Recent Events…

It wasn’t a government “land grab.” It wasn’t Washington DC waltzing in and taking the land, forcing people from their homes.  The lands in question, Bears Ears National Monument (Ceder Mesa and the surrounding area) and the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument were already Federal Land. No state land was taken/stolen.  In the case of the GSENM, several SITLA (school trust lands owned by the state) parcels were traded to the Federal Government, by the State of Utah, in exchange for large blocks of valuable, resource-rich land outside the monument boundaries.  Again, NOTHING was stolen/taken/absconded with.

The establishment of the Monuments was done with the intention to protect and preserve areas possessing unique natural, and cultural qualities. What the monument status did was add layers of protection to sensitive, irreplaceable paleontological, and archaeological sites – fossil beds, dinosaur tracks, rock art, prehistoric burials, villages, ceremonial features and sacred landscapes.  Monument status would help in preserving pristine wildlife habitat, riparian areas, delicate desert vegetation systems and unbroken, spectacular viewscapes – if managed/funded adequately enough to do so.

I’ve spent years working and recreating in these places – hiking, camping, climbing, wandering, conducting archaeological survey and site documentation. I spent a season working as a BLM backcountry ranger at Kane Gulch.  I’ve seen what unrestricted development, unrestricted grazing, mining, drilling, ORV traffic and, yes, even unrestricted recreation (mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing route development, even foot travel) can do to these surprisingly delicate places.  They all leave a lasting footprint, some bigger than others.

Yes, National Monument status means more visitors. Kane Gulch Ranger Station, now in the middle of Bears Ears National Monument, saw a HUGE increase in visitors this year – over 13k just this spring alone.  The rangers speculate this was due not only to the new Monument designation but to the controversy brought on by Zinke’s recent visit and the rumors of eliminating or significantly downsizing the Monument.  They actually had visitors express a need to see it “before it was gone.”  Cedar Mesa had been seeing an increase in visitors every year beginning in 2006 when the BLM opened a new, brick and mortar visitor center/ranger station at the Kane Gulch trailhead. Prior to that, the “Ranger Station” consisted of an old, 20′ camp trailer.  The refrigerator served as the filing cabinet for backcountry permits and extra maps, and the oven housed the backstock of stickers and flyers.  Now, with unlimited virtual access to places like Moon House, Perfect Kiva and The Procession Panel, more and more people are physically seeking out these locations to post selfies and, well, I digress…

What is potentially at stake with Trump’s recent “downsizing/rescinding” of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments isn’t just the shrinking of Monument boundaries.  This action could open up archaeologically and paleontologically rich/sensitive areas to surface mining, oil and gas drilling, unrestricted vehicle impacts, real estate development, increased looting/pothunting.  The “new” Bears Ears National Monument would NOT include Dark Canyon, Grand Gulch or Fish & Owl Canyons.  Originally they were protected from development by their Primitive Area or Wilderness Study Area status. What their status would be after Trump’s “downsizing” is uncertain.  These places were included in the 2016 Monument boundary because of their sacredness to several Native American tribes. They were included for protection because of the irreplaceable archaeological treasures found therein. They were included to protect pristine wildlife habitat and riparian areas, ie. their “wilderness quality.”  That will all be in question, if Trump has his way.

I find hope in the fact that what Trump is trying to do is illegal. There are several organizations planning to file or have filed lawsuits to stop this, including a coalition of the Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni and the Hopi, Ute Indian and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes, suing on behalf of the Bears Ears, and the Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf of the Grand Staircase-Escalante.   Yvon Chouinard, owner of gear/apparel company Patagonia is planning a lawsuit on behalf of Bears Ears.

Right now, I’m in “wait and see” mode.  I’m hoping that someone with the power to do so will say that rescinding the Monuments is, indeed, illegal and can’t be done. Or, barring that, the lawsuits will tie the action up for years, until a new, stable administration that truly values our national heritage and Public Lands takes over.

“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird…” Theodore Roosevelt.

The Best Budget Thru-Hiking Gear – Backpacker

The Best Budget Thru-Hiking GearThrifty options that get the job done. Scott Yorko Feb 3, 2017 258 SHARESThinking about your next thru hike? Plan and execute the hike of your dreams with Backpacker’s Thru Hiking 101 online course today!Sometimes, your dreams are just bigger than your budget. The good news: You don’t need expensive or top-of-the-line gear to hike a long trail. Get going with these strong budget picks.

Source: The Best Budget Thru-Hiking Gear – Backpacker

3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist – stay safe, be light, have fun! – Adventure Alan

3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist – stay safe, be light, have fun!Day hiking is supposed to be fun. And part of the fun is a light pack for easy walking. Unfortunately, most day hiking checklists are way too heavy. If you add up the weight of their suggested gear, your “daypack” may approach the weight of a backpack for a multi-day trip in the backcountry. But on the other hand, you DO want all the right gear to be safe! So what to do? This ultralight day hiking checklist will help you select the right gear to keep your daypack light, a spring in your step, but still keep you safe and happy. Better yet, it has a lot of inexpensive gear so you won’t go broke in the process!Lead photo, Buckskin Gulch Utah: One of the longest and deepest slot canyons in the world. It’s a fabulous 21 mile, semi-technical canyoneering day hike where a light pack makes a huge difference in having fun!Problems with Most Day Hiking Checklists

Source: 3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist – stay safe, be light, have fun! – Adventure Alan

Thru-Hiking the CDT for Underserved Kids – REI Co-op Journal

Thru-Hiking the CDT for Underserved KidsRate this story: 5 Votes so farEnrique Gili//August 3, 2017A Q&A with the man who’s completing the 3,100-mile trail to help get more young people outsideOn April 28, Michael Hervey began his quest to complete the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in a single season. As of July, he was done marching through the last of the 14ers in Colorado and well into Wyoming.The trip will take him from the badlands of New Mexico to the Canadian border, covering 3,100 miles on the highest and most remote of the National Scenic Trails. He won’t be alone. In the spring, about 200 hikers set out from the desert in an attempt to reach the Canadian border before winter arrives. And if he succeeds, he’ll join a hardy group of several dozen hikers to complete one of the most challenging long-distance trails in the United States this year.

Source: Thru-Hiking the CDT for Underserved Kids – REI Co-op Journal

Gnats!!

Biting gnats are parasitic organisms similar to mosquitoes and are capable of very annoying bites. However, while mosquitoes pierce the skin and feed with mouthparts similar to a hy- podermic needle, biting gnats have scissor-like mandibles that cut the skin to produce a small, bleeding wound. In the process of biting, saliva penetrates the skin causing an allergic reaction. This reaction is minor in most people, though it can be severe in rare cases.

Source: gnats.indd – Gnats.pdf

A Quick Trip to White Sands National Monument: Go Early, Hike in Late…

Last week, I decided to take a couple of days and visit White Sands National Monument.  I’ve lived in New Mexico for almost three years and decided it was time.  There is no excuse not to take advantage of a National Monument or Park when it’s in your backyard.

From what I’d read and heard, WSNM is a spectacular location for exploring and stargazing. During the day, the dunes are beautiful – stark white, with very little relief as far as color or texture go.  There is sparse vegetation, mostly consisting of salt-loving shrubs growing in the low areas between the dunes.   The occasional yucca manages to find a foothold, even on the dune tops.  At night, there is very little light pollution, making for perfect stargazing conditions.

I opted for a “backpacking” trip – hiking into one of the ten available back-country sites.  My plan was to go in a bit after mid-day, set up my campsite, explore a bit and relax under my shade/tarp until evening.

Permits are issued on a first come, first served basis.  You must walk in to get one.  There are also days when you can’t hike or camp: the missile test range is next door, and if they are testing, there’s no hiking or camping.  Call ahead.

I drove down to the visitor’s center, walked in at 11:00 am, and had my choice of campsites.  From there I drove to the trailhead parking lot, located the start of the dune-field trail, and began my hike in.  So far, so good.  The backcountry area is actually quite small.  The trail is a 4-mile loop, with the 10 campsites branching off of it like spokes on a wheel.  Each site is situated in the bottom of a low-lying flat area, behind a sand dune.  There is no camping allowed on the dunes themselves.  You’d think these low areas would be ideal locations for camping…  One suggestion: if you are using a tent that requires staking out, bring tent stakes and a hammer.  There are no rocks naturally occurring in the dune field and the gypsum hardpan is basically cement.  Pushing in the tent stake will only result in a bruised palm and a very weak stake placement.  I learned this lesson the hard way.

After setting up my tent and tarp/shade, as securely as possible, I did some exploring.  The Monument website recommends taking a fully charged cell phone, map, compass, and GPS.  They also state that often-times GPS coverage is iffy, and your phone likely won’t work.  Best to brush up on your map and compass skills.  I can see how easily it would be to become lost in the dunes.  The wind quickly erases your tracks, and the landscape is starkly white and barren.  In bright light, the terrain appears to flatten out and you can become disoriented.  The backcountry camping area has Carsonite posts marking the trail, these are set on high areas, making it easier to keep track of your location.  The other areas in the monument are not as well marked, so hikers be aware.

After lunch, I took advantage of my shade, listened to a lecture on Greek Mythology and napped.  It’s a great place to just hang out.  I didn’t have any bugs, no crowds of people, and only one military drone.  There are a lot of jet fly-overs, as the monument is located adjacent to an Air Force base, but I knew this going in.  The jets were nothing compared to the wind that came on around 5:00 pm.

I’d been checking the weather for a few days leading up to my trip, trying to average out the forecasts from NOAA, the Weather Channel, and AccuWeather.  NONE of them predicted tent-flattening, tarp-flying, sand-blasting microbursts.  If I’d had some sort of hammer-like device, I might’ve been okay, but without one I could not reset any of my tent stakes.  I packed up my tent and tarp, and in the process discovered that my sleeping bag was full of gypsum.  I packed that up too.  After sitting in a ball for 30 minutes, waiting to see what happened, I came to the conclusion that setting up a stove and preparing dinner in this was not going to happen.  Of course, that is when I decided that I was getting hungry.  At around 5:30 I stood up and took a look around.  A small wall of dust was building and heading my way, reminiscent of the 1930’s dust bowl photos my grandparents used to show me.  Enough.  I packed the rest of my stuff, put my shoes back on (you can run around barefoot as much as you want – no cactus) and hiked back to the car. 

As I was heading out, I passed several people hiking into their sites.  They looked about as excited for the wind as I was.  I now know how I’ll approach this when I go back.  Yes, despite my failed attempt, I am going to try again.  The place is just too amazing not to.  First: go in early to get your campsite, then go do something else until late afternoon.  Take a tent peg hammer.  Don’t hike in too early – it’s hot in the sun; there is no water, so you must carry it in; the wind will pick up in the early evening, making it difficult to prepare dinner.  You can minimize your exposure by going in later, after you’ve had dinner, for example.  Or, go in the Fall, when the wind isn’t such a problem.

Backcountry permits cost $3, the landscape is surreal, and the light reflecting off the gypsum is brilliant! Take a good pair of sunglasses, some sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed hat.  You can also buy a sled at the visitor’s center – the kids playing in the parking lot dunes seemed to enjoy them.

 

Alleviate the Disadvantages of Fuel Canisters with this Simple Device | Gear Institute

The advantages of isobutane canister stove fuel makes it extremely popular in the backcountry: clean burning, no spills, and ease of use. The major drawbacks of canister fuel revolve around the inability to transfer fuel between canisters, resulting in partially used canisters piling up, and forcing us to carry multiple partially used canisters to avoid wasting fuel. On top of that, we often end up paying more per unit of fuel, as the cost is disproportionally higher in smaller canisters.

Source: Alleviate the Disadvantages of Fuel Canisters with this Simple Device | Gear Institute

Trump aims attack at national monuments: 20 at risk | Wilderness.org

Trump aims attack at national monuments: 20 at risk President Trump is ordering a “review” of about half of all national monuments designated since the beginning of 1996, a sweeping action that is intended to shrink boundaries and reduce protections. The executive order will put more than 20 national monuments in the crosshairs, ranging from rare wildlife habitat to Native American archaeological ruins, stretching from Maine to California to Pacific islands. Photo: California Coastal National Monument. C

Source: Trump aims attack at national monuments: 20 at risk | Wilderness.org

Trump To Sign Executive Order That Could Shrink National Monuments : NPR

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order Wednesday that could end up shrinking — or even nullifying — some large federal national monuments on protected public lands, as established since the Clinton administration.The move is largely seen as a response by the new administration to two controversial, sweeping national monument designations made late in the Obama administration: the new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah considered sacred to Native American tribes and the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada near the Bundy Ranch, site of the 2014 armed standoff over cattle grazing on public land.

Source: Trump To Sign Executive Order That Could Shrink National Monuments : NPR

Is Instagram Ruining the Great Outdoors? | Outside Online

The great outdoors is all over social media. On Instagram, the hashtag #nature has been used more than 20 million times. Attach a geotag to your photo of last weekend’s campsite, and your followers can tramp to the exact same spot. Some nature lovers worry about the downside to this: Is Instagram funneling hordes of people to places that can’t handle this crush of admirers? Are those filtered, perfectly tinted pics sending a message that people can always go where they want, when they want, and how they wa

Source: Is Instagram Ruining the Great Outdoors? | Outside Online