SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – August 2001

Keeping Utah's Outdoor Secret

Should secret wildernesses be revealed? Utah's Anasazi artifact hotbed Cedar Mesa begs the question.

by: Tom Shealey

PAGE 1 2

I know a place where the unicorn is the last one at the watering hole. It's a tiny lake hidden on the side of a mountain, encircled by forest primeval, its still waters reflecting the surroundings like black glass. There are no trails leading to it, and it's so small, so delicate, that this place of magic and wonder is nameless on the map.

Where is this garden of earthly delights?

Some folks wouldn't tell you. They'd say that after "discovering" a "secret" territorial gem devoid of human intrusion, the only way to keep it pure is to pull the ladder up behind you. Disclose the location, they warn, and the barbarian hordes will quickly descend and desecrate the place.

Which brings us to Peter Tassoni, who's penned a guidebook giving directions to ancient ruins that are all that remain of the ancient Anasazi culture. A Hiking Guide To Cedar Mesa: Southeast Utah hits store shelves this summer—no small miracle, considering the outrage that's been hurled at the publisher, the University of Utah Press.

"Cedar Mesa is supposed to be a huge secret, a sanctum sanctorum open only to those souls lucky enough to be recognized by the initiates," says Jeffrey Grathwohl, director of the University of Utah Press. "Yet a lot of people know about the region. I knew there would be some controversy, but I felt it more important to impress on people the protocols of site visitation. They're going to visit anyway."

Such sightseeing is probably due to the existing gold mine of info on this and other Southwest parcels that have a historical allure. A quick scan of Backpacker's bookshelves turned up half a dozen guidebooks, including titles such as Hiking Ruins Seldom Seen. A typical excerpt, this from Wild Utah: A Guide to 45 Roadless Recreation Areas, reads, "(Anasazi) artifacts remain, richly displayed in the recesses of Grand Gulch, Slickhorn, Fish, Owl, Arch and Mule canyons." There are also Web sites that point, in detail, to more ruins and rock art in the Four Corners region.

But let's not deep-end with Cedar Mesa, since Tassoni's book is only one briar on a particularly thorny bush: Should so-called "hidden" or "special" destinations be revealed to the hiking world through guidebooks, the Internet, and magazines like Backpacker?

The "silence is golden" crowd holds that doing so destroys the very quality that makes these places attractive: their solitude. Similarly, they say, identifying historically sensitive areas is like giving artifact thieves a treasure map. As well, they contend that there must remain places no one knows about, so there's still the possibility of discovery.

The "tell all" faction points to the fact that these places tend to be on public land, where we all have a right to venture. There's also the high likelihood that the spots are already on a map or in a guidebook. Then there's the matter of stewardship. The more fans the land has, the more protectors there are who will fight for its preservation. A classic example is Arizona's Glen Canyon. One of the best-kept secrets in the Southwest, Glen Canyon was dammed in 1963, only a few years after outraged opponents beat back a proposal for a dam near the better-known Dinosaur National Monument.


PAGE 1 2


Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Rick Schafer
Nov 13, 2008

Excellent article. I always wonder "who are we saving the ruins for if we don't want others to visit them also" The debate goes on. Check out my site "Beyond Mesa Verde"

http://reddirtdawg.blogspot.com/

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Your favorite backpacking photo
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: Echo
Trailhead Register
Stick is fine
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: JasonG75
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions