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The Overlook: Giving Back to Bear’s Ears


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable The Overlook: Giving Back to Bear’s Ears

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  • #3709088
    Ben Kilbourne
    BPL Member

    @benkilbourne

    Locale: Utah

    Companion forum thread to: The Overlook: Giving Back to Bear’s Ears

    Ben Kilbourne reflects on his first journey in the Bear’s Ears National Monument, and wonders how to give back to such special places.

    #3709089
    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member

    @balzaccom

    Locale: Wine Country

    Nice.  And while it is quite easy to find ways to give back in many of the wilderness areas of the USA (volunteer trail work, etc.) the Southwest presents a different challenge.  Speaking out about the need to protect it is probably your best bet!

    #3709290
    Drew Smith
    BPL Member

    @drewsmith

    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    Well said Ben. Being in a place also means being in a community, one that stretches both backwards and forward through time.

    #3709304
    David Gardner
    BPL Member

    @gearmaker

    Locale: Northern California

    Fight climate change to save it, and everything else.

    #3709342
    Tim Hawthorne
    Spectator

    @tim_hawthorne

    Locale: Southwest

    Having lived in Blanding for a while, I learned to love the area that Bears Ears now encompasses. I enjoyed your article and photos. One of the best things about this area was the scarcity of visitors. Very rarely would we see another soul. Many of the most secret places remained un disturbed year after year. Now, with so much publicity there are more and more people going there. The secrets will soon be discovered and sites looted. I am not convinced that making it a National Monument is a good thing or bad. Time will tell.

    #3709344
    Ben Kilbourne
    BPL Member

    @benkilbourne

    Locale: Utah

    Drew – Community is a word I failed to use in the article, but it’s spot on. It’s exactly what I’m talking about. Asking how we can learn to become members of a community that encompasses landscapes and their past and future humans.

    Tim – I hear you. I tend to think some protection is better than none, but I’d hate to see it share the fate of Arches National Monument. To my mind, this is one reason tribal management is so important here.

    #3709355
    Matthew / BPL
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    “Fight climate change to save it, and everything else.”

    Yes. This.

    #3709420
    obx hiker
    BPL Member

    @obxer

    How about pitching in? Friends of Cedar Mesa

    The first 10 of you that pitch in $25.00 I’ll match.

    If you live nearby you could also volunteer in many ways, like being a site steward for one of those sites up one of those umpteen mini-drainages on the east side of the Comb like the one Ben described.

    You can petition Google to quit posting photos with the location of so many sites. A few years back they had 3-D; I guess drone shots of map sections about a mile north and south and @ a mile wide east and west of the point where 95 breaks through the Comb and crosses Comb and Butler Washes. The sites in this area located up under alcoves could then be visually seen using the 3-D  controls. You could literally fly up under the lip of an alcove and look in to see if there was a site. Not helpful! That feature has since been removed but there’s still lots of photos tagging sites.

    When you visit a seldom seen site you can practice ultra leave-no-trace. If there is no trail or tracks leading to the site then don’t leave any of your own! It takes just one group of 3, 4, 5 people walking single file to leave a trail to a site anyone can follow and next thing you know there’s a beaten path, Sneak up on sites. Come from the “wrong” direction. Don’t leave a path.

    Ben mentioned Craig Childs in the post. There’s a site in his book House of Rain that he refers to as the Red Knobs and he makes a very general reference to it’s location. I decided after reading it that I was going to see if I couldn’t find the Red Knobs even if this seemed sort of like finding a needle in a haystack but he provided a general distance and a general direction from a local town and also the site was sort of described by the name. I guess this must have been @ 2009. Anyway sure enough I found it. It was just like Craig described; so many potsherds scattered over acres you had to pick your way along to avoid stepping on them. As soon as I realized I was “on it” I started sneaking around and trying not to leave tracks, walking on slickrock, through bushes, hopping from rock to rock, anything to avoid leaving a trail. I came back 3 times over the next @ 6 years or so with a friend each time and we always took a circuitous route and tried to avoid leaving tracks.

    The last time was in March 2015 just after things had melted out enough to get there. The water was high enough in Cottonwood that crossing was dicey. We snuck in and checked out the main site. There were very few sherds visible and almost none that weren’t the grey utilitarian ware. No color. We went over to check out the annex and found a set of footprints all along the edges where a recent rainfall would wash out soil and in effect “excavate” cultural material that had been previously buried. I could scarcely believe somebody had been there and clearly scouted for relics on practically the earliest possible occasion for the year. This was @ 7 years after House of Rain was published in 2008. I haven’t been back since.

    Maybe the site doesn’t have those hundreds or thousands of potsherds anymore because some archeological team had conducted a site survey and picked them all up. I sure hope something like that occurred. I don’t know if that’s the standard practice. It’s probably just wishful thinking on my part. Did I leave tracks that someone followed and then several other someone’s? How many does it take to practically clear acres of sherds?  Is there a market for colorful patterned sherds? There was no evidence of any paths leading to the site. All I know is that the site Craig saw and described and I saw back in 2009 was completely changed and in some ways gone never to be seen again. It’s a sobering thought.

    I think if people care enough about this to figure it out, to find some of these sites the old fashioned way before the internet and weblogs etc. To have to discern the patterns, learn where to look and how to look and have to get to places the old fashioned way on their own hind legs and can’t just drive up to a site on a whim; they’ll learn along the way that these places are fragile and precious. They learn to be stewards of what Fred Blackburn called the outdoor museum when describing the Bears Ears area.

    BTW Ben WRT Time; besides the occasional dinosaur footprint or fragment of petrified wood there are those beautiful smooth multicolored stream bed rocks up on the Bluff bench 100-200 feet above the San Juan which are twice made rocks; first coming from mountains maybe a billion(s) of years ago and washed and eroded down to the bottom of the big sea that covered the area of the Colorado Plateau to become pressurized into dense sedimentary rock before the more recent plate tectonics that raised the Colorado Plateau, the Rockies and the beautiful San Juans. Then somehow washed down the river from the San Juans  to end up high above the river on the bench. Hold one of those in your hand and ponder time.

    And there is the Clovis site on a bench somewhere west of the Comb on Lime Ridge where they evidently hunted mammoths. Also on a stone face along with all sorts of other rock art hundreds or thousands of years old west of Bluff near Sand Island there is what may be one of only 2 ancient artistic depictions of a mammoth so far located in the western hemisphere. The other was found carved onto a mammoth tusk near Boca Raton Florida. ( there’s the usual rigorous scientific debate. about the petroglyph near Bluff. Harder to argue with a carving of a mammoth on a mammoth tusk. How do you prove the age and origin of a petroglyph? But hey we can have a bonfire and dance around it for fun anyway!) Deep human history indeed.

    #3709890
    MojoRisen
    BPL Member

    @mojorisen

    Locale: I’m a pilot. Almost anywhere!

    Wonder what happened to the comment that I left after the initial post. Maybe I left no trace. Hmm.

    #3709906
    Michael B
    BPL Member

    @mikebergy

    I am all for trying to preserve something for the sake of others to enjoy and practicing reasonable LNT policies but when the conversation tilts from things like being responsible and courteous to people and treating the land/historical sites as respectfully as possible, to a conversation about how to prevent others from sharing the experience, the intent of the conversation seems to get a bit ethically “wobbly”. I definitely agree with most of the sentiments stated here; give to groups who are trying to preserve for the enjoyment and education of others, time, money, whatever you have and are willing to share; respect the land and respect others who will want to have a similar experience. Nothing lasts forever, so we shouldn’t expect these sites to either, but that doesn’t mean we need to have a hand in their destruction.

    #3710106
    obx hiker
    BPL Member

    @obxer

    a conversation about how to prevent others from sharing the experience

    ?

    Are you describing the comment about tagged photos? Maybe that’s the wrong terminology. What they have on google maps is dots on the location of a site that then open to show photos which when it’s an archeological site are photos of the site. It’s possible that most of these are what might be described as “sacrificial” sites but the whole practice still makes me uneasy. There was a period a few years back where they were posting everything that someone decided to post but that seems to have been curtailed.

    Hey if I said something to indicate that access should be limited or prohibited or anyone got that message I apologize. Though there’s a difference in limiting or regulating access and requesting google, in the interest of protecting sites which cannot be supervised, defended or otherwise protected; from being literally promoted. Hey the photos and spot locations are literally on the map.

    I would recommend another one of Craig Childs books named “Finders Keepers” as some background on the hmmm, delicate ? situation regarding this great outdoor museum ( from the book Cowboys and Cave Dwellers) and the potential problems resulting from ahmm careless visitation, vandalism or looting.

    I could maybe think of some other way to put it but I’ll stick with what I posted earlier:

    If people care enough about this to figure it out, to find some of these sites the old fashioned way before the internet and weblogs etc. To have to discern the patterns, learn where to look and how to look and have to get to places the old fashioned way on their own hind legs and can’t just drive up to a site on a whim; they’ll learn along the way that these places are fragile and precious. They learn to be stewards of what Fred Blackburn called the outdoor museum when describing the Bears Ears area.

    #3710166
    David Gardner
    BPL Member

    @gearmaker

    Locale: Northern California

    @obxer: I just contributed $100 to Friends of Cedar Mesa.

    Spent the money to save a sacred and incredibly beautiful place instead of getting that next bit of gear candy.

    Who’s next?

    #3710240
    AK Granola
    BPL Member

    @granolagirlak

    People steal stuff, and they especially like to steal Native artifacts – have from the beginning of Europeans arriving. Archives (I oversee one) have a protocol for who may see records that have recorded locations of archaeological sites; if these are not restricted, grave sites will be robbed, historical remnants will be pillaged. It’s a real conundrum providing access to pictographs or other sites so that people can learn, appreciate and enjoy, but also finding ways to protect them. Educating the outdoor community doesn’t seem to be sufficient, or perhaps some people are simply uneducable, or just truly selfish. It has to start at age 5.

    Just donated $25 to Friends of Cedar Mesa.

    #3710281
    obx hiker
    BPL Member

    @obxer

    Karen I’ll be matching your and David’s contributions in your names.

    if these are not restricted, grave sites will be robbed, historical remnants will be pillaged. It’s a real conundrum providing access to pictographs or other sites so that people can learn, appreciate and enjoy, but also finding ways to protect them.

    Well put. You want people to get involved, to experience these sites, this really special area. You want to share these experiences but you don’t want it to be trashed, hauled off, defaced or destroyed.

    The Friends of Cedar Mesa have done amazing work that led to the monument designation and they’ve worked really hard and continue to work to get people involved and help them become a part of that community Ben was discussing in the article.

    #3710331
    obx hiker
    BPL Member

    @obxer

    Article in todays NYT: Women of Bear’s Ears

    Which reminded me of another story: The Story of Wolfkiller

    For your Sunday reading entertainment.

     

    Monarch spiral

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