A landscape worth protecting, and paddling. Photo: Aaron 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 of this installment


I left my phone in the van when we launched onto the San Juan. It was turned off and would stay that way for three days. We weren't there for Internet or obligations. We'd gone to experience an obscure and remote wrinkle of the world, learn about sacred cultures and immerse ourselves in dirt and dirty water. The opposite of what cell phones represent. To be left to our own devices, without devices.

Content director Dave Shively enjoys one of the many river waves on offer in Bears Ears. Photo: Black-Schmidt

There's something grounding in disconnecting, removing the wavelengths and the ambient chatter from your mind, unplugging from the grid and dipping into a wayward vein of Southwestern wilderness. The escape creates space for those simple moments when your biggest concern is right in front of you—navigating a rapid, starting a fire or setting up a tent, even just moving the portable toilet. It's one giant meditation session, letting your body loose in the wild to lose your mind in moment. It's a place where we thrive.

Thousands of acres of prestine wilderness is being threatened. Digital editor Mike Misselwitz, putting things in perspective. Photo: Black-Schmidt

At the other end of the spectrum we thrive on creature comforts. Mattresses and MacBooks, climate control and recliners; life's certainly more difficult without them. I do like being dry and full and able to call my family. But it's also easy to go numb to life's little ecstasies from the comfort of a couch. Or even to bypass them altogether.
My first night on the San Juan, I made some great new friends from different places. I also missed my girlfriend, froze my ass off and then thawed it out over the morning campfire. My back was sore, unaccustomed to the night's rest on hard desert sand. I had a cut in my palm. And it all felt so good. After weeks corralled in the Southern California "comfort zone," the last thing I felt was mentally numb. That morning, the cowboy coffee and grits with spam tasted like a five-star Vegas buffet.

Tuning into such an expanse of quiet and solitude was liberation from the buzzing space back home. The whole experience felt like coming up for air. I asked myself: How do I ever go so long without it?

A paddler revels in a rare gem of Utah’s untouched wilderness. Take action to help keep the gem shining. Photo: Black-Schmidt

My answer: I make due with pastimes like paddling. I get in my mini-escapes where I can fit them in. I find those magic moments dropping into waves and paddling over kelp forests, maybe graced with the company of a dolphin or two if I'm lucky. Whether right in the backyard or off in some far-flung backwater, it's those moments alone with the wild when punch cards and board meetings and calendars and money mean nothing. Those moments keep me sane.

I sit back in my office chair writing this now and it makes me excited. Not just for my next big adventure, but for my lunch break. That's when I'll get my daily dose of the glory we were lucky to live for three days together out in Utah. And while I can't always escape to the San Juan, it's nice to know I can always turn off my phone and go for a paddle. –Mike Misselwitz

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

Read the first installment 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.