Rocks in Their Heads: What Were the Scout Leaders Who Vandalized Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park Thinking?

Every now again people do something so monumentally destructive, dimwitted and dishonorable it belongs in a class of disgracefulness normally reserved for trophy hunters, Humvee owners and members of Congress.

It’s almost as if they wake up one morning and say to themselves, “Hmm … What can we do today that will make our families and friends forever ashamed they know us, and everybody else start conversations with, ‘Hey, did you hear about the jerks …’”

I speak, of course, of Glenn Taylor and Dave Hall, the (now former) Boy Scout leaders who decided it not only would be a good idea to knock over an ancient desert rock formation in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, but that they would post a video of their deed online.

The video shows Taylor lumber up to the car-sized, mushroom-shaped formation, estimated to be about 170 million years old, and begin rocking it back and forth, while Hall narrates, in a singsong voice, ““Wiggle it … just a little bit …”

When the rock stem support finally snaps and the top rolls to the ground, Hall whoops, “Yeah!” and explodes in maniacal laughter, while Taylor and an unidentified male in the background dance joyfully, pumping their arms in triumph.

In the video Hall compounds the egregiousness of their sin by claiming he and Taylor were fearful the formation was loose and would fall on the Scouts or other passersby.

“This is about saving lives,” he proclaims.

In case you haven’t seen the video, here’s a link:

I guess in a culture that inspired the “Jackass” movie series and promotes the promulgation of all sorts of behavior on video we shouldn’t be so shocked by a couple of yahoos pushing over rocks, and I was happy to see the Boy Scouts of America quickly discharged the pair without so much as the Scouting equivalent of a court martial.

Taylor and Hall now face criminal charges, and if I were the prosecutor I would recommend a punishment befitting the crime, invoking my favorite legendary Greek, Sisyphus, the evil king who was sentenced to an eternity of repeatedly rolling an enormous boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down.

I’d like to see Taylor forced to push that huge chunk of sandstone back on its pedestal, and then have it topple over. Hall would have to man the camera, each time urging, “Come on, Glenn, almost got it … easy does it … one more … ohhhhh, bleep! Try again …”

Incidentally, there’ another twist to the story that reflects even more shabbily on Taylor’s behavior, if that’s possible. Utah’s CBS affiliate KUTV reported he had filed a personal injury suit last month over a 2009 car crash that he claimed left him "debilitated," with "great pain and suffering, disability, impairment, loss of joy of life."

When KUTV reporter Chris Jones tracked him down and commented, "You don't seem very debilitated," Taylor replied, "You didn't see how hard I pushed."

I hope the defendant in Taylor’s lawsuit files a new motion.

When I first saw the video I mistakenly thought it had been shot in a similar canyon in Utah, which I had visited with my wife, son and his friend only a few months ago. That canyon contains sandstone, siltstone and shale deposited during a the Eocene Epoch some 38 to 50 million years ago – quite a bit later than those in Goblin Valley, but similarly striking, elegant and fragile. We were virtually the only visitors that day and I remember thinking at the time how easy it would be for vandals to trash the place.

Turns out, sadly, I was right.

I also thought about a boulder closer to home, at Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton.

Those who have been strolling or jogging out to the southern tip of the bluff for years will remember an enormous rock perched close to the edge of a cliff overlooking Fishers Island Sound. Over the decades the rock had been at least 10 feet from the lip, but constant erosion from rain, wind, waves and people clambering up and down brought it much closer.

“One day,” I told some friends, “let’s go out here with a winch and a chain and pull it farther back.” We made vague plans that never materialized.

Not long ago I strolled out to the bluff and immediately noticed something was different.

“What the ...?”

Sure enough, someone had pushed the rock over the cliff. Pieces of shattered granite lay scattered 15 feet below.

I felt the same way people in Franconia, New Hampshire, must have reacted when they woke up on May 3, 2003 and discovered the Old Man of the Mountain, a rock formation celebrated as the state symbol, had collapsed during the night.

Gone forever.

Geologists assume the giant, overhanging rock simply broke free and crashed to the valley floor, but now I wonder – where were Glenn Taylor and Dave Hall that night?



Reader Comments


Autumn Berries: A Succulent Reward During A Long Bike Ride

While biking through the hills and along the shore of Mystic and Stonington the other day with my friend Spyros "Spy" Barres and son Tom, I began to regret that I neglected to bring along a water bottle.

The Rites – And Wrongs – Of Autumn

It’s finally happened: I’ve grown so accustomed to the roar of the leaf blower that I now longer recoil and curse at the first sonic blast of fall, but simply shake my head and sigh.

Privacy/Preservation: The Roads Not Taken At Fishers Island And Other Enclaves

Imagine strolling to the tip of one of Connecticut’s most magnificent natural habitats, Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton, and instead of gazing at tidal marshes, salt ponds and sweeping, unspoiled view of Fishers Island Sound,...

Part II: Serenity, Solitude And Soggy Socks In The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

When we last left Tom and Steve, they were paddling through muck and mire (though mostly sparkling water) in northeastern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Here is the second and final installment describing...

Serenity, Solitude And Soggy Socks In The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Gusty blasts that shook our tent during the night blew away thick clouds and rain showers, bringing morning sunshine that sparkled on Cherokee Lake when my son Tom and I crawled from sleeping bags last week.

The Continental Divide Trail: 'Overall It's Amazing, But You Have To Be OK With Getting Lost'

After tramping more than a month some 700 miles along the fabled Continental Divide Trail, Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, who started hiking April 22 at the U.S.-Mexican border, finally rambled from the...

The Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon: Racing Is The Easy Part.

By the time Phil Warner and I hit the water in his lightning-fast tandem kayak last Sunday for our team’s leg in the Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon in Lenox, Mass., we had already spent a good part of the morning lugging gear...

There’s No Accounting For Taste When It Comes To Favorite Mountains, Or Tacos

En route to a hiking expedition in Nepal’s Himalayas a number of years ago, my wife and I took a detour to India and spent a day bouncing along on a bus from New Delhi to Agra to tour the Taj Mahal.

Mount McKinley Renamed Denali: Better Than Mount Reagan

Three cheers for the Obama Administration’s decision this week to officially restore the name of North America’s tallest mountain to Denali, which is what early inhabitants called the 20,310-foot peak in the Alaska Range.