THE MANDOG COYOTE STORY
Updated: Mar 28, 2021
There are stories I believe and then there are stories I lift my eyebrows at and wonder what, if any, of it was true. There’s nothing worse than to hear a story, find out it was false and then have to roll your eyes at being so gullible to believe such a thing.
For the readers of this site, you’ll know that I tend to stick with the facts and would rather spend my time fixated on words that will most accurately depict a scene than I would punching up events to make a story more convincing. From the mundane, I draw out details, drum up suspense from tiny moments and paint for the reader an accurate representation of what it was like to be there. In short, it is accuracy I am hoping to transmit with my tales.
Absolutely, there have been moments when I was uncertain, uneducated or simply unaware of the situation, but I strive to keep myself as close to the truth as possible and never lean on assumptions. Especially when it comes to wildlife.
Our minds are logically constructed to be used like tools, but if we were to take its programming for granted and become over zealous in our understanding of the world, we might go so far as to think, that other beings on this planet also think, in the same manner as us. This is a huge misstep on our part. When we assume in this way, there can only be untold consequences for driving the narrative in a wrong direction. We assume that if an animal lashes out, it is aggressive or we are under attack and therefore to protect ourselves, we put forth regulations, limitations and often times, eliminate that animal before it becomes any more of a threat.
I strive to promote the usage of responsible language when dealing with wildlife as its impacts can be quite costly. But what if, for that above example, we look to see if perhaps the animal was defending itself, its home or its young? Perhaps its warnings or cues were misread, possibly ignored or interpreted to mean something entirely different, like a cute dolphin blowing a bubble ring, when it is in fact signaling it would like to be left alone. We almost always use the word attack when a human was harmed by an animal no matter the circumstances. When the warning signs were ignored or the absolute worst has happened, the story usually becomes inflated to appear grander than it was and invariably the animal becomes the culprit.
I would like to say outright, that within this story, I was not attacked nor harmed. I had knowingly put myself into an environment that hosts dangerous, predator-type animals that think and behave as outward pressures dictate. It is also, not to begin without saying, that this particular story does contain a myriad of twists and turns that, in part, seem to defy what is plausible, possibly venturing into what could be considered fantasy. I will do my best not to assume, and when intentions are being inferred, make it known I am doing so. While I identify and display the iconography of a coyote-man hybrid, I am not full-blooded and can only discern facts as such. Jokes aside, please notate the difference between what is fact and what is believed to be true. Now that this public service notice has been posted, please enjoy!
Before I went up to Sedona and tackled all that it had to offer, I wanted to get a better feel for the updated and altered components of the truck. Sedona is considered one of the mecca’s for off-roaders, namely due to its scenery, but also for its varying degree of difficulty on all its trails. High clearance, 4x4 vehicles often take excursions out to this site where drivers of all levels can take part in the fun. While it has its challenges, it also has its spectators. Sedona sees a grand total of three million tourists come its way each year, and that says a lot when you consider all of Yellowstone, a national park expanding into four states and 180 times bigger in landmass has roughly four million people pass through its gates in a year. I was genuinely concerned about taking on the technical challenges of Sedona’s 4x4 trails while dealing with the pressure of its gawking audience members. So, I took it upon myself to test things out a little more privately in a local OHV area that has similar trails and plenty of optioned-off challenges that I could attempt to grind my wheels on.
ENTER BULLDOG CANYON
Bulldog Canyon is a 34,000 acre gated OHV area that is accessed only by permit holders. It traverses parts of the Sonoran desert, winding itself twenty miles through the Superstition mountains and out towards Saguaro Lake. It hosts a bevy of varying terrains, including boulder-filled river washes, steep, rocky climbs, sand pits, slick rocks and high step shelves. Quite frankly, you could make it as hard or as easy as you wanted. It did offer primitive camping, but once past the gated entrances, it was hard pressed to find another vehicle out there. Occasionally, a pair of motorists would come bouncing along, either in a side-by-side vehicle or upon a dirt bike.
Bella and I took to the trails with ease and were grinning ear to ear as we set out to find more challenges. I primarily wanted to push the boundaries on bouldering, as that was what had gotten me into trouble while off-roading in Montana. I narrowly dodged a high-centered moment, where the center of the vehicle becomes perched on a high rock, leaving both the front and rear axles off the ground and no power is able to be delivered from either end.
Bouldering requires very technical line picking and it also means walking the steps you’ll take first and then while traversing it, communicating with a spotter who’s still outside the vehicle. I wanted to develop these skills further so while in Sedona we could progress along the trails more fluidly and doing so under the inevitable queue of other motorists and gawkers. Becoming comfortable with the terminology and seeing similar lines, allows the driver and spotter to be working in unison.
I had packed for us a lunch, and even still, it comes to me as a surprise that I have this consistently, adventure-ready vehicle loaded with supplies, nourishment, refrigeration, habitation and recovery, without really much thought going into it.
We sat eating our lunch atop a rock that was within a boulder-filled, river wash section that had given us some trouble. I had to get turned around, retracing our steps over the same obstacles a second time. As the warm sun clocked its way overhead, we were enjoying all that this place had to offer. It had already been a success on many parts, as ironically, with the few people that we had passed, one of which was actually stranded and in need of help. They had a low battery and could not get the engine to crank. They had a battery regulator, but it did not provide enough amperage to start the vehicle. By the looks of the threesome standing around, seemingly enjoying the day, it looked like a father was just taking a break with his wife and child. As I drove past, I had given them the thumbs up in a questioningly manner, and when he started walking over, I stopped and dropped my window to inquire fully.
They were, in fact, in need of help and so answering affirmatively that I had a set of jumpers cables, I pulled my engine bay up next to his. After a few attempted cranks, his motor came to life and they were relieved to see their machine back running. Most of all, I think, was the young child, who, with his blue-haired mohawk came around the truck to thank me. I said with a rad haircut like that, he hadn't any need to worry.
While Bulldog is a heavily trafficked and easy to obtain permit system, it gets very remote and desolate the further out you go. I asked the man if he traveled out here often, and he said every weekend and told me how things progressed in difficulty as you head out towards the lake (Saguaro). I had planned to go in that direction, but jump off at the last juncture to take the southern exit out of the OHV area limits.
As we were driving out, we passed by a most awesome campsite. The cliffs lifted and circled on both sides and it had a large, dried-up creek bed running opposite, along the bumpy, rock-filled road. The pull-off had a large mound behind it and through the rolling, desert scrub-filled hills were a series of high-tension towers. I stopped alongside this site and looked it over, quite intently. After some seconds, I looked over at Bella and asked with a devilish grin, “Wanna stay the night?” We thought for a second at this half-way, said-jokingly idea, but fell for the promise of doing something totally unexpected and within the vein of spontaneity and adventure.
As mentioned, we had nourishment, water on board and I even had a few extra thermal layers to dress in as the night time lows began to settle in. The truck was a rolling adventure machine and only needed its occupants to hop in and push start.
As we unveiled our plan, determining if all our camping components had been considered, enthusiasm and intrigue began to swell between us. We pulled in to the camp spot and leveled off the rear with some stacked rocks. I ensured our hatch would be both out of the winds and also facing into the direction of the morning sun.
We set off on a little mini-hike, exploring the area on foot. It was hard-pressed to be in the vehicle all day and not able to get out and hike amongst this wonderful scenery. And so, we got our feet moving, exploring this well-spring of fantasy and lore.
TV Show on History Channel
If you are not familiar with the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, they hold many myths and received their name from a curse put onto them by the Pima or O'odham native persons of the 12th century.
Since the 16th century, beginning with Coronado, explorers, settlers, prospectors, ranchers and even still today, travelers and truth seekers have been pouring into the area in search of what makes this area so brutally famous.
Most notably is the story of the Lost Dutchman who, on his deathbed, made a series of coded maps detailing where his bounty of mined gold had either been stashed or discovered. It was estimated to have been in the sum of two hundred million dollars for gold rates at that time and many seekers of this treasure have fallen prey to its notoriety.
Apache Indians, who also occupied the area, said the Dutchman's mine was actually a hole in the earth that led all the way down to hell and from it, the dangerous wind storms, referred to as Haboobs, originate. Almost every year, a handful of hikers disappear, likely due to exposure, but the oddity comes in where their scattered remains are found. Body parts become disfigured, skulls have gaping holes in them and it seems anyone who dares approach this miner's fortune, finds themselves a gruesome end.
Despite six centuries of harrowing tales of death and the obvious warning sign within the Superstitions name, it's not enough to keep people away. In 1984 a mining ban was put in place in hopes of preventing any future deaths, but supposedly there is still a few, death-inclined prospectors living free from the grasp of authorities intent on defying the odds and getting their hands on that gold.
Beyond the abundance of folklore, the area is teeming with wildlife. The high cliffs are rife with mountain lions preying upon the bounty of bighorn sheep, antelope, mule deer, white tail and javelina roaming about. Debatably, even black bear might still exist here, but it is without any dispute unless you are deaf, dumb and blind that these 250 square miles contain many, many roaming packs of coyotes.
Coyotes have always been an urban setting type animal. People find it hard to believe that one could be running through Central Park in a densely developed New York City, but when you understand the history of the coyote, its not far fetched to see why almost everyone has a coyote story of their own. While they exist on the fringes, they do enter into the civilized parts of town to take advantage of the small animals that are associated with modern life. Vermin, pets and just about anything else they can get their crafty little canine teeth onto are up for grabs. And when civilization begins to expand outward into those hills they call home, the pushback becomes all too real.
Coyotes have adapted flawlessly to the pressures, however. When their relatives, the giant wolves, were set up for extinction, they began diverting off from the pack to source fruits and smaller prey. This became a literal deviation of the wolf’s evolutionary pathway, and by these scavenging loners becoming smaller in size, and less pack dependent, a new species was born, Canis latrans.
When the wolf-like canine was targeted by American trappers and settlers, pitted for intended extermination for their accused attack on livestock, their numbers rebounded back into the millions. Even with the explosive population of humans and cities, coyotes have existed side by side with us modern folks seamlessly for all of our years. It’s truly a story of triumph, and thankfully so as the birth-rite of this great nation, came to us from tales of Old Man Coyote, the attributed creator of this land. It would be a hard-pressed shame if he was not here to see his own nation come to form. The folklore on coyotes dates back as far as the Aztecs, with his name: Huehuecóyotl appearing in ancient codex some 2000 years before Spanish colonization took place. That said, I sure did get a lesson in just how cunning and masterful they, as a specie and legend-maker, are.
We had finished up hiking around the area, checking out all the neat plant life and followed the high tensions back towards where we thought the truck was. With the waning light, the scrubby hills began to all look the same. We had the high cliffs and setting sun as navigational tools to guide us and could always just retrace our steps and put ourselves back onto the main road versus continuing on in an angled, reduced-distance fashion, but the reality of how easily one could get lost in these hills caught on with a permanent and memorable shock.
Bella had said the desert was a dangerous place at night. Not just for the abundance of animals that come out, but mainly because of how the low-light and confusing terrain can easily steer one in a wrong direction. I was a solid believer of it now, but thankfully we had the high tensions to guide us and use as distance markers. We avoided one wrongful direction, re-routed ourselves and had popped back into familiar territory, walking ourselves along the road back towards the campsite. We were cheerful and still excited for what else the nights adventure may bring.
One of my favorite things to do while we hike is share the lessons and learnings of my travels thus far, either from practice or by reading some educational account of things. One subject in particular that I like coming back to, are the myths and legends of coyotes. While they’re some of my favorite, I can’t say I’ve had too many close encounters with them other than hearing the shrill sounds of their yips and cries at night, a lone stalker going along a moonlit beach in North Carolina, bolting out across the road while in New Mexico or the one that went hopping through my apartment complex in southern Florida. Of course, I’ve seen plenty flattened out along the sides of highways, which accounts for about 60-70% of their deaths, but that neither paints nor tells an accurate picture of what they are like in their most elevated and alive state.
The interesting part about coyotes, is how different they appear across the US, considering they’re in 49 of the 50 states (they haven’t swam to Hawaii, yet). In the east, they seem quite ragged and thin, dark and often dreary in appearance. While out west, they seem fuller by means of a seemingly more plentiful cache of food and their coats appear thick and wintery with shaded hues of rust, gray and tan. However, it is within the minds of these crafty sons of guns, that unites them across all states. That is, their sharp and tactile use of wit, deception, teamwork and stealth.
The coyote has adapted itself in a unique fashion from the wolf in that it can forage independently and does not depend entirely on the group to kill or take down large meals for its sustenance. They do, however, retain this skillset by using it when available and also preserving it in their arsenal for future generations by teaching it to their young. I’m sure the taste of marrow from freshly slain bones is a worthwhile enough incentive to keep this evolutionary trait around.
The coyote is not an entirely dependent pack animal, but the majority of them do still exhibit social tendencies and remain anchored to a group. The neat part about it, though, is while wolves have many different facial expressions to display their social quirks and cues, the coyotes have become less reliant on this and are still able to maintain their group hierarchies and order within.
All of this goes to paint a very fantastical story about survival and persistence during periods of upheaval, but the thing I marvel most about them is their cunning ability to lure animals out into vulnerable and intentionally dangerous positions. Coyotes will mimic sounds of an animal that might be injured, conjuring out other predators. They will cry as if they were an infant to drum up instincts from a confused mother and if that doesn’t work, the old adage sex sells isn’t lost on a coyote. They employ females in heat to attract the sexually inclined. All of which are met with the same, unsuspecting ambush from the others that are waiting in the wings, sure to get in on the game.
They’ve been known to run relays with dogs that are giving chase. To tire them out, they swap in other fresh coyotes to keep the dog going, draining them of every ounce of energy, and fight, for the soon to be, gruesome fate. They’ve not only secured meals, but also secured bloodlines by tricking dogs into mating with them, creating whole series of viable, off-breed hybrids.
The calls at night are often attendance records for how many coyotes are in the area. From this information they can determine how much food is available and how much space is needed to feed all the hungry mouths. Should the numbers in this nightly roll call dip too low, they can alter their litter sizes, going from a normal litter of 4 to 7 to upwards of a dozen coyotes! I could go on, but the point of this matter is, that when I get to talking, this is the kind of stuff that comes out, and it will come into play later.
The stars shown with great brilliance and from all corners, they twinkled and glistened like an active, captive audience.
We get back to camp, swapped out some of our clothes for the warm leggings, thermal tops and hats I had tucked away and nibbled on a few snacks. We filled up our waters and like most days spent out on the trail, were quite tired by the time the sun has met its western landing. We crawled into the shell, but continued to laugh and tell jokes, entertaining ourselves with the sheer lunacy of our own two minds. You’d think you would need cards to play, a movie to watch or something to entertain oneself, but its quite easy when you’re A) tired from a day’s adventure and can B) reminisce about the day’s good fun. It puts us right to sleep usually. However, this night was a little different. We had been listening to music and having a bit too much fun in the novelty of our unexpected camping trip to feel tired enough for sleep.
After some hours of laying there, I decided we ought to hop out the shell and venture up the little mound behind us to gaze upon the stars that had stretched themselves out between the big, mountainous peaks. It was dark and the awkward moon still had not risen. We stumbled up the mound, using what observations we had collected that day about the terrain. I knew that between the shrubs there was dirt safe enough to put one’s hands on, and there weren’t any little prickly things in between to worry about either. The rocks all had good holds, but the brush was quite thorny and sure to be avoided. The tall Saguaro cacti stood tall and even their, fallen, melted-over brethren could be seen and avoided easily. I try to use only natural illumination as its a dead give away to our location to use flashlights and also disrupts our night vision.
We found a nice rock with a scooped seat for both of us to sit atop. We whispered quietly, but hardly at all, just to be sure we’d not miss anything moving about. It was also all we could do but to be quiet when dealing with the awesomeness of a splendor this great and magnificent. The huge, faded cliffs that were only hours ago glowing with vibrant red hues were somehow appearing and disappearing, their prominent edges becoming lost to the sky. The stars shown with great brilliance and from all corners, they twinkled and glistened like an active, captive audience. The night air was still warm, as the day had brought about temperatures in the eighties. We sat huddled, linked together on that rock, merging our two bodies into one. We whispered little musings about this and that, but for the most part sat in utter silence, drinking in the desert delights.
It was from this silence that things took off in a very abrupt and quite possibly inter-connected progression of events that, to this day, leave us scratching our heads.
To begin, one might also be reminded to the folklore of the Owls. It’s been said that, “Owls are not what they seem,” meaning they are conduits for something else. Perhaps recorders for extraterrestrials or perhaps portals for spirits to look back in on things. Either way, its an amusing thought to have, and especially fun one to wrap our minds around when nestled in the dark and we hear or see one.
Out of the dark, silent night an owl was suddenly heard hoo-hooing in close proximity. Bella swung her head to me and now she with the devilish grin asks, “You know what they say about owls, right?” I had remembered her telling this to me once before on another trip, but I couldn’t recall verbatim what she was referencing. Either way, I was tickled by the sounds of it and didn’t answer, waiting for her response. “They’re signs of aliens,” she says and I laugh quietly as I feel myself shrinking into the dirt beneath a pleasant blanket of intrigue and fear.
Just as we were taking in that little thought, a great and majestic shooting star streaks overhead going from one corner of the sky to the other. We both drop our jaws and utter, a “wowwwwww” in unison. We had been sitting there maybe a half hour, who knows, but neither a sound nor a spectacle as great as this had occurred. Suddenly, as if one right after the other, they were both in our minds. I leapt to my feet, shaken by the occurrence and said, “Let’s take a look at the plants in the dark.” Its another one of my favorite activities as plants, especially wild, exotic desert-looking plants, tend to look other-worldly when viewed without any direct light on them. We stopped at a bush just behind us and I leaned down to give it a closer inspection. I believe it was a desert sage of some sorts and I delicately reached in to where I could see a single flower petal hanging on in the dark confines of its twisted base. I pulled my hand back carefully and realized the petal had kissed my finger and left upon it a bit of its sweet nectar. I smelt my fingers and instantly it revitalized my senses, giving me a whole new keen sense of awareness. I push it under Bella’s nose for her to smell and she too, was impressed by its pungent, fragrant aroma. In a matter of a minutes, we had gone from seated and docile, drifting in and out of a near dream-like slumber to upright and alert.
The sequence now reads: An owl sounds out and we relay the surrounding myths, a shooting star goes overhead encouraging us to get to our feet and immediately after I reach my hand into a plant and pull it back am met with an aroma that fully aroused our senses. Take from these facts what you will, but with the coming moments, its hard to omit anything as being unrelated or uneventful with what was creeping over the ridge towards our seemingly docile, star-filled sanctuary.
As we had finished smelling the plants aroma, a call rang out from the opposing ridge. Down across the road, over the dried-up creek bed and along the hill came a strange noise. Sort of like a hurt animal. It cried like a dog would that had gotten a thorn in its paw, or perhaps as a large crow-like bird would, calling out in the night to ward off any unseen predators. Either way, it was sharp, unexpected and we were unsure of its significance. We stood frozen, startled and listening for it again. In direct succession with the sounds coming from the distant hill that had our attention, a large animal had moved in over the ridge towards us and was stepping dangerously close. Our two positions now locked into a battle of who will advance, stand their ground or retreat. A low, growling chuff was snorted into the air and the animal continued to snap branches as it moved closer still. My thoughts, along with my stomach felt the plummet of a thousand foot drop as I realized the big, brambling animal was not stumbling into us unsuspectingly, but was actually moving at us intentionally.
The way it chuffed, sniffed the air and dark body moved heavily through the brush, I thought it was a bear. I don’t know why, I knew I was in the low, hot desert and they were quite rare, if not non-existent on this side of the mountains, but I think all of that time spent up in Grizz country this past fall had me spooked good. Experiencing a bear attack also sounds about like the worst sort of thing that could happen to you while out in the woods, and so without any further action, I braced my body and mind, attempting to ready myself for the anticipated mauling.
Whatever it was, it hadn’t turned on the aggression yet and was still checking us out. Its feet glided closer, now positioned beside a bush with a clear line of sight on us. Its ears pulled back and head low to the ground, we had the entirety of its focus.
While it daringly moved into the front position, its other counterparts came into view, closing down on us as well. I considered our path taken up to this spot, and all things inside me said to flee. As they inched closer, I realized they had blocked our path and I had also by now convinced myself it probably wasn’t a bear or a mountain lion.
In all my moments of evaluating the species and non-action, Bella had seen enough and did not want it to go on any further. She’s says to me, “Get loud.” And so I did immediately. I roared back like an angry gorilla throwing my arms up in the air and puffing myself out to look bigger. My actions said I would potentially cause some harm, but inside I was stricken with a heavy dose of fear. Despite the panic and dread coursing through my veins, I remained large and kept Bella close behind. I too had had enough and when I shouted at the one closest to us, it jumped back causing the entire group to shift positions. I could see their silhouettes hunched over as they continued to stalk and move about the bushes.
While deciding what to do, another startling and distracting call from the opposing ridge rang out again and rather than give them a second chance at putting together another plan of attack, I suggested we get down the hill now. We inched our way over to the spot we had come up, unsure if they were re-grouping or retreating now that we were the ones making the motions. I said to Bella, “You look ahead, I can’t take my eyes off them.” Her hand in mine, she squeezed me tightly as she quickly guided us down through the maze of cacti and back onto the flats of our camping spot.
Hoping for not another ambush, since the calls were coming from this side of the road, we quickly jumped into the shell of the truck and sat reeling with heavy breaths. Our hearts were racing and we stared at each other with absolute images of fear painted onto our faces. It’s taken us weeks to piece together the events, remembering little details about how intricate and methodical their exact movements were.
I’ve stumbled upon wildlife a’plenty. I’ve stepped beside alligators, come face to face with a mountain lion, dodged snakes and watched handfuls of grizzlies charge out into open meadows, but always these experiences were either unexpected and nothing happened or it was from afar and the animals hardly even noticed I was there. Never, have I felt the focus and been the intention of an animal like that before.
We imagine, as we had been sitting, star gazing and drinking in the universe, the coyotes, with their impeccable night vision, had sat up from afar and noticed a disturbance within the desert shrub. They figured we were meaty enough to take a shot at, and so down the slopes they came moving into positions with a well-practiced plan in place. They split off the decoy and had coordinated the timing for when to make the call just as the others had silently inched their way in, closing off all exits. They had us right where they would have wanted their prey, but ultimately I don’t think they knew what we were and were taking a quite literal, shot in the dark. When they determined we were more of a threat than they had bargained for, they backed off. My sole question has remained focused on what would have happened, if we had remained seated on that rock unaware of their presence and all choices were left to the advancing, undetected predators.
I have never seen a warning sign nor heard of anything being remotely hazardous with coyotes attacking humans, ever. Try and set foot in any setting that has bears, bees, snakes, cougars, alligators, falling rocks, hazardous holes or even too much sun and they’ll be warning you from the moment you get there until you’re a whole state clear of it. Never, have I seen a sign, heard a story or read of coyotes preying upon humans. It’s in this apparent lack of evidence, that I base my beliefs in they simply don’t do it.
We did our best to evaluate the situation, and well, we think that by sitting there so motionless and quiet, we appeared as something unknown. We were sizable enough to be seen from a distance, like a deer bedding down for the night and so the group came over to investigate. In doing so, they ran a play right out of the coyote handbook and moved in to see what’s what. As they chuffed, which is a known sign of animal investigation, they continued to advance until, I’m assuming, the band leader of this pack decided it was not worth their effort and they scampered back up the hill to allow us our exit.
It was intoxicating to think of how many steps ahead they were than us. We sat in the truck for hours, shuddering. Too timid to even look back at the hill where it had all taken place. I usually get out to urinate during the night and I was too petrified to even poke my head out the window. After a bit of thought and discussion, I decided I would go out there, with the bear spray and get into the vehicle and shut the door behind me to fill up our water bottle. I would go to the bathroom with her keeping watch after I had gathered up the truck goods. While I was inside the truck, I couldn’t find the water bottle, bumped the car door on my bum while moving around and nearly gave myself a heart attack, returning nearly empty handed short of a dr pepper and a quickly snagged single orange.
Awhile later, the sensations still had not subsided. If we peaked into the hills, we saw red, glowing eyes and now I was stuck between how much of this did we make up and how much of it actually happened. When I heard the same, imitated call come forth from a little further down the valley, I was sure of what I heard. They were moving along, looking for game and this was their tactic. They seen us from afar, moved down and took a chance, knowing their agility could get them out of a sticky situation if we became enraged and charged after them. Or, they’d be drooling over a pile of meat right now if things had gone their way. None of which seemed too far fetched, but I had to reel things back into reality for what took place. I don’t think they were out hunting humans, but I also think its unlikely that humans ever climb up this hill and sit for extended periods of time during the wee hours of the night. Also, we were on their home turf and they could run these hills like Tom Brady could lead a fourth quarter offensive drive to the end zone. They were masters of their craft and play calling was the cornerstone of their success.
It felt amazing and riveting to have been dead set within the snares of one of their own traps. Ironic to think of how many of these we have shot, poisoned and snared ourselves and this is what it felt like to be on the other side. To be hunted is an experience like none other. I am glad, I nor them got hurt and would uphold the tactics put forth by websites like the following if we were to ever experience this again.
Be large, be loud and don’t turn your back. Bella, without my knowing had actually picked up a sizable rock and was ready to get to head smashing while I was still pondering over what kind of animal it was. It’s why I know she’s a keeper. She is a vigilant outdoorsman and has had a few run-ins with bears herself back home in Massachusetts. Still, having never been in a situation like this before, her directions for me to get loud and preparing herself for defense were razor sharp and spot-on.
To return to the series of events, I should also mention another component, with regards to Bella’s instincts. It was just after we had smelt that flower and I was about to wander off and investigate another plant that she had said something outright perplexing. She said, “I feel as if something were to poke me, I’d explode into a million pieces.” Yeah, I know. Crazy, right? So I walk over to her and look at her questioningly, trying to read her face in the dark, asking "What do you mean, a branch of some sorts?" With a confused look to her own words she said, “I don't know. I just feel that if anything touches me, I’ll explode.” It sounded like sheer lunacy in the moment, but her body was describing something completely different. I sort of chuckled at it, not knowing what it meant or how to interpret what she was saying. She laughed at it herself, but it was an awkward laugh, like a nervous tick of some sorts. I didn’t know at the time, but she has a nervous laugh that comes out when she’s made to feel uncomfortable. Like now, while she was possibly sensing the impending danger.
This was all seconds before the animals had surrounded us and started to climb down the hill, making their advances on us. She was literally sensing and calling attention to their presence without even knowing they were there. After they had made themselves known, she was in a blurred state of time slowing down hearing all the ramblings I’d been saying about coyotes throwing out deceptive tricks and luring prey into their traps. My words were echoing through this dream-like hallway that we couldn’t escape from. I have to marvel at her ability to sense things on a deeper level as it goes well beyond the mentality of, “how to react in a given situation.” To know there was a danger looming, without actually seeing it, was ninja-like on her part and I don’t think these potentially inexperienced yotes knew that they were dealing with... Bella and the Beast!!
Now, if I might return back to the procession of events. There were those series of happenstances that lead up to the actual moment when the coyotes had exposed themselves. Owls hoo-hooing and then shooting stars. Plants putting off fragrances. Were we being observed by other entities as well, and they too, saw the impending danger? It took timing and coordination for the coyotes to move in and set up that trap. Could these entities have the ability to fire off a meteor that would stir us awake and prepare ourselves for the fight that was headed our way? Did that plant know I was going to stick my hand into it, and then give me a sweet zap of alertness from its sap, also furthering along our readiness? Or was perhaps Old Man Coyote coming to us in an artful display of mischief and trickery revealing to us his talents? Was he positioning us inside this experiment or sorts to see if our wits and union could stand up to the tests of nature? All of these things continue to hang in the air as being probable for dismissal on grounds of nonsensical, unrelated and containing those all-too-assuming parts to the story that we simply don’t have factual answers for... But one thing is for certain, I cannot deny their presence nor impact they had on how things transpired.
In the morning, we decided we would walk the grounds where it all happened. Because, I didn’t want to leave this place timid or afraid. There was more at stake here than we realized and we would not want to turn in our adventure boots simply because nature had became real in that moment. We would, however, strengthen our plan of action and become more ready in the situation if we ever were to encounter something like that again. We discussed how we handled things well and what we could have done better. I always walk the grounds before I camp for the night to gain awareness of our surroundings and really strive to never arrive at a site after dark for this reason.
We also worked in unison backing down the hill, keeping one set of eyes forward and one to our rear. I am now aware of the effects of how getting large and getting loud can steer off a lot of potential dangers, but also we supported and encouraged the notion that we were not in the wrong for sitting out and enjoying the stars. That’s a part of what brings us to these places and we don’t want to lose site of that simply because we are afraid of what's lurking in the dark. I do want to ensure we take the proper steps to avoid becoming a statistic and because of our misfortune prevent other campers from enjoying these same spoils or worse, to cause blowback upon the animal and we all become lost to the bureaucratic dance.
As we climbed back up to the hill, the signs of our nights adrenaline-filled encounter were all over the place. I had practically stood atop a pile of coyote scat as I sniffed the plant matter and all around were signs of their presence. Nibbled on cacti and their seedy, berry-filled droppings littered the ground. We walked up to the upper portion of the mound where they moved in on us and as we looked back, we felt those similar pangs of dread once again. We had been completely cornered. They had the exact position they wanted with us, and with the only escape blocked, had everything working to their advantage for taking down an animal as a group. In the bushes that we had first seen them, the soil was turned up as their paws had been digging into the dirt, coiling up their muscles for a lunge downhill. Fresh footprints were in the exact places we’d seen them and also up along the ridge where they had retreated to. The notions of this being a fantasy, dream-time concoction were quickly fading and the facts were becoming set into stone. The reality was, that we were caught within one of the most cunning and intelligent land species’ traps and maneuvered through it in such a way that we had ourselves a once in a lifetime story that cannot be replicated.
We would like to add that we feel no ill will towards coyotes and would never imagine ourselves having to hurt one as a result of it getting to close. They respected our warnings and did not try to advance after the fact. It was just cool to see and feel what it felt like as prey from the masters of the desert. We have the utmost respect for them and would encourage people to take in more education and information before ever regarding them as a threat. There are precautions and actions one can take to avoid any incident. However, let it be known, the tricksters of the night are still at large!
Sincerely, Bella & The Beast
Bulldog Canyon (Supposed site of the Lost Dutchman's fortune)