Vandalism in the Backcountry

There are few things that get me as riled up as vandalism in the backcountry…and I’m riled.

Unless you live under a rock, there is a good chance you’ve already read this story or seen the video. But, in case you haven’t, check it out:

In summary, here’s the story: three men leading a Boy Scout trip into Goblin Valley State Park in Utah made a very poor and very uneducated decision when they decided to topple a unique rock structure in the Valley, all in the name of “safety.” David Hall did the filming and can be heard hootin’ and hollerin’ while Glenn Taylor climbs up on the structure and forcefully shoves it to the ground.

There are dozens of reasons that this video literally almost made me cry, but let me focus on a few of them…before I throw up due to disgust.

What type of Boy Scout leaders are they?

According to reports, Taylor and Hall are Boy Scout leaders. Now, I know the Boy Scouts are different everywhere, but I’m pretty sure one of the sole purposes of the organization is to develop character in youth so that they evolve into conscientious and responsible members of society (And actually, I’m not “pretty sure”; that was taken directly from their website). Obviously, the Scouts can’t be blamed for these idiots’ actions and have since removed both Taylor and Hall from their organization. However, it is beyond terrifying to me that these type of individuals are responsible for instructing our kids on proper outdoor behavior. Are you effing kidding me?! Who failed this interview process??!

Their Mocking Attitude

Ok, so this could very likely be my interpretation of the video footage, but whatever. After watching the YouTube clip a half dozen times, I still can’t get over how mocking and belligerent their voices and behavior are! Sure, they are claiming that they tore down the rock for safety purposes and Hall even narrates the video with the statement, “Glenn just saved his (a little kid) life by getting the boulder down.” You know what? Bullshit. They didn’t knock the rock over to save someone’s life or to prevent future accidents; they did it because it looked like fun and they’re uneducated people who shouldn’t have been in the park to begin with.

To make it worse, I literally cringed when Hall puts his happy face in front of the camera and proudly proclaims that he and Taylor have “modified Goblin Valley.” Again, if these men are leading kids into the backcountry and other outdoor areas, they should know that rule #1 of the outdoors is that of Leave No Trace principals: leave everything the exact same way that it was before you arrived. Don’t modify; don’t fix; don’t better anything. Just leave it so that it looks identical to the way it was and hopefully, the way it has been for years upon years. I’ve been to Goblin Valley and seen these ancient statues and they’re incredible. These men just took a bit of that away for future generations.

Where is our outdoor education?

It’s interesting that I should read this story now because it semi-ties into something I thought about over the weekend. Will and I spent this past weekend backpacking in the Sangre de Cristo range with two friends (trip report coming tomorrow!) We camped in the snow at 12,000 feet and it was freaking cold! However, Will and I both knew that we couldn’t have a fire due to LNT principals. At that altitude, the fire would scar the ground for dozens of years, and the lack of oxygen (among other things) means that the trees won’t grow fast enough to replace the ones that individuals choose to burn. Yes, it sucks to be hanging out at your tent when it’s 10 degrees out and it would be really nice to have a fire, but it just isn’t responsible, you know?

The rest of our crew was semi-aware of LNT principals but didn’t really want to believe that they would still apply when it was that freaking cold outside. After all, what type of masochistic individual would choose to shiver all night!? However, once we explained the logic behind the decision, they accepted it (even though I know they really didn’t like it!) It made me realize that some people truly just need education on those types of issues, you know?

However, with this Goblin Valley incident, I’m completely torn. There is a large part of me (okay, the majority) that refuses to help these guys cop out due to lack of education on the topic. They were leaders for kids so they should have known better and if they didn’t they shouldn’t have chosen to take such drastic measures without clarifying stuff first. In fact, I think they should be prosecuted for vandalism, a decision that is currently being mulled over by police. What do you think?


What do you think? Do these guys deserve to be prosecuted for their behavior or am I being unfair?

What’s your take on the situation? Do you feel educated in outdoor topics? Would you ever consider doing something like what they did?





  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    I haven’t heard about this and quite honestly I can’t bring myself to watch the video. I had a similar circumstance like this when I was attempting to hike Flatiron here in AZ. While they didn’t tumble rocks their actions and lack of Leave No Trace created a flood of emotions through me. Like you said, not all Boy Scouts/Leaders are like this, but how many are there out there that are?

    • Reply Wreckingroutine at

      Hi Heidi. I climbed AZ’s Flatiron twice. Both times there were people leaving beer cans at the top and lighting up. I thought it was pretty disrespectful. I wonder if that’s the reputation with flatiron?

  • Reply Wreckingroutine at

    I agree with you, especially what kind of boy scouts are they? Their behavior is ridiculous and they have destroyed a gorgeous piece of landscape. They should be prosecuted.

  • Reply Karl at

    As someone who had very positive experiences in Scouting, it’s shameful that a couple of morons brought disgrace to Scouting’s stewardship and LNT principles.

  • Reply Becki @ Bites 'n Brews at

    The guy who toppled the rock is trying to get disability from a car accident he was in 4 years ago. Cherry on top of his idiocy.

    • Reply heather at

      I read that 🙁 I avoided mentioning it since it doesn’t directly relate to this story…but damn. He needs to get his life together.

  • Reply Sarah C. at

    I read about this but I hadn’t seen the video. Now that I have seen it, I’m even more convinced that they should be prosecuted. I read that the pusher is now claiming some kind of disability, which has no bearing on what he did here (I mean, what? How is that even related?) and makes it even more clear that he’s a person with no scruples and a poor leader (I’m trying not to write the words “idiot” and “moron” and “retrograde” here since this is a public forum). They should be prosecuted for vandalism, but how do we keep people like this out of our beautiful and wild places? Unless we have rangers roaming everywhere in parks, this stuff will continue to happen – if he’s a scout leader then he knows full well the leave no trace principals but chose to ignore them. Just education isn’t enough for some people, sadly.

  • Reply Heidi Nicole at

    This entire thing is frustrating. I actually feel kind of sorry for the Boy Scouts – the last thing they need is more idiots tarnishing their name. The organization isn’t perfect but it is the only thing some kids get, its sad these asshats are screwing that up.

    I’m going out on a limb here and basically bashing my own upbringing, but based solely on attire, vocabulary and general demeanor my guess is that this Boy Scouts troop came from a small town in the middle of no where – maybe not literally, but at least mentally. Being from such a town/environment I’ll say that this kind of thought process and “small world”-ness is not uncommon and stems majorly from the lack of education about things outside of the tiny world people live in when they do not have easy access to different cultures/thoughts/environments.

    I realize that comes off as a major excuse for these idiots, that isn’t my intent. I’m just saying I know way too many people who wouldn’t bat an eye at doing this — and those people all grew up in tiny towns with no true cultural opportunities. And this makes it suck even more for the BSA and the kids learning from these ignorant, close minded guys – for some kids its their only chance!

    • Reply Natalie @ Free Range Human at

      Oh gosh, Heidi, I almost said the exact same thing, but I held myself back. Now I’ll simply say agree, agree, agree.

  • Reply Natalie @ Free Range Human at

    I absolutely believe they should be charged for this crime. I agree with you that a large part of the problem here is lack of education, but I can’t help but think no amount of education would’ve helped in this situation. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but these guys strike me as typical, ignorant people that believe the regular rules don’t apply to them. I hear the mocking as well. These guys are acting like twelve year old kids which is even more disturbing when you realize they’re suppose to be setting the example! These men should be prosecuted if for no other reason than to set an example. This kind of behavior simply should not and cannot be tolerated.

  • Reply Rich Kolb at

    Well, education clearly factors into this, and a desire for education. If I were to go into a park named, say, Gobblers Knob State Park, I would be curious why it was called ‘Gobblers Knob’. I sure as hell wouldn’t go find the knob and wreck it while I was there. I think they should be prosecuted, and in a way that would make people understand that they need to think before they act.

    I also believe this is evidence of a much larger problem in our society. Everyone is thinking about themselves first, what’s in it for me?, what do I get out of this?, How can I look like a hero? instead of looking out for their fellow man. If less people were in this mindset we probably wouldn’t have seen this happen, not to mention we wouldn’t be in the mess we are as a planet right now.

  • Reply Christy @My Dirt Road Anthem at

    vandals suck, I hate people that litter too.

    • Reply Rich Kolb at

      me too, it seems to have rubbed off on my kids, my 6 year old tells people that litter that they’re ruining the planet.

  • Reply misszippy at

    Excuse my language, but…assholes, plain and simple. It really kills me. I have so little tolerance for that kind of behavior!

    • Reply Pam at


  • Reply Krista C. at

    This type of behavior makes my blood boil! The absolute disrespect shown is horrifying to watch. The book should be thrown at them, they better face charges for what they did.

  • Reply When Artistic License Results in Vandalism - Just a Colorado GalJust a Colorado Gal at

    […] was exactly one year ago today that I wrote a post entitled Vandalism in the Backcountry, detailing the story of three Boy Scout leaders who toppled an iconic rock in Goblin Valley State […]

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