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Friday, October 24, 2014

A Million Freaking Mormons, Part II: The Apocalypse

I guess I misunderstood. Might as well get used to it because it's happening more and more the older I get. Bobbie says I don't listen. I'm beginning to think that maybe she's right, but that's another blog post.

You see, I thought the UAE holiday was a "Monday" holiday. So I assumed that if we hiked the Bell/Little Wild Horse slot canyon loop on Friday we'd beat the Exodus of Mormon Pilgrams from greater Salt Lake to the punch. But you know what happens when one assumes, it usually makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me." Turns out the holiday fell on Thursday and friday. Ops… my bad.

We got a late start. Newbie Suzanne was five minutes tardy for muster. "We got a lot of highway, people. Let's move it." Suzanne took the pressure off Jim, who is usually the Reluctant Riser Supreme Grand Poo Baa of our group. I don't know how he ever made it to work on time... must have a night shift job.

It would take a little over an hour and a half to get to the trailhead, but it was a beautiful sunrise and the red cliffs were all aglow. My first clue that something was amiss was a massive jumble of RVs jammed up against the San Rafel Swell. God, it looked like a train wreck. 

We got the last spot in the official parking lot, and bailed out to don packs. "Crap! Looks like we aren't going to have this hike all to ourselves," I said…a little too loud. A cute little blond girl, already covered in red dust from head to toe, stared at me like I was the intruder. Her scrunched up expression said, "First come, first served, butt-wad." She had a flock of siblings running amuck—all about a year apart, all blond headed, a typical Mormon family. There was a line at the outhouse and a tell-tale haze of dust hanging over the trail. Damn.

Being troop leader on this outing, I made the call to go up Bell and come down Little Wild Horse. The latter is the narrowest and more classic of the two canyons, so... I "ass/u/me (d)" that most of the current visitors would go there and would be gone by the time we came around to it. Later I learned of a consensus among our group that, more or less, I got it bass-acward. There were whispers of, "Mutiny on the Bountiful Land."  What can I say, those who lead are easy targets (sigh).

In my defense, I did get it half right. Except for a mother/daughter duo, we had Bell Canyon all to ourselves. It was positively wonderful. But then we caught up with the duo, stuck at a rather large "choke-stone" impasse. They were about to give up and turn around, but, kind hearted soul that I am, I offered my knee as a stepping stone and told them, "Peace of cake, come on." Well, it wasn't a piece of cake for "mom." I had to push with both hand on her ass in order to keep her from falling back on top of me. Finally she keeled forward and rolled (flailed) her way to safety, then promptly stood up and dusted my two gigantic handprints off her backside. 

Her rather "hot" daughter, having just witnessed this "assault," told me she wouldn't need any help beyond using my knee as a "step." You win some; you lose some :(.  I did get manage to get my hands on Jim's butt, tho… everyone else played coy. 

Note: Photos of Bell's slot canyon are on the previous post. Today's photos are from Little Wild Horse. For more photos of this and other great hikes, see Jim and Gayle's Life's Little Adventures and Suzanne's Take To The Highway.

The mother/daughter "duo" scampered up canyon so fast we never saw them again, which left our group to enjoy Bell's wonders all by ourselves. I can't really say it was much quieter, tho. Some among us do like to chat it up :)

Everyone talked and acted like they were impressed with Bell, so I blurted out, "You ain't seen nothin' yet." Bobbie reminded me of how that always backfires. Backfire? I knew what was coming and there was no way it could backfire. Bell is nothing compared to Little Wild Horse. As you can see below, LWH is quite impressive. 

It happened so fast… not long after we dropped into upper Little Wild Horse. Suddenly we were stalled in a massive traffic jam. I asked some pimple-faced teenager if church had just let out. It was like attending a single file parade or a Bronco stadium exit in the fourth quarter of a lopsided game. I felt like a salmon in a chute, only going the wrong direction... swimming against a wake of smelly children chased by wild eyed parents, hollering, "get down/come back here/wait up/don't go up there/wheres your sister?/have you seen Brigham?/have you seen your mother?/get down/stand up… and so on, and so on, and so on.

The mass of humanity was relentless. We actually stopped to let an oncoming solid line of people squeeze past in a narrow spot, only to have a solid line of angry people build up behind us. Look, I've been in New York City on Black Friday, for crying out loud, and this was worse…ten times worse. At least in NYC I expected to be one in a million, but here? way out in the middle of nowhere? with little old Hanksville being the closest town? and Salt Lake City being four hours away? Never! I had the sinking feeling of letting our group down, especially after building this hike up.

Below Suzanne runs for her life…not easy to do in a slot canyon   

But she took it in stride, good sport that she is

Imagine a single file hallway between classes at a major university. That's what we were up against…children climbing the walls and coming out from under rocks (which, by the way, is where my parents told me I came from when I finally asked "the question").

Finally we got to a wide spot, and took a collective deep breath of fresh air.

Then we were plunged back into another slot…so smooth, as if hand sanded, which isn't that far off the mark, really.

Forget the errant falling rocks and choke-stones, the biggest danger was from someone's kid falling on us…there was no way out but to go under them.

My advice to anyone going anywhere or doing anything in the Lovely State of Utah is to, first, bring your own beer, and second, check the official state calendar for surprise holidays that can spoil your solitude. Never do anything on a weekend; Tuesday through thursday is your best bet.

Being primarily made up of Mormons, Utah is definitely a family oriented state. I have no problems with that, nor religious prejudice against most denominations... except for the one's who encourage their "flock" to "be fruitful and multiply," or view contraception practices as a sin. I realize it's "Biblical" and all, but so was sacrificing virgins and first borns, and we don't do that anymore. Any one group having a shit-load of kids while everyone else is having 2 or 1 or none messes with demographics and population trends. Pretty soon you are a minority stranger in your own country. I guess if we go back far enough, we are all "immigrants." 

I don't understand religious rules against contraception or the logic behind having 7 to 11 children. My dad grew up on a farm in Ohio, one of nine children. At least back then there was a reason for having a large family. It was kinda like creating your own labor force so you didn't have to do everything yourself. 

But today? I mean, how much love do you need, people? What's wrong with stopping at one or two kids? Are you sure you have enough love in you to adequately smother each and every one of your 7 to 11 children? Can you afford to feed, clothe, and educate them? For God's sake, how will you remember the names or birthdays of (what's 7 to 11 times 7 to 11?) Lord… upwards of a gross of grandchildren? 

When I was a senior in High School, Paul Ehrlich warned of imminent mass starvation and social upheaval in his book, The Population Bomb. Tho wildly premature in time frame, he still stood by his premise in 2009, saying, "perhaps the most serious flaw in "The Bomb" was that it was much too optimistic about the future." Sounds like he has a chip on his shoulder :0. He knows that eventually he will be proved right, and I can't say I disagree; it's only a matter of time. 

In his well researched book, The Apocolyptic Planet, Craig Childs suggests the earth is at best nearing the tipping point of un-sustainability, if not already beyond it. The new wealth in Asia is creating a mass market for cars and disposable igadgets that further pollute and poison our planet, if not by exhaust, then by raping and pillaging for the raw materials to create them, sustain them, and satisfy an ever increasing demand for them. 

What's the solution? I don't know. But certainly a place to start would be to adapt religious expectations to current reality. To preach moderation in all things, including procreation. It is immorally reckless, selfish, and self-serving to ignore the coming apocalypse… and that we may be the last generations able to change the destiny of those who come after we are gone. 

Seeing a remote, little known natural wonder overrun with people was a wakeup call. Alarms were going off in my head... a lady's voice screamed, "Fire, Fire, Fire." I imagine that someday finding a secret lonely boondock will become impossible. It'll be just another crowded RV park, only without hookups.

Peace out,
mark and bobbie  


  1. Well THIS is a FABULOUS post. I just laughed until I nearly fell off the chair at the title. Then my eyes popped out at the pictures. Then I felt really sorry for all of you having this magnificent place ruined by the swarming hoards. But I stood up and cheered for your ending. Ehrlich was right, you are right, it's irresponsible, selfish and greedy to have such large families. Similarly it is unfair to give "family discounts" for anything. If you breed em' then you pay for em' one head at a time. We are all going to pay soon enough. We are over the tipping point. GREAT POST!

  2. We experienced the same thing in Zion last May. Though it was Memorial Day weekend, I was asking "where did all these d&#n people come from?" It was our fourth time there that time of year, but had never experienced such mayhem. Many were climbing Angel's Landing with infants in backpacks, and three year olds running around like mice.

  3. If the giant family of climbers descended upon Little Wildhorse, then the families of ATVers all came to Moab! I felt that same sense of invasion when my quiet solitary campsite on Wednesday night was surrounded by popups and 5th wheels with kids crying, doors slamming, radios blaring, etc. Even the BLM areas were overflowing with people and machinery! Thank goodness I finally found a quiet reprieve about 60 miles away to hide for the weekend. But yes, I'll look up the UEA calendar for any future visits to Utah! I'm hoping to hike LWH on Monday (and hoping the cold front expected to move in that day keeps the canyon "free and clear"!).

  4. Yes, Jim tricked me. I just knew he was going to be late, so I hit the snooze button one too many times. But I am not sure even a dawn departure would have avoided that mob! Your pictures are so beautiful. They have so much depth. And really cool shots of the kids overhead, even though we did want to spear them with our hiking poles. ;-)

  5. Wonderful post. Your usual fantastic photos. And absolutely agree with you about the large families. Amazing how some people have blinders, too. I once had a "friend" who had a problem teenager. She wanted to send her to stay with us for a few weeks. She said, "after all, I have six kids, and you only have two. " My totally tactless answer was that we know how that happened, and that my husband and I made the decision to stop with two. That was my last conversation with her. I agree with Sherry re discounts. Halloween's approach reminds me of another gripe. The people who take their ten kids out to collect treats in other neighborhoods and see nothing unfair about the practice. What was once a fun occasion is no more. I could go on, but you don't need convincing. Life on this planet is doomed, I think.

  6. 44 years ago, at age 23 , I had my tubes tied after giving birth to number two. I read the book. We joined ZPG. the biggest problem with the movement was that most people agreeing with the idea of limiting procreation were intellegent. the stupid continue to breed.

  7. You got some great shots of the kids overhead. I think we were in a state of shock and didn't even think about taking pictures at that point. In spite of the crowds it was a fantastic hike, and really the people only spoiled a small part of the fun we had. Plus it made for a thought provoking blog post about overpopulation. I agree with you!

  8. There's nothing that will taint a good hike more than lots of people, make them mostly children and it turns into a march in hell. "Adapt religious expectations to current reality" is a novel idea. Religions in general seem to survive on upholding ancient standards over everything else....sticking their heads in the sand. We will definitely take the UEA calendar into consideration the next time we are in UT.

  9. You will need to check the UAE calendar for the specific area you're visiting. Apparently different school districts have gone to different weekends. The advice for venturing out on Tuesdays through Thursdays is unfortunately becoming very good advice. Loved the pictures, especially of the children bridging the canyon.

  10. I don't think you need to fear that "Pretty soon you are a minority stranger in your own country" due to the Mormon birth rate.

    In advanced societies, 'replacement fertility' is said to be 2.1 -- to replace the mother and father, and a 0.1 'surplus' to account for retardation, death in childhood, and other factors. The Mormon fertility rate is much higher than the overall White (non-Hispanic) rate which has not been above the "replacement fertility' rate since 1980.

    The only race in the United States that had a fertility rate above replacement level in 2010 was Hispanic at 2.35. Then there are the American - Indians at 1.40, a rate that you seem to champion for the population as a whole. The overall rate for the United States in 2010 was 1.77 which is not the Population Bomb that Ehrlich forecast but I think he was correct in his prediction that there will be social upheaval.

    1. Ed, it's not so much an "overpopulation" or "Population Bomb" problem as it is a food and resource and "habitat" problem…not so much in the U. S. yet, but worldwide as a whole. I highly recommend Craig Childs book… he examines so many critical mass issues, including food production…how the soil that grows our crops is wore out to the point of being nearly sterile from overuse, chemical fertilizers, and pesticide applications. Without mass applications of ammonia and other chem/pesticides/herbicides, we couldn't grow enough food for our present population, let alone export. So at what point do we tip the balance??? We apply the chemicals and fertilizers and have food…but slowly poison in ourselves and all the flora and fauna that gets in the way….including the necessary pollinators like bees, which started dying off by the millions recently. I suspect we (mankind) had something to do with that. No pollination, no food. It's a domino effect, and it's underway.

      “(We)... may not become extinct immediately, but being pushed out of decaying or destroyed habitats eventually takes its toll. The concept is known as extinction debt, the delay between the stress on species and the final dwindling of the last survivors until the organisms disappear and are never seen again.”
      ― Craig Childs, Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Ever-Ending Earth
      From Family Planning.org:
      The world population of 7.2 billion in mid-2013 is projected to increase by almost one billion people within the next twelve years, according to official United Nations population estimates (medium variant, 2012 Revision). It is projected to reach 8.1 billion in 2025, and to further increase to 9.6 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100. This assumes a decline of fertility for countries where large families are still prevalent as well as a slight increase of fertility in several countries with fewer than two children per woman on average.

  11. I just found your blog and I'm enjoying it.
    I am in total agreement about the over population crisis. My husband and I have two children, any more is unnecessary in my opinion. We loved our time with them as they were growing up. They are both now on their own. Our son is an Air Force Captain currently serving in the ISIS conflict. Our daughter is working two jobs supporting her husband as he is studying to become a doctor. We are very proud of them both!
    Imagine my surprise when I found out through a friend that my first boyfriend, a church goer in the Christian faith ( I think), has 10, yes TEN, children!!! He's 52 years old now. His oldest boy is probably near 30 and his youngest is around 4. Will he even be alive when his youngest graduates college or has children of his own?
    Large families are old school. Yes, I agree there was time they were beneficial, as you mentioned. But in today's world we really need to wake up and realize that we may be doomed by an over population epidemic.

  12. Boy! After reading the comments here I will no longer feel guilty when I feel like griping about crowds and kids.(A few of my favorite things to gripe about.) And since when did kids stop going to school?? I was at Inks Lake State Park in Texas mid week and, though not exactly crowded, there were school-age kids all over the place!! It's getting to where those of us that don't like the little -- um -- darlings -- are having trouble finding space of our own.

  13. FYI…here is a video link to our first hike in Little Wild Horse, when we had it to ourselves. ENJOY

  14. I read Craig Childs now, thanks to you, Mark, and so appreciate finding his books. I cannot for the life of me imagine Little Wildhorse full of screaming children. I had mine in the early 60's, before it was easy to make the choice, and I was young and stupid. However, I was also lucky. They have made my life complex, interesting, and full of love. Still, in spite of my poor example, I am with you on the politics of an overpopulating world. The saddest part is that the ones I see overpopulating are often folks with the least ability to be good parents, and the great parents are having one or two kids late in life if any. I somehow imagined the San Rafael Swell as empty as I remembered it, except the last time we were there, the 4-wheelers were all lined up along that road going into the Temple. I still found a place to hide and be alone. It was October. I always thought October would be a good time, but it seems too many people in the world are finding the wild places. And yes...once again...I am glad I am old. Maybe there will still be boondock sites around till I die.

  15. ...meanwhile back here in the over populated East, I didn't hike the Humpback Rock Trail due to 6 (16 passenger van) loads of Amish children being off loaded at the trail head!! They ranged in age from 6 to 9 I am guessing and girls were out numbering boys 2 to 1. I feel your pain. The west is becoming the east only without water! Not to mention the influx of illegals that help press our population to the popping zone...is what China has in place such a bad idea? I surely don't have any answers I had one and stopped there. Most awesome photos even with the unruly brats in them!

  16. You are bowing down to the god of your own intellect. Your post wreaks of pride and arrogance. "The gate is narrow and few will find it". I am not a Mormon. I will pray for them as well as you. But, be warned. Pride goes before the fall and is man's biggest obstacle to finding God.

    1. Stephen A.,
      Wouldn't a larger "arrogance" be to ignore the strain we are putting on God's beautiful Mother Earth?….just asking.

  17. Love it ... reading your and Suzanne's blogs about the same hikes is very cool. Both of you have a great way of relating your experiences and beautiful photography!

    Religions are ... well. not my thang. I just keep picturing God slapping his/her/its forehead ... I said, what?

  18. Heavy stuff, Mark. I'll have to check out Craig's book, haven't read that one of his. Haven't read much lately at all. Population and resource management is a scary topic. I don't love the crowds on the trail, but I guess I'm the only one who would have loved to see the kids climbing around on the rock. You don't see "kids" on the trails very often and I am always glad to see them as it increases the chance that our future will have citizens that care about our earth enough to protect it.


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