“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein
"Life is good...it says so on my ball cap." mej

Header Photo: Bobbie, putting the finishing touches on one of our many backyard 13ers.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ruination or Progress


Nowadays we share Utah's Sickrock Bike/Jeep/ATV/horse/hiking trails; "Multiple Use," you know, everybody gets a slice of the Recreational Land pie. Even the big oil and gas companies get to "recreate," but they are allowed to put up a fence and Keep Out signs. One by one, all our favorite boondocking spots are being "improved" with a big oil bulldozer...flatted into football sized field with a twenty foot wide access road that will forever scar the landscape. 


It was Mountain Biking that put Moab on the tourist map. Sure, Willys Jeeps have been crawling over the slickrock and through sand washes around Moab since the 40's, but it was in search of uranium more than recreation. 

Govie's Multiple Use Policy is one of those double edged swords, it waters down the enjoyment to let everybody bring their toys to the same sandbox. Multiple use sounds good; it has good intentions; what could possibly be wrong with sharing? 

But what started out as a well intended "good idea," modeled on social policy, soon became unmanageable (like the social policy) and turned into a "free ride," only now...it's on a motorized ATV instead of the Welfare Wagon.  Yes, I'm talking about motorized All Terrain Vehicles of every size, shape, and decibel level; They seem to outnumber the peddle pushers these days. Our peaceful boondock was invaded by a half dozen Toy Haulers and trailers that spat out machine after machine after machine...Jeeps, motorcycles, and ATV's. The fire rings were built and lit, the music, the generators; it was a small city. 

Bobbie and I have been coming to Moab's Slickrock since the advent of mountain bikes...before they had cushy suspensions to dampen vibration and keep teeth from chipping against each other. There was room around Moab for everyone in those good ole days...Multiple Use works just fine until a good place get's discovered. Having seen Moab before, and looking at it now, the Golden Era has faded, at least in my book. Oh sure, the wonderful red rocked canyons, sand, and arches are still here—but now, lines of motorized bugs crawl them like ants at a sunday picnic, and drilling rigs dot the landscape like cell towers. 








Most of the time I'm a reasonable guy. I understand people must earn a living and renting Jeeps and ATV's in a small town sure beats a cube in the cit-ahh. So I don't know who the Sam Walton to blame...motorized technology, the Population Bomb...Real Estate developers? Myself? The Toy Hauling wagon train that moved in on our boondock were comprised of all ages, from tot to gramps. A child, he couldn't have been more that five years old, rode a full sized ATV around all by himself. It seemed dangerous...his legs dangled a foot or more from the brake peddle and his hands were too small to reach the hand brake. Don't get me wrong, this was not a purposefully loud and obnoxious group, just extended family and friends out to have some fun on what might be the last warm weekend before winter sets in. I can't say our peace and quiet was "shattered," but it was broken. There was always at least one generator humming, voices, and people moving about setting up the perfect camp...you know, chairs arranged just so around the fire, meat cooking in the smoker, children playing, bursts of laughter. I guess it felt a little too much like an RV park or campground. So Boonie consulted his new "source" for a place where we could regain perfect peace. As it turned out, it was only a couple of miles away and we have only the sound of a light breeze and sunlight hitting the ground.

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A couple of days ago (or was it a week?) Bobbie and I walked Moab's creekside bike path and hiked up the Sand Flats Road to The Slickrock Trail. The next day Boonie Boonster led us on a Mountain Bike ride to Uranium Arch. It didn't glow, but of course it was daylight.
















It took every ounce of restraint I could muster to not ride across the top of Uranium Arch. It was 12 to 14 feet wide and slightly humped down the middle. Better judgment prevailed, tho, and now I'm a little disappointed in myself. It would have made a great photo...one that Bobbie would surely have put on my headstone :)








Below is our new Boondock... "Barren desolations is stretched before me, and yet there is beauty in the scene." John Wesley Powell on Utah's canyon country. 





34 comments:

  1. Yup, those last photos are paradise fer sure. Partly because there isn't anyone out there...well, except folks who appreciate it for what it is :))

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    1. and thanks to you...
      we are still around, if you are too you better come for a visit :)

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  2. Good choice about riding over the arch. At least that headstone isn't needed for today! I need the peace and quiet also... Sometimes it is difficult to find it forsure!!

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    1. It's not only the Peace...it's the Quiet in a different place to gaze upon. Maybe that's where "I need a change of scene" came from. Hang in there, till you get here :)

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  3. Mark, yes indeed the Golden Era of just about everything in the United States is over. My partner & I discovered the San Juans back in 85 and it has been our fall vacation destination every since. This is funny because we never fail to mention the fact that in spending 2 or more weeks hiking the trails in your back yard so to speak we never encounter more than one or two others out on the trails....including yourself & Bobbie! Don't know how we have managed that. (we don't do Mt tops though). We have even keep it a secret from our friends & work associates for fear we will be dooming
    our private time amongst the Aspens. Now that we are 70 we don't mind spilling the beans about Lovely Ouray and the San Juans, our best days are behind us now.

    Your are right about Nirvana. We just say thank God for Switzerland!
    Your blog is the best on net
    Grateful in California


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    1. So you are coming up on your 30th anniversary with the San Juans...more than mine since I arrived here in '76, tho I called it home, and you called it a vacation.
      From your comment, it almost sounds as if we've met??? If so, jog my memory as to time and place. Regardless, I'm thrilled by your BCB attendance, appreciation, and participation :) Here's to the Switzerland of America, Lovely Ouray. Hip hip...

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    2. Mark, we might have come close to meeting Im sure as we use to dip in the hot springs pool when disrobing in public was an option.

      No disrespect here but the Switzerland I was referring too has Alps, with lots of cows grazing and miles & miles of roads with only a handful of cars. We consider it our favorite country outside the U S .

      My partner & I were in Paris in May and dinned at Ralph's, as in your former employer, he now has a restaurant on the Left Bank and is serving up his cattle on a bun there for 32Euros, comes with the fries of course. So we whipped out our pictures of the Double RL
      and explained to all the wait staff there that the most beautiful place in the United States was his ranch. (our feelings run deep for the San Juans)
      Sorry but the Frenchies will be invading your back yard soon Im afraid....maybe they will even won't to buy one of your homes. (that would be a good thing)

      Well my friend stay thirsty, and perhaps we may meet one day.
      Grateful in California

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  4. Howdy Bobbie & Mark,

    AWWWW, GO AHEAD, MARK !!!! That'll make a great headstone pic !!! I bet you can do it without going over the handlebars, like someone beautiful we both know !!! In my condition my boondockin' days are over, except for WallyWorld, Home DePot or Lowes.... Ain't no place to unhitch the wheel-chair...
    Hope y'all don't 'lose' this place too and get to have a HAPPY DAY !!!

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    1. Butterbean,
      If you truly are in a wheelchair there are a few slick rock places where you could roam around here...especially if you have one of those wheelchairs that has knobby tires and is built for outdoors. We'll ride Uranium Arch together!!!

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  5. I know Moab pretty well. As a tour operator based in Norway I brought a bunch of people for a few days of jeep -joy-riding on the slick rock. I was disgusted then when I saw the black skid marks left by all the vehicles on the rock. The noise, the "helluva" fun everybody had - without spending a thought about the environmental impact. Moab is a thriving tourist town. Prices are up and it has gone up at the seams. I love the National Parks around town, the Colorado river, Castle Valley, Dead Horse State Park. I will never bring another group for jeep riding. I guess bicycling is different. But why motorized fun???

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    1. It's sad that the natural "progression" for park-like places is to the eventual "destruction" of some of the reasons we went there in the first place. We were some of the "first place" visitors to Moab and all its surrounding glory. ATV's were small and not as popular back then, so the most we had to contend with is a few Jeeps and Four Wheel Drive vehicles. It wasn't a bother as I remember it because there was plenty of distance between the recreationalists most of the time. Besides, Jeeps are quiet, and they just creep along in low gear...frequently it would be us on mountain bikes passing them!!!

      The advent of modern, super-suspenioned ATV's and motorcycles with high rpm horsepower...ones that can race over rough terrain like it was flat as Kansas... is when the golden era began to fade. Now, instead of a family riding along in a Jeep, everyone has their own machine. Some are slow and polite, but more and more they are becoming adrenalized...there are no plumes of dust from a slow moving Jeep, but get 3, 4, or 5 ATV's flying past you down a dirt trail and the dust will choke the life and fun out of your mountain bike ride. I know some of you have ATVs, and I'm not against the machine as a choice for legitimate recreational endeavors...so long as its operator is courteous on the trails. As for the black marks left on the slickrock, Mother Nature will erase those soon after the next pandemic...
      Bottom line is too many people crowding into one spot to "relax." Recall what happened to the mice in the lab experiment when that happened.

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  6. That makes me so sad. I am new to Moab...this past year was our first time there. We fell in love with the place, the parks, awesome hikes, and yes we have a jeep. We don't boondock, but we do enjoy the great outdoors! Our MH is our only home and we do enjoy the "comforts" that go along with a campground. Being newbies to the area, I have no way to compare it to days gone by. I just know it's beautiful! We did a few Jeep rides...didn't see many bikers...but were always courteous when we did...often stopping to offer water or help if needed. I do hope the group that invaded your quiet space are a group that is few...there are always a few that spoil it for everyone...doesn't matter where you are. Just hope that's the case here!

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    1. Gay and Joe,
      See the above "Reply." and...
      You make an interesting point. For those who have no "long time ago/good ole days" frame of reference, it is hard to imagine that Moab and places like it were ever any different. To them it's glorious and beautiful today...which, if one can get past their preoccupation with how things were, it still is. Like I said, the red rocks and canyons and rivers are still there...the far views...even the peace and quiet, if you know where to look. You do not seem like "Motorheads" to me... A Jeep is quiet, slow, less polluting, makes less dust, and accomodates more people per motor than most ATVs.

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  7. Glad you were able to relocate to a quieter spot. That would be our only reason to boondock...to enjoy the area by ourselves.

    I love the Uranium Arch! Didn't see it when we were there. Next trip!



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    1. It was reassuring to rediscover Peace in the Valley :))

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  8. I understand sharing the land but multiple use trails are scary especially when a walker is overtaken by a noisy ATV. Glad you found a quieter place to enjoy all the gorgeous landscape.

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    1. As a Ranger at the Grand Canyon I'm sure you can sympathize with the "Loving it to death" syndrome...

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  9. It has been far too long since I had my bike at Slickrock. (Remember I was too much of a pussy to actually ride the whole thing) Maybe I am too late. Sigh. Those ATV's seem like a 4 letter word. Multiple Use...sigh again. Glad I am old enough that I got to see it all when it wasn't so popular, and that I'll be dead when the ATV's win.

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    1. I think you could still manage Slick Rock Trail...but it would be prudent to add elbow and knee pads to your helmet. And be prepared to push your bike a little more than last time :))

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  10. Your chair looks perfectly situated! No matter how alone you think you are, there's always someone else just around the darn corner!

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  11. So, Have you read about the Boy Scout Leaders who toppled a balanced rock in a Utah State Park..Then posted it on U-Tube?..They need to stay home with their video games and stay the Quack out of the places we love.
    David

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    1. What an example...shame on that group.

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  12. The joy about rving, if you don't like your neighbors we can move, perfect way to live. Enjoy the quiet!

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    1. But we shouldn't have to run away, Geo, should we? What happened to courtesy?

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  13. I'm torn... anyone that knows me knows I value solitude and quiet far country more than most. But more and more lands are closed off, to everyone by a govie that owns NONE of it. All on the excuse that thye are protecting it, preserving it because of complaint. Preserving it... for who? Have you ever seen govie OPEN up or release anything? Once THEY have it locked up?

    No. They simply gather in ever more of EVERYTHING prying whatever it is out of the person's hand holding it. Using anyone's complaint as their lever.

    The answer is not in eliminating or even engaging a miserably malicious govt in modifying multiple use policy. Engage govt in anything and you will end up, ALL will end up, with less than was started with.

    The answer is, withing the community of the people, excluding Government, to work out an amenable way of getting along in the far country. I'd even submit, a deliberate ignoring, in a grass roots wave of civil disobedience, of govies prohibitions of utilizing the lands that the Boss put here for us all.

    Oil companies, timber companies, mining companies can drill, cut and dig up thousands and thousands of acres as they choose... but we can't walk, ride our bikes, run our atv's or back road the two tracks in our subarus ... because we are "Damaging" the disney world? Yeah... and 1.5 degrees is catastrophic warming...

    I'm gonna go pee on a U.S. Gov't no tresspassing sign.

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    1. We discussed one of your points...that Govie is itching for reasons to close lands to public use. As boondocking rv'ers, we need to get organized a little bit and have our side of the story told. It is not us, in general, who are destroying the land as much as it is the "Weekenders" who drag out their ATV toys and swoop in mass to playgrounds. Monday thru friday, for the most part, it's more civilized around here.

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  14. Mark,
    When I was in Moab earlier this year, I was amazed to find a Zip Line on the upper part of the Slickrock loop. Also amazed that part of it was clearly marked private land. Susan and I purposely pick trails to hike where only hiking is recommended. Biking is a different story since you have to share with others. I strongly disagree with BLM's policy "Land of Many Uses". In reality, BLM is "Land of Exploitation". I think the BLM folks need more folks to support the lands and to eliminate some of their current policies. The cattle are completely destroying beautiful areas. That being said, I still like a good steak.
    -Maikel

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    1. Maikel,
      just got back from the opposite of slick rock trail...Lava Rock does not rock...snapped my derailer clean in two and had to push the 29'er home :((
      We are getting "picky" too...and finding peace in "off brand" places...if we are too rigid and don't adjust we'll break, just like my derailer. Cattle, they have denuded some places in Arizona...but like you...I like a steak once in a while. :)

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    2. Well, like Cactus Ed said, if you don't like cows, don't eat them.

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  15. Susan here. What happened to the lab rats? Inquiring minds want to know.

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    1. They ate each other...not enough room and fresh air will drive any living thing crazy. But you already knew that :))

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  16. Mark. Have you checked out Klondike Bluffs with the dino tracks on the trail? Many years ago I did an epic ride on the Porcupine Rim trail. The views are beautiful and you can ride above the Castle Valley with views of the Colorado river. Have fun! Hans

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    1. Hans,
      We have hiked about everywhere there is to hike in Arches from within the park. Now we are attacking it from the outside in. I don't remember dino tracks, but could have walked right over them, you know, looking for the "big picture." But, there were dino tracks a quarter mile from our last boondocks...the Grand Central ATV Station

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