The Sather Family Opposes the Bears Ears National Monument
Sather Family – Once I found it, I never stopped coming back.
Where to start is the biggest question. With so many paths taken over the last 22 years, this “story” could become a novel. You see, I am a Native Texan who grew up outdoors and have always been more comfortable with my hands dirty, and my truck full of camping gear than at a desk, a bar, or a “park.” I avoid the masses who dwell in the concrete world, despite living in it every day.
My story does not begin until 1995 when I graduated from college. A good friend had sent me to SE Utah; in particular to meet a person who would become very dear and close to me over our 22 year friendship. When I met Huck Acton of Blanding and his sister Betty Gordon, my life was changed. Once the relationship was forged on that first trip, I was hooked. Once a year trips became twice a year, sometimes three times a year. This is not easy for a working man, but when we think of passions in life, we are not able to control the power of them—we must accept it and go with the flow.
For many, if not all of us, who are fortunate enough to be struck with a “true” passion for something, there is nothing finer in life. My passion and love of ancient America drove me to SE Utah, but the people, the landscape, and the experiences have made it the place my heart desires to be most in life. My spirit resides there and always will. I can’t describe the feeling of SE Utah in words, it’s something you have to experience. Time and time again I have been there, in the backcountry with Huck, my college girlfriend, my high school buddy, my dad, and now later in life, my son. Everyone who has experienced the land firsthand knows how special it is. There is no escaping the truth that lies west of Hwy 191 and north and south of 95 as far as you choose to travel.
I have ventured far in 20 plus years. On foot, in truck, on motorcycle. I have been from Mexican Water to Moab, from Dove Creek to Lake Powell, and everything in between. I have seen the finest sunsets, had the best campfires, shared the deepest emotions and stories, and ate some of the best striper I’ve ever had. All in SE Utah.
My trips were not always with others. Many times in my 30’s I took solo trips and camped at favorite places that only I know, learning about myself while hiking for 6 or 7 hours a day alone, in the canyons with the ancients. You see, when I was younger, there were no GPS units and no cellphones to use, so one had only a topo map and a good sense of direction. When lucky, I got an old hand scratched map on paper from Huck with the positively encouraging words, “Go find this and come back to tell me how it was.”
I miss that guy so much. When he left us, part of me went with him as he was my first friend in Utah. I believe his spirit lives on in the canyons, and that is where I go to listen.
Through the years I’ve been stuck in the snow in November and had good friends from Bluff come save me between Dark Canyon and Gooseberry while trying to get to Elk Ridge (Thanks Galen Headley!). The foothills of the Blues get some snow that the area south of Canyonlands does not. We were naïve that our 4X4 truck with trailer in tow would get us out. As the snow got deeper and the sun started setting, we realized we were in trouble, abandoned the trailer with dirt bikes and were lucky to get out with the help of our friends.
We live and we learn. The backcountry is unforgiving but therein lies its true beauty. Raw, alive, and a place where time stands still if you allow it to. It’s amazing who you can meet, and how you can make new friends when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
A trip a few years back had us on Elk Ridge. We stopped to talk to two locals. Before long as we compared notes, we realized that despite being almost 1000 miles apart in where we lived, we knew someone in common. The man I was talking to and his son had a relative in a town near Austin where I am originally from: Michael Glen Patterson. As it turns out, I know him through business and we have worked together on projects in our industry. Such a big place as SE Utah, was immediately shrunk to a very, very small world. It was nice knowing the people I was talking to were actually family to someone I knew from Texas.
I always feel safe out there north of 95, no matter where I am. It’s all home. After many years and many trips, my 12 year old son now journeys with me annually to the Four Corners. He was lucky enough to meet Huck and share a breakfast at Yak’s Café one morning a couple of years ago. I am thankful for that moment. My son had never seen anything like our favorite camping place on Lake Powell, or another place that is a large peninsula sticking out into the south end of Canyonlands (name purposely left off), where one can see for miles.
It’s like living in a fairytale world when we are out there, anywhere, alone, and with nature. He too will be hooked one day and I can only hope that later in life, he will head to our favorite places to find me and his youth, intact, as if it was yesterday that we were there together. What was once the unknown backcountry is now a comfortable giant backyard that is always different. With each turn a new view, a new animal to see, or just the sound of nothing. When we are done and tired, a trip back to town for supplies, a burger at the Patio or a green chili burrito at the Café make us whole again, where we often times head back out for a few more days of adventure before making the slow journey home.
We feel like family is everywhere. We always long to come back, see their faces, and catch up on what has happened over the last year. They are some of the finest people I have come to know.
The Monument Designation
I was taken back when the steam began building for the Bear’s Ear’s Natl’ Monument (BENM). I could not believe that special interest groups, and a minority assortment of banded together individuals had such a large audience. Such a huge voice was possessed that the monument was signed into being earlier this year. How could the majority not be heard?
I believe the monument is a huge loss to all Americans. The exposure of its delicate and intricate places will create a situation where areas have to be closed due to over use. The roads will be blocked and slowly places that were once open to anyone adventurous enough to find them, will be shut down.
Yes… everyone has a right to enjoy places like this, but those that have “found” it on their own, or “sought” it out, are the very ones who care for it the way it was intended to be cared for and respect it to the highest degree. Once the maps are out there for all casual tourists to follow, the beginning of the worst destruction you could imagine will begin.
Most folks I’ve seen in the backcountry leaving trash and disrespecting the fragile environment are tourists, with rented cars, passing through on a Disneyland journey “one time”. They leave a mess for others to clean up as they never intend to come back. That has not been the case for the BENM area as few people ventured off the beaten path unless they were truly interested in finding what lay beyond the highways and major thoroughfares. Those people have a respect for where they are travelling. To open this area in the manner a monument will is a huge mistake that will never be cleaned up properly no matter how hard we may try in the future.
It’s only pristine once and in my honest opinion, it is still a pristine place, taken care of by the locals, and by the folks that have made it a point to fall in love with the land, and respect it for what it is. I have for over 20 years packed out “more” than I have brought in. Cigarette butts, plastic bottles, glass, paper, and candy wrappers are the most common. Even a large Styrofoam kids airplane last year near the head of Arch Canyon. One has but to visit the most easily accessible ruins that are near paved parking lots or near the road to see what will happen to the rest of the area once it is exposed to the unforgiving masses. Trash, trampling, and sadly a lack of respect and knowledge for what one is doing.
It’s that simple. I will stop here as this is difficult to write and share. I have been a mostly silent visitor for so very many years, and was content to be so until the monument was passed. I feel for those who wanted the monument as they had their beliefs about it, but I feel they do not understand the nature of what they are bringing to bear (no pun intended). Once a decade of misuse passes, we will only be able to look back and wonder… why did we do this…or why did we allow this to happen.
I OPPOSE THE MONUMENT AND ALWAYWS WILL. Everyone has a right to all public places, but not everyone has the right to trample them with disrespect. If you can’t find it on your own through hard work and a desire to explore, you probably don’t need a map helping you get there, and will likely be the first one calling for a helicopter ride at the taxpayers’ expense when you get lost, break down, or hurt yourself. Utah as a state deserves the right to protect this land through their own legislative process. The state has already lost many places to National Parks, National Monuments, and “designated” areas with various levels of control. Leave the Bears Ear’s Monument to the people of Utah (all cultures, beliefs and backgrounds). Allow them to share it with the rest of America in a way that suits their lives as they are the true protectors of the land and understand it best.
– Brad Sather, Sather Family