Bubbaglyph: a mark, most often name or names, carved into rock in the recent past by ignorant and/or selfish visitors.
Last weekend we had a chance to go out on a quick trip to Southern Utah and play in the dessert and Zion National Park. One of our destinations was a popular hiking area named the St. George Narrows. It's one of those areas that makes hiking in Southern Utah so much fun because of the unique sandstone formations. There is a narrow passageway that is about 30-40 feet deep, 200 yards long, and barely big enough for my chest to fit through in most spots.
Dad-bod still fits in the narrows at 42. Yeah!
Kids love it . . . not a great place for anyone with claustrophobia. Surrounding the main attraction are other interesting rock formations including some mini arches and numerous other canyons. The soft properties of sandstone have made it possible for erosion to create these inspiring sights. After going up the canyon, we played a game of hide and seek in the surrounding drainages and caves.
My hot wife maneuvering the narrows.
Unfortunately, it is also the soft properties of the rock and the allure of its beauty that has led to human graffiti that marrs the landscape. This area is particularly blighted because of the easy access and close proximity to a burgeoning Western city, but other areas that were once more remote are also becoming victims of this type of behavior. With more and more people recreating in the outdoors and access made easier with more roads and vehicles to move people over what was once remote terrain, bubbaglyphs are proliferating. A once beautiful natural sandstone tunnel in Moab that I first visited in the early 2000s was filled with proclamations of "Tyler hearts Lucy" and "dude was here 08" when I returned 10 years later. I have witnessed bubbaglyphs carved over petroglyphs that were records of ancient peoples or on arches that thousands visit. Guess what? No one cares that the offender visited in '96.
We all want to leave our mark. It's a basic human desire. This is why the National Parks have logs for people to sign before and after hikes. But historical behaviours by early explorers or indigenous peoples is now nothing more than graffiti on our beautiful landscapes. It's a sign of selfishness and short-sightedness. We have better substitutes including cameras, social media, and dare I say Expedition Flags to help us record our travels in the wilderness and share them with each others. We do not need to deface the beauty for the next visitor or even generations after us.
Please help make this part of the Leave No Trace ethos that guides our actions in the outdoors. Help your kids to know why this isn't OK, and kindly speak up when you see a stranger making this mistake. We owe it to the next explorer after us to give them the opportunity of feeling like they are discovering something beautiful for the first time.