The text came in at 5:11 AM… “Good morning, you awake?”. I reply…”I am now. Lol”. Another text comes in… “Lol. Wanna sunrise?”. I reply… “Sure come on up. I will shower and have coffee”. And so begins Zoey’s Epic Adventure.
SuzAnn and I had spoken the night before about getting out and going for a hike on Saturday. But when we last talked, we had planned on noonish as it would have warmed up by then. Well, SuzAnn is a morning person, and one has to be ready on the spur of the moment… ‘cause… well just because that is the way she rolls… Just sayin’.
Nevertheless, I was ready when she arrived at my apartment at about 6 AM. In she came with Zoey, our sweet little Beagle mix ball of love and joy. She, having never been to my apartment, went from spot to spot getting acquainted with all the smells of me she could find while I finished my coffee and quickly packed my daypack for a morning hike.
Our plan was to head out to the Antelope Island State Park on the Great Salt Lake to catch the sunrise and then add an easy hike to begin to condition our out of shape winter muscles for the coming hiking season.
Antelope Island is a wild place. It is almost 29,000 acres, with a high point of Frary Peak at 6,596’. Has an abundant wildlife population that includes one of the largest free roaming herds of Bison in the U.S., pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes and many, many other species.
We made the causeway to the island just as the sun was rising. The color of the rise was not spectacular, but in such a serene location even an ordinary daybreak takes your breath away. We played innocently along the causeway photographing and enjoyed the tall stands of cattails that line portions of the shoreline.
When done playing in the reeds of cattails, we decided to go up to Buffalo Point for our relatively easy hike to the top and a wonderful vantage point for the surrounding Great Salt Lake. Life was good and the lighting had a magical feel to it. It was moody with plenty of clouds… Just what a landscape photographer likes to find… You know… that elusive Mystic Light! Ha, ha… just had to throw that in.
We made our way slowly across the relatively level top of Buffalo Point as I worked the landscape features and tried to compose interesting shots. All the while, Zoey, loving every minute of it, would jump up on the top of one rock and then the next, tail wagging and smiling at me with her tongue hanging out as if saying… This is so much fun!… I am loving this Dad!
After making our way to the end of the point, we turned and headed back. SuzAnn was keeping Zoey on a short leash as there were more hikers now heading up to the point. Near the end of the trail, almost within sight of the parking lot, the trail steepens over some rocks. Here SuzAnn let go of the leash as Zoey had been pulling her and she did not want to lose her footing.
As always when free of the leash, Zoey was off up ahead on the trail just out of sight. Within minutes we were back at the parking lot, but where was Zoey? Not to be seen. We inquired with some of the people at the parking lot and eventually spoke to a young man who said he had seen her chasing an antelope at the base of Buffalo Point. But still we could not see her.
So we decided to go down to a lower trail that follows the base of the hill and hike a ways back calling for her but to no avail she could not be found. As can be imagined now approaching at least an hour since we last saw her, we were getting pretty worried.
We went back up to the parking lot at the top and searched and asked some more, but no. We searched the campground on the other side of the point and asked everyone we passed, but no. Everywhere we went she could not be found. Upset and not sure what to do we began to make our way towards the exit off the island. Then we spotted a park ranger, and SuzAnn notified him that Zoey had been lost and provided all the details. The ranger said he would go up with his binoculars and scout around and would call if he located her.
We had planned only for a trip to the island for a few hours and did not have any food to speak of with us, so we exited the island and went into the nearest town for lunch. With full bellies, we decided to go back out and give the area another once over.
By the time we returned, everyone we spoke to had already heard that Zoey was missing (presumably from the ranger), at least 4 rangers were posted at various locations on the point with binoculars and radios, multiple sightings from all sides and the top of the point had come in from people… So we continued the search. Hiking again to the top of the mountain and the lower trail again… Calling till our voices began to get hoarse… But no.
Then about an hour before sunset, back up at the top parking lot, SuzAnn is screaming that she had spotted her running full bore down towards the bottom of the hill. Back into the car, full speed to the lower lot… Jumping out screaming and calling for her… But no. Still no Zoey. We could not understand why she would not come, she had to be hearing us right? Around and around we went in circles until the sun set and then… It was dark.
We can’t search for her in the dark… Contemplated spending the night there trying to sleep in the car. But in the end, left the island saddened and worried about Zoey’s wellbeing. After all, this is a really big wild and remote place with packs of coyotes and such. And trying to second guess a dog’s logic in that situation was futile.
SuzAnn and I parted ways with her dropping me back at my apartment after some tears and hugs and more tears. I followed up with a text to her stating that if she wanted to go back out to the island the following day, I would be happy to help.
After a night wrestling with the thought that she was gone for good, we had done all we could, tired and sore from more miles of hiking than we had planned… 7:00 AM comes the following morning… I am in a half slumber land trying to sleep… I am awoken by the sound of a key in my door… It opens and in comes Zoey and SuzAnn!
She had decided that I had been put through enough the previous day, and went out to the island before sunrise to find Zoey waiting in the pouring rain, hail and wind at the parking lot at the top of the hill on Buffalo Point, near the last place that she had seen us.
Oh my goodness! What a relief! Zoey was worn looking, her little paws sore from the ordeal, probably dehydrated from the lack of potable natural water on the island… But she was ok. Hopefully we, as well as she, has learned a valuable lesson. The type of adventure I hope to never have to experience again! We hope to have many more years of great hikes and positive adventures with Zoey!