Contrast: a crisp and saturated blue sky above red rock canyon walls which contain the green leaves of vegetation; bleached arid slick rock domes sparsely populated by only the heartiest plants who wait patiently for precipitation while lush perennial streams gurgle within stone’s throw; cattleman and tourists. On my recent visit to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument of Southwest Utah, I was impressed by both the delicate and tough landscape and society that lies therein.
During the 13 days I spent in between the towns of Boulder and Escalante, Utah, I explored nearly one hundred miles of backcountry washes, hollows, slot canyons, and ridges; witnessed flash floods the locals hadn’t seen in 20 years; and spoke with residents and business owners who revealed a society in the midst of cultural transformation.
My time tramping around the backcountry of GSENM was inspiring in ways I had expected with its amazingly unique natural scenery, flora, fauna, archeology, and the physical abilities which were required of me in order to move through, over, under, and around the geologic and geographic features time and weather have created. This was my longest solo adventure and the changes in perspective and what interested me now versus when I first visited southern Utah nearly 20 years ago were what was unexpected; to the point that, on this vacation, I willingly attended a public hearing at Escalante’s high school about their school’s dwindling student population and the town’s economic state of affairs.
To truly understand the landscape, I am finding that it is necessary to attempt to know the surrounding human society. For instance, seeing Jacob Hamlin arch was a great experience, visually stunning, the weight of its thick stone structure could almost be felt, however, knowing that the protection created by President Clinton’s 1996 use of the Antiquities Act which created Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument set into motion issues regarding access for ranchers and off highway vehicle groups—added a layer of information that opened my eyes and revealed details that I know I wouldn’t have seen had I been there with my family, friends, or as a younger person.
I hope to write more about this experience. Until then, here are more images…