Archives for August 2006

Working on the Arizona Strip

My new life began on the Arizona Strip about a week and a half ago. I’m working 8-9 miles from the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon at Bar10 ranch. The Arizona Strip is one of the most isolated places in the United States, and it has been called the Tibet of North America, because it is one of the most uninhabited places by human population. The problem lays in the fact there is no water on the strip except for a few springs here and there. The Heatons own this ranch, which spans about 250,000 acres large. They have a spring that they pipe water to the ranch from, which is about six miles away. They have about 1,000 head of mother cows that come to the Bar10 in the winter, but during the summer they are at higher elevations. Where I work is about 4,000 above elevation. My job entails being a trail guide. Bar10 ranch has an airstrip that brings tourists in from Las Vegas to see the Grand Canyon. The Heatons also saw the opportunity to pick up river runners who didn’t wish to journey the whole length of the Colorado (through the Grand Canyon) and on to Lake Meade. We pick them up by helicopter. In the old days, those that wanted to visit the Bar10 had to pack everything out by mule. I’m working as a basic guide giving ATV and Ranger Tours, plus educating guests about the Arizona Strip.

So it is a great way to settle down for a while. I’m 80 miles from the nearest telephone pole or oiled road. They have satellite internet out here, so I will be able to post stuff when the chance arises. I work from dawn til dusk… There’s no personal time it seems. When we aren’t giving tours, fixing meals, or entertaining guests, we’re digging ditches, holes, mending fences, etc. It’s a great job though. I live out here five days a week, and spend weekends back in Southern Utah. There’s just so much going on here, that I probably won’t get around to mentioning many details. It’s incredible to see the Grand Canyon every day, and live in such close proximity. I figure by the time this job ends in April, I will have some good experience for something even better down the road.

I’m thinking of some type of job in Law Enforcement through an agency like the National Park Service, or the BLM. I’ll get into certain details later down the road as to why I am pondering this. One reason is, I would like to protect archeological and historical sites from those who would seek to exploit them, or destroy them. I’m tired of seeing these sites and sacred places being jeopardized on a daily basis. I’m not one that wants to dictate things, but I want in some way to protect these areas just because they are so precious, priceless, sacred to so many indigenous and non-indigenous folks, and because they are simply irreplaceable.

So I have great hope for what my future holds…

The Landscape and its History

That subliminal quiet is stirred only by ancient winds. The rocks are timeless, squared away to outlast the human element. Passing through Juniper I observe enormous balloon clouds hovering over the tips of the mountains. Looking out across the valley below, I see the rust stained foothills where one of Southwestern Utah’s largest petroglyph sites lay, a place known as the Parowan Gap. Some say the ageless writing spans 12,000 years ago in age. I’ve heard that the Paiutes say that they were written by the Creator. Others say they were inscribed by tribes coming from the far east on their trade routes. The gap is a strange and respected place that I often find immense silence.

Moving up the steep grade of the hill into a flat opening in the Junipers, I see arrowhead chippings scattered everywhere. I’ve learned to leave the arrowheads and chippings alone, not because it is against federal law to gather them, but out of a respect I have for certain cultures around here. There’s these old fire pits, dozens of them. In some places fire pit is built on top of fire pit in the sediment, sometimes overlapping. There they are, flintknapping, cooking, grinding corn, visiting, telling jokes, telling stories around the campfire for centuries.

The arrival of the Mormons came not too long ago, about 150 years ago they entered the Parowan valley to stay. The Spanish came 200-400 years ago. The Old Spanish Trail runs through the Parowan Valley, up passed Summit, Utah. The history of these settlers, intruders, invaders is so recent in the history of the Southwest. Their presence is barely a glitch on the radar screen of America’s timespan. What happened in this valley 2,000 years ago, when folks were gathering seeds and killing the cottontails just before the winter snows? Some things will have been forgotten in these so-called modern times, when human beings are so busy they forget to listen to that ancient wind, and they become encased in a workaholic lifestyle in a tall skyscraper in Chicago or New York. Bring a New Yorker out to Southern Utah and the isolation would scare the hell out of them. Those tough street-smart gangsters from L.A. would be a cinch to track and intimidate if they were wandering through these canyons.

This land is beautiful. So much of it’s history remains untold, hidden, and the truth lays out there in the isolation and desolation. The gnarly branch of an old Bristlecone can tell many stories. If I walk passed one of these 3,000 year old trees, chances are, many humans crossed the same path to greet the tree, long before Columbus was born. This history resonates up from soil underneath all the temperary structures, buildings, roads, and cities built by this civilization, America. The truth tells the history, not the myths of America’s founding fathers, or the temporary monuments erected to honor certain persons or individuals.

I was born in Utah. I don’t want to be so naïve and ignorant of the landscape and its history. For example, Mount Rushmore is sacred to Americans, because it honors certain presidents that added providence to America’s adolescence. But I leaned that the entire area around Mount Rushmore is very significant and sacred to the Lakota people, and the sculpturing is looked upon by some to be a desecration of a holy site. All of the Black Hills are sacred to the Lokota.

What history is to be learned about Southern Utah’s past? How many undocumented events took place where I live? Before the local Wal-mart was constructed in Cedar City, I remember all the arrowheads, and bits of pottery that were laying around where that superstore now stands! Does anyone care about what happened there in that area? What about all the endangered Petroglpyphs near this big-box superstore and inside the city limits of Cedar City? As I hike the ageless hills and wander spacious valleys of the Great Basin, it really sparks an interest in me to know the truth, and to seek it. I can only ponder most of the time when I stumble across the ruins of Puebloan ancestors, the rock writings, or when climbing the storied canyons of the Colorado Plateau, deep into the beauty of Mother Earth. I realize just how fortunate I am for the opportunity to explore this place; to feel the vastness of the solitude and isolation. This is wilderness in the truest sense, full of human history, habitation, and legend. The stark blue sky and the stony vegetated earth tell the stories of what happened long ago.

This is what peace is for me. I hope the desire to seek answers and truth never fades.

Galactic blue clouds
Fill the turquoise firmament
Deep from within the belly of Mother Earth
The stories unfold.
The winds are singing –
moving the rain and thunder.
The land is so beautiful.
May it always remain beautiful.
A resistant land it is.