The following was written back when the disorientation was given manually. It now (12.7.00) consists of a video that you are forced to watch. I was subjected to the video on 10.31.00. It was very weird - a group of a about 10 of us were herded into a small room. The room contained a display case containing an atlatl and other artifacts, a TV, VCR, and seats. Aboriginal symbols were painted on the walls. The volunteer who was in charge of the disorientation chamber apologetically started to give the spiel, but then he sensed that we did not need it and asked if we knew about the disorientation. We nodded grimly; he smiled sadly, activated the VCR and left the chamber, closing the door behind him.

We were trapped. It was very odd. No one said anything while the video played. When it was finally over, the door opened and the man jokingly said something about the "ordeal being over" and thanked us for our time.

November 1998

Although there was a time when I climbed at Hueco as often as 100 times a year, in the last six months I have only been out a few times, and not at all since the new extremist restrictions were shoved down our throats this September. I stayed away - at first in sullen protest, then because I was having fun climbing elsewhere, but lately out of fear - fear of seeing the nearly dead body of my beloved Hueco Tanks, afraid of tarnishing my memory of a Free Hueco. I had thought that I might never go back - at least until the TPWD is driven out - but then I realized that I had to face my fear and go. And though I might no longer enjoy the place, I had an obligation to my little girl who has been asking me to take her out climbing again.

I knew that before I would be permitted to go in, I would have to endure a disorientation by a TPWD representative who knows less about the park than I do - who has not touched a fraction of the surfaces I have touched or explored a fraction of the hidden recesses that I have - who was probably still in high school when I had already visited it a hundred times - who despite this has been anointed as a gatekeeper because they value the "cultural resources" at Hueco. Instead of being attracted to the beauty of the rocks themselves, they have eyes mostly for the thin, transitory films of dirty paint on the rock - the graffiti of a bygone age - but because that graffiti is symbolic of the religious delusions of aboriginal tribesmen (who, in my humble opinion, were as confused as anyone who believes in any form of the supernatural), it is somehow more wonderful than that which attracted those aboriginal tribesmen in the first place - the rocks themselves. They have ears mostly for the story of man's sudden, recent appearance there, and not for the true history of Hueco, which spans 35 million years. Man's presence at Hueco for the last 50,000 years is a trivial fraction of the age of the lovely and unique formations.

I did not want my beautiful little girl, who at the age of four is a happy rationalist, subjected to the disorientation lecture. So, I gritted my teeth and drove out by myself late on a Friday afternoon to get it over with. I vowed that no matter what, I would keep my mouth shut and be pleasant and cooperative, because all humans deserve polite treatment until they are deliberately rude. Berna greeted me with her usual cheery hello, and clucked her disappointment over Jewell not being with me. I let her know that this was my first visit since the new regulations took effect. I was instructed to go to the Ranch House for the orientation where two TPWD rangers and a pleasant young newly hired employee greeted me. We sat down, and she explained that she was responsible for developing a public education program at Hueco, and then proceeded with the orientation.

I was well-behaved during the lecture, but at one point could not resist mentioning that because of Hueco's unique layout and geology, all erosion and damage to vegetation could be prevented by requiring that all traffic be restricted to rock surfaces or approved trails. Once again, the silly argument that "rock also erodes" was offered as a reason why I personally should not be allowed to use the restricted areas, even if I stay on the rock. I bit my lip and did not mention that the TPWD has never identified rock erosion due to foot traffic as a problem, has no data on the rate of erosion caused by foot traffic, and would be laughed out of court if they really tried to use that as an argument. It is a sad commentary about just how delusional the current crop of land managers has become - they have no problem with frequent trips by TPWD pickup trucks to forbidden zones in the park, but my sneakers on solid granite are dangerous!

On the surface, the information she presented was interesting and would probably be helpful to someone who had never visited Hueco. But there was a subtle but ominous undertone that I found very disturbing - here is a snippet that I found particularly troublesome (paraphrasing):

"…we are requiring this orientation in an effort to encourage the general public to appreciate and enjoy the rich cultural resources…… and to respect the spiritual beliefs of the Native American peoples…. who used to inhabit Hueco and still regard it as their church…"

Sounds innocent a first, eh? But think about the implications. Since when is it the business of the government to get me to enjoy anything? Why are my taxes being spent trying to convince people they should respect a belief system that they might find unreasonable? Attempts to influence the thoughts of citizens is not a legitimate or moral function of government, no matter how noble the goal. What matters are actions, not beliefs.

I respect the rights of all citizens to believe whatever they want, but I do not respect the beliefs themselves - I cannot show reverence for something that is nonexistent - nor should I be expected to or thought less of because I do not. As far as Hueco being a "church", that is incorrect. Words mean things, and the word church has two specific meanings: one refers to a group of believers of a particular faith, as in "The Catholic Church' or "Baptist Church", the other refers to a privately owned, man-made structure that is used for worship. A natural rock formation on public land fits neither of those definitions - the proper term might be "sacred place" or "holy place". The motivation of those who try to claim that Hueco is a church is clear - their next utterance is usually: " …and you would not let people climb on your church, would you?". Thankfully, she stopped short of using this flawed analogy. (Since I used to used to builder on the side of the Kingdom Hall when my mom forced me to go to "church" as a teenager, I would answer "sure, let them climb!")

I have been told that my attitude toward religion is disrespectful. But exactly what does "disrespectful" mean in this context? I respect the rights of all men to believe anything they want, but I am not obligated to respect the beliefs themselves if I find them to be unreasonable. It is immoral and wrong to restrict, by regulation, my right to travel freely over public land, just because one particular religion holds that my presence there is undesirable.

*However* , this does not mean that I wouldn’t voluntarily honor requests for privacy by "Native Americans", providing such requests are reasonable and not implemented as a regulation or a legislative act. An example of an unreasonable request would be to close off the Round Room for the entire month of June. An example of a reasonable request would be to close it for a few days each month.

More and more, society seems to want to segregate and classify people. Unlike most inhabitants of this excellent planet, I insist on being treated as an individual; not as a member of a group. For example, I will not accept being grouped together with climbers or descendants of Northern Europeans, even though I happen to be a climber (some would dispute this ...) and great-great-grandpa came from Scotland. Don't try to classify or categorize me. My opinions and beliefs are no more representative of all climbers than they are of all men with beards. I, like everyone else, am unique. Treat me as an individual. In return, I pledge that I will not condemn any group for the actions of a few members of that group. All men are equal and deserve individual justice and fair treatment.

For example, I will not condemn all "Native Americans" as racist just because in 1997 I had a very unpleasant encounter at Hueco with a member of the Mescalero tribe - I think he is called "Apache Joe" or something similar. Despite my polite and genuinely friendly initial attempt at conversation with him, he was unabashedly racist and hostile. I was quite taken aback by him at first, as I always am when I encounter bigotry. He made it painfully clear that I was not welcome at Hueco Tanks, simply because I am not a "Native American". I could barely believe my ears. He told me that white men were trespassing on Indian Land, and that the mere presence of my daughter and myself was an insult and a sacrilege. He told me that I could expect to fall or be bitten by a snake! There were several witnesses to his bizarre comments, and to my subsequent blunt and colorful discussion of his mental capacity, origin, habits, and ultimate destination, delivered while doing laps on the Wannabe’s and daring him to make me fall or get bitten by a snake. I find it interesting that the ranger who heard this "death threat" took no action, but a certain local climber from Hueco who had allegedly made "death threats" was banned from the park.

One thing is obvious: it is time to break Mankind's vicious cycle of condemning children just because they don't happen to be the "right" race. We must regard all Men as belonging to the same race - the Human race. Don't punish kids for not picking the "correct" parents.

One of my favorite pictures of Julie was taken at Hueco tanks in 1995 when she was just a baby. If one looks closely in the original photograph, the reflection of the rocks of Hueco is visible in her clear and innocent eyes. I challenge anyone who holds that her mere presence at Hueco is bad to look her in the eyes and tell it to her directly. Jewell, 7mo, Huecotanks














I have never felt the slightest need to convince others that what I do in the wilderness deserves "respect", or that people should enjoy it the way I do. I just want to be left alone to wander freely, doing no harm, over any surface that is part of public land. If other people are into worshiping rocks or looking at primitive art from the past, that's OK with me. People can pray to any imagined entity they want, they can chant and sing and dance and carry on as much as they need to. If they arrive at a particular spot first and want privacy, that's OK with me; I will voluntarily go somewhere else that day.

What is not OK is the prevailing trend to accept as legitimate goofy claims such as the one I saw in a recent issue of Climbing: (paraphrasing) "Shiprock is dead now, because it has been climbed by a 'non-Native American' who didn't respect its sacred nature". What a bunch of racist drivel - that only "Native Americans" can visit a place without desecrating it! I challenge any aboriginal medicine man to prove that he can tell when a rock has been "killed" due to ascent by an evil white man. James Randi (a.k.a. The Amazing Randi) is offering a large cash prize to anyone who can demonstrate they have any kind of supernatural power; the ability to detect if a white man has climbed a rock weeks, months, or years ago would certainly qualify for the prize.

It is irrefutable that all men, regardless of race or any other unchangeable attribute such as sex or hair color or height, are equal under the law and must not be the subject of discrimination based on these unalterable genetic characteristics. The Constitution of the United States of America specifically forbids the punishment of one person for the crimes of another. The unwillingness of certain groups to share public land with peaceable persons who are not causing physical harm is immoral, disrespectful (eh? eh?!), and intolerant. It is immaterial if the unwillingness to share is based on the fraudulent claim that supernatural beings, embodied in inert rocks, don’t want "white man" there, or the fraudulent claim that my sneakers on solid granite cause harm. When we can be arrested, fined and even imprisoned for the harmless act of climbing on public land, the unreasonable use of force and fraud has been initiated against us. I have vowed to never initiate the use of force or fraud. However, once force or fraud has been initiated, response in kind is morally justified.

Why should I assist the TPWD or any government agency that restricts my access to public land? If I see vandals damaging the petroglyphs, why should I stop them or report them to the rangers? If I see trash, why should I pick it up? Instead, when I see picnickers building fires or tearing up vegetation, I think I’ll just pass by without comment. I will no longer chide children for chipping their names in the rocks. When I find people collecting arrowheads and pottery, I will offer no admonishment. Why should I, when years and years of such assistance has earned me the punishment of being locked out? Why should I help those who tell me that my mere presence at the park and passage over the rocks is dangerous and undesirable?

The disorientation lecture went on and on, but eventually, mercifully, it was over. She had one final comment: that they knew of my postings to rec.climbing. Perhaps a not-so-subtle hint that I better watch what I say?

Dazed from the disorientation, I stumbled back to my car. I grabbed my shoes and chalk bag and walked over to warm-up boulder. No one else was around – strange, since it was a perfect fall evening. I pulled a couple of the easy problems on its east face, but I derived little enjoyment from them. At first I wondered why the park seemed so cold, empty, and dead. Then it came to me – duh - it is so obvious now, perhaps the disorientation had done me some good.

Don’t you see? Hueco used to be filled with the purest of intangible Spiritual Climbing Energy, but the mere presence of non-climbers has "killed" Hueco. Aha! After all, how could a "Native American" or cultural anthropologist or ethno-botanist or a TPWD ranger feel what we feel? Only climbers can really sense when the essential climbing energy of a place is still intact, or has been sucked away by the disrespectful presence of land managers and culture junkies. Imagine the insult the rocks have to endure – that people would walk up to them, and instead of climbing, ignore the poor boulder to look at graffiti that was painted on by uncaring aborigines thousands of years ago. Those pitiful boulders had been lonely and unappreciated for millions and millions of years – no one to touch them; no one to hold them or to rub them or to brush them. Then men arrived, but until the 20th century no one understood the rocks, and they were savagely used for such unholy purposes as shelter or even as canvas <shudder>.

Finally, climbers discovered Hueco, and it was love at first sight. Ahh. Love! It was worth all the millions of years of waiting.

But now, after just a few sweet decades of bliss, they say our love is not meant to be! <sob>

As I pondered this, my mind racing, fear gripped my heart - what if a ranger came by while I was sketching on some crux? The power of the anti-climber aura exuded by all TPWD staff could so terrify the boulder that it might panic and blast me right off the problem! Better be safe than sorry - I took off my shoes and chalk bag and crept out as quickly as I could, being careful not to step on any rock surfaces, so as not to erode them or step on invisible petroglyphs.

* * *