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High Uintas Guidebook
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A Guide to Climbing the 13,000-Foot Peaks of the High Uintas
by David Rose

One of the purposes of this site is to advance the protection of Utah's wild country. I personally don't advocate extremism; instead, a balanced, "healthy", rational approach. However, I believe the balance has swung too far away from wilderness, especially here in Utah.

So what is UtahWild all about? You won't find any info on 4WD, motorcycling, ATVs, snowmobiling, boating or any other motorized forms of recreation. But I've arranged the focus of the site to go even further, by not covering hunting, fishing or boating (except perhaps fishing, as mentioned as part of the attraction of a particular hike). I've excluded these latter activities simply to provide more focus.

All these activities have their time and place, of course. We don't condemn them, except where they intrude on the solitude and peace of a wilderness experience. While I can't say I've ridden ATV's or snowmobiles just for the sake of a riding them, I recognize that is just a matter of different tastes.

Some people like the power, the thrill, the machinery, maybe the ease and quickness of getting around. That's perfectly understandable to me. I've had the thrill of being in a powerful sports car, or, more directly related, had some satisfaction in a great 4WD truck powering over rough terrrain. That has it's time and place. But it is the very opposite of a wilderness experience. The two can never be together in harmony. That's the way it is.

Further, I'd be even more of a hypocrite to condemn motorized activity altogether since I use or ride a 4WD truck to gain access to trailheads. Similarly, a snowmobile can shave tedious days off a ski trip, in order to get to the normal summer trailhead.

But that's as far as I'll go in compromise. You can not have a true wilderness experience in a truck or on an ATV or on a snowmobile. Impossible. Not going to happen. I'm sorry for anyone who thinks along these lines. They're missing out in a big way.

If nothing else, there's the indisputable fact that the more effort you make, the more you appreciate something. Traveling by foot (or by arm and foot in the case of rock climbing!) will always bring more appreciation and keen awareness to surroundings than being carried in on a vehicle.

Then there's the noise and the exhaust. Holy smokes (pun intended), how can that possibly enhance a wilderness experience?? It can't. Instead, it brings the smells, the sounds, and pollution of civilization directly into the backcountry. And a lot of intrusion, at that. Dirt bikes and snowmobiles are outrageously noisy. And the amount of exhaust emitted is, well, sickening.

What about cars and trucks? Yup, the noise (and maybe the pollution) is less, but then you're shutting yourself inside a steel cage, cutting off all contact with nature outside. Not to mention that the physical effort then is cut to essentially nothing at all.

Not to belabor the point, but no one could fail to see the difference in appreciation between driving to a scenic lookout point, and instead climbing or hiking up to it. I do enjoy nature and the awe inspiring vistas from lookout points, or anywhere I've driven in a vehicle. You'd have to be insensitive to not recognize the beauty of the earth wherever or however you see it (maybe photos on a wall are the ultimate in separation, but you can still appreciate the beauty).

But I don't care who you are, and I'll argue this point till the day I die, you will never appreciate nature more than when you have exerted some physical effort to walk or climb to a solitary spot in the wilderness. Arriving at a solitary spot far away from human intrusions only makes the appreciation more keenly felt, and is essential to the experience (hence, wilderness areas).

There is at least one website out there dedicated to slamming those of us ("wilderweenies" as they affectionately call us) who vote for less roads and more wilderness-on-foot areas. One in particular advocates enjoying the San Rafael Swell on motorbikes or ATVs. Sure there are some roads suitable for motor-biking (too many, I believe, but I'll open that Pandoras Box later). But sadly, they'll never get to experience the real Swell unless they get off their bikes, and walk with pack on their backs. They've lost any semblance of true wilderness when the wind and silence is lost over engine noise, when the feel of sandy earth underfoot is replaced by a metal footrest, and much of the close visual details zoom by too fast to really see.

I'd bet the farm that the person who doesn't agree with these points is the same person who hasn't walked much, if at all, into the wilderness. Do it. Try it and see for yourself the difference. The longer you are out, traveling under your own power, moving in direct contact with the land, the elements, carrying everything you need to live... the more you'll understand. The longest trip I've been on was two months along the Pacific Crest Trail in California. You just can't imagine the connection you feel with the land, the razor sharp awareness of the way nature really is, when you're out for that long. (Of course, it's not necessary to go that long to understand the benefits of wilderness walking).

Some hard-core environmentalists may argue with the points I've taken on some roads being suitable for off-road vehicle recreation. I still think they do have a time and place. But as a true environmentalist, I'm all for reducing the amount of roads we have, and creating large blocks of wilderness. That's the tough part, the real source of conflict in the wilderness debate.

But why more wilderness? Because roads, buildings, pavement, concrete -- civilization -- are expanding on a mass scale. Wilderness is shrinking. Look at any map. Large tracts of land that haven't been crossed by a road are virtually nonexistent, unless it's already a wilderness area. I mean, the "road people" have already gotten their way. You can access any area of Utah on a road. There are thousands of miles of road for off-road use.

Then there are the cows and sheep... more on that later.