I had been thinking of a Coyote Flats trip for awhile and finally decided on the weekend after Labor Day as the time for the trip. Knowing that the trip would be rougher than some of the other trails I’ve run, I decided that it would be nice to have the extra capabilities of a GX 460 for the trail.

I had really enjoyed the Forester. However, with my girlfriend getting more into overlanding trips, but struggling to learn manual (really, just lacking in motivation), I decided to get the GX. I’ve always had my eye on them and, truth be told, the Forester purchase had come down to a decision between the GX and the Forester. And thus, a few weeks before the trip, I picked up a pearl white GX 460 with a light tan interior and seatbelts that appeared to have been smeared with make up. Not stereotyping at all.

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As SoCal is actually pretty far from Coyote Flats, we drove up Friday night to Bishop to stage for a Saturday departure. Meeting us in Bishop was our friend Derek, who was coming from NorCal. Derek doesn’t have his own overlanding vehicle yet; he’s in the rental phase. Originally, he was planning to rent whichever crossover was on special from Hertz, but after multiple threats of abandonment should the rental fail, he ended up getting possibly the most underpowered vehicle in Toyota’s modern fleet: a 4 cylinder 4x4 Tacoma. We affectionately called it the 4x4x4 for the rest of the trip.

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After a hearty breakfast in Bishop (Bishop has some nice restaurants), we headed quickly to the trailhead as we were unsure what the trail would bring. After a few miles in a sandy section, Coyote Flats Trail started to rapidly gain elevation. The underpowered Tacoma was placed into low range, due to necessity, followed soon by the GX, for novelty. After years with the Forester, low range felt like cheating.

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The rapid climb up had more rocks than any trail I had previously been on. The Tacoma turned out to be a good choice. As we were adapting to conditions, pictures were unfortunately scant. The steep climb seemed almost endless, but after almost two hours (we were taking it easy), the trail finally leveled out and instead started to become more overgrown. Creek crossings were soon added to the trail menu and the temperature, which was rather hot in Bishop, became downright comfortable.

Illustration for article titled Breaking in the GX 460 at Coyote Flats, Day 1
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We were driving in alpine valleys. With the partially cloudy ski casting shadows on the side of the mountain we felt so very far away from hot, dusty California. Quite a change from the desert fare that normally formed our trips.

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Shortly thereafter, the trail leveled out and the terrain around us became, well, flat. We were at Coyote Flats. And it was gorgeous.

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Here is the intersection with Coyote Creek Trail. We decided to turn left onto Coyote Creek Trail instead of continuing down Coyote Flats Trail. If we had continued down Coyote Flats Trail, we would have ended up at a series of lakes with fishing, but we had another destination in mind.

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More creek crossings. The water level was quite low, but just being able to go over water was a very nice change of pace.

Illustration for article titled Breaking in the GX 460 at Coyote Flats, Day 1
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There are plenty of side trails off the main trail. As we were seemingly running slightly ahead of schedule, we decided to check out one such route. It led to an alpine meadow that probably contains water at certain points in time. It would be a great place to camp and in fact had someone already there.

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Back on the trail and, yes, it’s still gorgeous. It was early September and hot as hell down in the valley, but up here the mountains still had snow.

Illustration for article titled Breaking in the GX 460 at Coyote Flats, Day 1
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Despite the higher difficulty rating in the route book, Coyote Creek Trail was turning out to be a bit easier than Coyote Flats Trail. Good time was made through the flat plateau. The grasslands scenery was very enjoyable, there seemed to be plenty of deer, and a wooden bridge over a creek really put the exclamation point on the fact that, although we’re actually only 20 miles from civilization, it was a completely different world.

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Shortly after crossing over the bridge, the trail started to become rockier. This grove of trees would have made a suitable camping spot, but we had other plans and pressed on.

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Throughout our trip, we kept bumping into three ladies traveling in two side-by-sides. We were almost at our destination for the night and traveling through a rather rocky section when we saw them for the third time. They were much faster than us and were searching for a way off the mountain that wasn’t through Coyote Flats Trail. Unfortunately, we were unaware of such a way, but wished them luck.

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Shortly down the hill from where we met the ladies a third time was our destination for the night. A rather creepy looking cabin in the woods.

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There was a nice babbling brook behind the cabin. The sound of flowing water would stay with us all night and was a great sound to fall asleep to.

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The cabin was actually pretty well equipped and wouldn’t have been a bad place to spend the night.

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However, our plan was to spend the night in our tents, one swag tent and one awning tent.

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In the past two years, I had been acquiring more and more overlanding gear. Enough now that I can set up a full camp kitchen. Marinated kalbi and mushrooms tasted absolutely delicious. Also on the menu was curry rice, ramen, yakisoba, chili, beer, and sparkling wine. A bit Asian focused, but a veritable feast. Pro tip: cold sparkling wine after a day on the trails is absolutely amazing.

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Unfortunately, we forgot the can opener. Improvisation was required.

For us, chili is generally the last part of the meal. It’s a good way to put some carbs into the stomach and induce a nice food coma. Also, with the elevation being about 10,000 feet, the night was cold. After witnessing quite a few meteors, we decided to turn in rather early.

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