Dec. 30, 2004
ALLEGED OWNER OF
DEADLY TRAILER NAMED: There may
soon be charges filed in the fatal accident caused by an abandoned
boat trailer on Eureka Myrtle Avenue earlier this month. Officer
Stefanie Barnwell of the California Highway Patrol said Tuesday
that her agency will soon forward files to the District Attorney's
Office for possible prosecution in the case. Barnwell said she
could not divulge any names associated with the investigation,
but court records released Monday showed that the CHP searched
the home of Eureka resident Richard Knife in connection with
the incident two weeks ago. Speaking about the search, Barnwell
said that it did not find any evidence that would point to who
may have pushed the trailer in the street. However, it did find
evidence that the person indicated in the search -- Knife --
owned or was otherwise responsible for the trailer. "There
are certain things that we located that will tie him the trailer,
but there's still some follow-up that we have to do to put that
together," she said. The Dec. 4 crash killed two Eureka
residents: Timothy Robertson, 21, and Cody Wertz, 19.
story and photos by BENNETT BARTHELEMY
Lost Rocks is not a name found on any official maps. Climbers, boulderers in particular, have come to call this Del Norte County coast area Lost Rocks due to the shifting sands that swallow and expose huge boulders from visit to visit.
Lost Rocks sits in Redwood National Park, a half-mile south of Klamath River, and continues down the coastline to Split Rock seven miles north of the Humboldt County line.
Ten years ago I stood at the base of the massive Flinthead Rock as the surf surged around it, and felt something bordering on the sublime. Every day I return there this feeling rushes back, as do the words of Jack Norton, a retired Native American studies professor. He told me and other students in the early 1990s that this area and many of the stone monoliths are considered the sacred and part of a complex Yurok cosmology.
Just about every climbing area across the country has a time-tested ethic concerning environmental impact, cultural sensitivity and local style. Jason Keith, tireless lawyer for the climber advocacy group, Access Fund based out of Boulder, Colo., said it this way: "Know where you are -- know what the rules are, as ignorance is not a valid excuse. Land managers are often not well informed about climbing and uninformed decisions will continue to be made affecting climbers if we are not involved."
The dialogue has barely begun here at Lost Rocks and given the influx of climbers over the last few years, it is the time to work on the relationships with the Yurok as well as Redwood National Park. On weekends, the roadside and parking lot swells with the cars of Northcoast and out of state climbers. There are an estimated 1 million active climbers in the country and that number is growing -- the pursuit of bouldering is bringing in the bulk of the newcomers. This huge jump in traffic has not gone unnoticed by park officials or the Yurok tribe. Many local climbers fear that a lack of communication might bring into reality another meaning for the name Lost Rocks by closing to climbers altogether.
Other controversies between climbers and Native Americans have ended in expensive court fights. Devil's Tower in Wyoming is a classic example of what happens when there is not enough communication early on between climbers, land agencies and Native Americans. A group of climbing guides, not supported by the majority of the climbing community, sued to fight a climbing ban that had been instituted in deference to spiritual use by Native American groups. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2000 against the plaintiffs.
Cave Rock in Nevada, and popular Southern California climbing areas have also ended up or are headed for major litigation.
It has become common knowledge among local climbers to stay off of Split Rock out of what we have felt is respect to the Yurok. Through conversations with park officials we know to get to the boulders via the Flinthead Ridge Trail and not through the Yurok ceremonial dance ground. The challenges arise when climbers from elsewhere visit the area. There are no signs to indicate which trails to use and which rocks to climb -- invariably trails and rocks that should not be climbed are, and not out of disrespect but because there is no indication that it is not OK. Local climbers thought it could be beneficial to show that we understand that Lost Rocks is sacred to the Yurok and that we want to climb in an informed and respectful way.
[Photo above right: Paul Humphrey tackles a boulder problem, called the Yogi, with Adam Wanden spotting him. The climb is maybe 10 moves long and does not go to the top, probably no more than 12 feet high.]
So I visited Tom Gates, the Yurok Cultural Preservation officer at the tribal offices last year in Klamath. I was hoping for definitive answers as to what the tribe thought about climbing in general, and what specific rocks the tribe would like climbers to avoid. I said that while climbers wish to respect their concerns, climbers hope to keep access as open as possible to the Lost Rocks area.
To paraphrase Gates, he said that all rocks are sacred on the beach, and you can't really put a value system on them and say that one rock is more sacred than another. I got the impression that he did not want to say anything finite about climbing until the proper channels were gone through. We were added to the roster so that we could address the elders at a Yurok Cultural Committee meeting the following month.
At the meeting, the elders said that they would take a serious look at climbing. They also said that they would like to be involved in a Climbing Management Plan with the park and the climbing community.
In addition, they wanted to have a say in what things are named in any forthcoming guides. The original self-published guide had called Flinthead Rock "The Crack House" because of its several challenging crack climbs, yet the analogy was lost on the elders as they inferred it was a drug reference. I realize that this was one example of an issue that can be easily addressed with open dialogue -- open communication can easily fortify cultural bridges rather than challenge them. [photo above: Adam Wander boulders at Flinthead Rock]
More than a year has passed and area climbers are organizing into the Bigfoot Country Climbers Association. We continue to work through the channels of bureaucracy with the tribe and the park. Each entity has a litany of its own challenges, and it is easy to get the feeling that climbing is another Pandora's box of issues that the tribe and the park are leery to open.
When I have doubts I remind myself that dialogue and negotiations take time. Like a good boulder problem, if it is worth unlocking the sequence of moves to climb it, then the time it takes to realize it becomes much less important.
Bennett Barthelemy works
as a freelance writer, photographer and
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