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Sunday, December 1, 2002

Jan Nesset's Latest Trek
Canyonlands in December

Given the spate of clear weather that the Southwest has been experiencing, our days of hiking and enjoying on foot our public lands just keeps on going and going. I’ll give the bunny a break here and say that my wife and I keep energized the natural way by the endless opportunities that wait not far from our door.

Three hours by car from Durango, Colorado, is Moab, Utah, where mountain bikers, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, climbers, paddlers, backpackers and hikers covet as a kind of recreation Mecca. In every direction there’s something fun to do.

So yesterday, with Thanksgiving turkey packed into our bellies for sustenance, Chris and I, lusting for adventure, put in mind Canyonlands National Park and started the car. Although both of us had in some way enjoyed the Moab area in our pasts, neither of us had been to Canyonlands. Great two-day weather forecast, two days of nothing but time on our hands and a full tank of gasoline spelled “go”, and in what seemed like no time at all we were handing over a $10 entrance fee to get into the north end of Canyonlands National Park. We inquired about paying the $5 camping fee, too, but the ranger said that the fee box was not yet in place at the Willow Flat Campground. He said to enjoy the campground for free. Okay.

Because we had only 3 Ĺ hours of daylight remaining we decided that we would spend the time visiting various overlooks. Late sun was clearly best on the easterly views while the sun put a foggy haze to the west. Sun and how it affected the impressive landscape only inspired us to agree to rise early the next morning so we could gasp anew at the vistas. Canyonlands is so named because the character of the land is canyon within canyons. As one layer of sandstone washes from the earth’s crust, creating a wide craggy valley, a new layer begins to wash away by cutting through the valley floors. Layers of rock are eaten back, creating huge and deep canyons in the canyons. Meanwhile, wind blows through sculpting the standing rock. Chris commented that the oil paintings she has seen of the area are nearly surreal, unbelievable in their perfect beauty. Now, she said, she realizes that the painters were just good at capturing what they saw. The paintings were not lying.

We thought we had ended our sightseeing part of the day with the splendid view from Grandview Point Overlook but we were wrong. With nearly an hour of daylight remaining after we set up our tent at Willow Flat Campground, we walked the short 1/10-mile distance to the overlook – and then got carried away.

Candlestick Tower, a tall monolith of impressive sandstone towering to the west between our sandstone overlook and the Green River, which snaked southerly far below, begs a closer look. Between our viewpoint and that begging look rises a steep – hundreds of feet steep – sandstone cliff broken by a ledge of grass and boulders. Ominous-looking from afar, we walked toward the ledge hoping that we could traverse the cliff. Sure enough, a deer trail picked an easy trail across the cliff. We followed and got our look, then made an arc around the backside of the sandstone to our camp.

Frosty night -- freezing.

Today broke clear and cold. Keeping our promise to get up early for a new view of the area from the overlook, we watched the sun break slowly over high sandstone to the east. The early strokes of sunshine that hit the valley floor below shined heavenly as they painted golden the distant canyon rims overlooking the Green River and its side canyons. Each golden ray put a dazzle on anything that it reached. An awesome touch, the tops of small towers rising from the valley floor poked through the sheets of light. The Green River grabbed a slice of the sunshine, sparkling.

Two buck mule deer chasing does through the juniper, love drunk in the throes of the rut, stalked about ignoring our presence while two does watched us intently.

Breaking camp with a purpose -- to get on with the day and to put behind the bone-freezing chore -- carried an air of excitement. Our plan was to hike the Syncline Trail, an 8-mile loop around the Upheaval Dome crater. At the center of the crater rose a dome of salt. Scientists gather around two ideas to explain the creation of the crater and dome. First, the exciting idea, is that a meteor blasted the surface of the earth, giving rise to the dome. The second, the ho-hum idea, is that the crater simply pushed through a thin layer of crust.

With a 1,300-feet elevation loss and gain, the Syncline Trail circumnavigates the crater at the low side of the outer wall, through canyons and along a section of sandstone crumble that asks to be called a slope. We chose to hike the trail counter-clockwise. The hiking is relatively easy on the first and large half of the hike, with the exception of the crumbly slope on the north side of the crater’s west-side breach. Despite the caution required to descend the trail, we enjoyed the scrambling. At one point Chris squeezed through a short “tunnel” while I chose a bypass.

The bottoms of the canyons are often marked idyllic with groves of trees and grassy flats. Creeks that become active during rainstorms cut furrows through the bottoms of the canyons. Shallow pools showed us that rains had recently visited the area.

In the breach of the crater a 1 1/2 –mile trail takes interested hikers into the crater to see the salt dome. We ate our lunch overlooking the main drainage and contemplated where the trail continued from here. It was one of two canyons, both coming in from the east. We wouldn’t know until we followed the trail down the drainage.

At the confluence with the first drainage, a wood sign indicated we could continue about 5 miles down the drainage to the Green River or turn east up the canyon. We stuck to our plan to hike the Syncline Trail around the crater, and began our hike up the canyon. The trail followed a heavily eroded wash, up and out of the creek bottom, to a point it decidedly climbed out of the wash and up a steep slope.

Chris, at three months pregnant, set her pace and found plenty of opportunities to hurrah her progress. She was doing better than she had thought she would do on this hike. In fact, she felt great, feeling happy with her fitness and pregnant well-being.

Hiking a short distance ahead, I had opportunities to take photographs of this impressive area and feel proud about my growing family. Chris and I have often talked about someday taking our child to places that we enjoyed while it grew in its mother’s belly. We are all together, even today, even though our baby floats while we hike. We have so much to be thankful for.

A series of climbs to cresting plateaus took us to a point on the trail where we think we can cut north and intercept the mile-long trail to a dome viewpoint. Our plan couldn’t have worked better. In ten minutes across slickrock our decision proved to be spot on, landing us on the viewpoint platform where groups of people stood to marvel the salt dome.

I try to get into my view finder the entire dome, but couldn’t, opting to take two photographs. The crater is immense. Chris and I notice that Israelis, Danish, Japanese and Germans are enjoying the viewpoint. A lot of cameras are getting a workout. Americans are busy today, too, either elsewhere in the park or nowhere in the park.

Americans are always busy.

Public lands are not an off-season option, not always. I think of last year at this time when I was skiing over wolf and mountain lion tracks in Glacier National Park. Hunting season had ended not long before: we had a good start on enjoying excellent venison steaks from the Flathead National Forest. I was toying with the idea to ski across the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Public lands. They’re an all-season, any-time phenomena built on American ideals. It doesn’t take a lot of experimentation to discover that today can be a perfect time to visit public lands.




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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