"Nature is orderly. That which appears to be chaotic in nature is only a more complex kind of order."
- Gary Snyder
I recognized their kind right away. The video gave them nowhere to hide. They were of the right-wing, white-male, church-going, persuasion and they were used to being in charge. In their shriveled brains, they held the moral high ground and they would pass their twisted ideology on to their sons and their friends' sons.
Back when I first encountered their tribe, they worked in the law-enforcement trade in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. In those days, "outside agitators" of the Civil Rights Movement were their target. These badge and gun-toting "good old boys" were white and at the top of the food chain - a pecking order reinforced by a God they created in their own image.
These days, those same white-males-in-charge have evolved into a much less-murderous yet equally non-inclusive lot: Utah Boy Scout leaders. Their targets now are environmentalists and anyone who would put nature on anywhere-near-equal footing with the Human agenda. Their God, also a white male, totally has their back.
Although my wilderness ethic would certainly be fine-tuned by the likes of Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Wallace Stegner and, probably more than anyone else, Gary Snyder, it was as a card-carrying member of the Boy Scouts of America that I would be first introduced to "the wild." My "leaders" were of a much different sort than those laughing hyenas down at Goblin Valley State Park, however.
Memories of two-week hiking and camping adventures up into the Stevens Lakes country of northern Idaho's Bitterroot Mountains still stick to my ribs. Even with the heavy rucksack digging into my shoulders and a growing blister on my right heel, seemingly, at the time, not much larger than Montana, I was wrapped in the rapture of "going home."
On the final day prior to hiking back out to the trailhead, we would completely disassemble our makeshift lean-tos and kitchens and rafts and bear-proof food caches and re-pack everything. Then each "patrol" would inspect their counterpart's camp to make sure they had also kept the faith. The lesson was a given: This land was not ours to desecrate. It was part of us!
So when the time arrived that my son showed interest in joining a Heber City Cub Scout Pack with his friends, I readily agreed. Although we were Catholic, sort of, at the time, our interactions with neighbors had always been positive. Not that the Woodland zucchini harvest never presented a storage problem.
But it wasn't long before he found the local Scout culture not to be to his liking and he dropped out. Although I was saddened that he wouldn't have Boy Scout memories similar to my own, the awareness that he had grown up hiking and camping and fishing and generally enjoying the outdoors with family and friends made it irrelevant.
And, today, as an avid hunter, his wilderness track has a lot more going for it than the one followed by the "hoodoo" topplers down near the San Rafael Reef in Emery County. Goblin Valley State Park, with its close proximity to Barrier Canyon's iconic pictographic rock art and the meandering slots of Little Wild Horse Canyon, should be treated with at least the same reverence as Temple Square up in Salt Lake City.
I probably shouldn't really be "bundling" that bunch with the rest of Utah's dominant culture, but I'm just so angry that some kind of misplaced wilderness ethic has hijacked the BSA that I knew and loved. And I believe the onus is on the faith-based sponsorship to right the ship! Utah's land is sacred! What is it you don't get?!
The fact that a mindset that can topple a 20-million year old "hoodoo goblin" has so completely insinuated itself into the very fabric of an organization that first took me for an extended walk-in-the-woods has me frothing at the mouth. String them up by their thumbs!
Actually, maybe we need to reinvent the whole shebang with a slightly tweaked spirituality. Gary Snyder, one of the greatest and most insightful hikers to ever trek the planet, once saw it this way:
"I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution. Thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of 'em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.