Help Protect Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument – Part 3

Waters worth protecting. Photo: Black-Schmidt

Our Take on Protecting Sacred Land and Water in the Bears Ears

Last month, the Trump administration issued an executive order that could alter or even attempt to rescind national monuments that were designated after January 1, 1996. These designations protect millions of acres spanning across the US. The SUP magazine staff had the pleasure of paddling through portions of one such area—Bears Ears National Monument—during a recent trip to the San Juan River. From the experience—shared here in part one of a four-part web series—we can attest: it’s a sacred and special land worthy of continued protection. A movement is now being spearheaded by the good citizens of Utah to protest the Trump administration’s executive order. Take action today by urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to protect Bears Ears and all our national monuments. NPCA will submit your comments to Secretary Zinke by May 26, 2017.

Into The Mystic: Time Traveling Down the San Juan River

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2 of this installment.

EXPERIENCE

A rush of cold water flushed into my wetsuit as I tumbled into the milk-chocolate-colored water and was swept downriver by the swift current. I bobbed up and down in the murky water trying to gain purchase on my board. When I finally did, I climbed back on, took a few strokes and prepared for whatever obstacles lurked around the next bend.

It was late afternoon on the final day of our journey, my first trip of this kind. To say I was learning a lot would not do it justice.

Battered and bruised, the chill of creeping November shadows deep in the river canyon reminded me of the previous morning. I woke to frost covering my sleeping bag and clothes after a night spent sleeping in the dirt. Instead of packing a tent and sleeping pad, I’d assumed that my sleeping bag would suffice. But as the desert sand quickly chilled beneath me, a shiver-filled, uncomfortable night proved that assumption to be wrong.

A perfect environment for learning the ropes of river paddling. Let’s keep it that way. Photo: Black-Schmidt

I was learning how to do things the hard way. Despite a surfing background and general comfort level in the water, standup paddling on a river is an entirely different world. Eddies, wave trains, hidden rocks and an oversized fin were just a few of the challenges I faced during that weekend in that new world.

Despite my many plunges into the river and the frustration that comes along with learning a new discipline, the trip opened my eyes to the vast possibilities of standup paddling. How this sport affords us the ability to challenge the river’s churning rapids, take our own lines, immerse ourselves in a fantastically remote environment and go on an unforgettable adventure with friends—all at the same time.

By day, we gawked up at the undulating red rock canyon walls. Different compositions of rock representing era upon era dating back millions of years stacked on top of each other like pages of one very long history book. Red-tailed hawks soared, bighorn sheep leapt and the physical reminders of civilizations from long ago—ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs—left us all in awe.

By night, our crew cracked jokes, brews and smiles around a crackling campfire and indulged in old-fashioned entertainment: telling stories, playing ridiculous games, cooking in the moonlight and the liberation of escaping society.

A newfound pastime let us experience an age-old thrill of good company and wide open space. It was a good first for me.

As we reached the take-out—an unmistakable rock formation called Mexican Hat because of its resemblance of a sombrero—I thought about the people that once inhabited this area and how the San Juan River was their lifeblood.

Now it feels like part of mine. —Jack Haworth

This article is the third of a four-part feature originally published in our Spring 2017 issue.

Read the first installment here and the second here.

Take action today by urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to protect Bears Ears and all our national monuments. NPCA will submit your comments to Secretary Zinke by May 26, 2017.