Coyote Gulch 1999 - 2000
Adventure in the American Outback
Birth of an idea
I like to have new experiences. As I slid across the ice that lined the small creek in the bottom of a twisted canyon in Southern Utah, with the sun seeming to provide about as much warmth as a distant star, I thought, Yep, this IS a new experience!
I think it must have been New Year's Eve, 1996 or 1997, Barbara Muhlbeier was standing over in the SW corner of our living room during the usual party we have for our hiking buddies and Sierra Club types. She said, "You know, we are only a few years away from a big New Year's Eve. We need to do something different in 1999, like go on a backpack out west somewhere." I started thinking quickly as to potential suitable places in the Western US which would not be buried under several feet of snow at the end of December. Well, the discussion continued to evolve through the years, and pretty soon, the canyons of the Escalante seemed to keep coming up as the best place to go. Yes, it would be cold, but not intense as hiking in the mountains. I tried to stir up more interest in some of our hiking buddies, but many of them had non-backpacking spouses with whom they wanted to share the Y2K Rollover, as it eventually became known as. Other friends could do the trip, but spending that amount of time on what would amount to a winter backpack was not as appealing as it might have otherwise been. So it looked like there would be six of us, Andy and Sue from Texas, Susie and I, and Barbara, the instigator of the trip, and her husband, Will. OK, so 6 is a nice crew. But then Will and Barbara, whom we see on a pretty regular basis, announced in September, 1999 that they had gotten divorced in June. So although they claimed to still want to go on the trip, just not as a couple, I knew in my heart that they would not be there. By the time mid-December rolled around, both of them were dating others, and I am sure that 3 nites below zero did not seem an adequately romantic way to spend New Year's Eve, 1999. The two remaining couples A&S, and R&S, had been married nearly 18 and 10 years, respectively, and thus, could likely postpone the need for romantic fulfillment, probably for months if necessary.
Thus in the late afternoon or evening of December 29th, two aircraft lifted off from Knoxville and Austin, each carrying at least two whacko souls, who were going to fly out to Salt Lake City, get in late, get up early the next morning, drive for about 6 hours to what amounts to one of the most remote trailheads in the lower 48 states, and take a three night basecamp backpack into one of the most spectacular small canyons in Southern Utah, Coyote Gulch. For Andy and me, it would be our third time in Coyote, the first being on our first canyon backpack nearly 20 years ago. For Sue and Susie, it would be their second time.Wednesday, December 29th, 1999
It was a very uneventful flight for both couples. Susie and I had deliberately scheduled a long layover in Atlanta, to insure that we would make our connection. The 7:30pm flight was about a half hour late leaving, but westerly winds were not as bad as normal, so we made up much of the delay. Andy and Sue got in early, and ran over to Smith's grocery store to get a gallon of Coleman fuel. Susie and I had packed the MSR Dragonfly stove, just in case we could not get Coleman fuel, and had to rely on regular unleaded gasoline. It turns out that Andy had the forethought to call Escalante Outfitters, the little backpacking store in Escalante. Yes, they had Coleman fuel. As I have said repeatedly before, it is a joy to hike with Andy, because even though he may not be the official trip coordinator, he does a lot more that just show up for a hike. I feel like I can always count on him to have studied the route, and understand the pitfalls.
As luck would have it, we arrived at our motel just as Andy and Sue were checking in. More great timing. (One note here: actually we would have been earlier to the motel had I thought to look at the huge pile of luggage near the Delta Baggage Claim office. Our bags were sent on the earlier SLC flights from Atlanta. We waited until all the bags had come off in Salt Lake. I started to walk over to the claim office, and then saw our bags in the pile. We could have saved 15 min or so.)
© Roger A. Jenkins, 2000