Bear Ears Monument: Day One

Red roof
Mule Canyon ruins: House on Fire or House with Flaming Roof. Saw it both ways.

April 20, 2017

Every tourist-information office should have a man like Steve, who was working the desk at the Blanding, Utah, building when I stopped on my way to the new Bear Ears Monument in the southeast part of the state.

I had borrowed a guidebook from my niece in Salt Lake City, bought three maps at the REI store there, purchased another one at a bookstore in Moab and visited the monument website, such as it is.

But everything I did in my two days there came from Steve’s suggestions.

MuseumFirst off, he said, you need to stop at the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, which I did. A great introduction to the Anasazi and Ancient Pueblo cultures and archeology. Many of the artifacts found in the region have been collected there and are well displayed. Explanations of how materials where used for building and weaving are clear and fascinating. Speculation on what happened to these people after about 1300 A.D. covers a wide range of explanations. The one I like best is that they did not suffer some awful disaster or fail as a culture but that they migrated and the Native Americans farther south are descendants.

Inside the kiva

The museum is built next to an ancient ruin, complete with a kiva – an underground ceremonial chamber – with access via ladder. Truly a museum display that puts you in the middle of the subject studied.

I skipped the dinosaur museum in town and headed for Mule Canyon instead. Two trails there with the southern one leading to the House with Flaming Roof. Hiked into it and waited with Don, another hiker, hoping that the setting sun would cast light farther into the cliff overhanging the ruins. That, we hoped, would bring out the red in the rock above the ruins. The photo in the tourist-information building is stunning, and my picture (above) doesn’t measure up to it.

Don was shooting with much better equipment than I was with my Sony and has spent his life working in photography. Looking forward to seeing what he came up with.

Don's rig
Don built his camper and pulls it with a VW Bug

We camped next to each other that night, me in the back of the Ram and him in his teardrop trailer that be built himself. Nice thing about this Bureau of Land Management tract is that camping is free and pretty much wherever you can find a spot. Just bring your own water, don’t burn the place down and pick up after yourself.

Slept in Friday morning and chatted over breakfast with Don. Both of us from Midwest farming communities. Both lovers of mountains, photography and camping. Both canoeing enthusiasts, and that led to talk of a Glen Canyon paddle.

Madcap Scheme for 2018?

Don at breakfast


Time for BBQ: Big Brother Quotient

1984The sales of George Orwell’s novel “1984” are skyrocketing since Trumpf came to power, and I’m loving it. It’s one of my favorite books. He’s one of my favorite authors, and I have sentenced every college  student I have taught to hours of reading his “Politics and the English Language.”

While under the lash of my wife to clear the crap out of our house before we end up on the “Hoarders” TV show, I came across this clip of something I put together back in the real 1984. That was when I claimed that “more editors had jumped on this story idea that rats on Winston Smith’s face,” which was actually an alternative fact. The threat of having a caged rat gnaw through his face was the torture that broke Smith. So no rat jumped on Smith’s face or used it as a means of escape from the cage strapped to Smith’s face.

Why torture Smith? As the article pictured here says: “There was only one motive, illustrated by a statement by Smith’s torturer: ‘Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.'”

Smith and his lover Julia both worked for the Ministry of Truth, which was in charge of lies. They got in trouble when they tried to join a group fighting against the principles of Big Brother:

War is Peace — “It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous, war has ceased to exist.”

Freedom is Slavery — “. . .men in the mass were frail, cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves.”

Ignorance is Strength — “The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison they never even become aware that they are oppressed.”

Related to that last one is this: “Stupidity is as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.” Which may sound like double speak to you but that’s probably because you are not adept at “Doublethink . . .the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

Or maybe you have not yet become fluent in Newspeak, the official language, the purpose of which was to make unorthodox thought impossible. The attention to language may have been the most important aspect of the book for Orwell given what he says in his politics and language essay: “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Thanks for reading my pure wind. I try to keep politics to a minimum here and you can be thankful that I have not yet read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, or “The Plot against America” by Phillip Roth, two other books whose increased sales Trumpf will undoubtedly take credit for (“They’re YUGE!”).

Don’t be scared away. Spring is coming and I will be on the road soon. Back to writing about America’s Great Outdoors. About the Bear Ears area recently made a national monument by President Obama. About some of the 3.3 million acres of public lands the Republicans are maneuvering to sell off. About some National Parks and Scenic Rivers checking to make sure they are still a part of the legacy this generation of Americans will leave to the next.

P.S. What happens to Smith and Julia? At the end of the novel, the 40-year-old Smith has lost all his teeth (he was only missing five at the start), his hair and his love for Julia. They had made the ultimate betrayal, against each other (“Do it to Julia, not to me,” Smith yells about the rat eyeing Smith’s eyeball as an exit.) Now they love only Big Brother, which is all part of the plan: “. . . in the future there will be no wives and no friends,” says Smith’s torturer. “Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated . . . There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party.”

Have a good evening.