Adventure and Introduction to Bears Ears: "So, this is why they wanna save this place."


Since publishing this article (BELOW) on May 9, 2017, an announcement was made that beginning May 12- May 26, you can share your opinion with Trump, Zinke and the U.S. Department of the Interior about why you think 27 of our National Monuments should remain National Monuments, be downsized, or completely sold off.  

"Should you be worried? If there’s oil, natural gas, or coal under the land or water of a Monument, you might have reason to be worried. The vast majority of critics of this order seem to be in agreement that this is all part of an effort to expand extractive industries for private profit on public lands."- Kathleen Morton

How to comment and details .  Comments related to Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted before May 26, 2017. Comments relating to all other National Monuments must be submitted before July 10,2017.

Another 'How to' from Justin Fricke: "All you have to do is go to the US' Regulations website and type DOI-2017-0002 into the search bar.

Wait a minute. That's a lot to remember. That's why I bought and forwarded it to where all of the above will take you.

When you're there, leave your pro, or con, comment and hit submit.

President Trump, Secretary Zinke, and the US Department of the Interior said they want our, the public, opinion on this matter. Let's give it to them, kindly and well thought out of course."



I created this photo essay to share the weekend spent in Bears Ears National Monument.  I would love for you guys to comment with your thoughts! If you get tired of reading about our adventure, don’t fail to scroll through the photos! 


@LukeLeePhotography and I talked the past few months via Instagram, connected by our common photography interests/subjects and a mutual affection toward each other’s work.  Luke connected with @ConservationAlliance to help fulfill their need of acquiring landscape and recreational images from Bears Ears National Monument to use for marketing and awareness toward the #DefendBearsEars movement. Luke invited me, and others, to join and contribute.

Photographer Luke Lee stands on top of his Tacoma to shoot the sun flare behind the six shooter at Indian Creek in Bears Ears. 

Photographer Luke Lee stands on top of his Tacoma to shoot the sun flare behind the six shooter at Indian Creek in Bears Ears. 

If you have been living under a rock, Bears Ears remains in the spotlight of confrontation after Obama declared its million acres a protected National Monument shortly before he left office.  Shortly after Trump came into office, he made a motion to give this public land back to the state of Utah (and that means the land is in danger of being sold to private investors- who are typically oil/gas/mining companies that would destroy the land and kick people off).  There are links to articles with more details at the bottom, if you actually don't know what's going on. 

Our weekend crew, consisting of five dogs and seven humans, aimed to shoot a variety of video and photo portraying the insane beauty of Bears Ears and people enjoying its many recreational uses. The humans: Luke Lee, @Andrew_Muse- a talented videographer, two @Backcountry gear heads/Indian Creek vets, two adventurous climbing women and me. 

Rochelle Dixon is a climber, base jumper and all-around adventure woman.

Rochelle Dixon is a climber, base jumper and all-around adventure woman.

Indian Creek Climbing Guide Book

Indian Creek Climbing Guide Book

And now on to...


Friday morning we left Salt Lake and stopped in Moab for a quick dip in to cool water with the dogs.  Later that afternoon, Andrew and I linked with Luke Lee in an "Instameet" scenario at the Mill Creek trailhead and caravanned to Milt’s for a pre-camping meal of burgers, fries and shakes.

The line at the famous Milt's in Moab is alway strong.  The menu: burgers, fries and bomb milkshakes.

The line at the famous Milt's in Moab is alway strong.  The menu: burgers, fries and bomb milkshakes.

A short drive from Moab lies Indian Creek.  We turned off the main highway and I stood in the passengers seat, through the sun roof of my Prius to bask in Bears Ear's beauty.  As Andrew drove, I snapped photos of the vast, undeveloped area of land with grand red rock formations, mesas and the valleys lit by the falling sun. My brief introduction to Bears Ears, a place I have been hearing loads about for the past few months, quickly made me think “So this is why people are fighting to save this place”.

The Prius could not cross the creek, so Andrew and I, our camping/camera gear and our two sandy dogs piled in Luke’s Tacoma.  Luke impressed us with his 4x4 as we charged through the thigh-deep water crossing.

Andrew Muse's dog, Kicker, and my dog Boy played by the creek.  We made sure we got them exxxxtra wet and dirty before piling in Luke's super clean truck.

Luke charging the creek.

When arriving at 6pm on Friday and finding NO ONE else; empty pre-established camp areas on a perfect desert Spring weekend, we speculated the creek deterred others. We set up camp, took some golden hour photos, built a fire, cooked dinner, got to know one another, and fell asleep under the stars.

All three of us had our cameras out and ready during the late afternoon drive to our campsite in Bears Ears National Monument.  Luke Lee (left) and Andrew Muse (right).

My cozy tent set up.

Andrew Muse lighting fires around the world, coming to a campsite near you.

The seven of us rose with the sun, Saturday morning, and to the sounds of the dogs playing in the red dirt.  The light filtered through the phenomenal Indian Creek landscape. Sam made a huge French press coffee.  Luke and I played a game of Sequence after the other five drove to the toilet to take their morning dumps.   After the group lost a few pounds and returned to camp, we cooked a pretty impressive group breakfast (chorizo, eggs, dank veggies, cheese, tortillas, avo and spinach) and packed to go climbing for the day. 

The crew flipped through the Indian Creek climbing guide and decided on a climb called “Potato”.  A 10+ crack-climb with a thirty minute, steep uphill and rocky approach.  Thunderstorms were predicted on Saturday and we could see them traveling in the distance.  We welcomed the cooler desert temperatures and the sun shone through epic clouds (great for taking photos). 

The gang packed sunscreen, climbing and camera gear, snacks, water and some beer since we planned on hanging out by the cracks for the majority of the day.  We swung by "the note board" to leave a message for a few others who might later join.  Saturday morning squad tally: seven humans and five dogs.

When we neared the end of our approach of the crack, we took a moment to gaze over the vast landscape at Indian Creek. Sadly, we joked about how much more majestic the landscape would be if it included oil rigs and fencing that would f*ck up the sacredness of the tribal land and its pristine valleys.  

Amongst our cynical antagonizations we realized, if we hadn't realized it before, that we must be the stewards of this land.  Because if we don't join the long and hard fight to save Bears Ears, it will be forever desecrated once it is foraged and exploited for its finite resources.

This weekend was my first time to ever try crack. Yeah I'm 31, but I got a late start.  It was very different from the kind of climbing I’m used to, and it was hard.  I primarily took photos and hung out under the shade of a tree with the dogs, while listening to tunes, eating snacks, practicing my witty banter and watching the storm near.

My dog, Boy, napped nearby me in the shade.

My dog, Boy, napped nearby me in the shade.

The storm arrived late in the afternoon near the end of our climbing session.  After watching it creep miles and miles closer, for hours, it somehow snuck up on us. Everyone hustled down, back to the cars, but Andrew and I could not budge.  

The allure of capturing lightning with our cameras was too strong.  We took tons of photos while getting wind blown and rained on.  We got rocked by the god-sized thunder and I felt threatened by my exposure to the lighting bolts.  It wasn’t the safest place to experience a storm of that magnitude, but the views were insane and not something one gets to experience often- so we stuck it out. The storm passed pretty quickly and made for some sick photos.  Andrew caught a lightning sequence in slo-mo with his Lumix Gh5and if you look closely below, you will see I caught my first bolt too!

Click image to enlarge and see "the bolt".


Andrew ducking, dodging, diving, dipping, and dodging rain drops.

Kicker gazes over the valley after the storm passed.

Kicker gazes over the valley after the storm passed.

After hiking down to meet the rest of the crew at the cars, we enjoyed a nice group après session. We compared our fresh scratches and splotches of raw skin the crack gave us, while the dogs caught their second wind in the cooler temperatures the weather brought.  I shared my bag of chips.  Chips weren't going to do it so we decided to pursue dinner.

We hopped in the trucks and went back to camp, lit a fire, opened the wine and cooked dinner.  We warmed our bare feet by the fire and talked.

Camping with friends always seems to include campfire, beer, wine and whiskey, and cooking some awesome food.  It also comes with ridiculous banter, laughter, climbing things, and moments of silence and gratitude.  I fell asleep in my tent earlyish after a physically demanding day. 

We woke in the morning, cooked an amazing group breakfast and I cut watermelon.  We chatted about our plans for the day.  Some were going climbing, I wanted to go swim in the water in Moab and play with my camera water-housing.  We hung for an hour or two and then did a deep sweep of the camp ground.  Leave no trace, pack out what you pack in.  


Bears Ears offers so much to do… biking, hiking, running, climbing, bouldering, swimming, camping, site-seeing, photography, adventures with dogs, spending quality time with friends, etc.  I hope that through my photos you guys were able to experience the beauty of this place and feel inspired to do something to save it.  

Share articles like this one, vote on state politicians who make the kind of policies that are needed to protect the land and our rights to use it, send letters and make phone calls to the politicians who don't.  Make your voices heard and with enough noise, we can really potentially protect Bears Ears from being damaged and its use restricted. 

I only saw a tiny fraction of this place, but the impact on me is huge.  I appreciate Luke Lee for getting us together to make this effort a reality and I hope to see some good come from it.

Please leave comments, suggestions, politician contact information, or links that you think I (or anyone else reading this) should see.

Thanks for following along!

-Jo Savage



Check out these articles:

Will Bears Ears Be the Next Standing Rock? Source: Written By TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS on MAY 6, 2017 for the NY Times

Monumental decision: Outdoor Retailer show leaving Salt Lake after meeting with governor over Bears Ears  Source: Deseret News


The Long History and Uncertain Future of Bears Ears National Monument: A Timeline  Source: Men's Journal