A dog ran off with my backpack, column and all

George Brown
By George Brown

I’m writing to you this week from scenic Sedona, Arizona. I brought my laptop, and with the wonders of the internet I anticipated no problems submitting my column to the paper by the usual deadline. But, as luck would have it, I came very close to having to report to the editor that I would not have a column this week because a dog ate it – and not just any dog mind you, but a wily coyote.

Over the course of several days I had been making handwritten notes describing the beauty and wonders of the Sedona area, including such sites as Oak Creek Canyon, Verde Valley Scenic Railway, and even a day trip to the Grand Canyon. These notes were safely tucked in my backpack to be transcribed to my laptop and emailed to the paper, comfortably meeting the editor’s deadline, or so I thought.

The column you are reading is a substitute. Rather than try to reconstruct my notes from memory (which is never easy to do), I decided to share the story of how it came to be that a coyote stole my backpack and, I can only presume, ate my column.

Last Saturday, I decided to enjoy a midday hike just outside Sedona. Cockscomb Trail is located in a scenic valley surrounded by majestic red rock mountains. I chose this particular trail for the isolation, as most hikers prefer the more rigorous mountain trails that offer the reward of spectacular views.

It was about 1 p.m. when I parked at the trailhead and embarked on my solo hike, anticipating I would cover 5-6 miles over the next 2-3 hours, including several of the spur trails that intersect Cockscomb. With two bottles of water and a couple of granola bars stowed in my backpack (along with the notes for my column), I felt well prepared for the journey, despite the near 100 degree temperature.

I paced myself, stopping for a drink of water and snack break after the first hour. While resting I even took time to record a few notes about Cockscomb Trail for my column. I continued my journey for about another hour when, quite unexpectedly, I felt lightheaded and a sense of fatigue came over my entire body. I’ve read about the risks of hyperthermia, which can lead to heat stroke and even death, so I sat down in the shade of a tree by a nearly dried up creek and retrieved the second bottle of water and the remaining granola bar from my backpack.

After resting for several minutes, enjoying the granola bar and sipping the water, I felt refreshed and was ready to continue the last leg of the hike; but, as I reached for my backpack, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a gray image coming through the brush on the opposite side of the creek. The creature that emerged was, without doubt, the largest coyote I have ever seen. My heart leaped into my throat and Yvonne’s parting words flashed through my mind, “Please, George, hike on a trail where there will be other hikers close by.” But here I was, alone with a coyote.

I sat motionless as the coyote sniffed the ground and eyed me from the opposite side of the creek. I didn’t know whether to shout in an attempt to scare him away or remain silent and slowly climb the tree I was resting against. I chose the latter, which proved to be the right move because I had no more than ascended a few feet into the tree when the coyote, as though on cue, loped across the stream. With surprising boldness – this apparently not being his first such encounter with a lone hiker – the coyote approached the tree, sniffed my empty water bottle, looked up at me (I swear he had a grin on his face), and without so much as a soft growl grabbed my backpack in his mouth and headed down the trail in the direction from whence I had come just a few minutes before.

At this point I’d forgotten all about feeling faint or tired. Climbing down from the tree, I picked up the empty water bottle and, somewhat in disgust, audibly said to myself, “Dang it, I’ve lost another backpack.”

Well, that is the story of how a coyote ran off with my backpack, and, as I said, presumably, ate my column. I know I shouldn’t say it, but I hope it made him sick.

But this is not the end of the story for, as I stood there gazing at the small stream of water trickling its way through the rocks in the creek bed, I experienced a most unusual phenomenon. Whether it was only a dream or one of those mystical energy vortex experiences known to occur around Sedona I do not know; but I suspect the latter because it was near dark by the time I revived from the experience and found myself mysteriously (or so it seemed) transported to the parking lot and seated in the car with no recollection of having walked the remainder of the trail to get there. Unfortunately, space is limited so I will have to save this part of the story for next week’s column.

George Brown is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Yvonne, live in Jackson Township.