Posts Tagged ‘environmental’

Four New Philip Hyde Authorized Releases From Slickrock With Edward Abbey

November 14th, 2014

Philip Hyde And Edward Abbey First Meet In The Remote Wilderness Of Canyonlands Near Spanish Bottom–Ardis Hyde’s Travel Log

Philip Hyde Photographs The Escalante River And Ernie’s Country In Capitol Reef National Park And The Maze, Canyonlands National Park For Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest With Edward Abbey

On Sale For A Limited Time:  New Release Archival Fine Art Chromogenic Lightjet And Digital Prints Of Four Iconic Philip Hyde Photographs From Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest

For more information about New Release Prints Pricing see the blog post, “New Release Pricing,” For more about the archival prints and materials see the blog post, “About Archival Fine Art Digital Prints.” Also, to learn about special features of only the two largest sizes limited editions see the blog post, “Why Photography Galleries And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

1951-1973 Slickrock Projects and Travels

1951   Dinosaur National Monument, Monument Valley, Canyon De Chelly, Canyonlands & others

1955   Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Dinosaur N. M., Canyon De Chelly, Canyonlands & others

1958-1997   Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Colorado, Green, Yampa, San Juan, Delores, Rio Grande River Trips

1963   Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Hopi Villages & others.

1967   Navajo Res, Rainbow Bridge, Hole In The Rock, The Maze, Canyonlands, others.

1968   Escalante River Canyons and Tributaries, Canyonlands

1970   Coyote Gulch, Escalante River Canyons & Tributaries, Canyonlands

 

Stevens Arch, Escalante River, now Grand Staircase Escalante Natonal Monument, from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1970. Made on backcountry backpack into Coyote Gulch.

Stevens Arch, Escalante River, now Grand Staircase Escalante Natonal Monument, from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1970. Made on backcountry backpack into Coyote Gulch.

(See the photograph large, “Steven’s Arch, Escalante River, Utah.”)

One of the world’s most widely published stock landscape photographers Tom Till said my father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde was one of the first to photograph some areas of the Maze and the Needles, Canyonlands National Park and Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park.

Dad’s main purpose for exploring and artfully documenting these locations in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was to splash them in newly introduced color across the revolutionary new coffee table size Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. These first landscape photography books, exploding in popularity were bringing the message of conservation to a widening audience. In the 1950s with the defense of Dinosaur National Monument against the building of two dams that would have flooded 96 out of the 104 river miles in Dinosaur, the Sierra Club had decided to advocate new wilderness beyond the borders of California and the Sierra.

Dad’s Spring 1970 itinerary primarily to photograph for the book Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest with Edward Abbey called for an extravagant 71 travel days, but there was only time for 50 days of travel with my mother Ardis and me in the GMC Pickup and Avion Camper. Beginning April 15, we started with 11 days in Nevada photographing Tonopah, Pahrump Valley, Red Rock Canyon, Henderson, Lake Mead, Valley of Fire and US Highway 93 north to Panaca, Nevada.

On the 12th day, we crossed into Utah to Bryce Canyon National Park, on to Escalante and out the Hole In The Rock Road. On the night of April 21, we camped at Willow Tanks. In the morning we parked at the junction of Hurricane Wash and Coyote Gulch where we began our backpack into Coyote Gulch. The three of us walked in just past Icicle Springs the first night, over eight miles. My Mother wrote in her travel log that at age five I hiked most of the distance, about five miles, but grew tired near the end having made too many side trips to investigate distractions. The horse packer from Escalante took me the rest of the way to camp on horseback.

We backpacked for five days in Coyote Gulch with the support of a horse packer from Escalante. For more on our backpack and camp at Icicle Springs see my book introduction and blog post, “58 Years In The Wilderness, Intro 1.”

Plunge Pool, Tributary To Coyote Gulch, now Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, original version from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1978.

Plunge Pool, Tributary To Coyote Gulch, now Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, original version from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1978.

(See the photograph large, “Plunge Pool, Tributary to Coyote Gulch, Utah.”)

Contained in this blog post are four new releases of numbered archival prints. Two of the photographs were made on the 1970 Coyote Gulch backpack, “Steven’s Arch, Escalante River” and “Plunge Pool, Tributary To Coyote Gulch.” The third photograph Dad made a few days after the backpack in Capitol Reef National Park, “Canyon in Waterpocket Fold.” The fourth photograph, “Wingate Boulders In The Narrows,” Dad made in 1968 while hiking the Escalante River. See the previous blog post, “The Making Of Reflection Pool, Escalante River Side Canyon.”

I will share here a few choice excerpts of my mother’s travel log of our Coyote Gulch backpack and the four wheel drive trip in Waterpocket Fold, but they were only the beginning of our travels. Before we wound our way safely home, we also visited the Circle Cliffs, the Henry Mountains, spent six days with Art and A. C. Ekker by jeep and Wagoneer in Ernie’s Country, the Fins, Doll House, Spanish Trail, Candlestick and other areas of Canyonlands National Park.

We drove to Hite, Lands End Plateau, Hanksville, then Dad photographed for three days in northern Canyonlands, three days in Arches, two days at Hatch Point, two days at Harts Point, six days in the Needles, Canyonlands, two days at Cottonwood Creek Road near the headwaters of Lavender Canyon. By June 5 we had spent several days in Bullfrog and headed back through Nevada home to northern California.

Types of Sandstone Formations Photographed by Philip Hyde, Spring 1970

Mesa Verde—Tarantula Mesa
Mancos Shale—Blue Gate—Swap Mesa
Emery Sandstone
Dakota Sandstone—Cedar Mountain
Bentonite—Big Thompson Mesa
Salt Wash Sandstone
Summerville—thin bed
Curtis Sandstone—Cathedrals
Entrada Sandstone
Carmel, Gypsum Limestone, Sandstone
Navajo Crossbed
Kayenta
Wingate—Circle Cliffs
Chinle—Painted Base of Circle Cliffs
Shinarump
Moenkopi, Simbad Limestone, Chert
Kaibab Limestone
Coconino or Cutter Sandstone—White Rim, Organ Rock Tongue, Cedar Mesa
Hermosa Mesa

Wingate Boulders, Angular Shadows, Escalante River Narrows, now Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1968. from Slickrock with Edward Abbey.

Wingate Boulders, Angular Shadows, Escalante River Narrows, now Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, from Slickrock with Edward Abbey, Canyons, Utah, copyright Philip Hyde 1968. from Slickrock with Edward Abbey.

(See the photograph large, “Wingate Boulders, Escalante River Narrows, Utah.”

Lower Coyote Gulch is Wingate Sandstone and upper Coyote Gulch is Kayenta Formation where Hurricane Wash comes in having cut down through the Navajo Formation from Willow Tanks on the Hole in the Rock Road. The Wingate and Kayenta sing every note on the Earth color rainbow from red to yellow and deep into browns and blacks with some streaks of iridescent blue desert varnish from water seep mineral deposits.

On Thursday April 13, 1970, Ardis Hyde wrote:

Cloudless sky, cool enough but air warming up decidedly. Left camp at 9 am to head downstream with a goal of Icicle Springs tonight. Our feet were wet immediately. The ferryboat theme of carrying David over the deeper crossings began. He was a better hiker today, enjoying the interest of canyon, stream and foliage. Packer Reeves Baker from Escalante caught up with us and showed us some moqui steps, lichen covered, next to a dead cow with a calf skeleton along side. We heard the canyon wren song with only the soft water under it.

We camped with mom cooking dried add-water dinners over open flames with a #10 pound can and a small grill. Breakfast was muesli, a raw mix of dried fruit, rolled oats, nuts and coconut. One day we had omelets. Lunch was cracker sandwiches. I played in the water, Dad photographed. The sun was hot, but the canyon shade and water were cool to cold. In the days following we trekked along or in Coyote Gulch to its mouth at the Escalante River. There we hiked up and around the corner to a good view of Stevens Arch on the trail up and over the bench above the Escalante River. Dad photographed the arch and photographed Mom and me in front of the arch.

We also ventured down the Escalante River to a few side canyons. The water in the river was much colder. Mom ferried me across the few river crossings, but when we returned to go back up Coyote Gulch, I ran and played in the stream, now making all the crossings on my own.

 April 29, Layover Icicle Springs

We hiked toward Jug Handle arch and the sun at 9 am. Icicle Springs doesn’t get sun until noon and then only filtered through trees. We climbed up through the thicket and past wall seeps to get to the ledge under the arch to see the remains of the storage bins. Some small ones, one large one and one in between we didn’t notice at first because it was still intact with rock cover and blended in with the back of the canyon wall in perfect camouflage. We scrambled up into Hamblin Arch itself. Philip made lots of pictures in both places. Then we headed downstream to the Waterfall and a stop for lunch on large boulder in the middle of the stream. Philip left us and carried the Baby Deardorff back down Coyote Gulch for more images. David and I bee-lined for camp as the weather worsened threatening rain with much colder wind. Philip came into camp not long before dark. He said he had some cloud trouble but got the photograph he was after.

After a rainy layover at Icicle Springs, we hiked out of Coyote Gulch and gratefully reached our gray GMC Utility Body Pickup and Avion Camper that carried us on to the Henry Mountains and eventually to a rendezvous at Hite with Art and his son A. C. Ekker, horse pack and jeep guides, cowboys, ranchers, horse whisperers and wilderness connoisseurs. The Ekkers would take us into Ernie’s Country in the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef National Park.

Canyon In Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park, From Slickrock With Edward Abbey, Made On Backcountry Trip With Art And A.C. Ekker, Canyons Utah, copyright Philip Hyde, 1970.

Canyon In Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park, From Slickrock With Edward Abbey, Made On Backcountry Trip With Art And A.C. Ekker, Canyons Utah, copyright Philip Hyde, 1970.

(See the photograph large, “Canyon In Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.”

At first we continued in our Camper, leaving Hite Marina, with Ark Ekker and Jay in the Jeep Wagoneer and A.C. Ekker in his GMC 4×4 Pickup. We crossed a cattle guard and followed a dirt track on a high cliff contouring around to the head of Rock Canyon. We crossed Andy Miller Flats with Man in the Rock, or the Sewing Machine, in the distance. At about four and a half miles from pavement the group passes shearing corrals for sheep. At about Cove Canyon we passed two men on horses, one of them a sheep man Art knew with his camp nearby.

The next morning Art cooked bacon, eggs and toast in the dutch ovens over an open juniper fire. Dad photographed old names carved in the rock under a nearby overhang. Soon we came to a good view high over the South Hatch drainage. Nearby it joins the North Hatch Canyon and empties into the Dirty Devil River. The group made many stops for Dad and sometimes others to make photographs.

At one stop I hiked up above the Chinle rounded hills to the chunky rock formations on top. We finally came to a place to park our Camper in a large dip that would hide it. Soon the Hydes moved to the Wagoneer, but David’s car seat rode in A.C.’s shotgun seat in his GMC 4×4 truck for later riding. To start with I rode in the far back of the Wagoneer with the gear. My mother wrote that I slept during the roughest, hard jarring part of the road.

Nine miles beyond where we left the camper, we could already see the thin sandstone Finns rising above the near horizon. Dad photographed the many rock formations in all directions.

When we came out to the Wall Overlook into the Maze, we looked for a camp. Philip was already running for pictures. Art drove over to a ledge of Slickrock on the Finns side of the Lizard for camp. Philip photographed madly around the Wall down into the Maze, around the Lizard, Chocolate Drops, Elaterite Butte, Ekker Butte, Cleopatra’s Chair all in plain view. We made an exposed camp, but no wind and the view glorious. Art and I made Dutch oven steak and fried potatoes for dinner. We kept Philip’s warm until he quit working. David and A.C. climbed to the top of Lizard Rock. David went to bed and we stayed up around the fire a while.

From Lizard Rock we passed pinnacles of sandstone on up toward the La Sal Mountains. We drove along the Cedar Mesa rim and then into the Finns. While descending, on a high opposing canyon wall we saw an arch. We hiked to other arches. One time they went out on a ridge to an arch.

A.C. got right down under the arch and paced it at 100 feet wide by 75 feet high. Huge distinct muffin shaped rock form right behind the arch on the east end. Hence A.C.’s name for it: Muffin Arch.

Dad climbed with his large format view camera over another ridge to photograph down into the Colorado River drainage. The rest of the next few days they spent winding in and out of canyons. Sometimes they would stop the cars and we would venture on foot, sometimes we would stop and camp or eat, but Dad was always photographing.

We saw a man standing at the rim of the Spanish Trail. Soon Philip came into camp having stayed making photographs in the canyon. A.C., who had gone over a ridge to pick up David and I, brought us into camp. Philip said he talked to the man on the rim. The man had said he was of Ken Sleight’s river party and walked up from Spanish Bottom. He said Edward Abbey was coming up too. Philip was getting more film and Art went with him to the wash to meet up with the man again. While I was preparing dinner, Philip, Ed Abbey and a girl named Ingrid appeared. They had a cup of coffee with us and then headed back down the trail. Philip will also be making a planned meeting with Abbey in Moab on May 25.

Here my mother’s travel log described another viewpoint of the Philip Hyde – Edward Abbey spontaneous meeting in the wilderness of Canyonlands. For the detailed story of their first encounter see the book Slickrock: Endangered Canyons of the Southwest or the blog post, “Keynote Speech At Escalante Canyons Art Festival.”

For more information about New Release Prints Pricing see the blog post, “New Release Pricing,” For more about the archival prints and materials see the blog post, “About Archival Fine Art Digital Prints.” Also, to learn about special features of only the two largest sizes limited editions see the blog post, “Why Photography Galleries And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

Have you ever photographed any unusual rock forms? Ever been to Canyonlands or walked on the sandstone of the Southwest?

Wallace Stegner: The Wilderness Idea

September 29th, 2014

Steamboat Rock, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, 1955 by Philip Hyde. Made on Philip Hyde’s second trip to Dinosaur National Monument. In the book, “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers” with Forward, first chapter and editing by Wallace Stegner and photographs by Philip Hyde, Martin Litton and others, the Sierra Club used this horizontal photograph and cropped it to less than square, nearly a vertical. There was a vertical version of the photograph but it was not used in the book. This is still today Philip Hyde’s most widely published black and white photograph.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Any photographer of the natural scene is wise to care deeply about the preservation of wilderness, otherwise some day he or she could wake up some bright “magic hour” morning to discover there are no natural places left to photograph. Maybe it will not happen that rapidly, but many who have been exploring the outdoors for decades have already noticed the shrinking of the wilderness and the changing of places that were once somewhat wild.

In today’s society, appearances would have us believe that we have learned to live without nature. However, scientific evidence links much of our society’s dysfunction to lack of contact with the natural world. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner wrote the forward and helped compile and edit the first book published for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. Wallace Stegner was also an advocate for wilderness on many other fronts throughout his writing life. He worked on several books in the groundbreaking Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series and many of the campaigns that defined modern environmentalism. Edward Abbey was Wallace Stegner’s student at Stanford. Here is a quote from Wallace Stegner’s famous letter–statement called The Wilderness Idea excerpted from A Sense of Place by Wallace Stegner:

The wilderness idea has helped form our character and has shaped our history as a people. It has no more to do with recreation than churches have to do with recreation. Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed, if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases, if we drive the few remaining species into zoos, or to extinction, if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country, from the noise, the exhaust, the stinks of human and automotive waste, and so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it.

Without any remaining wilderness we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection and rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite life, the brave new world of a completely man-controlled environment. We need wilderness preserved, as much of it as is still left and as many kinds because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed. The reminder and reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in 10 years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly as vacation and rest into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there. Important that it is, simply as idea. The frontier was necessary. For an American, insofar as he is new any different at all, is a civilized man who has renewed himself in the wild.

For a tribute to Philip Hyde’s landscape photography and its role in wilderness preservation see the blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.”

(Originally posted Nov. 4, 2010.)

Why do you think we need wilderness? Is it important for landscape photographers and others who hike, travel or enjoy other outdoor activities on wild lands to care about wilderness preservation?

Keynote Speech At Escalante Canyons Art Festival

September 11th, 2014

Escalante Canyons Art Festival and Everett Ruess Days

David Leland Hyde Keynote Address

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Escalante High School Auditorium, Escalante, Utah

Why Escalante, Utah? Why Was David Leland Hyde Invited To Speak?

Hyde's Wall, East Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde. One of the most renowned photographs from Sierra Club Books. "Hyde's Wall," originally titled "Juniper, Wall, Escalante" was first published in the Sierra Club book "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" with Edward Abbey. Search for "Hyde's Wall" on this blog for more about Edward Abbey, "Hyde's Wall," "Slickrock" and how the wall originally became known as Hyde's Wall.

Hyde’s Wall, East Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde. One of the most renowned photographs from the early large format Sierra Club Books. “Hyde’s Wall,” originally titled “Juniper, Wall, Escalante” was first published in the Sierra Club book “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey.

My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, (1921-2006) even more than his mentor and teaching associate Ansel Adams, explored and photographed remote areas of the Western US, helping to establish national parks and wilderness lands. Dad’s photographs, along with those of Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, David Brower and others, were the backbone of the Exhibit Format Series that popularized the coffee table photography book and helped to make or protect national parks and wilderness in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and beyond. Iconic locations that receive millions of visitors a year now were protected with the help of Dad’s images.

Projects included books and other photography assignments that were central to preventing dams in the Grand Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument, establishing North Cascades National Park, Redwood National Park, Pt. Reyes National Seashore and many others. For the 1971 book Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah with Edward Abbey, Dad was the first to photograph remote areas of Waterpocket Fold and the Escalante River canyons in what is now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument; as well as parts of the Dolls House in the Maze in Canyonlands National Park.

In the heart of canyon country, the small town (pop. 783) of Escalante, Utah for 12 years now has hosted the Escalante Canyons Art Festival and Everett Ruess Days. For a much longer time, Artists have come from all over the West and the world to photograph, paint, sculpt and otherwise portray the beautiful sandstone landscapes of the Escalante River Canyons, a tributary of the Colorado River. This artwork is often seen in galleries, on TV and in magazines and other media all over the world. During the Escalante Canyons Art Festival, the Plein Air painting competition allows artists a full six days to explore the canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation and other areas limited to Garfield, Wayne and Kane counties in the lower center of Southern Utah. Judges bestow a number of awards and the art from the competition is offered for sale as part of the weekend festival that includes an Arts and Crafts Fair, artist in residence and featured artist exhibitions, a speaker series, staged musical entertainment, special show presentations, workshops, demonstrations, open studios, tours, films, yoga, quilt exhibition, an art installation from Brigham Young University and my Keynote Address on Friday, September 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm.

Part Of Why Philip Hyde’s Approach To Art Matters Today

In my speech, I will show slides and tell stories of travels with my father and mother, Ardis, in the backcountry by 4X4, horse, burro, airplane, train; hiking, backpacking and boating. I will also share an overview of my father’s work, with an emphasis on the Southwest.

On seeing the giant topographic contour maps of the canyons of the Colorado Plateau that my father pinned up in his studio, with his travels drawn on them in various pen colors, and after more urging by Dad, John Mitchell, the editor of Sierra Club Books in the early 1970s, decided to develop a large format book project, that became the now classic Slickrock just as Edward Abbey signed on to write the text. Mitchell, in the introduction, told the story of how Abbey and Hyde first met. Abbey had hiked with a friend into a remote area of Canyonlands. Abbey’s friend scrambled ahead of him up to the rim where he ran into a photographer with a large format camera on a tripod poised on the sandstone:

Cameraman explains he is doing a book. Funny, Friend says, so is my buddy. Cameraman asks identity of buddy. Ed Abbey, says Friend. Funny, says Cameraman, same book. Friend hollers down canyon: Hey, Ed. Guy up here says you’re collaborators. Abbey scrambles up. Ed Abbey, says Friend, meet ‘Doctor’ Hyde.

Such a chance crossing of paths, deep in the heart of The Maze that was then roadless, fit well these two desert wanderers and their collaboration. The two creative personalities differed in their approach to social pastimes: Abbey was a wild party lover and Hyde was a subdued teetotaler. Yet they both had an unsurpassed love of deserts—sandstone, sage and open sky—and they each had an unparalleled gift for expressing this love and similar feelings about preserving the wilderness, as much as possible like it was, for generations to come. In addition to the list of areas Dad photographed first and beyond his accomplishments in helping to make national parks and wilderness, exhibited in his photographs and writings, was Dad’s warmth toward lands that many considered inhospitable or useless.

Often photographers today are in a hurry. They may not be “allowing” or “making” photographs, but rather they are “blazing” or “blasting away.” When I was a boy, I remember Dad on the lookout for photographs. Mom and I were often quiet in anticipation of the true silent time, which began as soon as Dad pulled over, or we hiked away from pavement, and he took out his Zeiss wooden tripod and 4X5 Baby Deardorff view camera, or his Hasselblad with Bogen tripod. For Dad’s own explanation of the Quiet Mind see the blog post, “Toward A Sense Of Place By Philip Hyde 2.”

When Dad first arrived on any scene he would look in every direction many times and at each detail of the countryside around him. He would bend down and look up at a Juniper, crouch and look at a cactus between two rocks, scramble up a nearby mesa top, all in the interest of seeing every angle. He did some of this in his mind and some physically. By the time he planted his tripod, you knew he had checked all other possibilities and chosen one. There were exceptions to this longer process such as when he saw one isolated point of interest or when the light was fading or the situation was changing quickly for some other reason. Then he moved swiftly and silently.

At the same time, Dad never waited for special lighting, weather, rainbows, sunsets, moonrises or other special effects of nature all dressed up on her best day. His goal was to capture the subtle beauty of nature as is, in her everyday wardrobe. Some of his work is dramatic, but much of it is more refined and delicately subdued. He studied geology, archaeology and the natural and human history of an area before photographing it. His photographs were invocations honoring place, rather than art for art’s sake. Dad’s goal was similar to that of his mentor and friend Edward Weston, the father of modern photography: to take himself out of the picture as much as possible, limiting the always present imposition of the photographer’s own interpretation.

Family Travels And Philip Hyde’s Love For The Escalante And Colorado River Tributary Canyons

Dad had a particular fondness for the canyons of the Escalante, including the portions now and from time to time under Lake Powell in Glen Canyon. He traveled through Glen Canyon by boat before the reservoir formed in 1958 and 1962 and as the waters were rising in 1964. His photograph, “Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon,” on an Escalante River tributary, Clear Creek, was named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

In 1980, when Lake Powell finally filled to capacity for the first time, 16 years after the US Bureau of Reclamation closed the dam gates, Dad published a lament for Glen Canyon, Coyote Gulch and the lower Escalante in Wilderness Magazine, see the series of blog posts beginning with “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.” For other writings and to read about and see Dad’s Glen Canyon Portfolio see the series of blog posts that start with “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1.” With the reservoir full, the mouth of Coyote Gulch was effectively cut off from hiking and backpacking access. Ten years earlier when I was five years old, a guide from the town of Escalante horse packed our gear into Icicle Springs, where my father, mother and I could establish a base camp for exploration and photography of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante Canyons. However, it was two years earlier in 1968, trekking down the river with another party, yet by himself for the day, that Dad found a canyon with a hidden entrance few people had seen, and discovered the place in East Moody Canyon now unofficially called “Hyde’s Wall,” by photographers who have had what it took to hike that far on foot.

In my Keynote Presentation on September 26 at 7:30 pm in the Escalante High School Auditorium, I will elaborate on these stories and tell others. I will share how Dad prepared for his travels, how he recorded not just the scenery on the surface, but dug into the geology, history and archaeology of each place he photographed, and how he applied what he learned in photography school with the greats of the medium, to see more profoundly. I will share how his legacy lives on, through many of the who’s who of landscape photography today, through my own photographs and through the application of his life’s work and images to current conservation campaigns.

To read about the Hyde’s travels in the Escalante River Canyons see the blog post, “58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 1.” For more about Hyde’s Wall see the blog post, “The Naming Of ‘Hyde’s Wall’ By Writer And Photographer Stephen Trimble.” For a rundown on the controversy over the Lower Escalante River, the Colorado River, Lake Powell and new solutions to the problem see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection by Annette McGivney With James Kay,” as well as the blog post series beginning with “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.”

Have you ever been to Escalante, Utah?

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Three

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2.”

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capital Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in "Drylands: The Deserts of North America" by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" with Edward Abbey.

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in “Drylands: The Deserts of North America” by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, developed out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness, with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other foundational landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands and its production can be viewed. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including Amazon under Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde.

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself. We continue now where that blog post left off…

 

Passing through vast expanses of land that appear to be nearly bereft of any living thing, I wonder at the sight of a small plant braving the harsh environment. Its difficult circumstances do not evoke sympathy; I wonder that the plant grows in spite of difficulties, that it conserves what little moisture it gets and responds to the slightest moisture by blooming exuberantly.

Still another delight feeds the photographer within: the light. Desert light is crystalline and brilliant, making deep shadows and sparkling highlights. This is at least partly a result of the scarcity of moisture in the air—and, until recently, the scarcity of humans and their activities. When there were fewer people, the light everywhere must have had the clear quality that is still to be seen in some of the more remote quarters of the North American deserts.

As a mountain lover, I especially appreciate a characteristic that our deserts share with most of the country from the Rockies west: the deserts of North America are uncommonly mountainous. The two snowiest mountain chains in the country, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades border the northernmost deserts on the windward sides. Scattered throughout all of the deserts are a large number of lesser mountain ranges that cast their own rain shadows on the adjacent areas. Some of these lesser ranges are high enough and wet enough to support forests on their upper slopes. Rising high above the parched plains and valleys below, they may be snow capped in winter, like the higher ones to the west. The White Mountains, Toiyabe, Snake, Ruby, and other ranges in Nevada, along with the high plateaus of Utah and Arizona and the Sierra Madre in Mexico, create their own microclimates: islands of plenty surrounded by desert.

Nowhere in the world is there as much diversity of desert weather as there is in western North America. In western Oregon, California, and Nevada precipitation occurs mostly in winter, in summer only rarely. In the eastern and southern parts of the Mexican deserts, summer is the rainy season. Where rainfall records are available for desert locations, they show radical irregularity. Downpours may occur at random intervals and locations, sometimes exceeding the year’s average in a few minutes or hours. In some places droughts can last several years, with no rainfall at all. The North American deserts are second to none for intensity of summer heat, but the dryness of the air makes the heat more bearable. Death Valley can be as hot on a summer day as any place on earth, while at higher elevations a sweater may be necessary when the sun sets and the air cools.

The great diversity of the vast desert landscape of North America suggests natural divisions that coincide with most scientific classifications. But the actual boundaries of these divisions are not so easy to draw within those of the larger desert region. In most cases, one desert shades into another, so boundaries must be somewhat arbitrary and indefinite, as are all attempts by humans to circumscribe nature. As I write this I think of Sir Francis Bacon saying: “Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with may make you lose your way.”

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4.”

Which is your favorite desert?

Art, Earth And Ethics 2

July 24th, 2014

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part Two

Climate Change, Big Oil, Politics, Walmart, God, Religion, St. Francis, John Muir And Leave No Trace

(Continued From the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”)

Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind. – Aldo Leopold
Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Portfolio One.)

Many people today would rather not discuss environmental issues. The environment is a subject that reminds people of thoughts and emotions they are often trying to forget. Bringing up such topics, some consider as taboo and as deadly to conversation as discussing politics or religion.

Along the same lines, when people are faced with, and allow to sink in a bit, some of the scientifically established facts of climate change, they respond with a wide range emotions: denial, rage, fear, grieving, indifference, resignation and others. If we do discuss climate change, it is with a dispassionate distance, as though it is not a matter of survival, of the life and death of our species, but something mildly in need of our intellectual attention and problem solving abilities, like an algebra equation. Some believe that an excessively hot planet with temperatures continuing to rise is something we can learn to live with. Meanwhile, many of the most credible sources say that just slight changes will bring about ongoing natural catastrophe, which in turn will readily destroy our economic system and our way of life.

Much of this can be debated indefinitely and is, but my intent in mentioning it here to begin with is to emphasize that these are serious, grown up problems that must be reckoned with, not forgotten about or avoided indefinitely. Each of us must start now to act in ways that have less environmental impact. We have to take responsibility and make changes ourselves, individually, regardless of what the US Congress, our president, or other world governments and corporations do. Regularly I see political slogans that say we need to keep Big Oil from causing climate change. True, we do need to stop subsidizing Big Oil, but we also need to remember they are in the business and we are all their customers. If we do not believe in their product, we need to gradually decrease our use of it, in all of its forms.

Climate Change through the refinement and distribution of fossil fuels is what Big Oil does for a living. It is what they have done for a living for a long time. Yet we must remember that it is the actual burning of the fossil fuels that is changing the climate. We are doing the burning. Meanwhile, we are asking them to change businesses, when we ourselves will not even change jobs to use less gasoline, or to do work that itself is more earth friendly. We will not change homes, change cars, or change other products we buy and use, yet we ask Big Oil to change the core of its livelihood. The picture will not change until we change. Major seed changes have almost always come from the people, from the bottom up, not from the top down. Top down management has brought us the world we have now, which is a calamitous train wreck about to happen. It would be easier to get off the train if it were moving more slowly, but as the train continues to gain momentum, we will begin to realize that jumping from the train is a better option than staying aboard. As a whole, the civilized world has doubled its energy use since 1980. This is a monumental trend in the wrong direction.

Most of it stems from short-term thinking, our own, as a people, and that of our leaders. The primary business of politicians on both the left and right is to kick the can down the road. As I listen to NPR or Democracy Now, I hear on a regular basis, politicians from California, or from the US, or from other countries, in the process of passing laws that set standards to be reached by a certain future year, usually 10 or 20 years from now. What is to stop the next batch of politicians in office from kicking the can farther down the road? Nothing. Which is why this kind of do-nothing, but appear-to-be-doing-something politics continues. We as a people rarely stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute, that law is not real. It is just a dog and pony show for the Television evening news.”

Examples of short-term thinking are abundant. When it comes to art, people would rather fill their homes with lots of cheap junk that will wind up in a landfill, than save and gather their resources to acquire a few quality pieces of artwork with provenance that will last and go up in value as a real asset to be sold at a profit or passed on to heirs. We have this same Walmart mentality about many items. We would rather buy a cheaper bike for $250 and have to buy a whole new one every four or five years, than save up and spend $800-$1000 on a bike that will last the rest of our lives. Even the $800 bike will no longer last a lifetime because planned obsolescence and lack of durability are built into the manufacturing system. Cheap is what people want, or is it?

Much of this comes down to education and how people are raised. Some parents teach their children to be racists, to hate people of other religions, or conversely, to be tolerant of all religions, to have empathy and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and myriad ways of living and worshipping on this planet. Some children rebel against whatever they are taught anyway, but Culture, environmental awareness, tolerance, open-mindedness or lack thereof are all teachings or programming, as are values, art, ethics and religion, which is man made. It’s all the same God, but some people try to claim that they have a different God, or that if you approach God any other way than by their approach, you are doomed and damned. I can see why some people don’t believe in God at all. Many others object to using the term, “God.” I certainly don’t believe in an angry, vengeful, insecure, spiteful God, the God forced down throats by Puritans and other fundamentalist extremists.

The early environmentalists and naturalists, sometimes called transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others from the 1800s, believed God was in nature. This is also what Saint Francis of Assisi taught much earlier in the 13th Century. There is much debate as to when environmentalism started, though it could be argued that St. Francis was the first environmentalist. Moving forward into the 19th and 20th Century, one of John Muir’s main purposes for getting out into nature as often as possible, much like St. Francis, was to get closer to God and through immersion in the “works” of God, to have a spiritual, transcendent experience. A belief in God is not required to live a good life, but we must be careful of Godlessness and a lack of responsibility based on lack of faith in anything. Lack of faith in anything often blocks transcendent experience, which is part of what maintains our belief in existence and meaning in it. A belief in karma, what comes around goes around, or religious morality, even the threat of punishment has helped guide people toward fulfilling, thoughtful, sensitive and generous lives. It has kept people from living without regard for fellows or surroundings. When Friedrich Nietzsche said God is dead in the 1800s and people began to give up religion en masse, they no longer had an ethical basis for decisions or actions. People did not espouse any concept of consequences like the karmic law of cause and effect, which western civilization found in the East during that same time, but did not widely accept until much later. With religions often operating at the extremes and religious leaders acting in materialistic or perverted hypocritical ways, outdoor organizations, in many cases, actually now serve the purpose of educating people about God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh, All That Is, whatever you want to call It.

John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892. The Sierra Club’s primary purpose was to educate people about how to live and take recreation in harmony with nature. The Sierra Club initiated the idea of national forest preserves that became our national forests. The early Sierra Club defended and helped maintain the sanctity of our national parks. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Boy Scouts of America and other groups began to talk about the concept of minimal impact that later became Leave No Trace, which is a sort of environmental Golden Rule, or outdoor law of karma. The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service cooperatively produced a pamphlet in 1987 titled, “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In 1990, the Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School established a national education program of Leave No Trace, to work with the Forest Service instructions for motorized recreation called Tread Lightly. Low impact education is now offered through the Leave No Trace non-profit group and many other organizations all over the world.

The basic summary of Leave No Trace is formalized into seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit LNT.org for an expanded explanation of each principle.

The Leave No Trace principles could even be extrapolated into a business philosophy, a way to create true sustainability on earth. If we could operate industries such as mining and logging using long-term Leave No Trace principles, this would accomplish sustainability, in fact, not just in name. Most sustainability advocates are working too gradually, offering proposals that make industry just slightly greener in baby steps, rather than rethinking from the ground up. Again, just like the issues with Big Oil, and in our own private lives, these changes are often easier said than made, but we need to step up the pace, if the changes are to do any good, or stave off the destruction that is already under way.

More on Leave No Trace, how children and grownups learn ethics, or not, and how to live responsibly, in future blog posts in this series…

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 3.”)

References:

Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide to Backpackingby John Hart

The Sierra Club Wilderness Handbook edited by David Brower

The National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness Guide by Mark Harvey

Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette by Annette McGivney

Wikipedia Leave No Trace Entry

The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure

Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Three

July 3rd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument 2013

Part Three: Down To The Green River And Up To Ely Falls

(Continued from the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Two.”)

Upper Jones Hole Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Upper Jones Hole Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Into Jones Hole

As we ambled down the trail away from the Diamond Mountain Fish Hatchery and into Jones Hole, we began to see signs of what Randy Fullbright and the Park Ranger had been talking about: the recent rock slide. High on the cliff we could see the fresh, unstained light tan undercut where giant sandstone boulders, just weeks before, had peeled away from the cliff and come tumbling nearly straight down at least 1,500 feet, landing like bombs in Jones Creek and rolling through the forest smashing trees and everything else in their path.

The Boulders ranged from small house size down to bowling balls and had badly broken up the deciduous forest and riparian undergrowth on both sides of Jones Creek. Jones Creek contained many of the light tan boulders, as did the entire surrounding area in about half a mile radius of the main devastated area. It must have been quite a sight to observe all that sandstone raining down from high on the cliff above–and the noise must have been deafening. The trail had been closed for weeks as the Park Service was still nervous about allowing anyone to hike into Jones Hole. They were afraid more sandstone would come tumbling down and crush unknowing hikers and fishermen. Park Rangers had re-routed the trail to skirt safely around what looked much like a war zone. Randy and I walked into the heart of the devastated area and approached the creek to see the damage. After observing the current effects of geology in action and making a few documentary snapshots, we moved back to the detoured trail and on down the canyon.

Fishing, Hiking And Photographing

Jones Hole attracts fishermen from all over that part of Utah and Colorado. The Park Service still plants Jones Creek with Rainbow Trout from the Fish Hatchery upstream. While Jones Hole generally appeared dry and desert like, cottonwood trees, willows, tamarisk and other riparian plants grew thickly along Jones Creek. Besides, on that day at times it felt like rain could overtake us any minute as the sky brooded overhead. Other times the ceiling thinned and the sun grew brighter trying to break through. The light greens of sage and sagebrush offset by the deeper greens of the larger trees along the creek, with dried yellows and beiges of meadow grasses provided a good mixed palette of colors and textures against the reds, browns and tans of the sandstone cliffs behind.

We mainly hiked, but stopped for photographs occasionally. Randy made only a few photographs the entire day, while I stopped more frequently and he waited in his courteous, quiet way. Photographing Jones Hole took some adjustment as I am used to the lush river canyons of the Northern Sierra in California, or the more complete desert scenes of other parts of Utah further south. Much of the views of Jones Creek were a wild tangle, but the creek itself had character, as did the cliffs all around, if we looked closely. Randy took me on a detour off the trail and over to the cliff across the creek at one point to show me the petroglyphs and pictographs he had promised. These were not large or overly striking, but they were impressive in how well preserved and distinctly they stood out in red-brown against the tan cliffs at that spot. Few people know where they are and Randy said he and the Park Rangers intend to keep it that way.

Back on the main trail, we stopped for lunch along the creek where there were a couple of giant 10X20 foot natural granite “tables” and a good spot for photographs up and down the creek. It was good to sit in the shade or what was trying to be sunshine, stop and breath in the warm desert air with the more fecund smell of mud and life along the water. After a good break from hiking and a dunk of our shirts in the stream, refreshed we set off again. Except for a few sections moving over boulders along Jones Creek, most of the trail was fairly smooth, though a bit sandy in places. The hike still felt fairly strenuous to me at four miles each way, down to the Green River and back to the Fish Hatchery. Across and high on the canyon wall, Randy pointed out where a spring came out of the rock and made a waterfall and place to “shower” and get refreshed high above the trail. Though the spring was only a trickle at that time, we could see a thin silver ribbon of falling water high up against the far cliff.

Green River, Rafting Party, Harpers Corner From Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Green River, Rafting Party, Harpers Corner From Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Dinosaur’s Main Character–The Green River And Its Canyons–Now And Then

Not long after, we emerged from the trees to find ourselves finally at the Green River. Almost immediately after we walked out on the gravel shore, a herd of bighorn sheep passed us. Randy told me some stories of the males being less than friendly in rutting season, but this day the herd passed close by us without much concern. We looked around behind us at a tall, cone shaped promontory towering above Jones Creek. When we got out in the open and could see upstream, we noticed a rafting party beached on a rock and gravel spit above the riffle at the mouth of Jones Creek. Way up the Green River past the rafting party we could make out the outlines of the rock outcropping called Harper’s Corner that I had driven to in 2005 from the Colorado entrance to Dinosaur National Monument. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, made a black and white photograph, published in 1955 in the National Geographic, from Harper’s Corner looking down over 3,000 feet at the upturned strata typical of the Green River and Yampa River canyons. Harper’s Corner also overlooks Echo Park and Steamboat Rock farther upstream, the proposed site of one of the dams slated for Dinosaur that Dad’s photographs helped prevent. Dad was the first photographer ever sent on assignment for an environmental cause to Dinosaur in 1951 to help prevent two proposed dams that would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument. Dad’s photographs and those by river guide and journalist Marin Litton became the illustrations for the first book ever published for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, edited and with introduction by Wallace Stegner.

The sky had been darkening most of the day and here at the Green River, it finally began to rain lightly. Our shirts we had soaked just an hour earlier were already dried out and the cooling rain felt rejuvenating, even though it passed after only about 15 minutes and everything dried out again quickly. Having worked for the last two months moving furniture and packing boxes at my townhouse in Boulder, Colorado, and having minimal sleep for a number of days, I was already tired, but because this was one chance that might not come again for years, if ever, I agreed to hike with Randy up Ely Canyon to Ely Falls on the way back to the Fish Hatchery.

Ely Canyon was interesting and narrower than the Jones Hole canyon. There were a lot of small dead Juniper tree skeletons dotting the landscape. Ely Creek and Ely Falls were both small, Ely Falls only being about 12 feet high, while the creek was only a foot or two wide in most of its course. However, the falls were set in a greenery-surrounded oasis. Randy and I talked about conservation and my father’s work in the area, as well as the present day prospects of Dinosaur National Monument becoming a national park. More on Ely Creek, Ely Creek Canyon and the movement to form a national park in the next blog post.

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument, 2013, Part Four.”)

Have you ever been to Dinosaur National Monument? Have you seen bighorn sheep or any other large wild animal up close?

Art, Earth And Ethics 1

May 22nd, 2014

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part One

National Forests, Spotted Owls, Environmentalism, The Abuse Of Nature And Our Future

The Earth will survive, but will man survive on the Earth? – Philip Hyde
Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and deep blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. New Addition to David Leland Hyde’s Sierra Portfolio. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and azure blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.)

My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and my mother Ardis bought 18 acres in 1956 for a few thousands dollars in Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada of California. Plumas National Forest borders this land where I grew up, on two sides. Plumas National Forest also happens to be the top lumber producing national forest in the Lower 48 United States.

While my father was an artist and my mother a schoolteacher, my childhood friends were sons and daughters of loggers in Plumas National Forest and farmers in nearby Indian Valley. I remember conversations on both sides of the environmental equation. A good example of the nature of these discussions occurred recently. It was more of a one-sided rant than a dialog. A retired logger, who I consider a friend, and one of his friends, a claim gold miner, were raving about “those damn enviro’s.” Their comments were vaguely directed toward me, though also more general, offered in protest of all the injustices in the world and their own lives.

“I can’t believe the Feather River Land Trust won’t let us hunt ducks on the Heart K Ranch in Genesee Valley any more. We’ve been hunting ducks there for 50 years. Rich city people come up here and they don’t know anything about our way of life.” They were on a roll, fueled by beer and who knows what else. I did not intervene at first.

“There are no jobs left because of the enviro’s,” One of them said. “Yeah, and the damn Spotted Owl,” the other said. “Just because of one tiny bird, whole forests are closed to logging. What’s more important: one stupid little bird, or the economy? I’d like to take every one of those damn Spotted Owls and strangle them. People are the endangered species.”

I started to respond, but the old logger interrupted me, “We know what you’re going to say. You’re in cahoots with the wealthy Bay Area crowd. Don’t talk any of that rubbish in this house. I’ll throw you out.”

I rode my bike home and pondered how the above conversation has not changed for 50 or even hundreds of years either. What these hard working old guys fail to understand is that the Spotted Owl is only a symptom, just the tip of a very large iceberg. The ecosystems are breaking down and these few species that are dying are like advance warnings. Depending on your perspective, a few bees are not so important. “We can just get beehives to pollinate the crops,” another local said. Neither is it vital whether the local frogs can still reproduce, or whether any other single species, or single population of a species lives or dies. However, when you stop and think about how many human fertility clinics there were 30 years ago and how many there are now in every town, when you start to connect the dots, you begin to get the bigger picture.

The Earth is a web of all life. Everything is connected to everything else. You destroy one part of the web of life and you eventually destroy yourself. People reading this blog perhaps will say this is a “no-brainer,” that I’m not pointing out anything new here. True, but why are we as a collective not getting it? Not doing enough to change our perspective and our ways? Greed? Corruption? Selfishness? Lack of vision? Denial? Laziness? Pessimism? Resignation? What is your excuse for still driving a traditional car? …For burning fossil fuel? …For using plastic products? …For not recycling? Even hybrid and electric automobiles have a tremendous impact on the environment just through their manufacture and the mining extraction of the materials that go into them.

Is it really the environment that we need to save, or ourselves? When we act in ways that have less impact, carpool, ride a bike, is it truly on behalf of the environment? Is that the primary concern? Or is environmentalism really self-preservation? My father used to say that we do not need to worry about the Earth. It will be here long after we are gone. It is our own survival for which we need to be concerned. Therefore, are environmentalists in reality interested in protecting the environment at the expense of people, or precisely because it is our own future that is in jeopardy.

This paradox still escapes the majority of people in our culture. What do we do about it? I was lucky to grow up with both an environmental ethic and an art aesthetic. Care for the planet and beauty as a telltale of balanced health are ingrained in my psyche. Unfortunately, most people do not grow up as fortunately. To put in perspective how blindly oblivious and unaware some can be, take for instance one extreme case: this video of former Boy Scout leaders destroying an ancient rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.

When I first saw this video of young men responsible for leading others into nature having no respect for nature, I was dismayed, not only about those committing the crime and their kind, but also about whether there is any hope for our civilization. What we fail to realize is that we are all taking actions much like these ignorant young men. Not only are there just enough clueless people like them running around that it is easy to fall into thinking we are doomed, but we are all clueless to a much greater degree than we understand. In the realm of photography, even many nature and landscape photographers seem to have no respect for nature or other photographers, as landscape photographer Sarah Marino reported in her photoblog post, in which she suggested a field etiquette for landscape photographers.

Regardless of misguided deeds and a destructive approach to nature by our whole civilization, I believe there is still hope. I am writing this new series of blog posts precisely because I believe there is something we may not yet know, something we have not yet discovered, some new information or new action that will save us. This does not mean we can sit back, relax, watch TV, play video games, surf Facebook and not worry. It means that we need to put all of our synergistic efforts and pooled resources into finding a solution. But are we likely to do that? That is the question.

A New Yorker article, Scientific American and Grist Magazine report that even many leading scientists believe it is already too late to do anything about Climate Change. Wow, that went fast. Many people still doubt and wonder whether it is reality or myth, truth or fiction. Those of us who have been reading the science know that it is based on much more than mere computer modeling. We know that the science of Global Warming is based on mountains of hard evidence and real measurements that are hard to misread.

The abuse of nature has gone on for thousands of years. It is even sanctioned in the Bible. Genesis says our role is to conquer and have dominion over the Earth. Fortunately, today large numbers of Christians are not taking the Bible literally. More moderate Christians are in favor of applying the passages in the good book that tout taking care of Earth.

In the recent winner of the Colorado Book Award, Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future, author Stephen Grace covers the devastating state of water and drought in the Western US today. Water laws, originally developed in the much wetter East, protect the use of water channeled away from rivers and streams at the expense of in-stream ecological, aesthetic and recreational values.

As economies across the West surged, streams were dammed, ditched, and diverted until their beds were nearly bare. Many rivers became toxic trickles because they didn’t carry enough volume to dilute poisons and flush themselves clean. And each diversion for an offstream use, whether to grow crops, make steel or send drinking water to city taps, reduced the amount of instream flow available for supporting fish and wildlife populations, nourishing riparian vegetation, and promoting recreational pursuits such as boating, camping, fishing, and bird watching… To some, especially those profiting from raising beef on irrigated pasture—these uses seemed ridiculous at best, a threat to their way of life at worst.

Hoover Dam on the Colorado River helped supply the power to win World War II. After the War Hoover Dam was one of the underpinnings of the US rise to world power. Damming and diverting rivers has become as American as apple pie and as loved as baseball in the political arena, but the effects on watersheds, the durability of our limited fresh water supply and ultimately the health of the arteries of life on Earth is at stake.

On a larger scale, we are treating nature with the same abusive disdain across the globe. Are we lacking ethics or taste? Is it simply in our nature to be a parasite on the face of the Earth? Can we change? These and other questions, answers and ways out of the trap we have set for ourselves will be the subject of this new blog series.

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 2.”)

Please comment, email or write me through the Contact Form above what environmental issues, ecological concerns and related psychology and philosophy you would like to read more about.

Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part One

December 5th, 2013

Dinosaur National Monument 2013

Part One: Introduction And Setting

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Early Travels To Dinosaur

When I was a boy of about nine, I visited Dinosaur National Monument with my parents. Later, in my early teens my father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and I stopped through Dinosaur on the way back from a Fastwater Expeditions Sportyak trip down the Green River with famous river guide Bill Belknap.

The second short visit, I do not remember much. From that trip, besides the vivid memories of the river run, the only memory I have of the Dinosaur area is of looking down on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming upstream on the Green River. From the earlier trip with my parents, I recall only the visitor’s center and Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side of the Colorado-Utah border that runs through Dinosaur National Monument. This is what most travelers to Dinosaur remember too, because it is all that most travelers see. However, there is much more to Dinosaur than fossilized bones or an interpretive building. The national monument consists of over 209,000 acres of sandstone bluffs, monuments, rolling hills, outcroppings, shale, slate and the most diverse and interesting feature of all, the labyrinthine canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers. The highlight of these canyons is an oasis called Echo Park, where the two rivers come together and the canyons open up into a small valley between 1,000-foot cliffs. In the center of Echo Park rising straight out of the rivers at the confluence is a gigantic sandstone rock fin that on the near end looks like the cut off end of a loaf of bread. This 900 foot tall sandstone loaf end is called Steamboat Rock because from the side angle it looks like a steam ship.

Stories Of Our Fathers

Steamboat Rock figured prominently in discussions I had with my father after my mother passed away in 2002. After she was gone, I left a high paying job and moved from Upstate New York back home to Northern California. I moved in with Dad in the house I grew up in to help him out because he had not only lost the first love of his life, but had also lost his eyesight two years before and thus lost the second love of his life, photography. Dad explained how Steamboat Rock had become a symbol in the 1950s and 1960s of the then fledgling modern environmental movement and its first big success in defending Dinosaur from the invasion of dam builders, who wanted to erect two dams within the national monument, thereby flooding 96 out of 104 river miles of the Yampa and Green Rivers. For more about the battle over Dinosaur as well as conservation leader David Brower and photographer Philip Hyde’s roles in it, see the blog post series, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism.”

We talked much about Dinosaur and I poured over the maps and photographs. The series of blog posts above I originally wrote as a chapter in a book about my father’s life that I am still interviewing people for who knew Dad. By 2005, I could not wait to get up to the remote northern border of Utah and Colorado and see the place for myself. On the way back from a visit to Boulder, Colorado, I took the road less traveled, US Highway 40, and rolled across the open desert. A description of the approach and entry into Dinosaur can be found in the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 2.” In summary, I traveled the long pothole infested paved road out to Harper’s Corner, stopping at overlooks along the way and ending with a one mile hike out on a thin slice of sandstone 2,000 feet above the Green River at Harper’s Corner, where a large portion of Dinosaur’s geology and canyons can be seen all at once. I also took a risk going into Echo Park, made a tribute to my father at Split Mountain and had all sorts of other adventures, all fueled and inspired by my first listening to Jack Kerouac’s quintessential Beat Generation novel, On the Road. Kerouac’s lyrical, poetic prose lifted me and put a lilt in my step and my writing. For more on my journey as well as Dad’s explorations of the same territory and much more in the dusty, wild past of 1951, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 3” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4.”

Randy Fullbright And A New Dinosaur Campaign

I came back from Dinosaur changed, more on that and my profound experiences in future blog posts. The sad irony is that I did not have my camera with me in 2005 to record it all. Needless to say, this irony has been poking at me ever since I bought a Nikon D90, my first digital camera, in 2009. I have been hankering to go back, but never had the chance. Enter artist, goldsmith, gallery owner, gem and fossil expert, photography collector, photographer and impromptu wilderness guide Randy Fullbright.

I first started talking to Randy Fullbright via e-mail and phone in July 2011 when he introduced himself through comments on my blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 9.” Ever since then we have talked from time to time about his extensive photographic explorations of Dinosaur and about my dad’s work there too. Randy has two goals: 1. To photograph all of Dinosaur, no easy feat, and 2. To help Dinosaur become a national park. To these ends he has worked tirelessly and become well acquainted with many of the park rangers and management of the monument, as well as the local politics of air quality, oil and gas exploration and drilling, mining, tourism, recreation, ranching and the boom time explosion of the population of Vernal, Utah. Randy operates Fullbright Studios in Vernal, is active in the community and knows just about anyone who is anyone in town and all over the West.

While I spent this last summer in Boulder, Colorado for the first time again after a two year absence, I began to talk seriously about taking Randy up on his offer to take me into Dinosaur to some of the places few to no one else has photographed and locations my father photographed in the 1950s. Isn’t that a great offer? Again on my way home to Northern California, I took Highway 40, the road less traveled, and raged across the desert to Vernal, where I arrived at Randy’s house behind his gallery at 4:00 am. I did not see him until the morning when we embarked on a dirt road romping, camera carrying trip in to Dinosaur and an unforgettable hike into Jones Hole. Stay tuned for the whole story in blog posts to follow in this series, plus more about the mystical canyons, people, politics, fishing and simple freedom of Jones Creek and the Green River in Dinosaur…

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument 2013, Part Two.”)

Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection By Annette McGivney With James Kay

September 25th, 2013

Book Review on the Biggest Conservation Story of All Time and New Solutions… Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West by Annette McGivney with Photographs by James Kay and Foreword by Bill McKibben (Braided River, 2009)

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

Resurrection Book Cover, Lake Powell at Hite Marina, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, Photograph copyright 2007 James Kay.

In the mid 1950s, David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, led a coalition of conservation groups in an effort to permanently banish industrial development from national park lands. The primary battle defending the sanctity of the national park system was over two dams proposed inside Dinosaur National Monument. The proposed dams in Dinosaur would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument on the Yampa and Green Rivers.

David Brower in Congressional testimony used 9th Grade math to prove that if Glen Canyon Dam were higher, it could hold back and store more water than both proposed dams in Dinosaur. Congress removed the two dams in Dinosaur National Monument from the Colorado River Compact and passed the bill approving the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Having never seen Glen Canyon, David Brower and many others did not know the extent or nature of the sacrifice made to protect the national park system. Looking back, especially after he floated through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River for the first time in 1958, David Brower mused that he and the coalition might have pushed on and possibly succeeded in saving Glen Canyon. (For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

Ironically, before World War II, Glen Canyon had been part of a proposed national park that would have encompassed more than two million acres spread across much of Southeastern Utah including most of what are now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park and all of Glen Canyon. The attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted these discussions and turned the attention of Congress to preparations for war.

Drought, Distortions, Glen Canyon Dam And A New Dream Of The West

The Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates on Glen Canyon Dam in 1964, but “Lake” Powell did not reach full capacity until 1980. The reservoir water level ebbed and flowed until the last time it was full in 1996, then drew down over 100 feet by 2003 and has remained nearly half empty or more than half empty ever since. It turns out that the Colorado River flow calculations that justified the building of Glen Canyon Dam in the first place were exaggerated, as were the rainfall estimates on which expansion and development interests based the entire settlement of the Western US plains and Southwestern desert. Tree ring studies and other climate measures show that the 20th Century was one of the wettest ever in the Western US. Today’s much lower rainfall and river flow rates are more characteristic of the region, though big dam proponents are officially calling the present conditions a drought. Nonetheless, scientists project that “Lake” Powell may never be full again. Odds are that both “Lake” Mead and “Lake” Powell will both remain as they are now, roughly half full or less for the foreseeable future.

Annette McGivney, in Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West, tells the story of the loss of Glen Canyon, but more importantly the rebirth of life in the side canyons since the reservoir has subsided. Glen Canyon today is the poster child for watershed recovery for both Glen and Grand Canyon, as well as for the resilience of nature in general. McGivney’s easy-flowing text accompanies the photography of James Kay, who for more than three decades has photographed the Colorado Plateau, the seismically uplifted high desert that the Colorado River cuts through in Utah and Arizona. James Kay knows this land and these canyons. His sensitive, artistic eye finds for us the devastation that was, and the haunting, unparalleled paradise that is Glen Canyon.

McGivney and Kay explored many of the tributary canyons together for this project, either by boat, by kayak, but most often on foot, backpacking from the reservoir up canyon; or from the rims of the sandstone tablelands above, down into narrow, winding passages and rock alcoves. These slot canyons, often hundreds of feet tall and in places only a few feet wide, are already verdant with newly rooted cottonwoods, willows, and grasses, as well as teaming with wildlife just as they had been for centuries before everything drowned under the full reservoir.

Annette McGivney quotes Richard Ingebretsen, co-founder with David Brower of Glen Canyon Institute, who asked, “Why keep two reservoirs half empty?” Glen Canyon Institute, founded for the ultimate purpose of reclaiming Glen Canyon and turning it into a national park, is working on a current campaign called, “Fill Mead First.” The idea is to keep “Lake” Mead full because it supplies many cities of the Southwest with water and generates their electricity. If “Lake” Powell were then drawn down, Glen Canyon could be restored and even made into a national park. Many who saw Glen Canyon before the reservoir say that it rivaled the Grand Canyon in beauty.

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

James Kay’s photographs in Resurrection certainly provide the proof of this claim to canyon beauty. Traveling by Kayak, powerboat and most often on foot, Kay has shown us as never before, the side canyons and back alcoves of Glen Canyon reborn. His style is both effectively documentary, yet artistically strong. Kay’s experience in the canyons of the Southwest has given him not just an eye for form; he has an eye for gracefully capturing the forms of canyons. His understanding of natural light and how to use it to best portray the curves, edges, near and far, contrasts, shadows and indirect illumination of layers on layers of weather-sculpted sandstone.

Some of Kay’s compositions are simple. For example, one photograph in Resurrection depicts a massive wall of rock that juts out into “Lake” Powell like the prow of a ship. The vantage point of the image is from a boat close to water level. At the bottom of the wall that is about 200 feet tall, we see a small boat dwarfed by the immensity of stone above. The photograph is a work of beauty, while at the same time it accomplishes the practical task of dramatizing just how far the reservoir has receded from the high water line marked by a gray-tan mud stain, or “bathtub ring,” as people call it. The top half of the cliff is the beautiful red-brown of native rock, while the bottom half of the cliff is coated with ugly mud stain.

Other images give us the haunting, far away longing of luminous reflections or newly sprouted grasses, shrubs, cottonwoods and other lush greenery. Some photographs are purposely ugly, some are otherworldly and nearly abstract, while still others incorporate hikers in soaring walled narrows or show us intimate rushing water. If you love the desert and canyons, this is a book and a place different. Yet despite how unusual this place is, those who see it as nothing more than a holding tank, a cash register or a recreation area for motorized tourism, have seemingly never stopped to see it the way James Kay shares it.

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

Despite US Bureau of Reclamation and pro-development rhetoric, the only two justifiable reasons Glen Canyon Dam was ever necessary, and remotely remains necessary, were the Politics surrounding the agreement between the seven Western states that share the water; and the Income from recreation on “Lake” Powell. The viability of Hydropower generation has nearly run out with low water levels often not providing enough gravity water drop to turn the turbines at sufficient speed. Besides, the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act no longer allows the fluctuation of water levels caused by increased dam releases during peak power usage.

Politically in relation to water use, the three Upper Colorado River Basin states: Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, for good reason mistrust the four lower basin states: California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The lower basin states have all along taken more than their share of Colorado River water. Glen Canyon Dam provides a physical obstruction by which the upper states can regulate the flow to the lower states and keep them from taking more than their allotment, if and when the upper states catch up with the lower states in their land development and thirst for water.

Even though the desert does not inherently provide the water to support the building of industry and commercial buildings, suburbs, golf courses, and abundant water features, the seven Western states of the Colorado River system have been in a race to develop as fast as they can to be sure they obtain as much Colorado River water as possible in relation to the neighboring states. John Wesley Powell, whom the reservoir was named after, warned against developing the West beyond its water capacity. He recommended a number of water saving approaches that have been implemented by a few wise communities, but ignored by most.

Indeed, McGivney reminds us that the cities of the desert tend to flaunt the image of the manufactured oasis. The Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2005 adopted the slogan, “The Desert is a Myth.” A July hike in any direction beyond the edge of a Phoenix suburb like Anthem, for instance, and it becomes readily apparent that the desert is real and it is the lush golf courses that perhaps are already, or soon will be a mirage. Land development in the West has achieved similar temporary high profits and blindness to long-term consequences as recent Wall Street derivative speculation and the banking system near meltdown.

Nonetheless, it is less the cities that would run dry without “Lake” Powell than the farming of water-intensive crops like alfalfa, hay and cotton, grown not to supply market demand, but to take advantage of government subsidies and tax breaks. Dams are portrayed as symbolizing progress and economic growth, but special interests are the primary benefactors. In Utah, for example, mining, ranching and industrial agriculture represent less than 3% of the economy, but they use 85% of Utah’s water. Even though industrial agriculture comprises a decreasing portion of the Western economy, the industry is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns. Thus, even though dam projects, expanded water pipelines and other water infrastructure will not sustain society long-term, these outdated public works continue to garner support of those in political power.

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. James Kay used this photograph side-by-side with his own like this in the book Resurrection too.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point, with the Cathedral almost fully recovered as only a few feet of water were left in the bottom.

The motorized brand of tourism that thrived on “Lake” Powell in the 1980s and 1990s, has generated significant income for concessionaires and boat operators, who also provide proportionally large support to politicians and boost the local economy. In 1992, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area hosted a record 3.5 million visitors, nearly as many at this peak as visited the Grand Canyon. Yet today with the shrinkage of the “lake” area, the closure of two out of five of the marinas and high gasoline prices area hotel stays and other tourism has dropped by 40 percent. Nearby national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion each increased visitation in the last decade. Indeed, the economy is playing a major role in the dying of motorized tourism nearly everywhere. Less disposable income, especially among the upper-middle class and upper class has led to less motorized lake recreation. In the past many high earning tourists have spent discretionary money on Jet Skis, Houseboat shares and other expensive water toys, but in the last 10 years public lands hiking and camping has grown, while motor boating has decreased significantly. Local jobs in Page, Arizona and elsewhere around “Lake” Powell have depended almost entirely on motor tourism. Most local people, including the Native Americans in the area, want to prolong a dying industry to maintain their livelihoods. While denying that their way of life is dying, they are likely missing the opportunities and shift in perspective that could bring them a far more sustainable, Earth-friendly and perhaps most importantly, a more permanent security.

McGivney’s “Step-by-step guide to saving Glen Canyon and then, perhaps the world” offers the kind of forward thinking solutions that thought leaders have begun to discuss in recent years. While these innovative resolutions will become requirements, rather than options in the near future, as a civilization we have a big leap to negotiate before we are ready to leave our self-serving short-term approaches behind and move into a mindset that is more conducive to sustaining our society and all life on Earth. This is perhaps the text’s only flaw, or perhaps it is more of a challenge: the leap from where our watershed management and environmental stewardship are now to where they need to be to sustain life in the Southwest and on Earth long range may be too big. Are we up to the task? Perhaps an even better question is: can we learn to cooperate with, listen to, find new ways to meet the needs of and educate those who have a vested interest in business as it has been for far too long?

For more on Glen Canyon and Philip Hyde’s photography of the lost paradise see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” or “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

The Quabbin Reservoir And The Spirituality Of Place By James Hunt

July 22nd, 2013

How A Man Made Reservoir Created A Wilderness

Short Biography of James Hunt

James Hunt has been an environmental and fine art photographer in Worcester, Massachusetts for about 12 years. He graduated from the professional photography program at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts. You can see more of his photography at jameshuntphotography.com and read his blog at jameshuntphotography.wordpress.com. James Hunt’s photography has been exhibited a number of times including in a show called, “Boston’s Water, Quabbin Memories” at the Jewish Community Center of Worcester, Massachusetts, a major venue in New England’s second largest city. His photographs have been involved in significant projects on urban trees and parks. James wrote, “My work explores the link between human needs and their actions in relation to the natural environment. In particular, I’m interested in the experience of ‘being there’ in the natural or man-made environment.” James is also an award winning associate professor of management at Babson College where he has chaired his department, teaches leadership, organizational behavior and most recently, sustainability. He designed and co-founded Babson’s Coaching Inside the Organization Program at Babson Executive Education and also co-founded and co-Faculty Directed Babson’s Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program. Babson College is one of the top colleges for entrepreneurship in the world.

The Quabbin Reservoir And The Spirituality Of Place By James Hunt

The Bridge at Gate 30. On the road to the lost town of Dana. Built in 1866 by a wounded civil war veteran for $55.00. Surrounded now by the accidental wilderness. Dana.

The Bridge at Gate 30 Near Dana, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. On the road to the lost town of Dana. Built in 1866 by a wounded civil war veteran for $55.00. Surrounded now by the accidental wilderness.

Philip Hyde typically opposed building dams on rivers, but ironically in the case of the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts, the damming the Swift River has resulted in the kind of spirituality of place with important tangible and intangible benefits that he drew our attention to in his writings. I am grateful that I have had the chance to immerse myself in this story for the past six years and for the opportunity to share it here.

Seventy-five years ago this spring, four towns in the center of Massachusetts, ceased to exist by an act of the state legislature. The citizens of the farming towns of Enfield, Prescott, Greenwich and Dana were all put off their land for minimal compensation, to make way for the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir. Two large structures, the Winsor Dam and Goodnough Dike, along with several minor dams were erected to contain the three branches of the Swift River that flowed into the valley.

The Quabbin Reservoir that resulted is one of the largest on the East Coast of the United States covering 39 square miles with over 180 miles of shoreline. It provides fresh forest filtered water to two million residents of Greater Boston. In order to filter that water, the custodians of the Reservoir helped to create, an “accidental wilderness” by planting millions of trees. Soon, wildlife, which had largely disappeared from the valley returned in force: bear, turkeys, coyote, deer, moose, and a host of other species including Bald Eagles by the 1980s.

This development occurred in the larger context of widespread Farmland abandonment throughout the Northeast and into Quebec for economic reasons. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, thousands of square miles of what once had been fields were naturally reforested. These “new” forests were doing yeoman’s work in creating habitat and absorbing Carbon Dioxide. But, there is yet more to the story.

The Intangible Benefits Of Wilderness

As Philip Hyde probably would have appreciated, the intangible, spiritual benefits of this wilderness have become increasingly clear. To go there, just two hours from downtown Boston gives you the opportunity to be alone if that is your choice. However, you are not truly alone. The forest is there with you, and you know it. You can feel it. You can also feel the presence of those who were put off the land. Signs are everywhere, from the few remaining structures to numerous cellar holes, to strategically planted but ancient shade trees and the occasional broken dish or other artifact. It is relatively easy to walk for miles by yourself, but occasionally you do run into fellow travelers. Often it strikes me that these fellow travelers are seeking a kind of spiritual tranquility, like myself.

Hanks’ Meadow Near Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. Site of the Hanks’ farm and the Quabbin Reservoir Beyond.

Hanks’ Meadow Near Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2010 by James Hunt. Site of the Hanks’ farm with the Quabbin Reservoir Beyond.

It is of course not the spiritual nature of the place that protects it from development. Economic conditions are such that there is little commercial urge to develop the area. The over 38 square miles inside the Reservoir perimeter is protected by two state agencies Boston’s source of drinking water.  Only passive recreational activities are allowed inside the perimeter. That is not to say, however, that the Reservoir and the larger region do not face challenges. Commercial logging has supposedly only been allowed inside the Reservoir perimeter for the purposes of forest management, in other words, to protect the filtration of the water. However, much of the forested land outside that perimeter is private property.

Threats To The Quabbin Reservoir Wilderness

A brief bio fuels push a few years ago threatened the Quabbin and other forests of the area with aggressive wood harvesting until regulatory changes ceased to encourage the large scale burning of wood as an alternative fuel, at least in Massachusetts. Climate change is a significant concern however, as the forest must continually fight off a variety of invasive species that challenge the viability of the area as tolerable habitat for wildlife.

Over the past two years the Red Pine Trees planted at the creation of the Reservoir to provide a natural filtration system have been under attack from Red Pine needle scale. Pine needle scale has no known treatment and can decimate a stand of trees in just a few years. Bittersweet, the vine with which many of us in North America have become familiar, is visible everywhere. The evidence, though tentative, is growing for a direct relationship between climate change and the spread of such invasive species. Regardless, the message is clear: the tangible “wilderness” resource that emerged from the farmlands of the 1820s is fragile and its protection requires vigilance.

The intangible, spiritual benefits of the area are not widely known, except by the people of the towns surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir. Most people I ask in Boston do not even know where their water comes from. At least they did not know until a couple of years ago when there was a catastrophic leak along the tunnel that brings water into Boston necessitating a boil water order from the authorities. Suddenly the water could no longer be taken for granted. People then took notice, at least for a time.

The lessons from this story are complex. The Quabbin’s creation required the forced sacrifice of thousands of homes. It occurred, in that place on the Swift River, in large measure because those communities were without much political clout. The good news is that the Quabbin Reservoir and the resulting wilderness nourish body and mind, as well as even our, souls, if we so choose. It is an incredible resource now, but one that we cannot take for granted.

Nature Photography And The Quabbin

Pine Plantation, Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2011 by James Hunt.

Pine Plantation, Enfield, Massachusetts, copyright 2011 by James Hunt.

I began my photographic relationship with the Quabbin in 2008. The nature of that relationship evolved over time. Initially, I had thoughts of taking a documentary approach to the project but I found that somehow, I was not capturing that intangible quality that is so critical to understanding the Quabbin. Inspired by artists such as Philip Hyde, I have tried to create compelling artistic images that can communicate something of what it feels like to go there. Perhaps, if we can create art that gets people’s attention, we can inform at the same time. In that regard, I have two simple messages in my work on the Quabbin: First, people should be aware of where their water comes from, and second, I hope that through my work, people will become more aware of, and appreciate, the intrinsic values that other great photographers have portrayed so well.

What intrinsic values do you look for in connecting to a place in the “natural or man-made environment”?