As our summer break approaches, I’m sure 99% of MSU’s students have already planned a getaway to Moab, Utah. I don’t blame you, either. The warm weather, beautiful scenery and interesting city are enticing for the 16,000 of us who have been cooped up in Bozeman, deprived of a spring break and faced with below-freezing temperatures for the last few months. Ten years ago, Moab was a quaint tourist town that caught travelers going between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Now, Moab is jam-packed with Birkenstock-wearing, yoga-practicing van-glampers who could care less about the land’s history or the locals’ suggestions and instead just want that photo in the desert, in their re-built van, for the ‘gram.
Admittedly, I was camping in Moab when school went virtual last spring. I am no stranger to posting cute desert pictures on Instagram, and I even built a camping setup in the bed of my pickup. But even considering my affinity for the Southwest, I cringe at the fact that monuments in and around Moab have been cordoned-off in recent years as visitors have been graffiting on them or standing on them (for photos, of course) and breaking the rocks. No matter how picturesque Moab is, there are millions of acres of similar land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah that have not yet been plagued by Bozemanites. Why don’t we switch it up and visit Sedona or Santa Fe? There are people who have lived in Moab for their entire lives enjoying the quiet, small-town feel. Now, they must watch a bunch of Bozemanites and New Yorkers try to figure out how to shift gears in a 4x4 while whizzing down the town’s main street.
In an article whittingly-titled, “Utah Wanted All the Tourists, Then It Got Them,” author Mark Sundeen explains the boom of Utah tourists and how it has overwhelmed both the state’s infrastructure and natural landmarks. A Kentucky man explained his disdain with the boom, “The whole shitaree! Gone, by God, this was man’s country once. Every water full of beaver and a galore of buffler any ways a man looked, and no crampin’ and crowdin,’ Christ sake!” I think that says it all.
Just go to Sedona.