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Monday, September 9, 2002

Classrooms for the Nation
Whether you are fascinated by the mysteries of history, the story of fossils so minute you must use a microscope to view them, or by the thunder and roar of a fierce dinosaur in your imagination, America's public lands hold remarkable stories of people and creatures who trekked, flew, and swam their way across the continent in both recent times and in the very, very long ago.


The Earliest Americans

Some of the earliest evidence of people in the Americas can be found on public lands. Native people and scientists all look to our public lands for clues to the stories of the earliest Americans. Native people tell traditional stories about how they came to live where they do, stories which often tell of a place of emergence where their people came into the world. These special places are held sacred and are often located on public lands.

Scientists hold different theories about how people came to the Americas. Archaeologists used to say that people arrived in the Americas by trekking across the Beringia Land Bridge and following an ice-free corridor through the glaciers to good hunting areas in what is now the United States. From there, they spread throughout the Americas. However, there were dates from a few sites that just didn’t fit this theory. When other scientists decided that Beringia was cold and swampy and the ice-free corridor wasn’t open early enough, many archaeologists had to rethink their theories. Some scientists now believe that while people may have come across Beringia, others may have followed the east and west coastlines by traveling in boats. Unfortunately once the glaciers melted, the water covered up those old coastlines. Archaeologists call these people Paleo-Indians. There is evidence of their presence throughout the Americas, such as the Mesa Site in Alaska http://www.ak.blm.gov/ak930/1stamericans.html and the Murray Springs Clovis Site and Lehner Mammoth Kill Sites in Arizona. http://www.az.blm.gov/fr_wwdo.htm Murray Springs Clovis Site is open to the public.

There is rich and ample evidence of the many Native American cultures that thrived on what today we call public lands. Native Americans still hold some of these places sacred and their oral traditions, combined with scientific, archaeological investigation of the past yields a fascinating story of survival in the west. These cultures ranged from arctic groups living in the frigid north to desert groups living in the heat of the Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts. Some lived on the plains, others in the mountains, and others along the seacoasts. The variety of lifestyles and traditions seem nearly endless and provide many fascinating stories for those who are interested.


America’s Historic Treks

People have moved across public lands for countless years. In New Mexico the Zuni people had a vast network of trails and roads that they kept safely open for business and trade. Major trails headed west to the Pacific Ocean, east to the Great Plains and Eastern New Mexico’s Piro Pueblos, North to the Blue Mountains of Utah, and South to Mexico. Highway 53 in New Mexico follows one of the ancient trails. Spaniards following this trail left their signatures on rocks near the road. Even earlier, the people of Chaco Canyon built a vast road system that can be seen on public lands in New Mexico and Utah.

In Arizona, the Sears Point site offers ample evidence of people trekking across the desert near the Gila River from early times. Along with ancient petroglyphs, geoglyphs, and sleeping circles, there is evidence of historic use. Spanish explorers used it as a major traveling place along what is now called the Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail. Missionaries, and people heading for California used Sears Point, which includes the Butterfield Overland Mail route. http://www.az.blm.gov/fr_wwdo.htm

In Montana a great deal of the Lewis and Clark journey occurred on what are now public lands. Lewis and Clark floated and walked across much of Montana by following the Missouri River. One of their objectives was to find a good route across the continent. They made it all the way to the Pacific Ocean and back, but did not succeed in their quest for an easy route across the country. You can pick up their trail in Idaho and Oregon as well. Their guides, including the Shoshoni woman, Sacajawea, led them across rugged landscapes using a trail in Idaho that may have existed for several thousand years before their journey. http://www.id.blm.gov/spec_places/nlcs_lc.htm

Thousands of miles of emigrant trails cross BLM-managed public lands. Many of these followed earlier routes discovered by American Indians. The ruts left by the later emigrant wagon wheels are clearly visible on the landscape. Nearly all the emigrant trails from the Mississippi River to the West Coast went through southern Wyoming because a place called South Pass offered an easy way across the rugged Rocky Mountains.

South Pass was first discovered by Robert Stuart in 1812, but it was 10 years before anyone could find it again. Several groups made it across in wagons proving it could be traveled, although some lost their wagons in the dry Great Basin. In 1842, John C. Fremont declared South Pass safe for travel. The next spring Marcus Whitman, who had made the journey earlier with a cart, organized a group of almost 1000 people and 120 covered wagons to cross the country. The journey was successful and established what would come to be known as the Oregon Trail. Later, the California, Cherokee, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express Trails also crossed the region. The newly opened national Historic Trails Information Center in Casper, Wyoming, http://www.wy.blm.gov/nhtic/index.htm and the Oregon Trail Center in Baker City, Oregon, provide visitors with interesting experiences about the trails. http://www.or.blm.gov/NHOTIC/

In the Southwest, the Spanish also trekked north, at first in hopes of gaining great riches and converting many new souls to Christianity. They were sadly disappointed in their quest for riches. They had moderate success in converting native peoples to Christianity. The Camino Real or the King’s Highway, was the primary route from central Mexico to the north, across incredibly hot desert lands. http://americanfrontiers.net/history/history2.php


Trails for Machines

Other types of trails also cross our public lands. For a very short time, until telegraphs could connect the coasts, the Pony Express carried messages across the West. With people rushing to California for gold and to Oregon and Washington for a new life, people on the east and west coasts were anxious to build a railroad connection to eliminate the long passage by ship between the coasts. The transcontinental railroad went through Wyoming, again because of the easy passage across the Rockies. Entrepreneurs were soon building railway connections from nearby states to the transcontinental railroad. Along with mining and lumbering railroads, the west was soon crisscrossed by steel rails. Today most of these railroads are but memories though evidence of their passage can be seen throughout public lands.

In the twentieth century Americans needed new kinds of trails: highways for their automobiles. Names like Route 66 help us recall a time when a trip was measured by the number of flat tires one had to repair. In California south of Interstate 40, visit the Old National Road where dust bowl emigrants left messages for one another with rocks along the side of the road.

Traces of Ghost Towns
Ghost towns! The very name evokes an air of mystery and intrigue. In the West, towns boomed and busted with mining and farming successes and failures. While many towns survived, other towns simply ceased to exist. When the ore ran out, mining companies sometimes took much of the town, including structures, with them. At other times the rapidly built towns fell into equally rapid decay. Some, however, are still standing and offer interesting experiences to those willing to drive over bumpy back roads to get to them.

In Alaska you can visit remnants of the Klondike in places like Dalton Cache, Davidson Ditch, Ft. Egbert, Iditarod National Historic Trail, and the building-sized Jack Wade Dredge. http://www.ak.blm.gov/ak930/akgold.html. In Arizona visit Swansea ghost town and the Fairbank Historic Townsite http://www.az.blm.gov/fr_wwdo.htm. In California you can try your hand at recreational mining at Keyesville. http://www.ca.blm.gov/bakersfield/recmining.html. In the Mohave Desert visit the Historic Salt Creek Mining District where gold fever struck between 1850 and 1870.

In Colorado there are many mining and farming ghost towns. The Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway offers spectacular scenery and historic mining structures. http://www.co.blm.gov/gra/gra-al.htm Explore historical sites in the near Ely, Nevada such as the Osceola Mining District, Ward Historic town site and cemetery and the Panaca Summit charcoal kilns near Panaca in Lincoln County which provided fuel for nearby smelters.

Fossils of Plants and Animals

Long before people were around to trek on public lands, ancient creatures swam in the seas that covered them or at different times tramped their way across the landscape. These creatures capture the imaginations of kids of all ages.

Many of the fossils seen today in museums across the country came from public lands. There are several places on our public estate where you can see for yourself where these fossils are found. One is the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Utah. http://www.blm.gov/education/expert/4/index.html If you can’t get there you can log on to a virtual exploration of the quarry with BLM geologists Mike Leschin. http://www.blm.gov/education/expert/4/index.html

Recently a tyrannosaur was discovered in Northwest New Mexico. To see Albert being excavated in New Mexico, visit the web page.
http://www.nm.blm.gov/www/features/blm_paleo/blm_paleo.html

Seeing the tracks of the mighty creatures leads visitors on flights of fancy as they imagine the creatures making their way across long ago lands. Visit the Red Gulch Dinosaur Track Site in Wyoming and imagine these gigantic creatures walking about as you visit the hundreds of visible tracks. http://www.wy.blm.gov/rgdt/rgdt-index.htm

Often the fossils are those of much smaller creatures, many of which lived in the oceans that once covered the West. Many people are just as fascinated by the curves of a fossil seashell caught forever in the rock as they are with those of new seashells found on the beach. Paleontologists (scientists who study ancient life) even use microscopes to study fossils of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye.

It is thrilling to find fossils but be sure to check with someone before taking it home. On public lands, hobbyists may collect petrified wood, invertebrates (fossil animals without backbones), and plant fossils. Since they are so rare, vertebrates (fossil animals with backbones) are kept in the public trust, and may be excavated only by special permission.

Our public lands are truly classrooms filled with a wealth of information and unlimited learning opportunities. The more we learn about our lands, the better stewards of them we can become.—Meg Heath

(Editor’s note: Megg Heath is Chief Heritage Education Project Manager for the Bureau of Land Management)


List of All Dispatches
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Thursday, October 2, 2003
A Visit to Valles Caldera National Preserve
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Saturday, September 20, 2003
American Frontiers Reunion 2003
A year ago this September two groups of volunteers met in Wasatch-Cache National Forest outside of Salt Lake City, Utah in...
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Thursday, September 18, 2003
Team Joining Anniversary
It's hard to believe that it's been a year since Team North and Team South completed blazing the American Frontiers Trail....
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Monday, August 4, 2003
Team South Trekker Cathy Kiffe Takes New Job
This week a very prestigious private school contacted me about taking their Learning Center Director's position. I hestitated...
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Saturday, May 24, 2003
All Who Wander Don’t Get Lost--Jan Nesset
For 3,000 miles the Garmin Vista GPS unit guided the American Frontiers’ teams on their journeys across America’s...
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Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Kodak Comes Through—Again!
Eastman Kodak Co. was one of the sponsors of last summer’s American Frontiers Trek. Max HQ One-Time-Use cameras, donated...
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Thursday, April 24, 2003
Kay Gandy Keeps On Trekkin'
South Team member Dr. Kay Gandy has been accepted in the Fulbright-Hayes Seminars Abroad Program. She will be attending...
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Thursday, April 24, 2003
National Geographic Video of the Public Lands Journey Is Finished
Kevin Burnett at National Geographic Society’s audio-visual division has created a fifty-five minute-long video of...
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Friday, April 4, 2003
Goodbye, Good Luck, and Thank You!
Rodger Schmitt Retires from BLM
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Sunday, March 9, 2003
Kay Gandy Presents at Conference
If you haven’t been to New Orleans, then you really should try to go. The “Crescent City” has great food,...
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Saturday, March 1, 2003
Kay Gandy Treks East to West
Tomorrow is March 1st, and already there are signs of spring in Louisiana. I saw dogwoods and forsythia blooming, and hundreds...
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Monday, February 24, 2003
PLIA RECEIVES 2003 PARTNERS IN EXCELLENCE AWARD
Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA) was the honored recipient of the first joint national BLM—Forest Service...
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Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Sam Altman from Team South Writes
The weather in Kentucky is snow and more expected...we just heard from Bob Hammond...he was on his way to CO but was redirected...
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Monday, January 20, 2003
North Team Trekker Charlotte Talley Writes . . .
Here is a quick update on me since I have gotten back.
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Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Mike Murphy (Team North) Reports
Dear America:
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Wednesday, January 8, 2003
Public Lands in Mississippi
The National Geographic Public Lands map arrived in the mail. I opened it, admiring the greens, golden yellows, and tans...
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Tuesday, January 7, 2003
New Job for Jessica Terrell (Team South)
Perseverance really does pay off! Three years ago, I moved to Missouri with no job and a brand-new biology degree. Far from...
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Tuesday, December 31, 2002
A Public Land Experience
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Friday, December 27, 2002
Gen Green (Team North) Writes
I thought I'd mention that I will start a new job in mid January. I will be setting up the GIS program for the Nature Conservancy...
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Friday, December 20, 2002
Bob Ashley (Team North) Reports
The American Frontiers trekkers may have finished their 3,000-mile journey, but the public is still discovering the events...
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Thursday, December 5, 2002
Student's Letter to Cathy Kiffe

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Wednesday, December 4, 2002
Trekker Cathy Kiffe Writes . . .
Gray and Beautiful
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Monday, December 2, 2002
Letter from Geography Student Shawn Kessler

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Monday, December 2, 2002
Jake MacLeod of Team South Writes . . .
While I was away on the American Frontiers Odyssey, my sister had a
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Sunday, December 1, 2002
Bob Van Deven's (Team North) Favorite Public Land
The following is a brief article about my favorite chunk of public lands, the Galiuro Mountains. The Galiuros are located...
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Sunday, December 1, 2002
Jan Nesset's Latest Trek
Canyonlands in December
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Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Jan Nesset in Snow Country
Snow Raspberry Bounty
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Monday, November 25, 2002
South Team Member Jessica Terrell Reports
National Trails Symposium
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Sunday, November 24, 2002
South Team Trekker Julie Overbough
The last time I saw Julie Overbough was on National Public Lands Day in Salt Lake City and at that time she looked like a...
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Sunday, November 17, 2002
Trekker Nesset Keeps on Trekking
The Bisti Badlands
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Friday, November 15, 2002
Jan Nesset writes . . .
Public Land Flows Through ItAt the outskirts of Durango where I figure Iím a half hour or so from my planned takeout in town,...
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Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Letter from Brent E. Garvin
Jan,
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Sunday, November 10, 2002
Richard Tyrrell: A Visit to Wharton State Park
It is a sunny Sunday afternoon and my wife Marcia and I are riding our horses in Wharton State Park in south central New...
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Thursday, November 7, 2002
A Day At Earth Analytic's Home
Earth Analytic, the Santa Fe, New Mexico-based company that specializes in geographic information systems, was of huge importance...
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Thursday, November 7, 2002
Dave Mensing Selected for Award
The American Trails organization, the principal non-profit organization representing federal, state, local, and commercial...
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Sunday, November 3, 2002
Using the Pictures
Yesterday I spent the day in a Math workshop. Ughhhh. I would rather, of course, be learning about forests, wolves, condors,...
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Tuesday, October 29, 2002
News from Kay Gandy
Kay Gandy reports that the recent National Council for Geographic Education conference in Philadelphia was a great success....
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Monday, October 28, 2002
Some Things Never Change
Revisiting an area comes with new discoveries. In September, on our first attempt at hiking a 10-mile loop in the Grand Staircase-Escalante...
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Sunday, October 27, 2002
Back To The Wave
I envy whoever first discovered “The Wave” in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. The spectacular...
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Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Settling Back . . . Sort of
The trip has been over for a few days now. I have returned home, done some unpacking, mowed the lawn, and ridden my horses....
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Friday, October 18, 2002
Rush, rush, rush
I sit here at a red light on the main thorough fare of Lafayette. Cars, zoom, rumble, and spew fumes, dart from one lane...
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Saturday, October 12, 2002
Kay's Songs
Here are the words to the two songs Kay Gandy sang at the farewell dinner at Snowbird: "American Frontiers Blues" and the...
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Wednesday, October 9, 2002
Home Again
We are back at school after the cancellation of school for the past week thanks to Lili.
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Monday, October 7, 2002
The Thing About Summits
I live in a place surrounded by both mountains and desert. To the north of Durango, Colorado, the San Juan Mountains rise...
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Saturday, September 28, 2002
Happy Trails To You
Dick Bass is a mountaineer, an author, a developer of ski areas, and an overall good fellow who, although in his seventies,...
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Saturday, September 28, 2002
National Public Lands Day Celebrates End of Journey
Salt Lake City
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Friday, September 27, 2002
The Teams Meet
Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2002
National Landscape Conservation System
The 264 million acres of BLM-managed public lands represent a priceless legacy and a long-term investment for the American...
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Monday, September 23, 2002
The Big Bone Yard
Just about anywhere you go in Utah, sooner or later you’ll encounter the fossilized remains of ancient life on earth....
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Sunday, September 22, 2002
Sand Dunes in Wyoming? You Betcha!
The Greater Sand Dunes are part of the larger Killpecker dune field, the largest active dune field in North America. This...
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Saturday, September 21, 2002
7000 Years in Southwestern Wyoming
Although southwestern Wyoming has never supported large populations of people, archeological evidence shows that people have...
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Friday, September 20, 2002
"Fear Finds Within Them No Resting Place"
In 1822, an advertisement appeared in a St. Louis newspaper: Team North is traveling through Bridger country-- the Green...
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Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Three Cheers for Trona
Although the lands around the Green River in Wyoming have been used as travel routes by various groups of people over the...
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Wednesday, September 18, 2002
River of the Prairie Chicken
Each fall, about this time, most birds start getting restless, collecting in great flocks, and looking into the skies to...
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Tuesday, September 17, 2002
A Gift From the Past
The casual traveler traveling through southwestern Wyoming might think that nothing ever happens here, but they would be...
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Monday, September 16, 2002
Westward Ho!
Cast your mind back some 170 years, when the United States was a young country, looking west at their newly acquired domain,...
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Sunday, September 15, 2002
A Tribute
"What do you do all day?" my friend asks the rancher who invited us in for a glass of clear, well water."I'm just here."...
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Saturday, September 14, 2002
Wild Horse & Burro Adoption
Teton County Fairgrounds in Jackson, WY was the site of todayŪs Adopt-A-Horse-or-Burro Program, sponsored by the Bureau of...
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Friday, September 13, 2002
Wanted Dead (Not Alive): Noxious Weeds
One of the most pervasive and dangerous problems facing public lands managers right now is how to control the deadly spread...
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Friday, September 13, 2002
Searching for Team South!
I had planned to meet Team South on Lake Powell and while I had quite an adventure, things didn't quite work out as I had...
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Thursday, September 12, 2002
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon on September 9, 1996, President William Jefferson Clinton announced that by the authority...
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Wednesday, September 11, 2002
A Special Day and a Special Encounter
September 11th was a solemn day for all Americans and the North Team couldn't help but feel preoccupied as they loaded their...
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Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Wet Saddles and Muddy Trails
The Northern Team rolled into Grand Teton National Park on a rainy Thursday afternoon and pitched their tents in the Gros...
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Monday, September 9, 2002
Classrooms for the Nation
Whether you are fascinated by the mysteries of history, the story of fossils so minute you must use a microscope to view...
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Friday, September 6, 2002
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
North of the Grand Canyon, stretching from the Colorado River on the east to St. George on the west lies what is commonly...
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Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Down the Colorado
When Sara Hatch of Hatch River Expeditions generously offered to meet the hikers from Team South in the bottom of the Grand...
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Monday, August 26, 2002
Great Job, Coconino!
I wanted to make all of you aware of the outstanding job that the Coconino National Forest did to prepare for and host the...
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Friday, August 23, 2002
Trekkers Inaugurate New Section of Continental Divide Trail
When the Trekkers arrived at Pipestone Pass, on MT Hwy 2, they participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on a newly-constructed...
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Friday, August 23, 2002
Trekkers on the Coconino National Forest
The trekkers on the Coconino:
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Thursday, August 22, 2002
Trekkers Ride Motorcycles
Trekkers ride Motorcycles as part of Journey
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Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Trip Leader's Notes
All expeditions, treks or other adventures are only as successful as the supporting structure that allows them to move ahead....
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Monday, August 19, 2002
The Battle of Big Dry Wash
During the spring of 1882 a small group of White Mountain Apache warriors, sixty at the most, came out of their wilderness...
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Saturday, August 17, 2002
A Scorched Land
APACHE SITGREAVES NATIONAL FOREST, Arizona--The view from the top of Juniper Lookout Tower is 360 degrees but it is 360 degrees...
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Friday, August 16, 2002
Adventure in Helena National Forest
The support team arrived in town on the 13th and were a very pleasant group to work with. We provided what office space we...
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Monday, August 12, 2002
Report from Gila National Forest
For the Wilderness Roundtable on August 7th, about 32 attendees participated. Attendees represented the diversity of southwest...
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Saturday, August 10, 2002
Team North Spreads the Good Word
Team North has been delighted with the first two educational programs they staged to let people know about their journey...
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Thursday, August 8, 2002
Team South: The First Days
The American Frontiers Journey, a trek from the Mexican border to the
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Monday, August 5, 2002
Entering Flathead National Forest
District Ranger Jimmy Deherrera and myself met the trekkers at
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Saturday, August 3, 2002
Lake Valley Reception
Lake Valley, NM--The monsoons have arrived. All afternoon, while PLIA Executive Director Lisa D. Madsen and I drove down...
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Saturday, August 3, 2002
Northern Team backpacks through Glacier National Park
Team North is making their way through Glacier National Park, enjoying both spectacular mountain scenery and friendly people....
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Friday, August 2, 2002
Historical Talk at Lake Valley Ghost Town
The Southern Team traveled today to a boom town gone bust-- Lake Valley New Mexico. There they visited the museum, maintained...
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Friday, August 2, 2002
Interactive Map Now Available
This interactive map is updated regularly with GIS data, pictures, video, and other memorable moments from this great adventure....
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Thursday, August 1, 2002
Warfare and Settlement on the Rio Grande
While the American Frontiers trekkers blaze a new route through the Chihuahuan desert of southern New Mexico, they arenít...
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Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Trek Teams Begin Their Journey; DC Kickoff Event Attended By Interior & Agriculture Secretaries
This morning, at 7 am MST, as the sun began to warm the Chihuahuan desert soil and melt the snows of Glacier National Park,...
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Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Welcome to the Chihuahuan Desert
The extreme southern portion of the American Frontiers Trek route starts at the US-Mexico border near Las Cruces, New Mexico....
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Saturday, January 1, 2000
Free Public Lands Map & Book Available From PLIA
As part of the continuing effort to raise awareness of and to provide education about our public lands, PLIA is offering...
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