Jay Meehan: A four-wheeler ride in the park
Morning has broken on yet another anniversary of that rather auspicious poetry reading at Six Gallery on Fillmore in San Francisco back in ’55 when Allen Ginsberg first read his groundbreaking poem “HOWL” in public.
Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, and Philip Whalen also read that evening with Kenneth Rexroth serving as M.C. and Jack Kerouac passing the hat for chump change to keep the gallon jugs of California wine flowing. It has become a holy day of observance around these parts.
It also triggers an annual refueling of that part of my brain that puts me in touch with those finer slices of hip Homo sapiens to which I, culturally, identify – the “Beats.” Of course, any residual “high” that ensues quickly becomes tempered by the reality of living in the time of Trump and his quite malleable and scared shirtless cohorts.
Actually, the very first thing that occupied my thoughts as I tumbled out of the rack this morning had more to do with the Trump’s rape and pillage of sacred lands on the Colorado Plateau than with the traditional media’s concept of berets and bongo drums.
Having recently shape-shifted my digs from the spacious Navajo-like setting of Heber Valley’s northeastern foothills to the Hopi-like, Pueblo-friendly confines of urban Heber, visions of past trekking upon redrock and the chronology of favorite hiking boots continually dance in my head.
An arthritic condition of the lower back that dampens my longings to put one-foot-in-front-of-the-other along the slots and ridges of Mesozoic geology is only one reason I find these musings rather ironic. Another is that the self-righteous followers of this imbecile keep retreading similar reasoning as the logic behind allowing ATVs and UTVs, et al onto protected lands.
Their favorite spot in nature lies (insert your favorite number here) miles from the nearest paved road, they argue, and the trails that lead there are challenging enough that you need to use a modified 4×4, dirt bike, UTV, or ATV to navigate them. My response is always the same: “Have you ever tried hiking boots?”
Whenever the concept of developing additional roads or paving trails in National Parks or Monuments raises its head, I’m reminded of Edward Abbey’s essay “A Walk in the Park,” wherein he recounts a conversation with his nine-year-old daughter Suzy as they drove home from the Needles District of Canyonlands.
“Look here Suzy, should we let them build that bridge? Should we let them build that paved highway to the Confluence overlook?”
“No,” she said.
“But why not? What are you, some kind of elitist? How do you expect people to get in there if they don’t have a good road?”
“They can walk.”
‘Twas the actions of ol’ Ed rather than his words that carried the most weight with young Suzy as her environmental ethos evolved during those years, however. After attending a public meeting on further development in CNP, Ed and her would go on to hike the Confluence Trail to the overlook of where the Green and Colorado become one.
I can speak to this hike as one with an infirmity who grimaced and whined both ways of the 11-mile journey due to a problematic knee. Would I rather have driven on a new paved road? Although the thought probably did occur, I’m sure the pavement itself would have made me more nauseous.
The destruction of geologic marvels in order to reduce the experience to automotive friendliness would be sacrilegious. Remember, it’s all about the journey. And if there is pain involved, let me assure you that, in the aftermath at least, it is a blessing.
It’s those damn grabens along the trail that increase its coefficient of difficulty, anyway. Those long depressions between geologic faults are to blame, and, whenever possible, should be horsewhipped with a fistful of cheat grass. That ought to teach them!
Anyway, my tribe is far from “elitist.” It’s just that we don’t buy into a concept as narcissistic as “God created man in His own image,” so he gets to do whatever he damn well pleases with the planet. We figure all species, whether flora or fauna, should have the right to exist irrespective of corporate profit.
And, if like Wallace Stegner said of Abbey, we become “burrs under the saddle blanket of complacency,” so be it.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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