Recently, my three older kids were given the chance to spend a few days with a church youth group in some remote cabins up Ephraim Canyon. In fact, it was the Great Basin Station that was built in the early 1900s as a place for scientists to study the causes of the catastrophic floods that were happening in the area and remedy it. It is because of the dedication of these individuals that we know about the effects of overgrazing and watershed, and why we don’t have the constant fear of mudslides and flooding.
These historic cabins were painted white and green, almost as if to be camouflaged among the tall aspen, fir and spruce trees that surrounded them. Once inside, it was a step back in time to a different era that none of us had ever experienced. In the first cabin, there was an old typewriter, a rotary phone and a row of steel-toed boots. There were black and white photos hung on the walls, books, an American flag and old skis and snowshoes.
The cabins themselves were crafted with hard wood to withstand the test of time — and they have. There was an old washing machine that was not fit for today’s hustle-and-bustle life. Who has time to hand wash and put each item of clothing through a hand-powered ringer? Certainly not I with my terrifying amount of laundry as a mother of nine.
There was a shed with a bear trap and other animal-trapping mechanisms that, once again, represented a time we don’t know.
All of the items inside remained touchable, yet were seemingly untouched. It was as if each person who had ever stepped foot in these 100-year-old cabins knew how special they were.
I was only able to spend a few short minutes touring this place while I dropped my kids off, but it left a mark on me. I wanted to go back, yet I knew that there was a possibility that I would not be able to.
As is the case with many public lands like this one, losing public access to them is a real possibility. And I get it. Maintaining these areas is costly, and who wants a financial burden when there are certainly more important things to worry about than keeping a place open for people to experience a step back in time? I mean that sincerely, by the way.
Even with the understanding of the issues at hand, I fear that the loss of public access to places like these will cause us to lose our ability to appreciate what we have, and how we got it. There is something about being in a place that tells a story, that brings us back to our roots and helps us to understand the sacrifices made on our behalf. Preserving places and things as they were teaches us respect and reverence, and without access to these places, it is a hard lesson to learn.
And, selfishly, as a lover of nature, loss of access to public lands means losing the ability to experience solace in a place that is quiet and hidden from view from the busyness of life. Yes, even a white and green cabin village that blends in with the trees.