Guard Training Workshop - November 2001
In this article and many others on huecotanks.com, the term "guard" is used when referring to the people the TPWD calls volunteer guides. The reasons for this choice of terms are many, and will be understood by anyone who is familiar with the history and origins of the PURP. Here's the Reader's Digest version: If one does not wish or need to be guided, and the "guide" is only doing it 'cause its practically the only way to climb at Hueco, then one is not being guided - one is being guarded. When you surrender your freedom by going out on a 'tour", you become a prisoner of the system and the person taking you out on the tour is essentially your guard.
Having the option to be guided would be wonderful; the problem with Hueco is that you have no choice but to be guarded. Everyone must have a guard accompany them, even if you are someone like me who has been out there thousands of times and knows all the rules and warnings - not to step on plants, deface the rock art, crap on the trails or bust beer bottles on the boulders, etc. During the public comment period before the PURP went into effect, the TPWD rejected climbers' proposals to create a "trustee" system that would recognize the value of letting concerned, responsible climbers freely wander the "backcountry", climbing when they wished - because those trustworthy, responsible climbers would help the Park staff keep an eye on remote sections of the Park. Initially, the TPWD was in favor of this idea, but anti-climber forces got to them and they dropped the trustee system and implemented the mandatory guard system.
To become a Guard:
In order to take the guard training course, you have to sign up to get on the notification list for the twice-yearly sessions (summer and fall). Once you are on the notification list, you wait for the announcement of the session to arrive in the mail, fill out the form, and hope you are one of the first 15 to respond. There is no charge for the 2-1/2 day session, usually held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
- Day One, 11.30.01
At the entrance, we were directed toward the "Maintenance Shed", which is located over by the Park Manager's residence. A corner of the shed had been rearranged to make room for a few tables, metal folding chairs, a slide projector and a white board. We were almost late, so we had to squeeze into the last available spaces. I kind of like the shed; it is a dark, intriguing place filled with a multitude of mysterious objects that would (hopefully) provide us with the equivalent of a "window to look out of" if we found ourselves in the grip of boredom in the days to come.
The Park had been kind enough to supply some cookies for us to munch on, which went over big with the attendees. Each of us was also provided with a thick three-ring binder filled with information on Hueco, Indians, the TPWD and the specific rules and procedures related to the guard program.
John Moses, the new and improved Hueco Park Manager, gave us an introductory speech to start the class. He stressed that volunteer guards are the most important part of the interpretive program at Hueco. We should act as agents of the TPWD - not to enforce the law and rules, but to educate, inform, and work toward the ultimate goal of the park being 100% run by volunteers! (This caused many of the prospective guards to exchange knowing smiles, as they fantasized about a Hueco run by legions of ratty climber volunteers...)
John stressed that the TPWD believes that the volunteer guard program is essential if the Park is to be kept open to the public.
John explained that Indian groups don't have special access to the Park (I was proud of him for using the correct term "Indian", and not "Native American", to refer to the organized groups of descendants of the original aboriginal tribes that inhabited North America before it became the USA). Indian groups also need to be guarded when they wish access to the restricted areas at Hueco, and he hates to have to turn people away when there are no guards available.
He mentioned that the Park was fully booked (at least on North Mountain) through 1.5.02, so anyone who wants to visit who does not already have a reservation will be relying on going out on a tour. <Editor's Note: Many pro-PURP sycophants claim that Hueco is not routinely full. John's comments reflect my experience - if you don't make your reservations months in advance, you will not be able to get into North. Mountain during peak season. Bouldering tours on East or West Mountain are useless when your goal is to do trad routes on the Frontside, or climb on Mushroom boulder!>
He concluded his little pep talk by encouraging us to ask lots of questions, keep an open mind, and listen to Wanda.
<General Philosophical Note: the admonition to "keep an open mind" is often misused by liberals and mystics (I am not necessarily classifying John as such) who are unable to refute a logical, rational argument about something. An "open mind" should mean to always be willing and able to examine and defend, with reason and logic, all of ones beliefs. In recent times, "keep and open mind" has been misused to mean "you can't be certain of anything". This stems from the underlying subjectivism that permeates the culture in America and the world - the silly notion that "what is true for you may not be true for me". Subjectivists are offended by what they perceive to be the smug self-certainty of those who see the volunteer guard program for what it actually is - a silly waste of time for careful, informed and concerned visitors like me, who don't need a guard to prevent us from stepping on plants or vandalizing the rock art.>
Wanda Olszewski is Hueco's Exhibit Technician and is a TPWD park Ranger. She has been employed by Hueco since about 1998. <Note: in August 2005, Wanda was promoted to Park Manager.>
She started by reminding us that the water system at the Park was out, and that indoor smoking was verboten. We were required to attend the entire 2.5 days of training to be eligible to become a guard. If we missed part of the training, for any reason, we would not be able to become a guard. If we had a good excuse, something like a car wreck or illness, she would consider scheduling a special one-on-one make-up session.
She reviewed the agenda for the next three days. (insert image). She also stressed that the volunteer guards are not enforcers, but must be an expert on all the rules and regulations.
Wanda is a native of El Paso. Her first visit to Hueco was when she was about three; she remembers that one of the wild donkeys that used to congregate out here ate her peanut butter sandwich. She visited Hueco innumerable times while she grew up in El Paso and attended UTEP, earning a BS in Biology. She put in a stint with the Peace Corps in East Africa, but eventually returned to El Paso. Prior to coming to Hueco in 1998, she worked for the TPWD at the Franklin Mountains State Park. She likes her job at Hueco, saying that the work is varied and challenging, never routine. She thanked us again for taking the time to attend the training, and then asked us to introduce ourselves and take a break before we started studying the Park regulations.
The group of prospective guards looked to be about 2/3 climber scum and 1/3 birders/rock-art aficionados. The two groups have fairly distinct appearances:
Climber scum typically wears clothes that look like Salvation Army rags but are actually hideously expensive outfits made from Gore-Tex or other advanced fabrics that have been worn continuously for years without washing. They are skinny to the point of emaciation, poorly shaven (this applies to the women also), and exude that peculiar odor that stems from lack of access to adequate levels of water (and $) for bathing and laundry. They drive vehicles that closely resemble themselves - functional, strong and fully paid-for, instead of waxed, pretty and owned by the Bank.
The birders & rock-arters averaged about twice the age and mass of the climbers. Their cars were also more massive than those of the climber-scum, but averaged about half the age of the scum-mobiles.
At least half of the climbers were from out of town and were wintering at Hueco; one guy named Shawn had driven in from Georgia non-stop, fighting blizzards and car failure to make it on time. Most of the non-climbers were El Paso residents, with the notable exception of a man and his wife that had driven in from AlBQQ to attend.
Wanda then reviewed the TPWD mission statement, the Public Use (Restriction) Plan (PURP), and the goals of the guard training program. The Mission Statement, which applies to all departments in the TPWD, is: Restoration and Preservation, Access and Interpretation, and Recreation. I can't remember if they are presented in order of priority.
Part of the PURP is the requirement that all visitors watch the disorientation video once a year. All volunteer guards are also required to watch the video. Wanda graciously allowed those of us who had watched it within the last year to skip it - about half of the climbers took her up on the offer and went outside to stand around absorbing the pale November sunshine in a reptilian torpor. Even though I had been disoriented just a month ago, I decided to watch it again, because "anything that does not kill me only makes me stronger".
After the video, Wanda continued with her lecture. She and many others view Hueco as a special thing here in the Chihuahuan desert. Hueco's diverse ecosystem has a much greater variety of species and density of life-forms than a typical section of the surrounding desert. This attracted aborigines. The aborigines produced the rock art.
The TPWD knows of ~2000 pictographs grouped in ~300 panels at Hueco. Pictographs are drawn or painted, petroglyphs are carved into the rock; the term "rock art" encompasses both types.
I asked "What is the legal definition of rock art"? This has always been point of interest to me, because one man's art is another man's graffiti. Wanda said that the law states that anything older than 50 years is considered rock art and is protected. At present (November 2001), there is no cut-off date; this 50-year sliding window is moving steadily forward. In a mere 20 years, some of the graffiti at Hueco that was sprayed-on in the '70's will be protected! Cool!
Wanda mentioned that various government agencies define Hueco as a "sacred landscape". This bugs me. What is sacred to one mystic may be profane to another - take the example of the ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan that were shelled by the Taliban. The "sacredness" of something is entirely subjective and such a definition should not be part of the law.
Wanda talked about the long history of recreation at Hueco. Hueco is roughly 1x2 miles in size, ~ 860 acres - smaller than it looks. The TPWD uses the small size of Hueco as a justification for the draconian restrictions - a max of 70 people/day on North Mountain, plus 8 tours or 160 people (whichever is reached first) for the rest of the Park. Climbing tours are unfairly limited to 10 people/tour, but other types of tours can have up to 25 participants. Rangers will try judge the capacity of the Park by correlating the cars with the permits, and make adjustments during the day as people come and go.
Overnight use of the Park is permitted in the designated campground, where 20 sites are available. Campers can't climb at night! They should try not to exit the park after ours unless there is an emergency (such as running out of beer). Campers must check in at the HQ every morning! (arrgh). You can't camp more than three days in a row, so if you want to stay for a week or two, you would have to get reservations for 3-day blocks separated by one day where you stay somewhere else, for example Pete's or the Hueco Rock Ranch.
Bikes may be ridden anywhere a car is permitted to travel. If you are part of a commercially guided tour to the frontside, you can ride your bike to the frontside, otherwise you have to leave it at the gate by the North restroom. Pets are allowed, but cannot be left unattended unless they are in an RV that has a "legal home" designation. Pets can only be taken where bikes are allowed. This goofy rule means that if you are a climber, you will have to designate a "dog sitter" to hang out with the dog in an area where bikes are allowed. The silly restrictions on pets mean that effectively, pets are still banned from the park. The only exception to this rule that I am aware of is the base of Mushroom Boulder - if you are part of a commercial tour to the frontside, you can take your dog to the base of Mushroom boulder, as long as it is kept on a lease and out of the bushes. This allows the TPWD to appear to be "open minded" but still effectively ban pets. Wanda and several of the other rangers are opposed to allowing pets in the Park, and would be happy to explain why they feel this way.
North Mountain reservations are limited to 60/day, which means that 10/day are always available for "walk-ins", the term used to describe poor shmucks that can't get reservations and show up at the gate hoping for cancellations. The 10 walk-ins are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you sneak in, you are technically guilty not of trespass, but of "theft of service". Therefore, even if you pay but then climb after hours or in a restricted area, you are still guilty of "theft" … interesting.
Wanda reviewed the areas of the Park that are completely closed to climbing. She encourages guards-in-training to walk the perimeter trails. She stressed the importance of avoiding stepping on vegetation of any type and to try to stay on marked trails or rock surfaces.
Volunteer guards are considered to be representatives of the TPWD. At present, VGs can't participate in roped climbing, or any other type of climbing, while guarding a tour.
All tours are scheduled through the Park office. Volunteer guards just can't round up their buddies and schedule a tour. Instead, a paying customer must call the Park HQ and request a specific type of tour at a specific date and time. The HQ will either tell the customer that a tour is available (and there are open slots for the tour), or try to find a guard for the tour. Once a guard is found, the customer who first requested the tour "owns" the tour, in that he can tell the guard where they will go, how long they will hang out at any given area. While the customer can request a specific guard, there is no guarantee they will get him.
Commercial Guides - <Philosophical Note: it IS appropriate to use the term guide when applied to commercial guides, because they can also guide people on North Mountain, and because the State is not forcing me to use a commercial guide. Clients of commercial guides choose of their own free will to employ the guide.> Commercial guides act as a liaison to the Park, handling most of the registration and fees by proxy. They notify the Park in advance regarding how many clients, when and where they are going, etc. The guide service pays the fees to the Park and submits all the paperwork. If the client wants to climb on North Mountain, the client and the guides must have a N. Mtn reservation and there must be available space on N. Mtn.
All guides must meet certain minimum qualifications:
* Attend the 2.5 day workshop.
* Field work - go on at least three tours with certified guards or Park staff. Then, you have to take out tours while being observed by an accompanying Park staffer until they are satisfied you can handle a tour by yourself. They will watch for things like correct radio procedures, proper introductions & overviews for the tourists, your ability to keep the tourons in single-file, prevent damage to vegetation, how well you know the trail system. This observation must be done at least two times per type of tour one wishes to lead.
Commercial guides must also:
* Submit all the legal paperwork that the TPWD requires.
* Submit a business proposal - how may employees, what type of guiding, estimated of average group size and length of tour, number of tours per year, etc.
* Proof of $500K liability insurance or proof of sufficient cash reserves to waive liability
* $250/year contract fee (per guide service, not per guide)
Commercial guides must pay a $10/client/day fee to the Park for all clients, even those under 12.
Volunteer guards must also:
* Guard a minimum of two tours per month. (Going out on patrol counts as a tour)
* Submit forms indicating the types of tours they are interested in guarding, and how often they will be available.
* Be dependable, show up on time, generally be a good little meek guard.
Responsibilities for all Guards:
Must meet TPWD standards for resource protection, accuracy of information presented to public. Must meet standards for "political neutrality" (I guess that disqualifies me!). An example of political neutrality can be found in the tug-of-war between the Kiowas, Kelpulis, and other tribes - guards can't give a slanted history that favors one tribe over another.
Guards must be responsible for entire group at all times.
VGs can't boulder, but CGs can. VGs can give beta to their group, but should not give food or first aid, to avoid lawsuits. The TPWD's liability policy will only cover a VG if the VG does NOT render aid! <Not all TPWD staff agree with the bizarre rule about VGs not being able to climb with the group. Eliminating this regulation is one of the essential changes that must be made to the PURP-2000.>
The climbers in the workshop spend a least 10 minutes asking Wanda about various scenarios of VG situations. The theme of all these questions was "surely there is SOME way to climb with your buddies using the VG bouldering tour system?" Wanda adroitly parried all the attempts. Basically, if you are a VG and you want to take your friends on a tour and do a bit of light bouldering with them, you will have to break the rules. Wanda mentioned the two prospective guards that went out together on patrol and trail familiarization, but were then found in the Dragon's Den bouldering by a sneaky ranger who followed them.
Defecation and Urination - people should be encouraged to pack out feces. Urination is OK. In all cases try to avoid going on the rocks.
There were many questions about pooping and peeing. Wanda should have anticipated that climbers would be fascinated by it. One gal asked if she would be required to observe her charges while they urinated. A hilarious discussion ensued about how exactly how closely one has to observe them, and for how long, while still obeying the rule that requires VGs to keep all tourists "in sight" at all times. Some of the male climbers crudely offered to "let fly" in full view of the group and the VG, to make it easy to obey the "in sight" rule. Wanda finally had to cut off debate on the topic.
There are two opportunities to live/work at the Park. One is the summer internship, which lasts about two months, pays $9.00/hour for 40 hours/week, and includes a trailer in the campground to live in. The other option is to be Campground Host, which entails doing a lot of menial labor around the campground and providing your own RV. I'm not certain what (if any) the pay is for the Campground Host.
Wanda did mention that no guide has been terminated for breaking the rules. <That would imply that the two VG trainee's that were discovered bouldering in the 'Den were sternly lectured and then resumed their training.>
After lunch, Wanda summarized what is known about the history of humans at Hueco. Anyone who is interested in the details can do research on their own. My scribbled notes are terse and say things like " paleo-hunters in wet forests", "8000 B.P." "pictographs carbon-dated", etc. Sorry, but aboriginal history has just never interested me that much.
Wanda is concerned that VGs dispense accurate information about prehistory at Hueco. She urged us many times to study and get the facts straight. We are to learn the numbered designations of the major sites as well as the common names like "starry-eyed man". She wants people to be discouraged from collecting artifacts, turn them in (or better still, leave it there and notify the Park).
We then went on the first of the Field Sessions, titled "Geology, Plant Life and Basic Pictograph Tour". The class was very glad to get out of the shed and walk around, particularly the climbers, who seemed to really chafe at the confinement and the lectures. Although we brought our binders with us, I did not take very good notes during the field sessions. I did take a number of photos that you can examine here.
Day Two, 12.1.01
Wanda gave us a quiz on dating artifacts. We were given a newspaper article from the El Paso Times and asked to date it. The article was written in 1909, but most of us guessed 1930 - 1940.
What to bring with us on tours? She stressed that if safety equipment is to be useful, it must be with you … bring lots of water, but don't risk yourself trying to provide first aid - call for a ranger. Don't take tourons out who did not bring water - force them to go back and get some, or kick them off the tour. Try to discover problematic medical conditions among the tourons before departing.
Next, we learned about radios, radio protocols, and the "10-codes". This was great fun, as we used the 10-codes to make bizarre statements about the habits of tourists, rangers and climbers. Did you know that it is possible to use a string of nothing but 10-codes to alert the listener that a man with a gun is threatening to have sex with road-kill, please send backup?
Volunteers are required to correctly use the radio on every tour. The protocol is the "police" protocol, which is reversed in many ways from the military/FAA protocol that I am used to. Arrgh! It has a bunch of silly rules such as 'clear the channel' and similar nonsense that is not needed in the FAA proto, due to the superior and more logical design of the FAA protocol. VGs must use the radio to let HQ know where they are and where they are going. They want you to call in periodically just to "let them know you are OK."
Multiple tours are not allowed to go to the same spot.
VGs are expected to look for unauthorized and unexpected footprints, and to assist the Park staff in apprehending violators.
Next, we turned to the Cultural Resources tab in the binder, and pretty much read every word in the section. It summarized the ancient and modern history of Hueco, the Magoffin Home, the Silverio Escontreas family and their ranch. Again, those of you who are interested in these things can do research or contact the Park for additional information.
After the mid-morning break the subject was Wildlife at Hueco. We were cautioned to not disturb or feed the animals, but it was made clear that mosquitoes are allowed to bite us, and we are allowed to swat them if we want to. We were told that someone had illegally introduced a species of fish called Gambozium to the Huecos in an attempt to cut down on the mosquitoes. (A VERY cool plan that unfortunately did not succeed). The Texas two-horned toad is protected, but the common variety is not. In any case, no wildlife may be collected from Hueco without the appropriate permits from Austin.
Next, Dr. Elizabeth Walsh of UTEP gave a presentation on "Interesting Aquatic Invertebrates of the Huecos" that I personally thought was wonderful, but seemed to bore to tears most of the attendees. Dr. Walsh, we quickly found out, has a real thing for Rotifers. She waxed enthusiastic about the little Amazon-like critters (to many of us, she seemed a bit overly into the "100% female" rotifer survival strategy. The little critters can exist and reproduce without males, and this apparently saves them huge amounts of energy...) and had lots of slides with graphs and charts to show how the rotifers quickly populate the Huecos after the rainy season starts. It made me feel like an undergraduate again to listen to her lecture, which was one of the more enjoyable portions of the training.
After lunch, the topic was Park Regulations and the Role of the Volunteer. Wanda went over a number of obscure regulations: tourons are allowed to smoke on tours, but cannot litter. We should avoid letting the prisoners (the Texas Department of Corrections works gangs of prisoners at Hueco and other parks) see cigarettes or soft drinks. VGs must wear shirts inside buildings. Tourons are not allowed to pick up artifacts. If you see someone pick up an artifact, have them put it back. If they claim to have "brought it into the Park with them," notify HQ so that the correct procedure can be followed.
Next on the agenda was the presentation on Climbing/Bouldering, by Frank Page, the TPWD's embodiment of the perfect Volunteer Guard. I must let the readers know that Frank and I do not se eye-eye on many issues. Frank is an active-duty military person who seems to not have any problems with the new restrictions at Hueco - in fact, he has publicly stated that he likes many of the new rules. Perhaps this is understandable, given his Military career and the Military's attendant need for lots of rules and a rigid command structure. He also seems to have a genuine interest in climbing and bouldering, I'll give him that. He certainly knows enough to give a non-climber attendee of the workshop a feel for what climbers want to do at Hueco.
As part of his presentation, he copied many pages from John Sherman's guidebook. When I asked him about this, he said that there was a "fair use" doctrine in U.S. copyright law that allowed him to copy up to 1/3 of any book or 1/3 of any chapter for instructional purposes. This may be true, and thus his actions may be legal, but it hardly seems ethical to me. He had not obtained permission from Verm to use his guidebook - something that I would think would be the first step, not something to skip while you hide behind the letter of the law.
Frank tried to give a meaningful talk about climbing ethics. His grasp of philosophical concepts in general, and ethics as related to climbing, seemed weak. Not his fault - education in philosophy has been cripplied in the USA for decades.
The highlight of his talk was when a bee flew up his shorts to sting him in his nether regions. His military training held true, and he never stopped smiling or showed any outwards signs of pain from the sting! I was particularly impresseed by this.
Frank also mentioned that the tour "owner" has the final say about where the tour goes and how long the tour stays in a particular spot.
We once again asked about VGs leading a roped-climbing tour. Wanda and Frank immediately responded that the tourons could use ropes, but the VG could not. That led to us asking how the VG can keep the roped climbers in sight during the walk-off around the backside of a climb, for example, when doing Pigs in Space. Wanda said she would check with John Moses and get back to us. <Note: this is still unresolved as of 4.29.03.>
Field Session - upper East Mountain and the Dragon's Den/ Dark Heart
This field session was eagerly anticipated by the climbers, because much of the Dragon's Den has been closed for over a year. The Den holds many of the best problems at Hueco (and therefore some of the best problems on the Earth), and its closure is one of the sad tragedies of the PURP. Even though we would not be allowed to climb them, just gazing at them again would be wonderful.
After the group reached the Dark Heart, we discovered to our horror that the "natural bowl" had been vandalized! We speculated that a certain goody-two-shoes VG had taken it upon himself to rid Hueco of this evil device. However, Sean had a different theory that everyone instantly agreed with: " I know what happened, somebody busted the bowl to get at the resin! That ol' boy just wanted to get him a big-ol' goo-ball, yep." Whatever the reason, whoever did it is legally guilty of vandalism at a protected historic site.
It was during the field sessions that I had a chance to talk with other members of the group. In general, the non-climbers support the new system, and the climbers think it is stupid, but are willing to put up with it 'cause they just want to climb, and they have no choice but to try to milk the system. They plan to set up a rotating system of VGs, so that when it is your rest day, you would serve as the VG. That way, they will be able to approximate the good old days when they could just go out and climb without this idiocy. So, for any given bouldering tour, most of the tourons will also be VGs! What's the point of forcing a bunch of guides to be guided?
Day Three, 12.2.01
Peace Officer Hector Terrazas gave a presentation on the role of Law enforcement at Hueco and other Texas State Parks. Hector, in addition to being a Ranger III, is also a Texas State Policeman. As such, he is authorized to enforce both State and City laws while on duty. He let us know that he has to play multiple roles and is called on to take decisions at a moments notice. His mission, as he states it, is to serve the State Parks as well as the public.
We were told that people want and expect there to be rules, that they feel safe inside a Texas State Park.
Hector explained that Law Enforcement at Hueco and all TX Parks emphasizes education over arrest or expulsion, especially now after the recent "Compliance through Education" initiative. Minor offenses just get a lecture, a more severe offense might get written up in the form of an "incident report" or possibly a citation. Repeat violators might be asked to leave and have their current orientation revoked, which would require that they watch the disorientation video again. Legally, to ban someone from a TX state Park for more than 48 hours requires a court order.
As VGs, we should caution violators, but we should not step in and physically stop the violation from taking place, for example, we should not try to take a can of spray paint away from someone defacing a pictograph. VGs and other TPWD volunteers are covered under the blanket "vicarious liability" clause in the insurance policy, but only if the VG is in total compliance with the rules of the Park.
Hector said that in the six years that he has worked at Hueco, he has made only one arrest, for trespassing. It occurred after the third violation, for climbing at night. <I wonder who this person was … sounds like it might be a good "epic" tale that needs to be told!>
Hector asked us to make sure the we and the tourons don't leave the Park in a vehicle other than the one we came in. We also should try to not let drunk people drive out of the Park (which can present a problem if someone is being ejected from the Park for alcohol consumption, in which case they must leave in a vehicle other than the one they came in.) Metal detectors are allowed, but you can't bring out anything you find that does not belong to you.
We learned that you can bring a firearm into the Park, as long as you hold a Texas Concealed Carry Permit. However, VGs cannot carry a firearm while on duty (this means out on patrol, leading a tour, etc.) Shotguns longer than 18" are permitted!
Next on the agenda was a list of Do's, Don'ts and Helpful Tips, outlined in the "How Tos" section of the binder.
They let us know the trail map is not 100% complete. Also mentioned was the natural, spawling erosion that was happening to the White Horned Dancer site, and cautioned us to make sure that we and the tourons minimize vibration while at or near the site.
The TPWD desire is for every touron to have a uniform, equally satisfying experience, no matter who the VG is. All VGs are encouraged to go on each other's tours, and strive for a homogenous , identical style. Ideally, each VG would be a clone of some master VG, probably patterned after Brain Iac or Frank Page.
There are no tours on Monday or Tuesday. Moonlight hiking/patrols are OK for VGs or CGs that are camping at Hueco, but must be pre-approved by John in advance.
We were presented with guidelines for maximum "tour density" - the idea is to not have multiple groups in one specific bouldering area. For example, there should be no more than one group in the East Spur Maze area at one time, but there could be multiple groups in the East Spur general area.
When hiking the trail to Tabloid Pass, have the tourons park in the campground overflow parking area. Do not let them park off the side of the road on the dirt. For tours that go to the West Mountain, for example to the Round Room, the VG can arrange for the tourons to park at the End Loop Boulder parking area.
We were instructed that when guiding interpretive tours, not to try to impress the audience with too much information on one specific aspect of the tour. Be balanced and give the same level of detail about all parts of the tour. We should modify our delivery to suit the audience, particularly with children.
Wanda asked us to take time at the start of tours to make certain kids know some simple rules, such as the signal to be quiet and to stay with the group, on the trails, in single file. Kids tend to wander a lot more than adults and need to be watched more carefully. She suggested asking them little quiz questions such as "how is a Yucca like an apartment building?" or " how is a creosote like a drugstore?" If the group has a teacher or other adults leading them, enlist those adults to help ride herd on the kids.
Rarely, groups will be authorized to collect items from Hueco - the most common instance is Dr. Walsh's students collecting invertebrate samples. The permit holder need not be present for the group to collect. Check with the office in every case, just to be certain.
Wanda presented us with a number of scenarios that we might encounter while on duty. This was a popular part of the workshop, where we split up into groups to study our scenarios and figure out what the ideal VG would do. I was able to provide some comic relief by presenting our group's answer using nothing but radio 10-codes, but Wanda did not seem to appreciate it as much as the workshop participants did.
Bob Johnson, a local bird enthusiast, then gave a slide show on "Birds of Hueco Tanks". I had looked forward to this part of the course. Flying is very cool - I have a private pilots license and am generally fascinated by anything that can fly. Bird evolution is also very intriguing, particularly with all the resent discoveries of transitional species of feathered dinosaurs.
Bob knows his birds, and is an experienced presenter. We learned about house finches, Pyriloxia, Cooper's Hawks, Canyon & Rock Wrens, Swifts, Horned 9& other) Owls, South American Vultures, Grackles, Ravens, Road Runners, and many others. Good Job!
After Bob's birds, Alex Mares, Hueco Park Ranger, gave a talk entitled "Native American Perspective". This title is inaccurate in that anyone born is North America is a native American (consult your Funk and Wagnall's), but the uninformed populace and vote-grubbing Congress of the USA has been duped by the mystics into misusing the term. The accurate way to refer to the original inhabitants of a region prior to the arrival of Western Civilization is to call them aborigines; people alive today in North America who can trace their ancestry to aborigines are commonly referred to as Indian. In this essay and in the rest of the content on huecotanks.com, the correct terms are used.
Alex spoke about the relationship the TPWD, via Park staff, have with Indians. He deferred to Dewy Somkotoy of the Kiowa tribe, saying that Dewy was more qualified to speak definitively on the issue. There is considerable dissent amongst the various tribes and groups as to which ones have a legitimate claim to call Hueco a sacred site.
The term "culturally affiliated" is defined by the Nazional Park Service as (paraphrasing) "…having a long-standing historical and traditional tie with a site, including significant cultural and religious affiliation". Based on a narrow interpretation of this ruling, the groups known as the "Kelpuli" have been dropped from consideration.
Alex said that Texas used to have a large Indian population, but now has very few. There are three recognized Indian tribes in Texas, but they all were originally from elsewhere. Sam Houston was raised by Cherokee's and even fought with them. However, Alex continued, he later did some "bad stuff" to the Indians.
At one time, Indians were required to obtain permission to leave the Reservation. This made them feel as if the USA just wanted them to stay on the reservation. Indians have always been secretive about religious ceremonies, and are now even more so.
Once, Alex was told by his boss, when filling out some TPWD form, that Alex could not check the Indian/Native American box to classify himself, he would have to check the "other" box. The reason, Alex was told, is that Alex's tribe was not recognized in TX as having a statistically significant population. This was clearly a case of total stupidity on his boss' part! There is no scientific test for any race, anyone may check any race box they desire, and no one will ever be able to prove they are not of that race. But, Alex also should not be upset that he was forced to check the "other" box - he should have chosen that one for moral reasons. Racism is immoral, and one way that racism is kept alive is by the government classifying people according to race. What race is my wife? Her father is nearly pure German, and her mother 100% Mexican. We proudly check "other" on all forms and urge everyone else to join us! A bumper sticker on our truck reads: " HALF-BREEDS VOTE TOO!".
Alex thinks Federal Law is "getting better" <Translate - getting worse for climbers and/or anyone who loves freedom and hates racism - not that Alex is consciously racist, but any Federal Law that favors someone based on their race is, by definition, racist.> However, Federal law does not always override TX state law and TPWD regulations.
In the 1930's, there existed laws against Indian religion! <Editor's note: rational people must be totally opposed to any and all restrictions on religious belief and religious ceremonies, provided those beliefs and ceremonies do not infringe on the rights of free men who do not share those beliefs.>
We learned that the Spanish Land Grant probably does not extend to Hueco; it is classified as an aboriginal use claim. The Tiguas have vowed to never drop their claim to Hueco. Other groups are not as strident as the Tiguas are about keeping other cultural groups out. For example, the Tiguas don't support the PURP, but many other groups do. Around 1995, Park staff started noticing Kelpuli-style offering being left at the pictograph sites.
Alex talked a bit about the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), and about the voluntary closure of Devils Tower to climbing during the month of June. Alex likes the voluntary closure, and mistakenly thinks that most climbers support it, when they do not. In a society that no longer teaches its children the value of freedom and the dangers of theocracy, more and more people fall into the philosophical pits of altruism, mysticism and socialism.
Alex reminded us that the Navajos regard the Earth as being alive, female, and the literal mother of the Indians. The People came out of a hole in the ground. To complicate matters, there are four or five nested layers of Earth Mothers, all giving birth to other Earth Mothers, etc. Each new level represented an improvement over what came before.
Alex said that Navajos regard all land as sacred, but they realize they can't do anything about privately owned land.They are particularly interested in Hueco, because for thousands of years, aborigines with paint, chisels and spare time lived at Hueco; this is the kind of stuff the Feds like to have documented in order to give a site the protection of Federal Law.< I guess it is OK for them impose their belief system on the rest of us who know animism is silly. Call me whackey, but I want some hard evidences before I concede that there really are gods living in the rocks or clouds. Incidentally, the rules of logic require that when one makes an extraordinary assertion such as "the rocks can sense the presence of the unbelievers", one must also offer proof - it is not up to others to "disprove" your theory.
I have a gentle but earnest question for all Christians who support special privileges for Indians based on Indian religion; did people all come from Adam and Eve via God sculpting mud as described in the Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible, or was it this Earth Mother thingie the Indians believe in? It can't be both, so if you really believe that undying faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is the only True Path to Salvation and Eternal Life , you are compelled by Scripture to denounce the Navajo animism for what it is - a false religion.>
Alex commented on the pros and cons of keeping pictograph sites secret from the government and the public. Hueco has set many precedents in archaeology and anthropology. Many other entities, both private and public, have come to Hueco for advice and guidance on how to manage cultural resources. For example, input from Hueco helped the White Mountain Wildlife Refuge stay open to the public.
Alex emphasized that Indians want people to be educated about Indian History. <Editor's note: Objectivists would reply, "Fine, we won't pass any laws that prevent Indians from educating people." The problem is that some Indians expect people to listen to what Indians want to teach, and they seem disappointed if others are not interested. Freedom of speech does not mean that I have to provide you with a megaphone or a printing press, it just says that I can't stop you from buying and using them.> Alex said that the Indians want us to take care of Hueco, whatever that means. Alex was very disturbed to read about the people who climbed at Shiprock, "disrespecting the sacred place."
<That last statement warrants more detailed scrutiny. First and foremost, Shiprock, NM happens to be on land owned by Indians. Ignoring for the moment the method by which the Indians acquired the land, they are the current legal owners and non-Indians are not admitted. Trespassing is immoral, and to brag about it in the pages of a magazine is certainly not an act of brilliance. Property rights are absolutely essential to civilization.
However, for anyone to actually believe that only people of Indian descent can visit so-called "sacred land" without "defiling" it is racism, by definition. An Indian child is no better or worse than my child, and was not endowed at birth with some mystical quality that allows the child to go to "sacred land" without defiling it. Ignorant people keep alive the enormous injustice of racism. Children cannot pick their parents, and to discriminate based on ancestry is evil. The Washoe tribe's successful afoort to ban all climbing by non-Indians at Cave Rock near Lake Tahoe is a perfect example of Indian racism - and how the idiotic courts and politicians of the USA sanction and support racism. Cave Rock is on Public land! There is a freeway running through the rock! How can that be less sacreligious than climbers?!? Indians have no more right to ban my kid from climbing than I have the right to ban their kids from praying. Furthermore, without the use of human patrols, or science in the form of security devices such as cameras or motion detectors, no one would know that a white man had "desecrated" Shiprock. That's because the rock is not alive and it can not talk. So, as long as the rocks are not on private land, and the climbers "leave no trace", what's the problem? Western Civilization's property rights have been observed, and the Indian gods won't say anything...>
Field Session : Southern end of the Park
After lunch, we went on the last, and one of the best, field sessions. We were all allowed to drive to the campground and park in the camping overflow parking area! Shades of old days. The last time I had been on the trail to Tabloid Pass was 1997, right before the PURP was born, so it was very good to walk down it again.
Several of prospective bouldering guides also waxed nostalgic about previous trips down this trail, back in the "good old days", which for most, seemed to be ~ 1995.The excursions, it seems, often occurred late at night. The bloodstream's' of the members of the nocturnal expeditions were reported to be saturated with several different competing psychotropic substances. Wanda and the other Park staff accompanying the group were surprised by the lack of concern the students had about confessing these sins openly.
After we trooped through the pass, we were looking west toward the little outcropping that is just north of the East Spur Maze, when Wanda spotted a person about ¼ mile away. Instantly, she was suspicious, and also recognized this as a golden educational opportunity for the group. Some of the group was overjoyed at the prospect of busting a trespasser, and wanted to rush over and corral the usurper, but Wanda coolly suggested that it might be someone out on patrol, and the correct procedure was to radio HQ to see who was supposed to be out here.
As Wanda unhooked her radio from her belt, several of the climbers in the group (the ones who had been enlightening us with details of the nightly missions in the pre-PURP days), started shouting "Run! Run away, Dude!". Wanda was not pleased with this outburst, but the rest of us could not contain our mirth. It turned out to be one of the other volunteer guides; we rendezvoused with her and swapped intelligence data on suspicious footprints.
We went and saw the Starry-eyed man and some other famous pictographs. Then we went back to the shack, they gave us our forms, and the class was over!
The VG program is not inherently bad. It could be the foundation for a properly structured program that would include trustees and a system for letting the guides climb with their groups. Stand by for a summary of suggestions that Huecotanks.com and other pro-freedom groups will be presenting to the TPWD.