Boy Scouts and boulder are in the news, spotlighting special wild places in Pennsylvania and Utah

Boulders and Boy Scouts have been in the news lately, and while all the stories are not necessarily related, they have come in a somewhat remarkable succession.

The most serious story in recent days involved a Delaware woman who was critically injured when she fell 30 feet from a boulder-strewn section of the Appalachian Trail near the famed Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

Lara Louise Kadambi of Wilmington was in critical condition at Lehigh Valley Hospital after suffering head injuries in a fall from a ledge on Saturday. Much of what was written about the accident involved a difficult rescue operation, including a helicopter flight, to get the victim out of that rugged spot.

The Appalachian Trail runs along the top of Blue Mountain and indeed can be tricky here and there, but thousands feel that the wonders are worth the risk. Climbing over the boulders at Hawk Mountain's North Lookout is also risky, as it is at Bake Oven Knob 15 miles to the east, but those are two of the world's most spectacular locations for watching migrating eagles, hawks and other birds, especially at this time of year.

I climbed up to the Bake Oven lookout a week or two ago and did not see a single soaring raptor, but the view alone is worth the effort and the risks.

Kadambi's accident came two months after the death of a New York City woman in a similar accident at Glen Onoko Falls in Carbon County. Perla Cabral was fatally injured in a 40-foot fall from a rock wall, the latest in a number of fatalities there, and rescue efforts were also very difficult, with Jim Thorpe Fire Chief William Diehm calling for future restrictions on hiking.

When I discussed that situation on Aug. 21, I pointed out there are far more precarious spots for the thousands of visitors to Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks and many other places, with almost no restrictions at all. Access to such marvelous locations is just too precious.

There are those who feel the imposition of safety measures is more important than the freedom to enjoy such beauty, and that brings us to a story from, Utah, in another region that is special for me.

The story of a single boulder there has created outrage all over the world.

It took millions of years for nature to make a balanced rock sculpture at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, and it took two Boy Scout leaders less than a minute to topple it — all in the name of safety.

David Hall and Glenn Taylor — two slobs with top positions, ironically, in the Utah National Parks Boy Scout Council — videotaped themselves pushing over a rock formation at the park amid giddy high-fives and a lot of falsetto giggling and whooping.

"We have now modified Goblins Valley," squealed Hall with celebratory delight, observing that the rock could have fallen on a child, presumably at some point in the next million years. "Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way."

For me, the real celebration came with news that Hall and Taylor got booted out of the Boy Scout leadership positions after council officials found their behavior "reprehensible" and a violation of the Scout principle of "leave no trace" when enjoying nature. They also are the targets of a criminal investigation, it was reported.

Their videotape resonated with me partly because I just wrote about Boy Scouts last Friday, assailing the "Bigotry Belt" of Delaware County after a church kicked out a Boy Scout troop because the national Scout organization decided to allow gay members. In the main, however, the Utah episode affected me because it occurred in a region that's my favorite vacation destination in the whole world.

Goblin Valley is in southern Utah, not far from Natural Bridges National Monument, Glen Canyon, the Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches national parks, and all sorts of other fantastic places. It was just a few years ago that my wife and I visited Arches and hiked a short distance up to Landscape Arch, a thin rock bridge that spans more than 300 feet.

Since 1991, hundreds of tons of rock have fallen from Landscape Arch in at least three separate events, the most recent shortly before we visited, and it seems possible the entire structure will collapse soon. So park officials have restricted access under the formation, although you still can get close.

If Hall and Taylor had a trace of decency, that is the approach they would have taken at Goblin Valley. Tell somebody they feared the rock might fall on somebody, so park officials could cordon off the trail under it.

The dangers in that area are real. It was just south of Canyonlands that Aron Ralston ("127 Hours") became famous by amputating his own arm in 2003 to get free after a big boulder pinned it in a narrow canyon.

The Hall and Taylor types would deal with such dangers by forcing everybody to be bored stiff, deprived of the thrills of raw nature and vegetating at home in front of a television set depicting the fictional adventures of actors. The busybodies yearn to restrict the freedom and fun of others by eliminating anything that is adventurous.

As I concluded in my Aug. 21 column, "Freedom in any form is always dangerous. So if the risks of going to a spot like Yosemite or Glen Onoko are more important to you than the chance to experience something special, then don't go."

paul.carpenter@mcall.com 610-820-6176

Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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