Friday, March 3, 2017

North Coyote Buttes Stinks Like Coyote Butts

I made sure to set an early alarm so I wouldn't be late for the N. Coyote Buttes permit lottery.  I was less than a football field away from the BLM office, but I wasn't taking any risks.  What if there was an earthquake over night and I needed to build a makeshift bridge to span a 20' crack separating 7-11 from the BLM?  I'd need time for that.

For all those wondering since last post, here's what my campground looked like:

My truck and trailer look so tiny off in the lower right.

First things first, I headed over to 7-11 for some coffee and to brush my teeth.  Also to make sure a giant fissure hadn't opened up just east of the gas pumps.  One hadn't, thankfully.  Caffeinated and brushed, I headed over to the BLM office.  I was relieved to see only a handful of people in the lobby when I arrived at 8:30 (the earliest one can enter the lottery).  Today might just be my day.

Oh!  I just realized I never explained permitting for the NCB.  There are two ways (both lotteries) to get a permit, and neither is really a gimme.

  • Option 1: Apply for a permit online four months in advance.  Meaning, if you want a May permit, you'd have to apply in January.  You'll find out at the end of January if you were picked.

  • Option 2: Apply for a permit in person the day before.  Meaning, if you want a permit for May 1st, show up at the BLM office on April 30th.  You'll find out by 9:05am if you got it.
Due to the size of NCB (it's tiny), only 20 permits are granted per day (10 online/10 in person).  This means getting a permit at peak times can be a real pain in the butt (like... say... August 1st).  If you want to get in, apply during a slow month, like January.  When it's cold and no one is on vacation.  You'll have the place to yourself.  It'll be great.

Anyway, since I had a half hour to kill until the lottery started, I wandered around the building to do some geological learning from the displays set up along the walls.  I'll tell you about Utah's rocks later, the important thing to note for now is that every time I finished reading a plaque about navajo sandstone vs. entrada sandstone, I'd turn back and see more people standing by the main desk.  My odds were going down.  By the time we got into the special lottery room at 9am, my odds were looking real bad:

More important than the Day of Reaping.  I'd take Prim's permit.

You can see 35 people in the room.  There are other people not in the room.  In fact, there are some people in this room that are representatives of entire families of six or more.  Who's your favorite person in that picture?  Is it the woman up close cleaning her fingernails?  How about the guy in short shorts and a down jacket?  What about the hipster guy in the back row in all black with no socks?  Wait... I know who it is.  It's Jeff Bridges, the BLM Ranger that does this every day and has no sympathy for anyone that doesn't win.

Jeff started the lottery by giving the low down:
  1. If you win the lottery and accept your permit, you cannot get another permit this month.  Even if you end up not being able to go, thereby wasting your opportunity, you must wait a month for eligibility.
  2. Permits cannot be transferred to another day.
  3. The road down to the trailhead is rough terrain.  Make sure your car can handle it.
  4. It's going to rain today, and when it rains, it can take out the road.  In that case, you'll have to loop around and get to it from the south, adding miles.  If it's a really bad storm, all roads may be washed out.  See items #1 and #2.
  5. People have died on this hike.  Take it seriously, dress appropriately, and bring proper supplies.  The desert is a crazy place and it can go from hot to cold or from dry to drowning in moments.
  6. There are only 10 permits in this lottery.  If 5 have already been granted, and you have a party of 6, your options are either to decline (letting you retain your eligibility for the month) or kick someone from your group.
  7. That guy in the back wearing the Phillies hat looks really cool.  I hope he wins.
First lottery drawing... not me.  Party of two.  Ok.  Eight permits left.  Next drawing... not me.  Another party of 2.  Ok, still six left.  Next drawing... party of six.  The family with small children that drove up in a rental Camry?  Are you kidding me???

And that was that.  I was not selected.  It was frustrating.  That family of six was probably going to stay for less than an hour and then leave because of uncomfortable children.  Ok.  That's not fair.  I was in the middle of a multi-month road trip, and that family probably doesn't get very many opportunities to do fun things like hike the buttes, what with work and school and financial obligations.  If anything, this could be the highlight of their entire year.  Ok.  They can have it.  I was done being a baby.  Well, almost.  My last move of babydom was to call Quentin and tell him all about the lottery, as I knew he'd get a kick out of it.

Leaving the lottery room, I swung by the front desk to talk to the other ranger about some Kanab day-trip advice as well as camping ideas.  For my day, he showed me how to get to the trailhead of Buckskin Gulch.  He also suggested entering from Wire Pass, which dropped you into the slotty portion instantly.  And for the night, he suggested Coral Pink Sand Dunes National Park.  There was a bunch of BLM (free) camping up there and it wasn't too far from the office if I wanted to come back the next day to try the lottery again.

By the time I walked out of the office, I didn't feel quite so bad about not being selected.  Sure, I wanted to see The Wave, but as far as Plan B's go, Buckskin Gulch and National Park adjacent BLM camping wasn't so bad.  Actually, my Plan B was better than most people's Plan A's.  Is that why I wasn't picked?  The Lottery only helps those who can't help themselves?  Oh man, that is some desert mysticism if I've ever seen it.

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