Indian Creek

nature, Outdoors, outside

So its been awhile since our canyoneering adventure. Since then we spent a few days in Moab, recharging at little cafes while it rained. We drove around in Arches National Park since it’s right outside Moab, but honestly I wasn’t blown away by the park. It was flooded with people, and all the hikes they offer have so many people walking on them it must look like lines of ants going to some huge drop of jelly from above. Moreover, due to roadwork, you can’t even drive to Devil’s Garden where the majority of the Arches are located. Nonetheless, it’s certainly beautiful and we did see the famous “Delicate Arch” that is on the Utah State plate. In retrospect, I think I wasn’t impressed because I’ve been in Utah for a few weeks now, and it’s covered with beautiful views that are only made better by the lack of people.


Anyway, after Moab we went to Indian Creek which is located partially in Canyonlands National Park and Bears Ears National Monument (the main monument in contention). Although I have much to write about the current debate over Bears Ears, I have reached out to the San Juan County Commissioners (San Juan is geographically bordering Bears Ears making the commissioners are in direct contact with Sec. of the Interior Zinke), and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition ( the group who proposed the monument to Obama), and would like to wait for a response before really hashing it out in a post. So until then….

We traveled an hour south, and entered the 9 mile stretch of road that is surrounded by world renown crack climbing due to its expansive selection of aesthetic splitter cracks. Indian Creek is truly beautiful, and even with all they hype surrounding it in the climbing community, it’s big enough such that you don’t have crowds at the crags.

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Me on a splitter.

It was close to dark by the time we arrived so we decided to set up camp, and make dinner which consisted of five bags of ramen, two chicken for Eli and Madi, and three vegan oriental for Zach and I. Anyway, the ramen was fantastic, especially after Madi shared the beta of adding a few scoops of peanut butter to the whole mix. However, there is no running water in Indian Creek, everything is pack in pack out (you’re even suppose to poop in a bag). Thus the ramen, which we made the next day as well, took a big hit on our water supplies that were suppose to last for the next three days.

The next day we woke up, and drove up to South Six Shooter, a prominent, stand-alone structure of rock, jutting out of a mountain of talus, which sits upon a high mesa.


South Six Shooter (Photo from

We drove around confusing cattle roads and river beds before we found the main trail and drove around the east side of the mesa until we saw cairns resting on the side of the steep slope. Our parking spot had two cows in it, and as we pulled up they simply stared us down, until they randomly turned and went off bucking for twenty feet until they stopped to stare again. It wasn’t until we got out of the car that they really ran off.

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The cows leaving. North Six Shooter in the back. 

While Eli racked up, Zach and I worked on finding the best way to bring the drone to the top of the tower. We put it in sleeping bags, emptied 60 liter backpacks, turned it every which way, but it wouldn’t work. Finally, after extensive prototyping, we settled on putting it in Zach’s rope bag wrapped in a sweatshirt and puffy. And in my bag, I carried three liters of water, the rope, the drone propellers, and the drone remote control. After brushing our teeth, we started to hike up the mesa. The path was narrow with no switchbacks making me breath hard… If you don’t know me, you might think I’m in great shape and a fast hiker, but the truth is I’m awful at hiking. I mean just atrocious. Zach was behind me, but even with his sprained ankle he stayed right with me.  Anyway, we made it to the top of the mesa which gave us flat land for a good bit, so I took off my coat and refused to rest. Eventually we ascend the pyramid of talus as well, and by the time we got to the base of South Six Shooter we were startled by how small it was.


At the base.

The collection of connected towers could be done in a single pitch if you went up one of the cracks. However, we choose the longer and easier way which gained altitude as you traversed from the shortest tower to the tallest.


Route up (Photo from

The route was done quickly as Eli hardly placed pro, and Zach and I simu-climbed. Even though the climb itself was uneventful, the view was definitely five stars. Canyons of brilliant colors roll on as far as the eye can see.


At the top!

And of course, we didn’t bring the drone up for fun. Zach, whom I trained to fly the drone so he could get shots of me climbing, got the drone from the rope back, while I set up the phone connection. He placed it a few feet away from us and up it went. Zach circled it around us, and panned out over the whole landscape.  When is was time to land, Zach hovered it above Eli, who grabbed it and gently brought it to the tower top, while I pushed the land button. #teamwork (The footage is phenomenal, so just wait for my cumulative video coming out next week).

Overall, the day was a success and we rapped down a little, summited both towers, and then rappelled to the ground. Eli climbed a beautiful 5.10 splitter on the face of the tower, and we descend towards another beautiful night of ramen.



Fry Canyon

nature, Outdoors, outside

Yesterday we woke up outside Hite, Utah beside a gorgeous canyon where the Colorado flows. After packing up we decided to fit in a day of canyoneering before we went to Moab.

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We were close to the bridge that you can see arcing over the last view-able part of the river.

Eli found us a quick hour-long excursion in Fry Canyon called Fry-Lette. It all started quite well as we jumped down into the stunning curves and radiant colors of the slot canyon. Although we were expecting a swim, as the website called for summer wetsuits (I had a tee-shirt on…same thing?), we mostly hiked on mud, and I slipped a few times in my Crocs, resulting in me carrying a couple extra pounds of mud in my shoes. But luckily, the most Fry-Lette asked of us was a quick twenty feet wade through hip-deep, fifty degree water.

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The beginning of Fry-Lette

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Zach walking in the canyon.

Due to the lack of swimming we finished well short of an hour, and decided to do the whole Fry Canyon experience– rap and all. Eli and Madi ran back to the car for a rope and harnesses while Zach ordered me to lift rocks. Right when they got back he spotted a scorpion, and we decided it was time to go. We hiked through the canyon for around forty minutes, seeing petrified wood, fossils, and rich colored rocks from emerald to garnet red. As we walked, Eli continually admonished us about the risk we were taking. Without being able check the weather (no service or civilization),  we didn’t know how high of chance we were taking with flash floods. However, we all decided to venture on, but kept an ever present eye for escape routes. Soon enough though the canyon narrowed severely and dropped down into darkness.

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View for the rap bolts

We found the rappel rings and Eli pulled the rope through. A few seconds after he chucked it down we heard an echoing splash. Oh man, Fry-Lette was nothing compared to this. Eli rappelled down first, going around 60 feet before confirming our swimming fate. Zach went next, then Madi, and finally me.

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Down I go.

I lowered down to find everyone on a sloping slide-like feature with very little space. Eli’s hiking boots were already in a few inches of brown water and it continually lapped at our slide. I took myself off rappel and slid into Madi who was essentially slide tackling Zach’s sprained ankle which was keeping us all from the pool. Even the function of pulling rope created a scary amount of movement to our precarious position.

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The surface world.

Finally though, like little ducklings in single file, Eli leaped and let out an immediate groan over the temperature, than Zach plunged in, Madi tried a butt slide attempt, and finally I dove.

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After twenty feet we were standing in mud, and it continued back and forth like​ that for another ten minutes. Suddenly though, we waded through our last ice cold puddle, and emerged in an open canyon with Anasazi ruins up in the overhangs of the cliffs.

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The ruins are in the top left.

We walked on for another thirty minutes before deciding the established and “obvious” trail out was lost on us, and Eli scouted our own way out with a bit of chimney and slab climbing. After another forty minute walk we were back at the car, mostly dry, and eating PB&Js with bananas. Moral of the story canyoneering is hype.

The Key to 5.10b??

nature, Outdoors, outside

So yesterday our gang woke up in SLC after staying the night in a friend’s house. Before we went south to Maple Canyon though, I insisted we stop by the huge Whole Foods down the the street, and Eli pushed for REI.

Per usual, I shopped by going down every aisle, and Zach acted as my basket, trailing in the electronic scooter-esque machine (trying to save his ankle). For context, Zach and I have maintained a relatively healthy diet on this trip by always buying the product with the least amount of sugar, eating vegan, eating tons of vegetables, and, I at least, have refused to eat any sort of candy or high sugar item. However, Whole Foods has a special place in my heart because I have an obsession with a lot of their vegan products you can’t get anywhere else.Thus as we walked through the cereal aisle, I began to crack. First I saw my favorite 365 brand cereal which amounts to organic and better tasting peanut butter cocoa puffs. Then I had to get chocolate almond milk, and the Unreal brand peanut butter cups that surpass Reese’s– even if you’re not vegan. But it really all fell apart when we came to the ice cream aisle. They had flavors of Nadamoo that I had never seen at home, and I needed to try them so I could report back to all my obsessed friends at home. Then Zach wanted the vegan Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, and Eli and Madi picked out Half Baked. But because I started to bicker with Eli about buying anything that wasn’t vegan, we there talking ice cream for a few minutes  when a Whole Foods employee came along and gave us four coupons for free Arctic Zero ice cream. So it ended up that four people walked out with seven pints of ice cream and no fridge…

I finished my pint of Nadamoo with relative ease, and Eli and Madi struggled to finish their shared pint of Half Baked because they are allergic to lactose (… Why didn’t they get vegan ice cream??) And Zach, well, he was going in on three pints total. He started with the Arctic Zero ice cream which ended up tasting like ice and dirt that was 115 calories per pint. After finishing my pint, I was forced to start eating the unexpectedly worst Arctic Ice flavor of Peanut Butter Cup, and I was not feeling good. Then a homeless person walked by, and I gave him a pint, but we still had six. With Zach somehow cruising through three, three were up to Eli, Madi, and I. But of course, because they were feeling sick (get vegan ice cream?) they couldn’t each finish a pint, so there Eli, Madi, and I were passing around the most disgusting ice cream ever. Madi ended up having to lie down after I force fed her bite, and Eli went in at the end taking the whole chunk of ice from the bottom of the pint and biting into it.


During those final bites.

Anyway, we broke our diet.

Then after our stop to REI, I felt light headed and thought that going to Del Taco in this time of hardship would help. After a 8 layer Veggie my condition stabilized somewhat, but then we broke out the Cocoa Puffs and chocolate almond milk in the car. Anyway, once we found free camping outside of Maple Canyon, UT, we all called for a siesta. But after I got my sleeping set up ready (a sleeping pad and bag on the ground), I decided the only way to redeem this day in my mind was to push my climbing grade from 10a to 10b. So I found a wall called School Room that only had a three minute approach, and dragged Zach along to be my belayer. I climbed two 5.7s and a 5.8 and then decided it was go time. Maple Canyon, for those of you unfamiliar, is conglomerate rock which as the the guidebook says, “is a chaos of water-worn cobbles, some as small as cherries others as big as a Volkswagen bug, cemented in a matrix of petrified sand and mud”… It’s scary-looking to climb.


Photo of Maple Canyon from Don Clark

Nonetheless, the 5.10b called Big Kahuna was short and overhanging. Before I climbed, Zach made me look at the rock and plan every move I could see, eventually creating a memorized sequence of movements up the wall. Then it began, I breathed deeply and sped through the part of the wall I had been able to plan for. But where I had expected to rest and figure out the crux-bulge on this protruding torso-size rock, I couldn’t. The rock turned out to be out slick and awkward to hold.


Big Kahuna, you can see the big “rest” hold in the center towards the top.

So I pushed on, and Zach yelled at me to move my feet up as I swung to okay holds. After some grunts of determination, and encouragement from Zach I was at the anchors breathing heavily. The day was redeemed.


At the top!

Driving in the Slow Lane

nature, Outdoors, outside

Last year, I wrote my culminating junior year research paper on The Slow Movement. Although it sounds weird, the slow movement came about in an effort to fight our shortcut-taking, stressed society. I often feel as though we as people, and as a society, are always trying to take on more and work faster, resulting in a constant, inhuman hurry from one thing to the next. In a lot of ways and facets of our lives, I think we’ve become slaves to efficiency, believing faster is better, rather than realizing better often comes from slower. As the actress, Lily Tomlin addresses the issue, “The problem​ with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” So the idea of slowness is to avoid being swept away into the race, unable to stop and rest. It’s the idea that we need to re-balance our lives and priorities between work, hobbies, and friends.

Yet, even after I researched and interviewed a leader of the movement, ultimately making small mindful alterations to my day to counteract “fast,” I often feel the balance shifting. Recently, I think back on the days before leaving for this trip. They were the last academic days of my high school career, and I was becoming possessed by all my assignments and tests. The day before I was scheduled to leave, my friends and I had made plans to go out for dinner one last time; however, I ended up cancelling to stay home and study for a test the next day. Now as I look back, I not only regret taking that extra two hours of studying, but more importantly realize how strong the urge to become machine-like is in my world. It’s not as if “slow” is refusing to do things efficiency, or not doing work at all. It’s simply understanding that not everything should be done quickly, and that life and work are better when you’re not in a constant sprint. In fact, I love this cute video from the philosopher, Alan Watt, because I think it captures how a fast lifestyle is imprinted on us from a young age.

Music and Life- Alan Watts

But it is in the past week of climbing with Zach that prompted me to write this post. In fact, as I read over some of my old notes for my paper, my epigraph seems absolutely fitting for how I feel: “People are born and married, and live and die, in the midst of an uproar so frantic that you would think they would go mad of it.” -William Dean Howells

Wednesday, Zach and I climbed to the top of Devil’s Tower via the classic Durrance route. However, because it’s a classic we quickly found ourselves stuck behind another party, forcing us to wait.


Finally getting some shade.

We were both irritated and dehydrated, wishing​ to simply pass them, rip to the top, and get down. But, once Zach finally was able to start leading the next pitch, a skinny, old man, leading the party behind us, came over and introduced himself as Frank.

We chatted for a while as I belayed Zach, and I knew he was a character when someone in his party asked him how he was doing, and he gleefully yelled back, “64 years, 5 months, and 3 days have brought my life right here, and I couldn’t be happier!” He was full of funny banter about the tower and climbing, and when I asked him how many times he’d been to the top, he smiled and insisted, “Not enough!”. It was then that I realized how “fast” had infiltrated even climbing for me. Here I was on an American climbing classic, during a beautiful day in Wyoming, with the sun shining, blue skies, and no where else to be, and yet I was still frustrated with our slow pace while Frank was loving every moment of it.


Frank when I asked if I could take a picture with him.

By the time I got climbing and I met back up with Zach, he informed me that Frank, was Frank Sanders the most legendary climber when it comes to Devil’s Tower. Frank has climbed the tower literally thousands of times– even including a year where he climbed it 365 times in 365 days. It seems to me that if there’s anything Frank loves in life it’s that tower and enjoying climbing it. Even though he’d gone up that route uncountable times, what he said to me as Zach climbed ahead again, stuck: “The speed records already been set, I’m just here to enjoy the day.”

So although I might find myself getting caught up in the vicious cycle of efficiency time and time again, I think it’s important to recognize and have reminders to slow down. Even with that slip up, this trip has made me recognize how my change in lifestyle has eliminated the stresses that worked there way into my regular day. From driving in a rush to school, to driving in the slow lane now, or forgetting to eat because of work, to making meals with my brothers: life’s different now, it’s slower, but it’s definitely better.


Zach rapping at the end of the day. 

The Times They Are A Changin’

nature, Outdoors, outside

So it’s been a week since I’ve last blogged, and in that time 27 National Monuments have been put under Interior Department review in accordance with President Trump’s executive order. So what does this mean? Well to begin, national monuments are created when congress or the president (by executive order) deem a specific area/statue/land mass culturally, historically, or scientifically significant under the Antiquities Act of 1906.  Sec. 2 of the Act states:

“That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected: Provided, That when such objects are situated upon a tract covered by a bona fied unperfected claim or held in private ownership, the tract, or so much thereof as may be necessary for the proper care and management of the object, may be relinquished to the Government, and the Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to accept the relinquishment of such tracts in behalf of the Government of the United States.”

Therefore, the act can lead to a lot of subjectivity, and what Trump has called for is a review, by the Secretary of the Interior, of 27 monuments, something called for in Sec. 3 of the Act. What is really interesting though, it that both Trump and the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, have called for the first ever formal public comment period on the subject of our national monuments. Zinke commented,

“The Department of the Interior is the steward of America’s greatest treasures and the manager of one-fifth of our land. Part of being a good steward is being a good neighbor and listening to the American people who we represent. Today’s action, initiating a formal public comment process finally gives a voice to local communities and states when it comes to Antiquities Act monument designations. There is no pre-determined outcome on any monument. I look forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues.”


A Buffalo right outside Devil’s Tower National Monument.

I thought this was an exceptionally interesting move, as of course with anything, valid arguments are coming from both sides of the spectrum. While some believe that land is better managed by the state and the people who live on it (rather than distance Washington), others fear the loss of cultural connections to the lands as access and care for it degrade. There are certainly arguments to be had on both sides.

My thoughts are churning though as I sit in a hotel in Gillette, Wyoming after the first shower of a couple weeks. Although, you’ve probably never heard of it, Gillette is the Energy Capital of the Nation providing 40% of the nation’s coal according to the city’s website.


Photo from of the open pit coal mines of Gillette

After speaking with some of the locals, my Dad, who is visiting for two days before we go to Idaho, was discussing how with Trump’s support of the coal industry, Gillette is on the up and up, after Obama’s push for solar and sustainable energy degraded their economy. It just reminded me how every move in politics is a double edged sword: every good event also marks a bad one.

Zach and I walked around an “Energy Park” in Gillette where retired coal and oil machinery come to die.

A huge, retired coal scoop.

I believe the same is true with the National Monument review. In a lot ways, giving land management to the people who live there creates a healthier economy, and allows knowledgeable people to care for the land rather than unattached feds.  A good example of this is Utah, which is a hotbed for these issues because 65% of Utah is already federally owned. Therefore, the state has reason to feel a lack of control and local decision making over the land, and how it should be cared for. It’s not as if people in Utah don’t value the cultural aspects of the land, but there is distrust and dislike of a distant president simply declaring something without their full input.  On the the other hand, the cultural value of certain areas needs to be preserved and kept pristine. In the case of Bear Ears National Monument in Utah, Obama created it after a proposal by “The Bear Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition,” a group of five Native American tribes whose culture and ancestry find the actual “Bear Ears” and the surrounding land sacred.

The “Bear Ears” for which the monument is named (Photo The total monument is 1.9 million acres.

Moreover, the land contains several archaeological and historic sites, while also being a place well-loved by outdoor enthusiasts who fear that if it isn’t protected, economic interests could alter the landscape and eliminate access. But the Antiquities Act is not suppose to be simply a land management tool for the federal government. As it states it is for preserving historic, prehistoric, or scientific places, while taking the smallest amount of land needed to preserve those areas.

So what do you think? It actually matters this time because Zinke and Trump want to know what you think about the Act, its use, its function, and the monuments it protects. I encourage you to research more and weigh in on the subject because this is your land. From the US Department of the Interior, “Comments may be submitted online after May 12 by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.”

Below are the sources I used and they can be used as your starting point.  But I will leave you with this:

“The penalty good people pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by people worse than themselves”- Plato

Interior Department Releases List of Monuments Under Review, Announces First-Ever Formal Public Comment Period for Antiquities Act Monuments

American Antiquities Act of 1906

27 national monuments under Interior Dept. review

Keeping the President’s Hands Off Utah’s Land

Why Oppose the Bears Ears National Monument?

Navajos, Utah Officials Oppose Designation of Bears Ears as National Monument

Bear Ears Coalition Proposal

The First Week on the Road

nature, Outdoors, outside

Today marks Zach and I’s first week on the road. We left from New Hampshire last Wednesday night and drove twenty hours straight to Minnesota so I could make a college visit. We then had to stay in Minneapolis another few days as I made another college visit out in California. Hence, it all really began yesterday, when Zach and I drove from Minneapolis to the Black Hills of South Dakota, a scenic nine-hour drive. On our way, we drove through Badlands National Park, and although the park gets its name from the Lakota, who called it mako sica, meaning “Bad lands” due to the difficult terrain, I thought the park was quite spectacular.

PANO_20170426_154943.jpg The landscape contrasts vast sprawling prairie on one side and hundreds of stripped orange and khaki buttes on the other.  I think Frank Lloyd Wright, a renown architect, gave an accurate description in 1935, saying, “I’ve been about the world a lot, and pretty much over our own country, but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands… What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere—a distant architecture, ethereal… , an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it.” Lloyd captures the beauty, but he also gets at the ancient past of Badlands. 75 million years ago, Badlands and the entire Great Plains were the bottom of an ocean which is why fossils can be found throughout the layers of sediment. However, what strikes me the most is the relatively recent history of the land.

Zach and I both have our books– he is reading the lengthy classic The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and I by chance am reading Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch, by Dan O’Brien.  I arbitrarily downloaded the book after seeing it in a Patagonia store, but it actually talks a lot about the very hills I’m writing this post from. O’Brien owns a ranch in the Black Hills, and unlike many other ranchers, is interested in the restoration of the land. From personal experience, he points out that although American culture has fostered a romanticized life on the plains with cows, open fields, and agriculture, the farming and cows that were introduced during homesteading are actually playing a major role in destroying these precious plains. He goes on to say that though cows seem fitting to the Great Plains in our eyes, they originated in Europe, whereas Bison are America’s true grazing animal, having evolved with the land itself and creating a symbiotic relationship.  Sadly, agriculture and plowing destroyed the top soil causing major erosion, and the introduction of cows forced the creation of stock dams which expanded grazing areas thus taking away more wildlife habitat. Most potent of all though, is the degrading effects of overgrazing which is forced on ranchers by the economical struggles of making a living on the Great Plains. Of course, the book goes into greater detail and also shares anecdotes of ranch life, but what I most like is how the book is truly about a single person, a single grass root activist, making the effort he can to rectify the past and look to a brighter future. 

A similar story holds true with Badlands National Park, when conservationist, and Senator of South Dakota during the 20s and 30s, Peter Norbeck, fought successfully for the creation of Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Grand Teton National Park, and Custer State Park. Although, he had much more pull than O’Brien, he still dedicated his career to preserving American lands as is clear when he said, “I would rather be remembered as an artist, than as a United States Senator.” He felt himself an artist in planning Mount Rushmore, and the intricate Needles Highway in Custer State park that, driving today, took me back to winding through the Italian Dolomites (minus vomiting from car sickness).


The famous “Pigtail” Wooden Bridge in Custer (not my photo)

 Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that while it can seem daunting or impossible to make an impact on your own, just trying can make all difference whether it’s in the way you buy and run your own life like O’Brien, or dedicating your career to it like Norbeck. 
You can start now by challenging President Trump’s move yesterday to have national monuments created over the past 21 years reviewed for possible scaling down or dissolving, in order to give control back to the people. Although, possibly sounding good, O’Brien’s story of the homesteaders’ destruction of the land should go to show what can happen when economical pressures or greed can override caring for our lands. Explore the links below to learn more and take action! 

National Geographic’s “What You Need to Know About Trump’s National Monument Rethink”

Protect Our Public Lands

Access Fund Call to Action

Patagonia’s Protect Bear Ears Petition