Goblin Valley State Park


Can Good Come from the Goblin Valley Vandalism?

October 25, 2013   |   Backcountry, News

In mid-October, three Boy Scout leaders were responsible for knocking over a boulder in Goblin Valley State Park, Utah.  They claimed that they were removing a safety hazard for hikers. Their action resulted in angry protests by officials and the public alike.

The hoodoo rock formation that was tipped from its precarious perch had been in the making for an estimated 200 million years. In a matter of seconds, it was destroyed. Criminal charges were filed against the men and they were kicked out of their Boy Scout leadership positions. So yeah, it’s a big deal.

Tragic events often result in a “good” outcome though.  We know that God is an expert at bringing good out of bad.  I believe the same will be true of this situation.

How? We take for granted the gifts we have been given: the people in our lives, our health, and the absolute magnificence of God’s creation.  This action raises our awareness once again. Reminds us that we are accountable.

I think back 40 or so years ago when the idea of “minimal impact camping” was just being introduced by the Boy Scouts of America.  Few people thought of the safeguarding and stewardship of our wilderness land. Leave No Trace was definitely not the mantra of the majority.

I cringe when I think of a few of the ways we “enjoyed” our camping trips:

  • We wore waffle-stomper hiking boots, tearing up trails and campsites.
  • We lit huge fires for cooking and pleasure and made no real effort to return the fire site to its original appearance.
  • We routinely trenched around the tents in case of rain.
  • We lined our floorless canvas tents with fresh cut evergreen boughs.
  • We flung bacon grease and cooking left-overs into the woods. We burned our trash.
  • We tromped off-trail through meadows and bushwhacked across switchbacks.
  • We “used” the backcountry instead of preserving it for the enjoyment of future generations.

We were naïve and ignorant then. And we can become lazy and forgetful about the seriousness of our backcountry habits today.

With the recent case of the vandalism of the precariously perched hoodoo in Goblin Valley State Park, we see just how easy it is for a simple thoughtless action to destroy part of an awesome and beautiful landscape.

This is a good time for me to review my own backcountry practices.  I’ve been following Leave No Trace guidelines for decades, but I realize that I am accountable for my actions in the wilderness, as in all other areas of my life.  I need to be reminded from time to time. This 200 million year old hoodoo is my reminder.

Learning to leave nature the way we found it

Leave No Trace ethics really make a difference to everyone’s enjoyment of the outdoors.  Here are the seven core principles to be respectful of the camping environment:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out)
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Learn more about Leave No Trace core principles:


Deacon Kevin Richardson

Kevin is a Catholic Deacon who serves in a parish setting and works with adults and teens, incarcerated individuals, and people who are homeless. He grew up in New England and spent decades exploring, hiking, and camping in the forests of New Hampshire.

Deacon Kevin leads Holy Adventure Outdoor Ministry, located in Central Illinois, and provides unique outdoor programs and retreat opportunities (from several hours to multiple days) to encounter God while immersed in the beauty and simplicity of God’s creation. Programs are Bible based and offer an introduction to a wide variety of wilderness living and survival skills.