On the lovely autumn weekend of September 23-25, redrock advocates from near and far marked the 26th anniversary of the SUWA Roundup by gathering at Hidden Splendor in the heart of the San Rafael Swell.
The tradition stretches back to 1986, when the first Roundup was hosted by Ken Sleight (the inspiration for Ed Abbey’s character “Seldom Seen Smith”) at Pack Creek Ranch near Moab. According to an old newsletter article, SUWA’s founding director, Clive Kincaid, came up with the idea while relaxing at the Bit & Spur restaurant in Springdale, Utah. “We should bring together all SUWAns the world over for a gala event,” he thought to himself. And shortly thereafter the Roundup was born.
What began as a mini-conference with guest speakers, panel discussions and entertainment evolved into a more laid-back event with the goal of getting our staff, board and members out in the backcountry, surrounded by the redrock that ties us together. Located first at Temple Mountain, these “Roundup Campouts” eventually settled at Hidden Splendor—a magnificent spot, as the name suggests, with easy access to the Muddy Creek proposed wilderness.
This year’s Roundup drew about 80 members and activists from across the country. Attendees hailed from Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and, of course, Utah. There was even one international member: our friend Klaus from Germany, who includes the Roundup in his annual tour of the American West.
Aside from the spectacular locale, what makes the Roundup special is the camaraderie and sense of community it engenders. As one longtime activist put it, “I went to the Roundup on a whim one year and meeting so many like-minded people changed me from a person who merely sends money to SUWA to feeling like part of a community with the common goal of saving Utah Wilderness.” Each year I’m delighted to see both old friends and new faces, and to learn why so many different people are drawn together in this singular place, so far off the beaten path: the nurse, the photographer, the librarian, the filmmaker, the outdoor educator, the retiree, and so on. Some are experiencing Hidden Splendor for the first time; others have been coming here for 16 years. All have a story about why these lands are important to them.
This year we mourned the loss of two dear friends and Roundup regulars: Ann Perius-Parker and Gail Hoskisson Loper. Both were remembered with songs, stories, photographs and tears. It reminded me that our cause is not just about places, but also about people. And it is the power of both to move and inspire us that makes our work together on behalf of Utah’s redrock wilderness possible.
Whether you show your support by bringing friends to the Roundup, sending us a check each year, or writing to your legislators (perhaps all of the above)—thanks, each and every one of you, for being a part of this movement. We couldn’t save the redrock without you!
Enjoy some photos from the Roundup: