Posts Tagged ‘Edward Abbey’

Edward Abbey on Backcountry Skills


Getting out of the city
North Cascades, WA

Edward Abbey: Action outdoorsman and author of Desert Solitaire, *The Monkey
Wrench Gang and 17 other popular novels and essay collections, was one of America’s most powerful and relentless spokesmen for the environment and certainly its most uninhibited. Here, at Abbey’s curmudgeonly bat, is his introduction to The Backcountry Handbook, of which I thought I’d post  the first half. I doubt many fans of Edward Abbey would find this little gem, buried in an outdoor handbook.

There’s one thing that gripes me in my lurching about in America’s blessed but overcrowded backcountry, it’s those androids from the moronic inferno of contemporary techno culture who apparently

Learned outdoors etiquette from The Boy Scout Handbook of I928.I mean the cretins who build their campfires with green logs laboriously chewed from living trees with dull hatchets. And then erect a corral of rocks to enclose a fire about l0 times bigger than even a White Man needs. And then,
upon departure from the scene of their felonies, pile all their garbage upon the smoldering remains-including such non-combustibles  as tinfoil and wet tin cans, wet condoms and Pampers-let it smoke and black- en and stink for  while and conclude the infamy by heaping this mess with a pile of mud and stones.  Everywhere we go in what’s left of natural America, we find these miniature trash dumps. The intention, no doubt, was to prevent forest fires, as Smokey the Bore has been instructing us for 50 years. But fires are natural, inevitable and good for the forest;   Any Native American can tell you that, if you can find one. (The true terror of the modern forest is not the wildfire but the logger with his chain saw, the road builder with his bulldozer, the cowboy with his cow. These types wreak far more destruction upon our forests than any wildfire ever did or could. And wreak it at our expense, financed by our tax dollars.) Why do these Ralph Lauren he-man Campfire Girls build giant fire rings filled with half-baked rubbish? I don’t know. No one knows. They are the product not of thought but of ritual, spastic reflex, ancient ideologies conceived in sin and whelped by bureaucrats. One discovers such mementos even in the sand and rock of the desert, where the nearest tree may be a scrubby juniper four feet tall, l0 feet away. Mysteries of the Wild.  But irksome. There are many things that irk, actually, not only me but you, but this is not the place for a complete listing.

Editor’s Note: Did you know that The Monkey Wrench Gang was blacklisted from the east coast booksellers during its first printing? Maybe the east coast establishment didn’t want to disturb the goings-on, as this book surely tends to do. I have a well-read family member, that has an incredible breadth of education and reading behind him. What’s more he was a hut ranger in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He had never heard of Edward Abbey. I’m not sure if he’s read him yet. I’ll have to loan him my tattered copy of The Gang.

Mt. Washington’s Summit, Ykes!


As we approached the last few feet of the Tuckerman’s Trail, at the summit of Mt. Washington. we took the last steps… to what? A parking lot filled with camera toting, Lay’s Potato Chip bag eating, heavy handed, and heavy set “summiteers”.

They had just driven up the highest peak in the land.
And they were taking pictures of us, the hikers, as if we were wildlife…maybe we were.

I’m a native of New Hampshire, and after all these years, had forgotten to avoid the White Mountains in the summer. I’ve been living in other parts of the world and usually come back to New Hampshire during the off seasons.  So, when Amanda and I decided to climb to the Northeast’s highest summit on a midweek day last August, I vaguely warned Amanda about a crowded summit. But nothing prepared either of us for the sheer numberof poeple. While I’m the first to share the mountains with others, and gladly give way on the trails, the element of an auto-road raises the stakes of tolerance.

The day started and ended nicely, it was the middle part that was challenging. As we headed up Lion’s Head Trail, we passed a few people here and there.  It was Amanda’s first time on a bigger peak in the Northeastern US,  and she enjoyed getting a sense of the mountain, feeling the “mountain spirit” which each unique to each mountain. The Inca have a word for it, “Los Apus”, the “Mountain Spirits” which reside in and on every mountain, or in essence, are the mountain. Mountains are either maculine or feminine, and have certain traits, such as strength, or flexability or love, or supporting compassion for example.  Amanda was getting a feel for what she felt as the female, but big,  loving energy of Mt. Washington, whose indigenous name is *Agiocochook (or Agiochook), and Waumbeket Methna meaning “The place of the Great Spirit”; “The place of the Concealed One.” (and in one other reference also named, Kodaak wadso).  (*Referred to by Emerson as well, in his journals).

When one quiets the mind, and tunes into the surrounding natural environment, the place and natural features will speak to one. But because of our incessant need for mind chatter, and our worried lives, we rarely tune into the pulse of nature, as exemplified by our summit experience.

The Summiteers

Amanda has been reading Postcards from Ed, a collection of letters and postcards from Edward Abby, which we both highly recommend. Our suggestion, dismantle the road, and the cog railway while they’re at it.

Note: Stay tuned for another post featuring “Ingram’s Law”: A law based on Gresham’s Law of economics, in which Ingram  applied the same principles  to recreational management in our national and state parks and other public lands.

When is Enough, Enough?


Keeping Land Developers in Their Box
By D.R. Richards,
I remember that particular afternoon, when a friend and I talked about trying to do something to help save Mount Sunapee from the dread of slope-side condo development. Sullivan county, New Hampshire had no history* of activism, none, zero, zip. Being a native, of a conventional, conservative county, I had to really watch my thoughts of not wanting to make waves in my home town.  I didn’t want to stand out. Besides, people I talked to said there was “nothing that could be done”, “it was already a done deal”, or they were “going to develop the mountain and what could anyone do anyway”.  That particular afternoon, the friend and I decided to call a few people, and set up a meeting at the Abbott Library in Sunapee to see what could be done. That first meeting eventually led to the formation of Friends of Mount Sunapee.  (*Current FOMS Vice President Linda Dennis was a founding member of a previous Mt. Sunapee land protection group, but  at the time we convened, it was not active).

Mt. Sunapee has Friends

Never underestimate what the efforts of a few committed people can do in the face of deep pockets and driven land developers.  Thanks to many, (too many to mention here) the word spread about the threat to our State Park, and eventually it spread to the candidate for New Hampshire governor,  John Lynch.  Lynch has been the most popular Governor New Hampshire has seen, and because of his courageous stance to defend the state lands of Mount Sunapee, the developers decided to sue him, and the state of NH, because their imaginary back-door deal wasn’t honored.  Now I read the owners  are threatening to sue again. This time they’re stomping their feet at  the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado,  for again, not getting their desires met to expand their ski area. (For more info click here)

Overdevelopment is not pretty, Okemo, VT

It makes  one wonder how some can be so incredibly out of touch with reality, out of touch with the wishes of the locals and the natural environment.  I just watched the movie Avatar, (I still have a headache from the Imax 3-D version three days later) and the Muellers’  insatiable appetite for land and profit remind me of the miners in Avatar and their lust for the precious “unobtainium” mineral at all costs.
My dad was a developer. He built one of the first “funnel developments” on Lake Sunapee called Fisher’s Bay. (more…)

Power of Place: Utah’s Canyonlands

Looking W on Island in the Sky, Utah

Looking W on Island in the Sky, Utah

Although I was graduated from the University of Utah, and spent as much time in Utah, as in any other state, I had never been to CanyonlandsNational Park. I recently had the opportunity to kill some time while in Salt Lake waiting for a car repair, and decided to spend a few days and nights in the desert near Moab. My first stop was the Island in Sky. I spent a day exploring the plateau, taking pics, and scrambling among the sandstone outcrops. I miss the Utah desert, although New Zealand is hard to beat.

Navajo Sandstone: Canyonlands, Utah

Navajo Sandstone: Canyonlands, Utah

As an aside, I was driving here in New Zealand from Christchurch to Wanaka, and passed through canyon that reminds me of American Fork Canyon in Utah.  Anyway, after a couple of days on the Island, I did some work in Moab on MSI’s portable office, (the laptop) then moved on to the Needles area in the southern portion of the park. Here one can day hike or spend the night in the backcountry, and even drive around the park, although the latter is not high on my list. Along those lines, read Edward Abbey’s The Monkeywrench Gang, or Desert Solitaire on brilliant views about America’s relationship to wilderness. Oddly, I’m not sure his books have made it here downunder. I’ll keep you posted. 

Island in the Sky, Image:Steve Mulligan/USPS

Island in the Sky, Image:Steve Mulligan/USPS

The Utah desert has a power all its own. So, if you’ve not been I suggest you get there before you die. Put it on your bucket list. For more information on the MSI’s Utah Solo and Wilderness programs, please contact us. The US Park Service has some great resources for Canyonlands