize the tent and finally crawled back in to sleep for the night.

The wind insisted on continuing to smash the tent periodically, preventing me from fully falling asleep. I soon noticed flapping on the side of the tent. I turned on my headlamp to find the source, only to find that one side of the rain fly had pulled up the stake in the sandy tent pad. I jumped outside, resecured it, then crawled back in once again to fall asleep once and for all. Moments later I heard the flapping again. Stubbornly, I secured it once more, making sure to drive the stake deeper into the rocks below the sand. Fifteen minutes later the flapping resumed again. At this point I was done with the tent.

Inside my car, I rearranged what I had brought to make room to sleep inside, leaving the tent to deal with in the morning. The wind was hitting my car, but from inside the car it was much calmer and easier to fall asleep to. As I was finally falling asleep, I had an uneasy feeling that kept me awake a little longer. Through the window, I shined my headlamp back toward the tent and noticed that it was in the air and upside-down in the wind, held down only by the ties attached to the water jugs. I jumped out of the car and quickly broke down the tent, throwing it into an unoccupied space in the car, leaving the water jugs out for the night.

Finally, I was able to fall asleep knowing that the wind had gone from wreaking havoc on my campsite, to gently rocking the car, and thus, me to sleep.

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