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We always look for a nice level grassy area, slightly higher than the surrounding terrain - one that is secluded, shady and remote, with mountains in the background and a small trout stream nearby, filled with hungry trout - we're still looking.
During the 1970's and early 1980's our family was able to obtain permission from the property owners to set up our tipi in old East Canyon on the banks of East Canyon Creek about 20 miles east of Salt lake City, Utah - only a few short minutes away from what is now the 2002 Winter Olympics Ski Jump Arena near the Utah Olympic Park.
Our favorite spot was a grassy meadow embraced on three sides by East Canyon Creek with a beaver dam in the center of the watery perimeter. To the east, across the creek, and to the west beyond the remains of the old stone house, sagebrush hills lifted themselves to the mountain peaks. Draws and ravines were clothed in pine and quaking aspen on the north slopes with scrub oak, chaparral and mountain mahogany dominating the southern slopes.
Heavy stands of timber crowded into some of the ravines and groves of aspen added color to the scene on crisp autumn days. High hollows and saddles were filled with carpets of mountain grass and flowers. The canyon provided habitat for elk, deer, beaver, badger, porcupine, coyote, rabbit, grouse, and squirrel (and occasionally a bear or cougar). The vegetation was lush, by western standards, and wild game abounded.
The willow-lined stream and a narrow dirt road wound their way along the bottom of East Canyon valley from Parleys Canyon on the south to East Canyon Reservoir about 12 miles away to the north.
On four different occasions we left our lodge standing all winter. We always left firewood, sleeping bags, food and cooking equipment and supplies in the tipi so we could drop everything and go on a winter camp out, at a moment's notice. These were choice moments in our life. We never tired of seeing the tipi, illuminated by a fire within, standing in a meadow of snow on a moonlit night with mountains rising to the stars on all sides.
One bitter cold night late in January we hiked in to our tipi for an "overnighter". When we arrived, we could tell that someone had been there. There were footprints in the snow and the door was not tied down in our traditional manner. We were apprehensive as we untied the door, entered and lit the lantern. It was obvious that someone had spent some time in the tipi. The firewood was depleted, some of the food was gone and one of the sleeping bags was not in its usual place but nothing else was disturbed. Then we discovered a scrap of brown paper folded and placed under the corner of the food box. On it were written in charcoal these words, "'Thank you! Thank You! You saved my life!"
Even now, as we recall the experience, we feel a warm glow within us, and a kinship to that anonymous person who shared the hospitality of our lodge.
To our disappointment, urban sprawl has consumed this pristine canyon. The grassy meadow where we once enjoyed is now a highly manicured golf course, the hillsides are scarred with roads leading to secluded homes and the wild game that was once abundant has been replaced by the noise of the highway, barking dogs and joggers dressed in the florescent outfits.
© 2001 - Frank Reese - All Rights Reserved.