Saturday, November 1, 2014

Vandalism, Graffiti and Garbage: A Rant

Recently, Mike and I ventured into the Utah wilderness for an escape.  It was great.  Except for the excessive garbage littering up a mountain stream and every empty campsite.  As usual, I was both irate and confused. 


The anger should need no explanation.  As an avid camper and off road enthusiast I want to enjoy every place I go to.  One of the top reasons I enjoy camping is to get away from the filth that comes along with humanity.  To be in a park and be faced with garbage or graffiti sullies the moment.  It takes away from the peace and solitude and serves as a reminder of how selfish of a species we are.


The confusion follows the anger.  There is garbage or graffiti in otherwise pristine wilderness.  So someone wanted to be here.  Someone wanted to experience this place for what it offers, whether that is camping, hiking or off road exploration.  What would possess that person or persons to then deface the same place they wanted to enjoy?   Why would they want to take away the beauty from the next person?  And really, how hard is it for you to take out what you brought in?


Garbage.  You are only what you leave behind in the world.  Therefore, you are garbage.  Carry in, Carry out.  It's not that hard. On our last trip, Mike and I conversed with a local man on an ATV.  He was out in the area specifically looking for aluminum cans.  Great! Someone who was picking up.  Then I realized how sad that statement was.  He is so sure that visitors are filthy pigs that he can come out and scrounge up cans to recycle. 

Shooting.  On several occasions, we've been nearby to other campers who decided that the woods were their own personal firing range: at least twice in Arizona, and once in Utah.  I just read the Arizona statute pertaining to firearms in state parks.  Arizona is a conceal/open carry state. We're all about second amendment rights.  That does not mean you can wantonly shoot wherever you want.  Safety, asshats. In Utah, the shooters were barely 100 yards from our campsite.  That is shockingly close when discussing flying bullets.  You aren't just disturbing fellow campers, you are disrupting all the wildlife in the area. You are leaving lead and casings lying about.  You aren't hunting, you are being a jerk. 


Vandalism.  I've entered restrooms in parks, both National and State.  And I've seen hell.  Why on earth would you poop on the floor?  Or smear your feces all over the wall?  There is something fundamentally wrong with people who do those things.

Roads.  Please stay on designated trails.  In my favorite places, I rarely see jerks creating their own roads.  But I work with BLM in southern Arizona and they are in a never-ending battle with smugglers who carve their own roads through protected land.   Tread Lightly.  There are specific reasons why you shouldn't carve new roads into the desert, to include: endangered animals or plants, and most of the time because the ground is actually alive.  There are mosses and organisms that live on the top layer of the soil.  They spring to life during a rain, but hibernate most of the time.  They also keep the soil from eroding and blowing away.  All of those deadly sandstorms that ravage I-10?  Most of those organisms have long ago been destroyed by farming and residential building and there is little to nothing keeping the top layer of soil from getting gathered up by a dust storm. 

Graffiti.  Every time I see a carved Aspen tree I die a little inside.  You marred and otherwise beautiful tree with your stupid initials, or carving.  I'm betting 90% of those idiots never return to said tree to observe them again.  (I'm also hoping that there is some tree karma at work and if you carve into a living growing tree, you will face some cosmic consequences later in life). And the 10% who do traipse through someone's campsite, complete with bored kids in tow to find the tree they carved a decade earlier.  Without an apology, mind you.  That happened to us in Utah this past summer.

On the road from Florence to Kelvin:  there is a beautiful and expansive area of boulders that, presumably, the nearby teens have designated as theirs.  There is nothing beautiful or artistic about this spray paint. It is difficult to find an unsullied, untouched surface here.
 
Spray painted rocks and boulders and other wanton destruction.  Last year (I believe), Boyscout Scout Masters took it upon themselves to push over a balanced rock on a popular trail in Moab.  Said rock was a marker for most hikers and riders.  They claimed they did it for the good of everyone, that the rock was a danger, but the posted YouTube video shows otherwise.  It took several healthy, strong men to dislodge the rock.  And these men are routinely entrusted with young boys, who they are supposed to be leaders and examples for.


Most recently, the National Park Service announced graffiti was found in several parks.  Spray paint.  Some stupid young woman decided that her art needed to be plastered in our nations parks.  And before you say, who cares, you should care.  Your tax dollars go towards maintaining these parks.  These parks are a national investment in our natural history.  Photography is a passion of mine.  I appreciate art in most of its forms.  There is a time and place where you can express yourself.  Spray painting a boulder in one of nature's playgrounds is less than unsatisfactory. 


There is a special ring of hell designated for these people.  I understand that by simply camping, I am impacting my favorite nature spots.  But I make sure to pack out all my garbage.  Bury my human and canine waste if applicable and to only tread on preexisting roads and trails.  I don't allow my dogs to chase wildlife, no matter how much they want to.  I don't leave food behind or feed wild animals.  I don't chop down trees for a fire.  I carry weapons for personal safety against bears, big cats and Jason. All of these things are simple to accomplish or avoid.

Enjoy the wild spaces, but leave them as if you were never there.

Image from DayDreamDesign.com

Interested in getting involved?
Tread Lightly.org
National Parks.org

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Home Again....

Cold mornings plague us.  I love me some fall, but waking up to frost is getting old.  It was an early morning and another quick packup.  Quicker than Tooele because we had less to worry about. On our way past the farms in Paragonah, the morning watering was freezing in the shade.





We stopped in....I'm not sure what city and had Cracker Barrel for breakfast.  Then onto more nothingness desert.  I read.  I was reading American Gods for the umpteenth time.  It was an appropriate road trip book. 

It warmed up as we got closer to Vegas.  We popped in to see the Hoover Dam on our way south.  I'll have to go back to walk around because the dogs weren't allowed out of the Jeep.




It was dusk by the time we pulled into the driveway.  The dogs were bathed, the trailer emptied and washed off and we settled onto the couch. 

As usual, the melancholy set in long before we pulled into the driveway.  I'm always sad to leave the wild.  Cities are stifling.  People are exhausting.  Getting away, enjoying the air, beauty and silence was welcomed with open arms.  I carry a little piece of that peace home with me but the everyday grind wears that peace away over time. 

Until our next adventure...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tooele to Paragonah: Heading home

It was cold.  Frost cold.  We didn't even make coffee.  We packed up camp as quickly as possible and made our way to Tooele.  It was lunch time by the time we made town and we stopped at the Bonneville Brewery for lunch.  It was tasty.  They made their own cream soda and beer.  Because of weird Utah laws, Mike couldn't taste a brew, but we both had a cream soda.  It was worth breaking my two year moratorium on soda.

Mike was insistent that we go the long way around through Salt Lake City and Park City so he could show me how beautiful the mountains and falls colors were.  It was worth it.  We pushed through the nothingness of this part of Utah for hours and hours.  Our goal was our camp spot in Paragonah because we were hoping that the missing Foxwing legs were still there.  They were. 








After a long day in the Jeep, we enjoyed showers while the sun was out and it was relatively warm.  We relaxed, enjoyed the sunset and a late dinner and turned in. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Miller Motorsports Park: ST Octane Academy

On Friday, Mike went to the orientation for the ST Octane Academy in Park City. 






On Saturday, we ventured to the Miller Motorsports Park and checked out the Ford museum.  The first thing we saw when we entered the tiny museum is my new obsession:  Miller's first racer, a Ford Falcon:


Miller is obviously a Ford Racing junkie:





Sunday, he raced.  He had a blast.  It was bitter cold on the black top, but that didn't stop the fun. 

VIDEOS!!!




Meanwhile at camp, it was colder.  The clouds hung to a mountain peak just west of the teardrop.  We did a very brief hike in the morning, then Elly and I retired to the trailer and blankets. 

I'm doubtful it hit higher than 45 degrees. But by mid afternoon, the sun popped out and we went for another hike.





Mike was home in time for dinner.  Fire and heaters were lit and we enjoyed the evening together.  He regaled me with stories of his day and we turned in.  In the morning we would start our journey south.






Saturday, October 11, 2014

A day to Explore Tooele

Mike returned from Park City after dark last night and told me that his race day wasn't until Sunday, so we would have all day Saturday to explore.  We woke to another chilly morning, although not quite as frigid as yesterday. 


Breakfast, coffee and a bit of ambulatory exploring.



 


Our exploration turned into frustration pretty quickly.  Warning: I am super prejudiced against ATV riders.  This camp site encapsulated why.  Garbage.  Garbage everywhere. There were empty alcohol bottles, beer cans, water bottles and other assorted trash strewn throughout the woods and cluttering up the stream.  This is a persistent theme in wilderness areas frequented by ATV riders.  Mike and I cleaned up our campsite and creek the best we could.  The amount of garbage I saw this weekend could fill a pickup truck bed. 


We loaded up in the Jeep and headed west on the road. And we drove as far as we could until we realized that these roads were better suited for narrow ATV's.




It was a beautiful mountain range and it made me sad to see how people treated it.





We drove into Tooele, so Mike could gauge how long it would take him to drive to the Miller Motorsports Park in the morning.  We stopped into visit the museum, but I'll dedicate a whole post to car stuff later. 

We stopped at a farmers market and were disappointed by its small size considering the amount of farms and ranch's nearby.  But we landed apples, squash and eggplant.  After gallivanting we made our way back to camp to relax.

Elly was less than thrilled with the 50 degree temperature.




We enjoyed a great sunset and good times relaxing together.





After enjoying the fire for a while, we turned in.  He had the Octane Academy in the morning and needed rest. Unbeknownst to us, weather was moving in and it would be a bitter cold night. 



Friday, October 10, 2014

Onwards to Tooele!

We woke to frost.  The Jeep claimed that it was 37 degrees when we finally made our way back to I-15.  It was cold.  Before striking our way Northwest, we stopped for gas in a small "town".  I got the dogs out for a quick pee and Elly made fast friends with a Palomino.  The camera was dead and I left my phone in the car, but it was an adorable encounter.  The horse sauntered over to the fence when it saw us and nosed at her. 

We piled back in and made our way through the vast nothingness that is central/western Utah.  Wow.  Most boring landscape ever.

I pulled out the trusty map again, and pointed us in the direction of Deseret Peak.  North Willow road was well used and we kept passing one 5th Wheel camping spot after another.  I wasn't pleased. A little further west and the road got tighter and slightly more difficult: 5th Wheel deterrent.

We found a cute little camping spot nestled in a grove of changing aspens, butted up against a small creek.  If it wasn't directly on the road, it would've been perfect.  But it was good enough.

Mike and I set up camp quickly, as he had to drive to Park City for orientation.  The kids and I hiked.





Our mid afternoon hike was steep.  It wasn't necessarily long, just steep.  Getting down the loose granite slope was tricky.





We walked a bit up the road and found that our creek crossed the road.

I was so excited for all of the beautiful fall colors.  I collected leaves.  I'm a nature junky.

Tuckered out and hungry, we walked back to camp for a quick bite to eat.  As soon as the sun dipped below the western peak, the temperature dropped drastically.  I would've toughed it out, but I had a four legged dog, who swore she was naked and freezing.  We packed it in the teardrop and waited for Mike to return. 

Another night in the wild on the books. Another satisfying day away, to exhale life's woes and inhale fresh, cool fall air for renewal.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Camping and Racing, an Odd Marriage

Last year, Mike bought a Ford Focus ST.  Shortly after, he learned that Ford was putting together a free racing academy for owners.  He followed the academy's progress religiously and signed up as soon as it opened.  Knowing it would be in Utah, we decided a fall class would be ideal so we could make a long weekend out of it and camp.

We woke early and left home as the sun was coming up.  It had rained the night before and it was humid and overcast.  Surprisingly, we made it through Phoenix relatively easy, and headed northwest on the 60 towards Vegas.  We hit highway 93 and were greeted with a new sight: Joshua Trees.  The Joshua Tree National Park is on my bucket list, but we haven't made it yet.  Highway 93 is named the Joshua Tree Forest Highway, and it it very fitting.  We were treated with tree after tree.



Once through Vegas (I'm sorry, I just don't get the appeal), we pushed onwards.  Glancing at the clock, we knew we would not make Tooele today.  And honestly, after 500+ miles in the Jeep, we were all ready to get off the road.  I pulled out a map, and found us access to the Dixie National Forest just off Interstate 15 in Paragonah, UT.  Just a few short miles down Little Creek Road, we found a small campsite tucked off the road among some trees in full fall colors.


We hiked around before the sun set and made dinner before dark.  




We had another long day in the car to look forward to, so we climbed into bed and snuggled away the cold.