On June 8th, President Teddy Roosevelt put pen to paper. This time, to sign the Antiquities Act of 1906. The act would allow any president to preserve an area of land or historical site for public use. It also gives them the authority to expand monuments, use resources for monuments, and reclassify them as national parks. Many of our most beloved parks started as monuments. The Grand Canyon, Zion, Grand Teton, Acadia, and more.
Since 1906, sixteen presidents have set aside 157 national monuments for us to enjoy.
Today we celebrate the anniversary of the 1906 Antiquities Act. We do so cautiously, as many of our monuments are at risk under the Trump administration.
I’m focusing on two of my favorites. Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears. These are two of the monuments on the list to “investigate." Inappropriate; they serve as necessary spaces for rest, and they protect precious artifacts. They're marks of cultural and historical narratives that we mustn't ever forget.
We can't let the places we protect be another casualty in Trump's quest for dominance.
Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah (est. 1996, under Bill Clinton)
This monument holds a special place in my heart. It’s a place you can visit repeatedly and feel like you’re there for the first time. The area is almost 3000 square miles, and offers so much. Sweeping vistas, creeks and rivers, sheer walls, deep slot canyons and narrows, petroglyphs, beautiful waterfalls, epic thunderstorms, and a variety of wildlife. But my favorite is the solitude. It’s the perfect place to go for some peace and quiet. Get away from the screaming toddlers and nagging deadlines. Since it’s BLM land, you can drive or backpack to almost any place that looks good and pitch your camp. Nobody for miles.
I love Zion, and I love the Narrows. But Zebra Canyon is one of the most tantalizing places I’ve ever rested my eyes upon. It's an easy hike, and the payoff is unbelievable.
Spooky and Peek-A-Boo, down the road, are the canyons you see in movies. The ones you have to remove your pack and squeeze through. Willis Creek Canyon is wider, rugged. Reminiscent of something primal.
Lower Calf Creek Falls impresses me every time. As a native of the Pacific Northwest, I’m a waterfall snob. Most of the falls in Utah don’t garner a second glance from me. But this one has earned a spot on my top 10 list. The colorful backdrop is a unique display of grandeur that adds to the impressive flow of the water. The hike is best in the spring when the cottonwoods are in full bloom.
And oh my science. The sunrises, and sunsets. This is one of few places I’ll get up early enough to see the sunrise. The sunsets are dramatic in the summer thanks to the stormy skies. During the day, the clouds are dancing above. When they fill with color, it’s a display for the ages. Since you’re in the desert, you can see for miles.
Bears Ears, Utah (est. 2016, under Barack Obama)
I hadn’t visited Bears Ears until it was a national monument. At about 2000 square miles, it’s almost as big as Grand-Staircase. With all the nooks and crannies, you have to go back several times to appreciate all it has to offer. It’s a treasure trove of historical artifacts. But more than that, it’s a paragon of natural beauty.
It rests Northwest of Monument Valley. From up high, you can see Monument Valley in the distance. But Bears Ears has plenty of delightful features of its own. The most notorious of its collection is its namesake. They’re the cutest! One can’t help but think of Teddy(bear) Roosevelt himself. We wouldn’t be enjoying the splendors of these places without him. Next time you're there, give a wave.
Near the ears is a collection of Natural Bridges. Several short hikes will take you to a different bridge, each unique in its own way. Some are stout, some are round, some long, some are brown.
One of my favorite spots is the Moki Dugway. Three miles of steep switchbacks for your car. It reminds me of Beartooth Pass (on the Wyoming/Montana border). The drive is incredible. Sweeping views of Valley of the Gods, Monument Valley, the Sleeping Ute, and Shiprock. That's four states you can see from the top of one road. A geographical treat.
The place that cemented my love for Bears Ears is the Muley Point Overlook. It’s easy to miss. An unmarked dirt road that takes you to the edge of the world. Looking down you see deep, snaked craters carved into the earth below. A reminder of how incredible this place is, and the many reasons it's a monument. The goosenecks seem to go on. To ruin something like this would be unforgivable.
Our monuments are there to provide a welcome reprieve from life’s busy monotony. A place where we can play, rest, bond with friends old and new, or push ourselves to the limit. Their simple beauty leaves us begging for more.
We need our monuments. It’s up us to protect them.
From the moment Teddy scribbled his name on that piece of parchment, he gave us that right. Let’s make sure we fight to keep it.
Thanks to Scott Jones at Just Get Out More, for coordinating the Monumental Day of Blogging. To bring awareness to our monuments and the impact they have on us. We’re all indebted to you, Sir.