On June 8th, 1906 President Teddy Roosevelt put pen to paper to sign the Antiquities Act. The act allows any president to preserve an area of land, or a historical site, for public use. It also gives them the authority to expand monuments, use resources for monuments, and reclassify monuments 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 cautiously celebrate the anniversary of the 1906 Antiquities Act, 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. They’re two of the monuments on the list to “investigate." They serve as necessary spaces for rest and 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, petroglyphs, beautiful waterfalls, epic thunderstorms, and a variety of wildlife. But my favorite thing about Grand Staircase-Escalante is the solitude. It’s the perfect place to go for 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 spot and 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 canyons, down the road, are like the slot canyons you see films. You have to remove your pack and squeeze through some spots. Willis Creek Canyon is wider, more rugged. Reminiscent of something primal.
Lower Calf Creek Falls impresses me every time I see it. 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 dancing above like excitable children. When they fill with color, it’s a display for the ages. And 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. 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 (known, of course, as 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 are long, some are brown.
One of my favorite destinations is the Moki Dugway. Three miles of steep switchbacks for your car, bike, feet, rollerblades, whatever. It reminds me of a desert-version of Beartooth Pass (on the Wyoming/Montana border). The drive is incredible. You’re rewarded at the top with sweeping views of Valley of the Gods, Monument Valley, the Sleeping Ute, and Shiprock.
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, snaking craters carved into the earth. A reminder of how incredible this place is, and the many reasons it's a monument. The goosenecks seem to go on forever. To ruin something like this would be unforgivable.
Our monuments are here to provide a welcome reprieve from life’s busy monotony. Places 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.