Posts Tagged ‘Olaus Murie’

Living The Good Life 4

March 26th, 2015

Living the Good Life, Part Four

Failure In Carmel

(Continued from the blog post, “Living The Good Life 3.”)

 

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”  ~ Jack Canfield

About This Blog Post Series: “Living The Good Life”

Riffle Through Woods, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California (Vertical Version) copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde. This view of Indian Creek is from the roof of the Hyde home they named Rough Rock. It is essentially the same view the Hydes watched wildlife through from the dining room table and living room beginning when the house was completed in 1959.

Riffle Through Woods, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California (Vertical Version) copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde. This view of Indian Creek is from the roof of the Hyde home they named Rough Rock. It is essentially the same view the Hydes watched wildlife through from the dining room table and living room beginning when the house was completed in 1959.

In early January 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I asked her if she would be my interview subject, as I intended to write magazine articles about her locally popular gardening, preserving and cooking techniques. I also wanted reminders and more detail on my parents’ philosophy of living and making a sustainable low-impact lifestyle long before sustainability became a buzzword.

In response to my inquiries, my mother handed me her personal copy of Living the Good Life how to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing, leaders of the 1950s Back to the Land Movement. Mom said simply, “This was our Bible.”

Through this series of blog posts, my parents, self-taught naturalist Ardis Hyde and pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail for a photography project, in their quiet way adapted and invented their version of “The Good Life.” In the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2,” we reviewed Ardis’ upbringing and Philip’s and how each of them having fathers who loved nature, instilled in them the values that brought them eventually to the country and to their own land. In the third episode, “Living the Good Life 3” I reflect on the changing seasons and passing years as our dream home and my parents’ way of life continue here, after my mother has been gone 12 years and my father six. People dwelling in a simpler way, while gadgets and “conveniences” multiply, must remain constant to the vision of low impact living and stay vigilant to keep the freedom to live life this way. Technology itself can even sometimes help in this, but it can also be a distraction that interferes with the values of quiet, peace and the ability to listen to natural sounds, community and local conversations. The series began with the blog post, “Living the Good Life 1,” in which my friend Nancy Presser compared each key aspect of the Hydes’ sustainable life to points in the book, Living the Good Life. This comparative format will be common in blog posts to come in the series.

Part Four: Failure In Carmel Leads To Philip Hyde’s Greatest Success

Early Rental Homes

Before Ardis and Philip acquired their property and began to build their “dream home” on a natural bench above Indian Creek, they lived in half a dozen small rental houses and apartments, some mentioned in other blog posts, starting right after their marriage in Berkeley in 1947; in San Francisco and Daily City while Dad attended photography school at the California School of Fine Art, now the San Francisco Art Institute until 1950; in the primitive Macaulay Cabin in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park for a summer in 1949; at the Fox Farm at Lake Almanor in the Northern Sierra and in nearby Greenville, where they moved into the Granary at Fredrickson’s Ranch while Mom taught kindergarten for 12 years. Her teaching at Greenville Elementary was interrupted for a few years and those interruptions made all the difference for the Hydes in the long run. This blog post is the story of the interruptions and how these showed the young couple they were doing what they were meant to do when they lived closest to nature in Indian Valley between the mountains of Plumas County.

The Granary at Fredrickson’s Ranch had been converted into an apartment before the Hydes lived there. Dad did his own conversion of one of the closets, about three by four feet, into a darkroom where he “souped” or processed his own film and made silver gelatin prints that he began to send out for publication. It was his first darkroom after he finished photography school. He did not have a darkroom while they lived at Benton’s Fox Farm on Lake Almanor, their first home near Greenville in Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada.

First Publishing Credits

In 1949 while the Hydes lived at the Fox Farm, David Brower became the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club, a full-time paid staff position approved by the traditionally volunteer Board of Directors to better run the expanding hiking, climbing and conservation club that few people outside the mountains of California and the Bay Area knew about yet. David Brower had already led the Sierra Club’s High Sierra Pack Trips for a handful of years.

In 1950, Brower asked Dad to come along as official photographer for the Summer High Sierra Pack Trip. The other official photographer, Cedric Wright, mentored Dad on High Sierra tarp pitching, mountain film changing and timing meals and photography on the trip. Dad’s first publishing credit from the May 1951 Sierra Club Bulletin consisted of his photographs from the summer 1950 Sierra Club High Trip.

Mom and Dad moved from the Fox Farm at Lake Almanor to the Granary at Fredrickson’s Ranch, just below the California Highway 70 grade about two miles from Greenville in September 1951.

Dinosaur National Monument: The First Photography Assignment for an Environmental Cause

Meanwhile three states away, in the remote northeast corner of Utah near the Colorado border and not far from Wyoming, the town of Vernal, like many other small towns around the West, celebrated the possibility that it would soon become a boomtown. Vernal was the closest town of any size to two dams proposed on the Green River within the boundary of Dinosaur National Monument, one at Split Mountain and one at Echo Park.

Richard Leonard, Board Member of both the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, attended the Wilderness Society’s annual meeting in 1950 near Ft. Collins in northern Colorado. After the meeting, the founders of the Wilderness Society, Olaus and Margaret Murie, Richard Leonard and others drove through Dinosaur National Monument to see what it offered in scenic resources.

Highly impressed with the wilderness of Dinosaur, Richard Leonard back in San Francisco urged David Brower to expand the Sierra Club’s reach beyond the mountains of California to protect the spectacular Yampa and Green River canyons of Dinosaur. Brower needed to see more of Dinosaur. He needed better photographs. Other photographers’ images had been used in conservation campaigns before, but this was the first time a photographer would ever be sent on assignment for an environmental cause. Brower chose Philip Hyde, Brower said later because Hyde made reliable surveys of wild places and captured their unique natural features. However, when Hyde returned from Dinosaur, few of the conservation groups wanted to use his photographs or even exhibit his prints. Groups like the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, National Audubon and others that were starting to become more than regional, took very little action or even interest in Dinosaur from 1951 until 1954. Three years may seem like a short time now, but it is a long time to have little income for a young photographer. Dad had to wait three years before many publishers or non-profits would even look at, let alone buy or sell his photographs from Dinosaur.

Marketing, The Marketplace and Making a Living

“I think that you are making a great mistake to isolate yourself; you really should be right in the middle of humanity – bringing them the messages of nature which are of real value,” Ansel Adams wrote in a two-page letter to Dad dated May 4, 1952. Ansel urged Dad to find some means of support other than photography, which would work with photography. As Dad continued to struggle in Greenville, both Ansel Adams and David Brower suggested at different times that Dad try living closer to the marketplace for photography in San Francisco.

“Weeks of wondering and doubt,” said Dad’s personal log entry for May 16, 1952. “Ansel has been advising me to work toward some solution of economic problem. The two years in Greenville and the mountains seem to be drawing to a close. I have a feeling change is near. Ned Graves in Carmel suggests I work part-time in a photo shop and has provided the impetus. I will look into the possibility the second week of June when we go down below again.” Mom applied for the job of kindergarten teacher in nearby Del Ray Woods. Shortly after she landed the job, the Hydes moved to Carmel. For more on their life and struggles in Carmel, see the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”

Loss and New Travels To Morocco

“Everything seemed to go wrong in Carmel,” Dad said. Even though they succeeded in buying a small property to build on, no bank would lend the young couple money to build a home. In those days banks did not count a newly married woman’s income because of the risk she might become pregnant and unable to work. Dad contracted a terrible case of Poison Oak trying to clear it from their lot. Dad lost his brother David Lee Hyde, my namesake, in the Korean War in mid 1952 and by the end of the year my grandfather Leland Hyde also passed on.

It was a lonely Christmas in Carmel. Jesse Hyde, Dad’s mom, came down from San Francisco for the weekend, but Dad’s new gas station job required him to work on Christmas Day, even after his boss learned of his recent loss of his father. About that time Mom’s dad, Clinton Samuel King Jr., an engineer, overseas in Africa building American Cold War Bases, told Dad he could come to Morocco and make a very good wage as a draftsman. Mom could work in the office and they could get caught up financially with the low cost of living on the large American base near Casablanca. After the drafting work wound down, Dad transferred to a department where they asked him to oversee a photographer documenting new American bases all over Morocco. Dad and the photographer became friends and traveled the country photographing everything because they had been instructed to stay busy even when there was frequently nothing to do.

It was through these travels in Morocco that Dad rekindled his enthusiasm for photographing nature in particular, even though he made more photographs of the local people and their culture and events than ever before. Also, by the middle of 1954 when the Hydes had been a year in Morocco, the battle over Dinosaur National Monument heated up when the Sierra Club decided to join the defense of the integrity of the national park system by keeping the two proposed dams out of Dinosaur.

Coming Home, Finding Home

Ardis and Philip, now with significant savings, longed to return to the mountains where the Fredrickson’s again had the Granary available for rent. After a few weeks in San Francisco with Grandma Jesse, the Hydes were again back home in Plumas County, this time actively looking for property to stay permanently.

In 1955, David Brower convinced the Sierra Club to publish This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers with photographs by Martin Litton and Philip Hyde. Brower had already asked Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner to write the forward and one chapter of what would become the world’s first “battle book,” as Stegner called it. This Is Dinosaur was the first book ever published for an environmental cause. Hyde’s career took off with the buzz over the Dinosaur campaign. Parallel with Sierra Club’s efforts, Hyde sent an exhibition of his prints of the national monument to show in some of the most patronized libraries in the nation. The show started at the Chicago Public Library and traveled on to other major cities such as Washington D.C., New York, Cincinnati and others.

In December of 1955, when most land was still in big ranches in Plumas County, Mom and Dad bought 18 acres from David and Mary Ann Newcomb, who had a large ranch in Mormon Canyon between Grizzly Peak and Mt. Jura that included part of Genesee Valley. The Newcombs suggested the Hydes could pick out a piece of land anywhere on their big ranch. Mary Ann taught First Grade in Greenville and the couple had become good friends. So it was that in 1956 that Mom and Dad began cleaning up logging debris on the site that would become our home and gardens. And so it was that a series of failures led to what Dad called his biggest success, designing, drawing the plans for and nearly single-handedly over two years building the home that became known as Rough Rock.

(The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living The Good Life 6.”)

Have you ever lived in or near wilderness?

On The Road To Dinosaur By Philip Hyde

November 28th, 2011

The Beginning Of Ardis And Philip Hyde’s First Trip To Dinosaur National Monument

From the Rough Draft of an Unpublished Article By Philip Hyde Originally Titled, “In Quest of Dinosaur.”

Circa 1951. Edited by David Leland Hyde 11-28-11.

Steamboat Rock, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, copyright 1955 by Philip Hyde. Philip Hyde’s most published black and white photograph.

(See the photograph large: “Steamboat Rock, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado.”)

The creeping death of exploitation was threatening another great natural area. Through certain members of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society including Martin Litton, Richard Leonard, and Olaus and Margaret Murie, David Brower heard and subsequently I heard about the beauty of Dinosaur National Monument and the proposed destruction of its integrity as a unit of the national park system.

On the phone, in letters and when we visited the San Francisco Headquarters of the Sierra Club, David Brower, Richard Leonard and Martin Litton told Ardis and I about the debates over Dinosaur in Sierra Club board meetings. The Sierra Club board was divided as to whether to remain a California centered organization with a primary emphasis on the Sierra Nevada, or whether to expand regionally and possibly nationally. Already other land use debates in the Pacific Northwest in Oregon and Washington were beginning to heat up. [Read about how campaigns in the Cascade Mountain Range became important blueprints for environmental grass roots organizing across the nation in the blog posts, “Oregon Cascades’ Impact On Conservation,” and “Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area.” Also, learn more the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director and his contributions to photography and land preservation in the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.” To find out more about Martin Litton read the blog post, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1” and later posts in that series.]

Word and newspapers had it that those promoting the building of two dams inside Dinosaur National Monument claimed it was only another inaccessible scramble of river canyons. Defenders of Dinosaur retorted that as a scenic and geological spectacle, it was unique in the world. Now at long last, we were going to see it. We were heading out to the far reaches of Utah and Colorado up near Wyoming where Dinosaur National Monument straddles the Utah-Colorado border. We will see for ourselves if this little known land is worth preserving in its natural state. [To read more about how Richard Leonard and Olaus and Margaret Murie, founders of the Wilderness Society, traveled to Dinosaur and how Richard Leonard and David Brower sent Philip Hyde on the first photography assignment for an environmental cause, see the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 2.” For an introduction to why Dinosaur was pivotal for the Sierra Club and the entire conservation movement that it transformed into modern environmentalism, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1,” and other blog posts in the series.]

Packing and organizing for a photographic expedition of a month is a long chore. The scheduled day for departure found us still packing until early afternoon, but eagerness to get on the road would not allow us to wait another day for an early morning start. When we finished packing, we set off in our trusty Champion, leaving Monterey and crossing California’s great Central Valley toward the mountains and the deserts beyond.

Nightfall found us looking for a dirt road to turn off on for our first night’s sleep in the open, somewhere in the foothills above Auburn, California. The thrill of sleeping under the stars was still new to us, though we had both been doing it most of our lives. This was the first night of a new adventure and it quickened us with anticipation. The next day flew by as did the miles of Nevada’s Basin and Range Province. Our second night found us on an old road on a hill high above the lights of Winnemucca, Nevada. It was early June and the desert nights were still nippy, but we were warmed by the exhilaration of being out again in wide open spaces. Our third night out we spent in the “luxury” of a Salt Lake City motel before embarking on the final lap to our destination. We became tourists for a few hours of sight seeing around Salt Lake City, visiting the Utah State capital, the Mormon Temple and other main attractions of a city we had only traveled through briefly before.

The final hundred miles to Dinosaur took us up over the Wasatch Mountains out of Salt Lake City and along high plateaus covered with whole forests of aspens. Then we dropped gradually down, down to the semi-arid plains of eastern Utah, skirting the Uinta Mountains, whose snow capped summits we could see dimly in the north. Here and there along the plains among the low naked hills were green fields of Alfalfa and other crops. We came to a road sign that said, “Dinosaur National Monument 7 Miles.” This trip would be our first encounter with the infamous Dinosaur dirt roads, sometimes when wet they were made of slippery axel grease, sometimes they were nothing but a jumble of jagged rocks. The first dirt road proved prosaic enough and took us without difficulty to the Monument headquarters and the nearby Dinosaur Quarry.

We introduced ourselves to the Park Ranger on duty, Max James. He found Jess Lombard, the Superintendent of Dinosaur. We were greeted like returned relatives and offered the empty section of the barracks, which we gratefully accepted. The sky looked like it would burst open in torrents any minute, which it did shortly after we made it safely under cover with our gear.

This area was our base during that month in 1951 when we roamed over Dinosaur National Monument. It proved to be a great help to leave some of our equipment and extra film here while we were off for a few days in some remote hinterland of Dinosaur’s canyons. Our first job here involved evolving some kind of plan to see the whole National Monument. In this project the Park Ranger, Max James and the Monument Superintendent, Jess Lombard, were invaluable with their extensive knowledge of the terrain.

Because of unpredictable weather, we decided to stay in the immediate area for a few days to see the Quarry, the sandstone reefs near it and Split Mountain Gorge, the mouth of which, where the Green River emerged and would be flooded by 300 feet of water if the dam builders had their way, could be reached on a branch road about three miles from Monument Headquarters. This was enough to keep us busy for a while. The sandstone reef turned out to be full of fabulous rock forms that could have provided subject matter for the camera for weeks without stopping. [To continue Ardis and Philip Hyde’s adventures in Dinosaur National Monument see the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 3.”]

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 3

March 3rd, 2010

Whirlpool Canyon, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah-Colorado, 1951, by Philip Hyde.

Philip Hyde on Assignment in Dinosaur National Monument and the Setting for the Battle that Helped Launch the Modern Environmental Movement

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 2“)

The Escalante Overlook is the first branch off of the Harper’s Corner Road. Today there are signs at the Escalante Overlook discussing air pollution, its effects and what average people can do to decrease it. It is surprising to find signs on this subject in Dinosaur, the remotest National Monument in the lower 48 states, but a thick sea of haze nearly always sits on the southern horizon, carrying 500 miles from Southern California or occasionally from Texas or Mexico. The signs also show nearby copper smelters, oil refineries, and both coal and oil-fired power plants where pollution originates. One sign says, “If each commuter car carried just one more person we would save 600,000 gallons of gas a day. Welcome to Dinosaur National Monument.” See this article: “Road Transportation Is The Greatest Culprit In Global Warming.”

When the Bureau of Reclamation first proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument and downstream at Glen Canyon, in the Grand Canyon and at many other sites on the Colorado watershed, they claimed hydropower was clean energy. This has subsequently proven incorrect as scientists have discovered that reservoirs, especially in the hot Southwest, radiate greenhouse gases. To read about some of what was lost when Glen Canyon was dammed, see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde.”

At another overlook an unimproved trail winds out to the canyon rim. Cholla Cactus wedges between parted layers of lichen-covered sandstone. Skunkweed and sage hold to small troughs of soil. To the right the cliff drops a dizzying 1,500 feet straight down to the steep slopes dotted with the green of stunted Douglas Fir and Juniper that run down to the edge of the inner gorge of bare rocks and wind-swept stone domes. Lichen varies from black to gray to burnt orange, yellow-green, gray-green and many combinations, matching the layers of sandstone. Robins and a Chickadee call softly. Back from the cliff edge the gray twisted wood of dead Junipers and Pinon Pines shelters Rudbeckia, a tall yellow star-shaped flower. Today Dinosaur remains one of the least developed National Monuments in the country. Most of the roads are still unpaved and few are graded and graveled.

Following the plateau skirting the canyons, on 26 miles of part dirt and part pavement, between monument headquarters and the Echo Park turnoff, the weather changes four or five times. At one moment the white puffy clouds with plenty of blue sky between look harmless. In the next moment after topping the plateau, a low, dark bank of clouds approaches. It is hard to tell at what speed the clouds are approaching, when they will arrive, how soon they might produce rain, or whether they are headed toward the Echo Park road that cuts steeply down through long, precipitous alluvial slopes and sandstone cliffs.

In dry weather, the hardened mud-slide road is more visible and easily examined from the turnoff as it descends. The beginning of the route consists of mostly gravel and seems easily passable, perhaps even in rain. The roughest, most rutted part of the road is deceptively out of sight and turns to clay as slippery as axel grease when wet. In the space of 15 minutes the sky shifts and changes several times from threatening to clearing. Before a rain any two-wheel-drive car could make it down the 13 miles, but not back up—rain could trap an unfortunate sojourner in Echo Park for days.

In 1950 Richard Leonard served both on the Sierra Club Board and as a leader of the Wilderness Society. Olaus Murie and Margaret Murie were also Wilderness Society leaders. After a meeting of Wilderness Society leaders in Denver, Richard Leonard, Olaus Murie his wife Margaret Murie visited Dinosaur National Monument. They made it out of Echo Park without incident and they were greatly impressed by its scenery. The next year when Richard Leonard and Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower sent my father, landscape photographer Philip Hyde on assignment to Dinosaur National Monument, Dad almost did not make it out of Echo Park.

When Richard Leonard returned to the Sierra Club Headquarters in San Francisco he and David Brower, then Fifth Executive Board Member, agreed to team up to work on the Dinosaur battle. They had been climbing friends for a long time. But they were preoccupied with many battles in the early 1950s and the Dinosaur National Monument issue sat on a shelf for a year until after David Brower met Philip Hyde. They met, Dad said, “Probably in Tuolumne Meadows, when Dave was coming through and Ardis and I were custodians at the Sierra Club Lodge. I used to think that Ansel introduced me to Dave, but Dave said no, that I met him before that.”

“That was the beginning of a very long association with Dave of making books and working with the Sierra Club too.” Dad made sure he did not work “for” the Sierra Club. He was a freelancer on assignment. “They managed to scrape together small amounts of cash and I would go off on a project.” Dad said. “In the case of my first trip in July l950, Dave invited me to accompany the 6 week High Trip, which looking back now was very important for me to do.” Following the High Trip, a signature, or series, of Dad’s photographs graced the pages of the Sierra Club Bulletin. It was Dad’s first publication and was widely acclaimed. That paved the path for David Brower to suggest to the Sierra Club Board that Dad go to Dinosaur and bring back some of the beauty.

On assignment from the Sierra Club in June 1951, Dad had difficulty making it out of Echo Park even in dry weather. Dad said that when he and my mother, Ardis Hyde, tried to climb the steep hill out of Echo Park in their 1949 Studebaker Champion, they could not make it up the steep section above the inner canyon.

“We had a lot of camping gear, food, photography equipment and God knows what else,” Dad said. “Champion was notoriously underpowered. I got up as far as I could and unloaded the car partially. We took what was left on up to where the road leveled off a bit. Ardis stood by the upper half of the load while I went back for the rest. That was the kind of thing you had to be prepared to do in that country because there isn’t any help out there.” Ardis and Philip Hyde worked as a team and Mom never balked at any challenge nature presented. At Dad’s picture stops, Mom slipped right out into the deep grasses or onto the steep hillsides, observing and identifying all she saw. She was a keen birder and a self-trained botanist.

Dad and Mom drove from their home in Greenville in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northeastern California about 850 miles to Dinosaur National Monument with only a verbal request from the Sierra Club and a promise to pay Dad’s expenses plus one dollar per print or published landscape photograph. He was not long out of photography school at the California School of Fine Arts where he studied under Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston, with guest lecturers including Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Lisette Model and other photography greats from 1946 to 1950. Philip Hyde joined the Sierra Club in 1946, a year before his marriage. Ardis Hyde joined the Sierra Club the year she married Dad. They were married four years when she accompanied him on this, his first photographic assignment to the dry Colorado Plateau. The young couple had become acquainted while attending the University of California Berkeley and found they had much in common including a shared passion for nature. Both of them grew up camping under the stars, Philip in the Boy Scouts and with his family; Ardis with her family, her father especially loved the outdoors. Later, the couple imparted that love to me, their only son.

Dad’s wilderness photographs in time would appear in more environmental campaigns than any other landscape photographer. Dinosaur was the first major campaign, and to this day Dad’s image of Steamboat Rock is one of his most published. “That photograph became a symbol of the fight to save Dinosaur National Monument,” Dad explained. “Steamboat Rock was the symbol representing Dinosaur long before I photographed it.” Dad made his photograph from the end of Echo Park where the road enters, near the cliff across the field and opposite Steamboat Rock, probably not far from the old cabin, where the night Ranger now stays.

Today, the field is home to at least one four-foot long rattlesnake. I saw the distinctive diamond-shaped skin pattern and rattles as the snake slithered away when I was stalking Dad’s picture site. He made the photograph with his 5X7 Deardorf View Camera. He framed the picture with some of the waist-high grasses in the foreground and the dry desert grasses only an inch or two long stretched away toward the Cottonwood-lined river and the 800 foot tall Steamboat Rock looming over it all. As with his later landscape masterpieces, Dad’s use of foreground detail invites the viewer to all but step into the photograph.

At the upstream end of Echo Park the Yampa River joins the Green River just out of sight on the far side of Steamboat Rock. On the near side of the giant monolith, the narrow 1,000 foot deep gorge opens into Echo Park, essentially a small valley lush with cottonwoods, willows, native grasses and wildlife. Off to the left of the road at the downstream end of the valley lies a small 17-site campground with running water. A gravel road leads down to the river for float trip access. At the water’s edge Steamboat Rock dominates the view. Its hulking nearly 800 foot tall mass of vertical sandstone rises directly out of the far side of the swirling waters of the Green. The swollen river slows, reflecting glimpses of red sandstone and shattering the images as the torrent churns again naturally free and unfettered.

From the boat landing the proposed dam site is almost visible just out of sight where the river dives back between narrow sheer walls that could make dam construction easy. The boat landing would have been buried under 500 feet of water. Echo Park potentially could have become the ideal water storage tank, though its scenery would be destroyed, not enhanced as the Bureau of Reclamation claimed. Only the top 300 feet of Steamboat Rock would have shown and the sense of the size and grandeur of the formation would have vanished. With the monolith dwarfed, visitors today would be left with the reek of motorboat gasoline and a cesspool of settling mud and evaporating water.

Some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire region would have been inundated along with Echo Park. The road into Echo Park through Sand Canyon, along shady Pool Creek and the Pool Creek Petroglyphs, would all have been flooded. In Sand Canyon the sandstone forms into cake-layered tan-gray rock terraces. Over the terraces and alternating rounded and undercut layers, the black lichen stains run vertically where water seeps. In the horizontal ledges Junipers cling to pockets of earth. At intervals the soft underlayers cut far under harder layers to form overhangs and caves. A few of these have collapsed or partially collapsed roofs forming the beginnings of future arches. All of this would have been lost.

Dinosaur National Monument contains 200,000 acres, predominately canyons. Most of the canyons would have been flooded with the dams in place, virtually eliminating the primary scenic feature. The two proposed dams, at Split Mountain and at Echo Park, would have inundated about 91 out of 101 river miles in the monument, Sue Walter explains in her Ranger talk at Dinosaur National Monument Headquarters. She reminds the listener that the Bureau of Reclamation did have a dam built upstream from Dinosaur’s northern boundary, on the Wyoming border at Flaming Gorge, but the Yampa River remains the only undammed tributary to the Colorado River system. Because of this the Yampa River is the only surviving habitat for four endangered fish species: the Humpback Chub, Razorback Sucker, Colorado River Squawfish and Bonytail Chub. Dams stop the flooding that maintains natural flora and fauna and creates backwaters for spawning.

Wishing to photograph some of the wildest parts of the Yampa River and Green River, Ardis and Philip Hyde explored the Dinosaur National Monument canyons the whole month of June, 1951.

In a letter from the field to Richard Leonard, Secretary on the Sierra Club Board of Directors, Dad wrote, “At Mantle’s Ranch we wandered for eight days and left feeling like we’d only scratched the surface.” Mantle’s Ranch is in Castle Park, another verdant opening of the canyon into valley, upstream from Echo Park. The Mantles were early homesteaders before the monument. Into Mantle’s Ranch Mom and Dad followed a landscape architect in a jeep, who was investigating possible campground sites and other potential improvements for the Park Service. Fortunately a Park Ranger followed along behind them in a green Charger.

Dad began to have misgivings he said when, “We dropped down into most aptly named Hell’s Canyon. Champion’s undersides began utter protests and finally after half-a-dozen very rough creek crossings, downright refused to go any farther, conked out and rolled back a little before I could stop and we crunched on a rock. Next we knew, gas was gushing from the wound…

(CONTINUED IN THE NEXT BLOG POST IN THE SERIES, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4.”)



The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 2

February 1st, 2010

The Campaign to Keep Dams Out of Dinosaur National Monument and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism in the United States 2

Revised April 5, 2006

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 1“)

David Brower and Philip Hyde at 2000 NANPA Summit by Ardis Hyde with throw away camera. Both David Brower and Philip Hyde received Lifetime Achievement Awards from NANPA for their contributions to conservation. Their collaboration began on a 1950 Sierra Club High Trip. The first major battle over Dinosaur National Monument, many have said, ushered in the age of modern environmentalism. Such notables as Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner, Sierra Club Leader, photographer and journalist Martin Litton and others also led the fight.

…Meanwhile three states away, in the remote northeast corner of Utah, the town of Vernal, like many other small towns around the West, celebrated the possibility that it would soon become a boomtown too. In 1948 the Upper Basin Compact between the states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, divided the upper basin share of the Colorado water. By 1950, the Bureau of Reclamation or “Bureau of Wreck The Nation” as environmentalists called it, had plans for ten dams in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Vernal was the closest town of any size to two dams proposed on the Green River within the boundary of Dinosaur National Monument, one at Split Mountain and one at Echo Park. The Bureau of Reclamation enlisted the political support of Vernal businessmen for the nearby dams that would in turn prosper the local economy.

National Park Service Director Newton Drury felt that the National Park Service must respond to the local desire for water development and avoid a direct confrontation with the Bureau that might lose Dinosaur National Monument irrevocably to dams. The two proposed dams would have inundated 91 out of 101 river miles within the monument. Newton Drury thought the monument boundaries could be redrawn or a compromise secured at the last minute. Therefore, he went along with Bureau of Reclamation plans and “signed a secret ‘memorandum of understanding’ which essentially stated that the National Park Service would not interfere with water projects in Dinosaur National Monument or in Grand Canyon National Monument,” Reported Jon Cosco in Echo Park: Struggle For Preservation.

Richard Leonard, Executive Board Member and Secretary of the Sierra Club, also was elected to the council of the Wilderness Society in 1948. Leonard attended the Wilderness Society’s annual meeting in 1950, held in Twin Springs, Colorado. After the meeting, the founders of the Wilderness Society, Olaus and Margaret Murie, Richard Leonard and others visited Dinosaur by automobile. They approached by U.S. Highway 40 from the East.

U.S. Highway 40 rolls across Northern Colorado over arid auburn hills and plateaus covered with sagebrush and an occasional squat Juniper tree. The faint taste of powdered-dry dirt underlies the sweet earthy smell of sage. Low plateaus rise in the distance. Sculpted sandstone cliffs stand in tans, pinks and browns against the azure sky where tufted clouds flirt with the sun. The open vistas periodically collapse into eroded gray-brown clay badlands where flash flood torrents tear gullies and gashes in the open land.

Today, beyond the billboards at the eastern edge of the town of Dinosaur, Colorado, across the Utah-Colorado Border from Vernal, a small sign for Harper’s Corner points north along a two lane road that in 1950 was a dirt track. Immediately on the right of the Harper’s Corner road, the Dinosaur National Monument Headquarters and Visitor Center, a tan stone building blends into the surrounding sage. U.S. 40 is not a heavily traveled route and people passing by the Harper’s Corner turnoff must watch carefully or miss Dinosaur National Monument completely. The gentle sloping terrain offers no hint of the vast sculpted canyons of the Yampa River and Green River, the monument’s scenic highlights less than 20 miles to the North.

“Dinosaur is one of the best places in the country to observe the stars,” Sue Walter says in her Park Ranger talk at the Visitor Center, “because of its great distance from any city lights: four hours by car from Denver and six hours from Salt Lake City. Dinosaur in still air is quieter than a Hollywood sound stage,” For many decades after Woodrow Wilson legislated the monument in 1908, ranchers and a few paleontologists were the only people that set foot in the area.

The majority of visitors today experience only the Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side of the monument, approached from the West Entrance road out of Jensen, Utah. The Dinosaur Quarry is the world’s largest excavation site preserved indoors and the origin of the most dinosaur bones in museums in the United States. A 300 foot long steel-beamed concrete roof with steel-framed glass walls protects an acre-plus of hillside containing fossil remains in a half-excavated state. A shuttle takes sightseers from the Quarry parking lot up to the museum, and by way of recorded message takes people “back in time 150 million years” to a period when an ancient river flowed northeast toward a distant sea, the opposite direction of the Green River today. In our current geological age, the Green River flows south and the Yampa River joins the Green River from the northeast. Over millions of years the plateau gradually uplifted more than 4,000 feet, while the rivers lazily cut deeper, maintaining the gentle meanders characteristic of rivers with a gradual vertical drop. The wide river bends carved from sandstone are unusual because rivers usually cut through bedrock in steep gradients that form straighter, more V-shaped canyons. The canyons of Dinosaur National Monument reveal even more geological time than the Grand Canyon, more than a billion years of rock layers, Ranger Sue Walter also explains.

The best way to see the carved scenery is by river boat and the Wilderness Society group did this one day. They also did as people often do today, they viewed the canyons by driving in from the Colorado side out of the town of Dinosaur, following the Harper’s Corner Road to the plateau top and beyond, skirting the river canyons for a total of 32 winding miles one-way to Harper’s Corner Overlook. This route branches into side roads to various overlooks and ends one mile shy of the pastel-red-to-tan 2,300 feet tall sheer walls of Harper’s Corner. Twenty-six miles from headquarters, a rough dirt road plunges down the cliff face through Sand Canyon to a homestead ranch, then on down to the Green River and Echo Park, the verdant “heart of Dinosaur.” Echo Park was named by John Wesley Powell, its first White explorer, because John Wesley Powell noticed that his men’s voices echoed off the side of Steamboat Rock. Echo Park is the focal point of the labyrinthine canyon country where a nearly 800-feet-tall-squared-off loaf of rock called Steamboat Rock stands as Dinosaur National Monument’s most prominent landform. The rough dirt road into Echo Park forks into other rougher roads only passable by four-wheel-drive vehicles. These sometimes muddy and often rocky tracks provide a closer look at various grottos and valleys of the Yampa river canyon. Here the canyon rises red, orange, tan, yellow, gray, pink, black and brown in painted sandstone walls. Exposed are over one billion-years of strata, the many-color stained river undercuts and the oasis called Echo Park or the Grand Overhang on the Yampa River, where a rock dropped from the top lands on the opposite bank at low water flow in the summer and fall.

The Escalante Overlook is the first branch off of the Harper’s Corner Road…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 3“)