The Long Road(s) Home
Authors note: This is part 5 and the final installment of the tale of my recent “vacation” in Coyote Gulch in Escalante, Utah. It is not necessary to have read the previous four entries to understand and enjoy (I hope) it though I do think they provide some good context and background. In any event the link to part 4, from which you can find parts 1–3 is included below. As I mentioned at the beginning of part 4, it is much darker than parts 1–3 and both Kat and I genuinely feared for our lives at times. Until now the only fears had been of a non-living (non-animal not undead human, this is a true story after all) variety but that would change near the end of our journey. Even though no pictures were taken during this part of the story I have included a few that I think a sense of the desert landscape that we trekked through for much of the final push to the car. Unfortunately I didn’t have any really good night pictures but I included some twilight shots and I don’t think it too difficult to visualize in your mind the various landscapes as they would look illuminated only by moonlight. Finally, I apologize for how long this took to publish. Part 4 came out way back on Oct. 1 and it is now almost 2 months later. I think I saved the best for last and hopefully it will be worth the wait.
As I think back now I am taken aback at how much Kat’s words just then affected me. She had been my rock in a sea of fear and instability, the one constant that kept me from totally losing all hope and sinking into total despair. I had great confidence in her navigational abilities and knew she had been through some years of military style training. Survival situations like the one we found ourselves in were something for which she had prepared. All of that was in a previous life however, many years ago, yet it was clear she remembered much of what she had learned.
Her calm demeanor rarely wavered no matter what new calamity befell us, so when she spoke those four words “I’m scared too Dan” the gravity of our situation, the actual danger we faced, became more clear than it had any time until that point.
If she was afraid, I should be terrified; at least that was how I felt about it then. It was just after 9pm, we had been hiking virtually non-stop for over 12 hours, night had fallen and it was very dark, the moon had yet to rise and I felt a cool chill. Extreme temperature variations between night and day are very common in the desert. There are many difficulties specific to desert conditions that backpackers can expect, but the wild temperature swings can be one of the hardest to deal with. The past two days and nights we had spent exploring various slot canyons in the area had not been bad at all in that respect. While the temperature had soared to near 100F at the hottest points of the days it had not dropped below 65F or so at night. I was praying that our luck would hold but the chill I felt then suggested otherwise. For what seemed the hundredth time that day (now night) I cursed my poor planning as I had not packed a long sleeve shirt thinking it would not be needed for our “half day hike.” Luckily, Kat bailed me out once again and produced a warm button down from the bottom of her pack that happened to fit perfectly.
After slipping on the shirt, we sat down on the large, smooth, flat rock approximately half way up the canyon wall then and palavered for quite a long time. It was too dark to get very far anyway at that moment and we needed time for our eyes to adjust, and for the moon to rise, though mostly we sat because we did not know what else to do. I was near panic state and Kat implored me to remain calm though I could sense her own internal struggle. “The absolute worst thing you can do in a survival situation is to panic, remember that” she had said many times over the course of that day, and she said it again as we sat and tried to determine our next course of action. It turned out that Kat had the location of our car locked in on the GPS and had been checking our position relative to it for quite some time. After she told me about the car I was elated, we could just start hiking toward it using the most direct path we could manage and would be there in short order. Kat quickly disabused me of that notion. The GPS battery situation was bad and getting worse, it was flashing just one bar and we had no idea how much longer it would be operational at all. With no replacement batteries on hand, once it died it became that much useless dead weight. We could only turn it on in very short spurts and only when absolutely needed. With no landmarks but the moon to navigate by, trying to make a point (the car) would be nearly impossible without having access to the GPS data on a fairly frequent basis. If the GPS were to totally die and we were only part of the way there it could be disastrous. Kat suggested that there was, however, possibly an alternative. The last time she had turned on the GPS and zoomed in on the area around the car, she thought she had seen a road in the topographical map. A road would be a much less risky target as it appeared to run parallel with us and the car for quite a long distance, so no matter if we strayed quite far in either direction we would eventually intersect it. Even without the GPS to guide us, as long as we continued to trend in the correct general direction, and did not get completely turned around we had an excellent chance of finding our target, the road.
While we talked the moon had gradually begun to rise and now the landscape was illuminated with an eerie glow. Long shadows flitted across the rock studded landscape at irregular intervals, interspersed by narrow slices of soft, dull light.
It was still very dark and hiking was going to be slow and dangerous but it would not be the death wish it would have been had we been in the complete black of a new moon.
As we both saw it then we had two options, set off for the road at once or make camp there, on that rock, and wait until first light to begin our search for the road. At first Kat pushed hard for the second option. “The number one rule in any survival situation is to stay put. Stumbling about blindly without a clear understanding of where you are heading or why is never the right decision.” I had heard the same thing a number of times and it made sense so I nodded silently in agreement. Kat continued “If it were me here alone I would not go on, I would camp and wait until morning.” she said bluntly. I don’t believe her words were intended to hurt, but the way she said them and with the situation we were in, they did sting. I felt as if she was blaming me somehow or insinuating that her chances would be better without me dragging her down. The fact that the last part of her statement was almost certainly true and we both knew it made it that much more painful. In this instance however, I believed she was wrong. There were several advantages to waiting until morning; the additional rest would do us both a lot of good, the light would make trekking much less dangerous, and in the day there was a reduced risk of wild animal encounters. However, in one very important aspect it made things much more dangerous. Specifically I worried about the heat and our water situation. We had refilled everything we had just prior to finally exiting the gulch but how long would even that much water last when the temperatures soared into the mid-90s? We had no idea how long it might take us to make it to our waiting car, but we did know there was no chance of finding additional water between here and there. I pled my case and made my point, and to her credit Kat listened and reconsidered. After quite a bit more back and forth she finally came around to my point of view and we made preparations to depart.
Our decision had been made but before us a more immediate task remained unfinished, completing our ascent out of the canyon. It would be no easy feat as in all directions the way up was steep and dangerous. We would need to move slowly and with extreme caution, particularly as we only had the one flashlight between us. We eventually settled on a method whereby one of us would lead for a few yards, then turn and shine the flashlight to the ground to show the way for the other. Kat led more than she followed which made sense given the difference in our visual abilities (her night vision was far superior), and the method seemed to work OK from a safety perspective. It was however, exceedingly slow and frustrating and our progress upwards was glacial. As we inched higher and higher up the canyon wall the number and density of animal droppings on the ground beneath us increased exponentially. I had never seen such a high concentration of animal shit in my life outside of a zoo or county fair and it worried me greatly. In that part of the country and in that terrain the only animals capable of producing so much shit with the size droppings we encountered were mountain lions, bears, and/or coyotes. A close encounter or even sighting of any one of them was a highly anticipated treat at the beginning of our hike that day, but could be very dangerous if it happened while we still were struggling to make our way out of the canyon. The area was mostly solid rock so few tracks were visible, but I thought I could make out at least two distinct variations of shit. In my mind I pictured a mountain lion and her cubs striding briskly through their territory on patrol for any prey or guarding against invaders. Other than the droppings and the few scattered paw prints, there had been no direct evidence of animals, and we had not seen nor heard a thing since nightfall. In fact, as we progressed upward the eerie silence that is so indicative of the desert became more and more noticeable. The only sounds were our labored breathing, my beating heart, and the occasional gust of wind.
In places we needed both hands and/or the use of our hiking poles as leverage to make it up the steep slope. In these sections the flashlight would have to be put away as we did not want to risk dropping and losing it if one of us were to try and hold it in our mouth. It was very slow going especially in these parts but the risks of rushing things were so great that we were both uncharacteristically happy to take things slow. Up and up we went, after each peak was conquered that I assumed must be the last, another always seemed to appear in the distance. Finally, the ground began to flatten some, imperceptibly at first and then much more noticeably. We had made it back to the desert floor approximately 14 hours since beginning our hike that day. It was then that I first realized exactly how tired I was, I wanted to so badly to drop down right there, curl up in a ball and go to sleep. Kat noticed too and asked how I was feeling. “So tired.” I replied, “I’m not sure how much further I can go.” Her eyes and head were downcast too and her breathing was labored but she tried her best to encourage me. “Just a little bit further, then we can rest” she said, for the first of many times that night. All either of us could think about was finding a relatively safe flat space to sit down and rest. I desperately needed to take off my shoes and let rest my aching feet and Kat looked as if she were about to drop from exhaustion or dehydration. She continued to drink much less water than I did, and not for the first time I feared she was pushing herself too far with her rationing. As we hiked in the general direction of the rising moon, which coincidentally aligned well with where the GPS indicated the road would be, the rock gave way to patches of scrub brush and sand, pockmarked everywhere with snake holes. Each square foot of open ground seemed to harbor at least five of them. I imagined with some disgust all of them underneath the ground just below our feet slithering and squirming, or poised in hiding, waiting to strike at unsuspecting passersby. I called these areas snake pits and Kat always advised caution and moved very slowly as we made our way through them. We had already seen a live rattlesnake on our desert trek into the gulch (see included picture)
and a bite now would mean certain death. Luckily, snakes are less active after sunset but as mentioned earlier it was atypically warm at night during our visit, and night had not fallen that long ago. The sand still radiated a heat I could feel on my exposed legs. The bushes, shrubs, and small rocks strewn across the snake pits provided ample hiding spots for any waiting in ambush, and the meager light from our single flashlight offered little comfort. Kat typically led the way through these areas moving gingerly one careful step at a time, checking with the light thoroughly first before proceeding. Luckily the snake pits were usually fairly small and many could be completely avoided without much difficulty. Little did we know at that time that in order to make it to the road we would have to cross nearly a half mile of open desert terrain identical in every way to the “snake pits” we now feared and hiked around whenever possible.
Finally we found a flat rock in the open and sat down. We both threw off our packs quickly and sat down hard. Slowly and carefully I removed both of my boots. They had not come off once since I had laced them up at the campsite that morning and my feet ached badly. Almost immediately both feet seized up with terrible cramps that sent shockwaves of pain shooting up both legs. I cried out and Kat gave me a look that said wtf are you doing “Quiet, we don’t know what’s out here and howling like that gives away our position to anything hunting within miles. On top of that you sound injured making you an even juicier potential target” she hissed. I could understand her concern and knew it was legitimate so immediately hushed up the best I could. The pain was intense but compared to my earlier knee problems it really was minor and slowly the cramps eased and I was able to put my shoes back on. I drank as much of the still warm and horrible tasting treated water as I could manage and shut my eyes. Kat was there then sitting next to me, I think I leaned up against her and then, almost immediately, fell asleep.
It felt as if I had only just closed my eyes when I felt Kat shaking me awake. “Get up Dan, it’s time to go,” she whispered softly close to my ear. Slowly, grudgingly, I opened my eyes and began the slow, painful process of gathering my belongings and preparing to move once again. The very short (15 minutes according to Kat) time I was able to “sleep” had done nothing for my energy level and I felt as tired, or even more so, than before I had drifted off. Kat had already begun moving away and as she turned to wait for me I headed in her direction as quickly as my tired legs could muster. It was approximately 10pm and our water supplies had continued to lessen but at a slower pace than during the heat of the day. The air was still terribly dry, so dry that my eyes crusted shut from time to time and I had to blink repeatedly to force tear generation, however the cooler temperatures made it overall much more comfortable than it had been earlier that day. My temper had also cooled along with the temperature, mostly I think because I was so tired. All I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to trudge along. Unfortunately the landscape was brutal and dangerous. Chasms opened up suddenly without warning in front of us and we were forced to navigate around several very large and steep drop offs. The slot canyon which we had avoided entering was evident to our right always and we feared that it could block our path if we needed to trend more in that general direction to stay on a path for the road. The GPS continued to flash only one bar remaining battery power and was turned on very sparingly. Snake pits grew more and more numerous and it was harder and harder to avoid them completely. Whenever we were forced to move through one my heart rate increased and my nerves frayed just a little bit more. I argued vociferously for more speed, thinking to get through as quickly as possible but Kat pushed back hard and reminded me of the potential danger. She always approached and moved through the snake pits the same way, slowly and deliberately, checking every step thoroughly with the flashlight before proceeding. If I wasn’t so tired I might have gone mad from the tension. As it was all I could think about was our next potential stopping point to rest.
Eventually we came upon what looked to be a decent place to break. It was in a slight valley and thus sheltered from the wind which had been increasing as the night wore on. It was also an area of mostly smooth and flat rock a far distance from any snake infested areas. Animal scat was abundant, but as with before it was impossible to tell from what or how many animals it might have been. We sank down immediately and removed our packs, sitting in silence as we caught our breath and drank deeply of the remaining water. After only a minute or two of sitting quietly I had an eerie feeling, as if we were being watched. It came specifically from above us, to our left and rear. I motioned to Kat silently with my hands to come closer and whispered “I have a bad feeling Kat, something behind us and to the left.” She nodded in agreement and replied, the concern evident in her voice “I’m feeling it too. I think we need to get out of here now.” We stood and gathered our things as quickly and quietly as we could and moved out in haste continuing in the same general direction as before. The feeling of being watched would continue for me until we made the main road which at that time was still many long hours away.
The landscape was changing quickly now, the rocks giving way to desert sand and scrub brush at a rapid pace. Suddenly we found ourselves standing in front of an expanse of desert, a giant, seemingly never ending snake pit that stretched beyond the horizon in every direction but behind us. “We need to cross that to get to the road” was all Kat said. I can’t remember my exact words in reply but “fuck a nut” is probably pretty close and sums up how I felt about it quite nicely. Before us was nothing but scrub brush interspersed here and there with small rock formations and sand. Pockmarking the sand every six to twelve inches were snake holes as far as the eye could see. At night with only a single flashlight, as far as the eye could see, was not very far, however the moon had risen to its peak and there was not a cloud in the sky. It lit the desert floor like a dim sun providing just enough light to give every object a suggestion of it’s reality but not enough to allow for absolute identification of anything. I remember hunching over then and bending down at the knees, resting my arms on my thighs and holding my head in my hands. I was deep in thought, about what now I can’t recall, but I think it was mostly me battling my exhaustion and my fears. We had no choice but to go forward and sitting there thinking about it wasn’t going to get us back to the car any faster. I stood slowly and looked at Kat, “Ok, you ready?” I asked softly. She appeared to be in the midst of some quiet contemplation as well, but she turned and looked back “Let’s move” was all she said then began slowly moving into that snake infested expanse slowly but with purpose. I sucked in a deep breath then followed after a moment, as I tried not to think about what lay below our feet. We were so close I could feel it but I wasn’t sure my exhausted body could make it and my frayed and jangled nerves were hitting their breaking point as well. It was exactly 11:39pm and we had been hiking for approximately 15 hours. The road we were searching for lay a scant 0.3 miles in front of us according to the GPS but it may as well have been 30 given how tired and weak I was feeling. My memories of that desert crossing are hazy. I do recall that we stopped twice and each time I put my head in Kat’s lap and slept for a few moments. The fear of snakes was ever present like a black cloud pressing down from above adding another layer of suffering to what was already a painful physical battle.
I remember Kat calling out “I found it, it’s here, thank God, it’s the road.” and me stumbling up toward her expecting a large cleared expanse.
Instead I saw two barely visible tracks, the spacing and width looked right for a car or truck but the tracks were faint and clearly no one had driven down this “road” in many months. Kat was ecstatic and seemed convinced we were saved, I was not so certain to say the least and let fly with a few choice curses to let Kat know it. She would not be deterred however by my pessimism and bounded off following the tracks in the direction the GPS indicated a main road (the main road) should be.
It was officially now the next day, September 7, 12:24am. It had taken us 45 minutes to cross just 0.3miles and we had been hiking for approximately 16 hours. That pace did not bode well for us making the car before daylight and we would not survive long in the heat of the day given our ever dwindling water supplies. We needed to pick up the pace but we both needed rest badly so after a short time following the very faint tracks, Kat suggested we stop to rest and build a small fire. It would be a rare treat, a celebration of sorts on our finding the road. I had not heard such a great idea in a very long time and quickly voiced my agreement. As she went about gathering the small sticks and brush needed I lay back on the sand for just a moment to gather myself. I had not intended to fall asleep but once again my exhaustion got the better of me and before I knew it I had dozed off. I awoke with a start only a moment or two later to the smell of smoke and the feel of warmth along my feet and legs. I had not felt the heat of a flame since we had been in Utah and it was so very nice at that moment. I simply stared at the flames in a daze and watched them dance and flicker as I drank more of the nasty tasting water. “I need to pee Kat.” I remember saying and then getting up and walking just a few feet behind us to relieve myself. Just as I was zipping up I heard the first howl. It was bone chilling, like something out of a horror movie, a high pitched, long, lonely sounding call.
Not a bark and not a meow either but somehow a hybrid of the two, like a dogs ego with a cat’s id made audible. To me it sounded like death on the wind.
Before I had registered what it could be I heard more howls and rustling and possibly breathing or growling, and fighting. Within seconds it finally hit me, coyotes, and a large pack by the sound of it, between five and ten large animals and what sounded like pups. I turned around quickly and spied Kat not more than a few yards away, her face had drained of blood and fear was etched in her eyes. She only said one word but her tone and body language spoke volumes, “Move” she said. And then we moved, she stomped out the fire as I gathered up our belongings as quickly as I was able. It took maybe a minute but it felt like twenty and I imagined the coyotes moving toward us, running towards us, hunting us. Finally the fire was out and we had all of our things, “Don’t run Dan.” Kat hissed as quietly as she could for me to hear, “Remember that, never run.” It took every bit of self-control I had not to take off at a fast sprint but I was able to calm myself some and instead we both moved off at as fast a walking pace as we could manage. I took a quick stock of my belongings trying desperately to think of what I might use to fend off a coyote attack. My only ‘weapons’ were my small backpacking knife I always carried clipped to my belt when trekking, and my hiking poles. Together they did not amount to much, but the knife at least provided some cold comfort and I pulled it off my belt and unfurled the blade for the first time that trip. Kat had to turn the GPS back on to make sure we continued to follow the road in the right direction; if we erred now or panicked we would surely be lost or dead. Then, just as I thought things were at their lowest ebb the worst news possible
“It’s dead Dan, the GPS is dead.”
“Fuck Kat, God Damn. Holy Shit” and quite a few other choice phrases, I cried out in a panic. “Move, just keep moving, do not stop, for anything, and for God’s sake, shut the fuck up.” Kat implored. I kept moving as she instructed though I did not need her to motivate me in that regard, and tried my best to follow the tracks in the road but I truly feared we were going in the wrong direction. After what felt like only a minute Kat called for us to stop as apparently she had a similar impression. “Stop, I need to take compass reading, get our bearings, I think we might have veered off the road.” The last thing I wanted to do at that moment was stop given the coyote pack I felt was still right on our heels but I had no choice in the matter. If we were to take a wrong track then we were surely done for. I took up what I felt to be a defensible position near her and waited as she worked to use the compass and her navigational skills to assess our current position and determine the right way forward. After what seemed an eternity, but could not have been more than two minutes, she turned to me and said “We have to go back, we have veered off course.” “Jesus Christ Kat, are you fucking kidding me? Back, towards the coyotes?” I asked with obvious fear and trepidation “Are you sure, I mean fucking 100% sure?” I pressed hoping for a change of heart or re-evaluation. She never wavered and replied quickly, “I’m certain. Let’s move, follow me, quickly, but remember don’t run.” Those few hundred yards or so back towards the coyotes were without question the most difficult I have ever had to face. The fear was palpable in both of us and I felt as if any moment tens or hundreds of glowing eyes would appear before, encircle us, and attack. We did not, however, see a single coyote though the sound of them was still obvious and seemed to be coming from everywhere all at once. Noise travels funny in the desert and it was difficult to tell if they were moving further away or getting closer. We however continued to move back in the direction from which we had come, trying desperately to locate the exact spot we had veered off the road. Kat had her compass out as she walked trying to get a bearing on something, anything to give a clue. Finally we spotted it, an obvious fork in the road, we had taken the leftward track which led where we knew not, but the track we wanted to take was also clear and we bounded up onto it, changed direction back away from the pack, and moved as quickly as we could in what we hoped was the right direction this time. After two or three minutes of a very fast walk Kat called for a halt so she could get a good compass reading. Once again I was amazed at her composure, she did not even appear to be sweating or breathing all that heavily as she did her navigating. I, on the other hand was a wreck, covered in sweat, fear heavy upon me like a wet blanket, I still grasped my knife with a death lock grip and my head was on a swivel for any sounds. Fortunately I heard nothing until moments later when Kat spoke “We are good, keep moving, not much further now.” she said, the expectation and excitement evident in her voice. I was much less sanguine about our situation. “Jesus Kat, even once we get to the road, we have no fucking idea how far from there we have left until we make the car. The GPS is dead, without it we have no fucking clue, and those fucking coyotes are still out there, I can feel it. We are not even close to out of the woods yet. Let’s get real here, we are still royally fucked.” This time I think my pessimistic tone and always say die attitude hit home some as Kat visibly sagged. I pressed, “I don’t suppose you managed to check the distances, you know from this so called road to the main road, whatever and wherever the fuck the main road is, and then from the main road to the car?” I paused to let that sink in some then continued, “Because it could be miles, I mean many miles from the main road.” “You might be right” Kat replied after a moment’s reflection. “There are actually two possibilities of where we end up on the main road and I am afraid we might be at the wrong end, in which case we might have another ten miles, possibly more, before we make the car.” That last bit was stated bluntly, with almost no emotion, like she was relaying any other fact of little consequence. “I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you would react badly.” “React badly, are you joking, react badly, for the love of all that is good and pure, why in the fuck does that even matter, how I might react?” I practically screamed through gritted teeth. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to yell but my fear of attracting the coyotes was greater than my anger and I held back some. I was however enraged, furious, as mad as I had been at any time until that point. In retrospect my anger was completely unjustified and I feel terrible about how poorly I behaved for the remainder of our journey together, but at that moment I wanted nothing more than to part ways and make for the car myself. Instead I took off walking/jogging at as rapid a pace as I could muster. Given my current physical state this was not all that fast but my adrenaline was surging and I quickly created quite a large distance of separation between Kat and myself. Eventually my fear of the coyotes and of being alone got the better of me, and I slowed allowing Kat to catch up. My anger was still fierce though and would remain so until we eventually reached the car.
It was not long before we intersected the main road, it was exactly 2am and we had been on our feet for a little over 18 hours. What should have been a joyous occasion caused only more frustration as the reality of how much further we might still have to go sunk in. Kat’s words played over and over in my head. “We might be very close or we might be another seven to ten miles from the car, depending on which side of the road we came out on.” Ten miles, ten fucking miles, if we really still had that far to go I was quite certain I could not make it. The magnitude of it was overwhelming, the seeming impossibility, I was hurting too badly already, too exhausted, too thirsty, no fucking way could I make it another ten miles. I threw my hiking poles to the ground in frustration and anger and stormed off again following the road toward what I hoped was our waiting car. Kat followed after a time, patiently picking up my discarded and greatly weathered hiking poles without a word. She seemed totally unfazed, calm as ever, more so than at any point of our entire long journey together. With the fear from our recent encounter with the coyotes gone I wondered whether that was due to exhaustion, dehydration or a kind of zen that very obviously eluded me. The next mile was easy hiking, or would have been had we not been on our feet for nearly a day. Instead, it felt endless and there were multiple times that I was tempted to stop, even suggesting the same to Kat upon a few occasions. She would remind me of the coyotes or say something to spark my temper, which had still not cooled from her earlier revelation regarding the distance to the car, and I would be off again.
At one point I pulled out my knife, held it out in front of me, and screamed for the coyotes to come and get me, challenging them to a duel of sorts. Were it not so stupid and potentially dangerous it would have been a hilarious site to behold.
Kat gave me plenty of space and rarely pressed me with respect to my many outbursts, even when they may have been detrimental to both of our long term survival chances. I am still not sure if that was smart of her or very, very stupid. In any event het gambit kept me moving and thirty minutes later, we arrived at the trail head we had turned down earlier that morning, and six minutes after that — the car. The relief was overwhelming, overshadowed only by the fact that it would take another three hours to make it out of the park and back to civilization. For the first time that night, we had shelter from the cold and predators, and while not cold, fresh water un-polluted with the taste of iodine and dead algae. My last sharp memory was of opening the trunk and seeing the legs to my zip off pants sitting exactly where I had left them yesterday morning just before setting off. “Son of a bitch,” I mumbled to myself softly before relaxing into the front passenger seat and closing my eyes, “son of a mother fucking bitch.”
Kat would drive another three hours from that point out of the park, only stopping for one fifteen minute nap and once or twice to grab an item that I needed from the back. I would spend the those same three hours dozing, or attempting to, while being repeatedly jerked back to consciousness as we traversed the crater-laden dirt road out of the park. Upon reaching the town of Escalante (at 5:50am), we pulled up to the Prospector’s Inn, a small place that appeared to be slightly past its prime, but at that point we would have taken anything with a bed a and a shower and gladly stopped to check in. The inn’s proprieter was a very kind man and graciously allowed two travelers without a reservation to check-in at 6.30am in the morning after hearing a brief excerpt of our tale from Kat. We would learn from him later that morning that two girls who had set off on an adventure very similar to ours had not been so lucky — nor had a number of other people given the same erroneous information about the Forty-mile Ridge entry point by the National Park office.
Recent internet searches have suggested that no changes have been made in park policy or visitor center information with respect to the 40 mile trailhead entrance point to Coyote Gulch.