Meet Coco

Meet Coco

On our homeward route of a cross-country road trip last fall, Joel and I spent two nights in Hildale, Utah, a tiny town selected for its cheap Airbnbs and relative proximity to Zion National Park.

As we drove to our rental, most of the houses we passed looked half-finished, their MDF exteriors and lack of siding, stucco, and paint signaling either a need for quick construction or some bizarre dearth of building supplies in the early 2000s. It seemed a bit weird, but, then again, isn’t everything in the desert somewhat strange?

Our Airbnb host was out of town for the evening, so her father, who lived about a mile away, met us at the property to give us our key. Gerry (a fake nickname I decided to give him just now thanks to a slight resemblance to Geronimo) had tanned leathery skin, a short grey-black ponytail, and a kind, welcoming smile. As he walked us from the driveway to the little guest cottage behind his daughter’s house, Gerry struck up what I can only assume is normal smalltalk in Hildale, starting the conversation with, “Do you know who Warren Jeffs is?”

I watched enough E True Hollywood Story-esque shows in college to know about -- and be sufficiently disturbed by -- Jeffs. But neither of us had any idea of the connection to Hildale, Utah, our home away from home for the next two nights.

Turns out, this speck of a town was a long-standing stronghold of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, and the home of Warren Jeffs (and his 79 wives). The FLDS owned the land and most of the houses in Hildale for nearly a century, paying property taxes on behalf of the homes’ residents. So when Jeffs and his fellow church leaders were caught and convicted, hundreds of homes were seized and auctioned off by Utah state officials. The property was cheap and the scenery was beautiful, so Gerry and his wife moved to town. Shortly after, his daughter and her family, ready to leave the grind of Washington, DC, followed suit.

Despite its sordid history and really off-putting decor (dark green carpet that extended from the floor up to a chair rail on the walls…), the Hildale Airbnb is one we think of fondly from our cross-country adventure. The weirdness of it all makes us laugh. Gerry had picked us fresh tomatoes from his garden, perhaps as a “Sorry, I know this place is odd, but we’re nice and not going to murder you” kind of gesture. And it’s where we met Coco, a friendly little donkey who would later become the Sightsee mascot.

Our cottage was situated at the foothills of Canaan Mountain; its stunning views of red rock cliffs and big open sky almost made us forget that someone’s sister wives probably lived in the Airbnb just a few years earlier. In addition to the picturesque scenery, our hosts had an adorable menagerie of animals in the big backyard, including two dogs, two cats, several baby goats, ducks, chickens, and a sweet gray donkey named Coco. Our dogs, a 9.5-pound yorkie named Jude and a 60-pound mutt named Margot, were in heaven running around with the family’s pups and greeting the farm animals through a small wire fence.

coco the burro and margo and pigmy goat

We felt immediately connected to Coco the donkey, her endearing eyes and floppy big ears exuding a natural joie de vivre we couldn’t ignore. We’d pet her nose and feed her hay, and she tolerated (and maybe even welcomed) the constant sniffs from Margot. We saw incredible wildlife and mind-blowing natural scenery during our hikes in Zion, yet Coco is just as much a memorable part of those two days as our experience in the nearby national park.

coco the burro canyon

As time has passed since our road trip, Coco and our Utah experience have become this perfect physical representation of our travel philosophy and the grander mission fueling Sightsee. That little donkey -- our mascot, our logo, our spirit animal -- embodies going with the flow, staying open to new experiences, and finding beauty, joy, and humor in even the strangest places.

Back to blog
1 of 3