Note to readers: It is apparent that this blog is going in two directions, and this troubles me not in the least. We have Stephers, Steve and me, and we each have our own ideas. Please note on the left (on a desktop) that you can follow the writer of your choice. The following piece is my type of thing, a reminiscence about a man I admired, mixed in with a trip we took and some side canyons. Stephers is writing about the intricacies of Covid and the vaccine. Steve is about wildness (and a man I suspect he might know, Howie Wolke, turns up in this piece.) There is no conflict among writers on this blog. If I was any kind of a computer guy, I would redesign the blog to accommodate all three of us. That is way above my pay grade.
Last year we took a trip north to my old haunts growing up, the Beartooth Mountains of Montana, and Yellowstone National Park. We revisited places I had known as early as a youth of ten years old, finding them intact. I vowed that the trip would not be sullied by electronic communication … no blogging, no email, and certainly things I had already quit doing … no Facebook, Twitter, and things I had never done, like Instragram.
It was a rough trip in some regards, sitting on the bank of the Gallatin river, nothing to do but watch the passings by, the birds, boaters, fishermen and sons, but no way to exhort my family and friends and former classmates to share in the adventure. It had to be done without outside approval, those obnoxious “likes” that take on unwarranted importance in that small world. I had to watch the river, the boaters and their dogs, a flock of wild geese stupidly imprisoned by wire fences (we set them free), and the father and son sharing the adventure of fly fishing. I took it all to heart without broadcasting, as in the old days, the small events of my life, shared with no one, the meaning of which were in my heart, meant to stay there, but unlike most, later shared by written word.
This year my wife and I revisited our adventures of twenty years ago and more recently, and a place that defies description, though I will try … Utah. It is vast and beautiful and charming, haunting and harsh. The desert has unique flavor and beauty, and can kill a man. We’ve just returned from that trip, and I’ve been writing off and on about a man I much admired, Edward Abbey.
Ed is a favorite of mine, but also a tragic figure. Sometime, around 1990, a friend sent me a book, Desert Solitaire. I had never heard of Abbey, and in fact, he had just died in 1989. I read and treasured the book. It is (in my mind) an American classic. Mark Twain was a great writer, but he did not describe his surroundings in the clear and crisp manner as Abbey. Twain wrote about the Mississippi as a literary device. Abbey wrote about deserts and rivers as living organisms.
We glide down the golden waters of Labyrinth Canyon. The water here is smooth as oil, the current slow. The sandstone walls rise fifteen hundred feet above us, radiant with sunlight, manganese and iron oxides, stained with oil tapestries of organic residues left on the rock faces by occasional waterfalls. On shore, wheeling away from us, the stands of willow glow in autumn copper, beyond the willow are the green-gold cottonwoods. Two ravens fly along the rim, talking about us. Henry would like it here. [Abbey: Down the River with Henry Thoreau]
He wrote that on a paddling trip on the Green River, one we have made by canoe. In fact, we put in at the same place as Abbey and crew, Mineral Bottoms. I too was charmed by the beauty and serenity of the river, but could not have offered up a description like that for posterity. This is Abbey’s great charm, his love of nature and ability to describe it in ways that bring us into his world as he experiences it. I felt like I was on that boat with him, along with Henry. All of his non-fiction writing is like that.
Abbey was born in Pennsylvania, and by various circumstances of no importance, ended up as a National Park employee at was then a National Monument, Arches, near Moab. This is from his introduction to Solitaire. It serves to tell us what great writers do. He did not mean it to be profound or worthy of Rushmore, but he said it and his words stand:
“This is not primarily a book about the desert. In recording my impressions of the natural scene I have striven above all for accuracy, since I believe there is a kind of poetry, even a kind of truth, in simple fact. But the desert is a vast world, an oceanic world, as deep in its ways and complex and various as the sea. Language makes a mighty loose net to which to go fishing for facts, when facts are infinite.”
Abbey approached his task with simple honesty, which is why I pay tribute here, no Pulitzers, banquets, or award ceremonies. Just straight descriptions of the facts, casting a net, a mighty loose one, but gathering a larger catch than any others I have encountered.
We can’t travel abroad anymore. It is a five-hour drive from our house to Moab, Utah, and they are still allowing people across borders without Nazi checkpoints. We lived in Bozeman back in 2001, and made the much longer drive down here, camping all the way there and. back, motels a rarity. In 2001 we hiked Canyonlands, Escalante (the “Grand Staircase”), Bryce Canyon and Zion.
The latter, Zion, is a zoo this year. A long tunnel inside the park is under repair, so that traffic is one way only. Lines of cars are backed up, delays very long. I cannot speak to the other entrances, but if you go to Zion this year, I suggest you check ahead and perhaps avoid entering to or from Springdale. You might consider riding a bike into the park. If you do attempt to drive that entrance, make sure to pee before you leave. Once through that way, we opted not to return the way we came. We headed north on Highway 89, and took Highway 14 over to Bryce Canyon. Highway 14 by itself is a treat, but that’s Utah, hidden treasures everywhere. It is part of the Markagunt Plateau, ancient lava beds along the little-known highway. Even the ordinary is beautiful.
We are staying in Bryce Canyon as I write this, a small town that borders the national park of that name. Camping gets the best of us these days, too cold here in April and the nights too long for a tent. It’s below 20 degrees right now. That’s OK for sleeping in a tent, as we stay warm enough, but the getting up, getting moving, finding things, eating out of a cooler, making coffee … it’s a bit too much in our seventies. We can afford a motel these days.
Utah is more than just a few spectacular highlights in an otherwise desert climate. It is packed with wonders, nothing ordinary. Even those places that are used for cities, towns and farmland are quite special, clean and well kept up. Mormons are a special people. I wouldn’t want to be one, but I can guarantee certain aspects of their being if you come here … you will find them industrious, clean, welcoming, friendly, and happy.
The happy, I think, is a product of not having to think … that is done for them by their bishops. But then, who are we to talk? TV news is not a religious ceremony, but it is automatically believed even by those who say they do not watch it. Scientists are our bought priesthood, lying to us about everything, every lie believed. As Ed says in his Down the River essays about Thoreau, he saw a bumper sticker that said “Question Authority.” He thought Thoreau would have added the word “Always” at the beginning, and Ed would have added the word “all” before “authority.”:
I will tell an Ed Abbey joke, brought to the present. Why do some cats walk about with their tails straight up in the air? They are displaying their Joe Biden buttons.
In 2001, as this year, we did a rigorous hike to Chesler Park, a steep climb and the “Park” not at all like it sounds, just natural features left alone, part of Canyonlands National Park. That is a massive complex south of Moab, more land than even Abbey could explore in a lifetime. These days the Chesler hike is well signed, and there are enough rock cairns visible that it is almost impossible to get lost. In 2001 it was not like that, that is, there were fewer signs and cairns. We took a wrong turn, got to daydreaming, and suddenly realized that we did not know where we were. In the desert, that’s a bit of a problem.
We had a map, and were not fools. We knew that if we attempted to backtrack when we had left no tracks on bare rock that we might get more lost. The desert is like that. It can swallow you whole. Looking over the map, I noticed that nearby was a dry river bed, a wash, or arroyo. It would be an act of faith, but if we could find it, it would lead us to the general area where we had parked our car. Indeed we found the dry wash, and fingers crossed, started walking in the general direction we thought correct. Maybe an hour later we were on a high cliff, and looking down in the distance saw a speck that was our blue and white Ford Explorer. Deliverance.
This time around there was a sign posted at the place where we had made the wrong turn in 2001, and anyway, we had a GPS with us, so there would be no getting lost.
Ed Abbey was a river and a desert rat, a creature of Utah when it was an outpost, not a destination. He wrote about his surrounds in a comforting manner. I have read everything he wrote, and most everything written about him. As it has been years ago, it is a mishmash of impressions. So I am now re-reading.
However, there are two distinct flavors. His writing about the desert, about rivers and nature, are to me like putting in a pair of comfortable slippers by a warm fire. His tone is descriptive, and yet soothing. He describes the wonders of nature, but also its harshness, as when an amateur photographer in Desert Solitaire is caught short in August heat without enough water. Ed was among the crew tasked with finding the body. He would not have survived, this was a given. Ed was dismissive, not of the death, even admiring the man’s final futile gestures at survival, but of life in harsh climate. Death routinely comes calling, and Ed accepted that.
Abbey was a contradiction, very much antisocial, counter cultural, and disparaging of the expanding population of the planet and of ever-harder to find respites that did not allow humans to run roughshod. He had five wives and fathered five children.
Desert Solitaire is set in Utah when Moab was a small Mormon town, not the ATV-crazed tourist madhouse of today. Arches National Park was then a windblown dusty monument, and Abbey lived in a small trailer at the entrance, and wrote. He could make any aspect of desert existence come alive, even the rocks and fauna. Desert Solitaire graces us with descriptions of flowers, snakes, rocks and birds. He would also seek refuge on river trips. My favorite, cited above, is Down the River with Henry Thoreau, mostly because I made the same trip. However, do try reading it sometime, see if it needs a campfire for the right mood. He gracefully transitions from Henry David to Ed Abbey and back. You’ll find it in his book of river essays, Down the River.
In one of his essays he is working on a ranch and charged with collecting maverick cattle that have spread out during winter. One of his coworkers seemed preoccupied with death, and Ed, then just approaching middle age, was dismissive of the fear. Far better, he said, to die while living a life than to be stuck in a hospital with tubes hanging out your arms and ass. Ed vowed that his own death would not be that way, and when at age 62 he found himself hospitalized, he indeed got up and walked out, back to his home near Tucson where he passed on his own terms. His wife and friends put his body in a sleeping bag in the back of a pickup and took him out to the desert he loved, and put him in an unmarked grave. It was what he wanted.
Age 62? A short life, but a good one, leaving me completely in his charms.
But there was another Ed Abbey, one who wrote not of desert wonders, but of anger and hostility towards people and civilization. People who knew Ed personally said he was mild and shy, and polite. But his cast of characters in The Monkeywrench Gang were loud, intrusive, annoying, and over the top. I did not care for Abbey’s fiction.
Ed became, in my view, part of a psyop. (See the notes about Foreman, Bari, Sweeney, et al, in a section of this essay called Side Canyon Trip, at the end.) He was a true environmentalist, and there were a few outstanding one around in those days.
David Brower was an important man in The Sierra Club when, in 1956, Sierra made a decision that would destroy over 200 miles of the Colorado Plateau and river, Glen Canyon Dam and the resulting Lake Powell. Ed Abbey was one of the few who explored that then little-known stretch of river, side and slot canyons. It was a national treasure. At that time the Bureau of Reclamation was on a dam building tear, and also wanted to build one at Dinosaur Monument, a place called Echo Canyon on the Green and Yampa Rivers, another treasure. Sierra Club, seemingly backed into a corner, sold out Glen Canyon to save Dinosaur. Glen Canyon was four times as big as Dinosaur, and anyway, why was it a choice? Why not fight to preserve both?
Abbey never mentions Brower by name, but during that time when his leadership was critical Brower came out in support of the Glen Canyon dam. Ed wrote at length about what we lost with that dam, the Canyon and most of the varieties of life thereby supported. He was one of the few who had explored that stretch of river, and he wrote about it at length. Brower later claimed to have made a mistake. But when the “No” button needed to be pushed, Brower lacked the strength. He was either a weak and stupid man, or controlled. I think the latter. Again, I cannot be sure. I was not in his shoes. He is said to have, on his death bed, as a final symbolic act, cast a vote for Ralph Nader for president. How fitting, controlled opposition tipping its hat to controlled opposition. As I view it. I could be wrong.
Sierra Club is a useless appendage in terms of environmentalism. Independent voices are squelched, the national “ExCom” exercising dictatorial control. I belonged for a few months and even as a naive young man I thought it a joke. Members propose, ExCom disposes. I did not know at that time about controlled opposition, but now know that this is the Club’s role. Having given away Glen Canyon, they later claim to support the draining of Lake Powell and restoration of the Colorado as it was. Too little, too late, but thanks guys anyway. You gave it all away and you now feel bad. Cry me a river.
A local group in Moab wanted to form a Sierra chapter, calling itself the Glen Canyon Group. Part of its charter was support for the national Sierra Club position that Lake Powell should be drained, the dam destroyed. Both internal local pressure and national ExCom politics forbade both positions. They were not allowed the name, and could not support the national official position. That’s Sierra Club in a nutshell, full of well-meaning energetic activists, and run by disingenuous wankers.
Ed Abbey was livid about Glen Canyon, wanting to blow it up as part of his Monkeywrench antics. This is where I think he was spotted by Intel agents, people looking to discredit the environmental movement in the same way as Manson discredited antiwar. (See the Side Canyon Trip at the end concerning Dave Foreman.) Media plays a huge role in defining leaders, and can be trusted to select controlled opposition at all opportunities. Thus was EF! seized on by media as the face of environmentalism, and the rationals, the honest fighters in the trenches, were moved to the shadows. The environmental movement was defined by Earth First!, Intel agents. So it goes.
That is how controlled opposition works … in concert with promoters like Foreman and Judy Bari, the news media paints the public image of what environmentalism is, really. With Earth First! it was noise and violence. There was no more rational, enlightened debate. There was just the spectacle and noise. Just as the antiwar movement of the 1960s, calm, reasoned and rational, became long hair and drugs and flower children, culminating in Manson, environmentalism became confrontations of reasoned advocates for unending development (growth for the sake of growth, the “ideology of the cancer cell,” Ed observed) confronted by tree sitters. That’s how it works.
Abbey died in 1989 of cirrhosis … a marker near where he was buried in an old sleeping bag reads “EDWARD PAUL ABBEY, 1927-1989, No Comment.” Those last two words were Ed’s idea, his sense of humor. And anyway, his body of work speaks for itself. As to his illness, not much to say. He managed to conceal that part from us, but his life was indeed shortened by drink. There is no other explanation. God rest his worthy soul.
Side Canyon Trip
Anyone who has ever done a river trip, not the big raft trips through Grand Canyon, but the slower and more peaceful rivers, knows about side canyons. They present unique exploration opportunities. Since Ed Abbey is the main focus of this piece, I want to offer a side canyon trip comprised of David Brower, Dave Foreman, Mike Sweeney and Judi Bari.
David Brower: (Seen above, the Archdruid, and on the right, the Druid Arch.) I always assumed that the reference to the Druid Arch and then to Brower as Archdruid was a simple running gag. However, it was actually a taunt, as a real estate developer who wanted to redo Hilton Head, South Carolina, said that environmentalists “worship trees and sacrifice human beings to those trees.” That’s what Druids did, and so the developer, Charles Fraser, stuck the label on Brower.
Brower (1912-2000) is a mystery. His public history is that of a mountain climber (70 first ascents) and military mountaineer. He served in Italy during WWII in a mountaineer division. But beyond that, the man is an enigma. Wikipedia does not even list his parentage (Mary Barlow and Ross J. Brower). A Geni.com search yields nothing, the top hit oddly being a fellow named David McKenzie. Ancestry.com returns nothing on either Brower or his wife, Anne Hus. Below are the top two hits I got on Brower at Geni.com.
There are no other returns for any David Brower in recent history, though the name is well represented historically. I’m no expert at genealogy, but have done enough of it to know when it is scrubbed. The silence around Brower speaks volumes, as I see it. It is not that his name is surrounded by the word “private,” as often happens with famous people. It is that the name does not turn up at all. (The name “Brower” appears in ThePeerage.com.)
So who is this David Brower character? He lineage is scrubbed, he served in the military, he was brought into the Sierra Club in 1933, and was used in a false choice scenario that led to the approval of the Glen Canyon Dam, a tragedy for the wild Colorado river. “Oops!” he said about Glen Canyon, and spent the rest of his years feigning attempts to undo what he did. Brower appears to me to be highly juiced, and controlled opposition.
Dave Foreman: Dave is said to be one of five founders of the radical environmental group Earth First! The others are Mike Roselle, Howie Wolke, Bart Koehler, and Ron Kezar. In subsequent cv’s, only Kezar and Foreman are officially tied to Earth First! All could be controlled, but it seems as likely that they were sucked into something they did not understand. Wolke is connected to Friends of the Clearwater, a Montana group that our writer Steve Kelly supports. I would suspect the two know one another.
This leaves Foreman. Here’s Wiki:
David Foreman, was born in October 18, 1947 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His father was an United States Air Force sergeant. Foreman attended San Antonio Junior College and University of New Mexico, where he majored in History. In his early life he was active in conservative politics, campaigning for Barry Goldwater and forming the Young Americans for Freedom conservative youth chapter on his junior college campus. In 1968, Foreman joined the Marine Corps’ Marine Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia and received an undesirable discharge after 61 days.
That draws my suspicion … we have seen this before, military intelligence giving the boot to one of its own to send him on a mission. This is done to build credibility – the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But Foreman had an ambition, said to be in the forming of Earth First!, but more likely in destroying the public credibility of the environmental movement. EF! took us from reasoned debate among sincere and knowledgeable people dedicated to honorable causes, and gave us in exchange tree sitting, threats of violence, and a whole new face for environmentalism. If his purpose was to sully and blackwash a movement, he succeeded.
“After years of indifference, the managers of the corporate sector and their hired scribes (Commentary, National Review, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, et al. [note, written in 1981]) have finally awakened to the fact that environmentalism, if taken seriously, is a greater threat to the Perpetual Power & Growth Machine than labor unions or Communism. … Capitalists believe above all in technology, the ever-expanding economy (nice self-contradiction!), industrialism, militarism, centralized control – the complete domination of nature and human beings.” (Abbey: Preliminary Notes to Down the River, 7/4/1981)
That “complete domination” is still the game today, what with vaccinations that are not vaccines, that seem an attempt to finally dominate every living human 24/7. Abbey was, as he often was, prescient.
Dave Foreman is still active and has founded other groups, including Wildlands Institute. I suggest that environmentalists, real ones, stay away from any group or organization either founded by or served on by this man. It is my suspicion that part of the research behind Foreman’s EF! project was a book discovered that had been published in 1975, written by Ed Abbey and called The Monkeywrech Gang. It suited the new movement to destroy environmentalism perfectly. Was Abbey a knowing compatriot in Foreman’s game? I doubt it. He became more like a fellow traveler, not able to see the larger purposes at work behind Foreman. They used him. He was a mascot.
Mike Sweeney and Judi Bari: These two were foot soldiers, husband and wife, and on the front lines for Earth First!
To: Bruce Anderson, Editor, Anderson Valley Advertiser, Boonville, CA
Dear Mr. Anderson,
I was a long time subscriber back in the 1990s and enjoyed your writing on many subjects very much. I remember how you wrote about Mike Sweeney, claiming that he had been the perpetrator of the bombing of Judi Bari.
I’ve been writing and reveling, I guess, in the life and times of Ed Abbey (1927-1989, No Comment) and became curious about his prominence in Earth First!, more or less a mascot. Dave Foreman appeared to me to be controlled opposition, using Abbey’s work as a torch to sully the image of environmentalism. In that light, Bari seemed to fit as well, and I began to suspect no bomb, no cancer, no death. It would not be the first time… fake death in the Intel business is as common as beards in show business. They are on assignment and when done, move on to new work, or retire. Faking death is one way of moving on.
Using TruePeopleSearch and Bari’s known DOB, I calculated her age, if still alive, as 71. Sure enough, there is a Judi Bari, same name, same spelling, living in Santa Clara, age 71. Do you by chance know her?
Thanks for the memories!
The AVA is a nothing little newspaper that was promoted in the Wall Street Journal in the 1990s, and gained a small national following, including me. I subscribed for years. The WSJ may seem odd, but at that time it ran weekly op-eds by Alexander Cockburn, who was a friend of Bruce Anderson. So in the ‘about the author’ of Cockburn’s pieces, it mentioned Counterpunch, and the AVA. Cockburn was of the families, juiced, and also the uncle of actress Olivia Wilde, shown to be one of our Brats, or a clone. That sort of person does not pop up in normal families.
On May 24, 1990, a car that Judi Bari was driving with another person aboard was bombed, and Bari was seriously injured, but not killed. It’s one of those JFK-like rabbit holes, a whodunnit that played out for many years. Bruce Anderson accused Judi’s husband, Mike Sweeney, of planting the bomb, wanting to kill his wife and mother of his two children. The accusation was made in the AVA, out in the open, and Sweeney remained silent about the affair. I wondered at the time how Anderson was avoiding libel, but the answer given was that since the accusation was true, there was no libel. That satisfied me at the time. (Judi Bari is said to have died of breast cancer on 3/2/1997.)
Now, years later, having seen so many fake deaths and so much controlled opposition, I decided to find out if Judi Bari really died, was really bombed, etc. I went to the regular sources, and found that she is listed in the Social Security Death Index, and the California Death Index. I found the marriage license between her and Sweeney. However, there is no grave in Find-A-Grave, no memorial, even as 1,000 people attended her memorial ceremony. And most interesting, Judi Bari, born in November of 1949, would be 71 years old if alive today. She and Mike lived in Santa Clara, and there is a Judi Bari, age 71, living there now. Note the unusual spelling of Judi, and that the name Bari is not common. This tells me that everything about Judi was fake, and Bruce Anderson too.
Judi Bari is a subject for future writing, as there is more going on with her than this fake bombing and fake death. I just don’t know quite what it is at this time.
PS: Just for the heck of it, a shot of me on a Bryce Canyon overlook. We got some great shots of the Colorado River and scenery on Highway 128 that approaches Moab from the NE, and of Canyonlands, but unfortunately, they are all gone. It is either a camera or a camera operator miscue. All I know is that I got a message that the memory card was full, and so deleted a bunch of photos, one by one. Why they are all gone, and only shots from last year are left, I don’t know.
I did get a new memory card, which is why photos of Bryce survived. We did descend down walked the entire canyon bottom, a most beautiful place. The second photo is from the bottom up. I think it is called the Wall of Windows, or something like that.