In the fall of 2002, I spent nearly two weeks backpacking in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. Fifteen years later, that experience continues to have a lasting impact on me.
More importantly, our SPECIES isn’t either!!!
A long time ago in a land far, far away… I was once young (best as I can remember anyway). The world was different then and rapidly changing. This big city boy heard the call of the wildflower bedecked Sitar and once my hair grew to at least a respectable shoulder length, I headed out to the western wilderness of the unknown beyond New Jersey and Pennsylvania! While much appeared the same and John Wayne still epitomized the true American soldier spirit (odd that he turned out to be a draft evader during WWII) and Vietnam was becoming recognized as a mistake not a war. My Lai had happened but we wouldn’t know it until months later. Wearing a peace sign was still guaranteed to evoke a response from those who wouldn’t wear one and those who wanted to wear one but didn’t! It was summer and the living was easy! I was young!
I saw Olympia National Park when yet the Ever Rains still fell. I saw the great Redwood groves before Pacific Lumber in acquisition clear cut the last major old tree stands in private hands to pay for the takeover! I saw the glaciers of Glacier Nat. Park and those in the Tetons. I saw Bryce Canyon and the emerald pools of Zion. I saw the northern redwoods and the southern redwoods, I saw the high country redwoods and those down low by the coast. Sounds like a lot of redwoods but these are small remnant groves - the last that remain. Still I saw them and the wild lands and mountains from the Southern Rockies to the Northern Sawtooths and camped in a whole lot of amazingly beautiful places in between that bless America! Best two years of my life and yeah they actually did shoot at hippies! Mostly near anyway but they made their points. We ignored them! It’s a free country right? Even they had to agree back then!
Decades later, with youth gone (as was most of my once waist length hair), I wanted my children to see those fantastically beautiful natural wonders and places that I had seen when I was young and the Sixties was not yet a word but an era still in progress. Things were different, than the way they once had been. Olympia Nat. Forest enjoyed much less rain and the hanging moss was at best fitful and dry - nothing like the webby curtain walls of sunlit green that I had seen. But of all the shocks that I would see was when driving up the scenic highway through the Stanislaus Nat. Forest, I turned on to the scenic overlook to give my kids a grand view of ‘how it used to be before the pilgrims came’ so that they could see a vast forest stretch out in front of them from horizon to horizon. There was a long bronze plaque in basrelief identifying the famous peaks that would be in view. As I pulled into a parking space I saw people crying and thought some terrible accident had just happened. As we exited the car, a kindly woman hurried to tell us to go back for the children’s sake as she wiped away tears. Her husband looked at me and growled "Look what they did to us! “They stole it for themselves and this is what is left! It’s a damn shame!”
I walked across the narrow parking lot and was stunned to see what he meant. Instead of old growrth verdant forest from horizon to horizon, I saw one immense brown earth clear cut devoid of trees as far as the eye could see in any direction. Nothing except brown dirt… and that ironic and sad, long bronze plaque over by the railing.
Trump is a warning sign of dystopia. Of criminal greed and selfishness. He and others rape the Commons using legal technicalities as if it were their turn to grab as much as they can from what doesn’t belong to them but to us.
The last of the best is once again under assault from those who seek to plunder! They steal the best from us all. They do so unchallenged by those whose job it is to protect our shared natural heritage!
Mary was lucky way back when! I was lucky back then too. Those opportunities are fast disappearing. Your opportunities are disappearing.
Mary and I had ours.
Recall Jack Kerouac writing in his epic 1957 novel On the Road “the woods are full of wardens”.
Retracing in 2017 Jack’s routes upon which this novel and some of his other novels were based, not only would you find the wardens gone, but in many cases the forests are also gone.
Jack Suiter’s 2002 Poets on the Peaks documents beat era writers’ wilderness experience in the Pacific NW during mid-century and is a must read for anybody interested in following changes in wild lands management.
The few remaining beat writers are getting old…Gary Snyder just turned 87 and Lawrence Ferlinghetti 98. Not sure how much more we will hear from them.
Beautiful and heartbreaking post! Also, infuriating! The soul-less ideology of Republicans has no respect for anything that can’t produce profits for wealthy investors. In their world, everything must be commodified and privatized!
All this letter writing, petition signing means little in the end. Trump and his destructionists are going to do whatever they please and couldn’t care less about what we want, or the planet wants. He has made it clear making America Great means pissing off allies, embracing fascist dictators, going it alone with a force of arms, undoing everything Obama did (and he was a poor President who embraced corporate democracy and power), turning the US back at least a century in terms of social gains, abandoning the rule of law, and the Constitution.
I remember a while back, there was a public-service TV ad which featured a scene with a teary-eyed native American Indian who was overlooking a once splendorous and beautiful landscape…
♫ O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
And also excerpt from yet another song’s lyrics
♫ How often at night
When the heavens are bright
With lights from the glitterin’ stars
Have I stood here amazed
And asked, as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day
I watched a Bill Press on FSTV with an interview of Sierra Club rep (forgot name/position). This may be what law he mentioned, don’t recall, but said one president cannot go back and change the act, or do away with it. He did say, “What is being proposed is against the law. We will sue–we will win.”