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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 in southern Arizona, about 60 miles east of Tucson and most of a world away. They are part of the Coronado National Forest. Approximately 90,000 acres have been designated as wilderness and the region's inaccessibility has kept it mostly wild. They are an outstanding example of public lands managed not only for recreation but for those intangible values associated with wilderness: solitude, habitat preservation, the joy of navigating through trackless catclaw and manzanita thickets...

During my time on the American Frontiers journey I thought often of these mountains, not because they were any more beautiful than the places we visited but because they have become so familiar to me. I missed them. When I returned from the trek I drove out to Ash Creek Canyon---a 3 hour trip from Tucson---and walked under the red and gold maples (yes, maples in southern Arizona). I saw one other person. And while I appreciated the fact that the Galiuros and other wild places have been preserved for all Americans---not just me---I loved the solitude even more. I hope the paragraphs below help you gain a sense of what this particular swath of public land is really like, maybe even inspire you to visit sometime. Just do me a favor? Don't tell everyone.


The Galiuro Mountains

Cory and Dorita are the last to leave, grinding down the cratered jeep trail in the ’78 pickup we’ve affectionately named Skyota. I watch them cross Jackson Creek and begin the steep climb up the ridge, engine noise carrying like the grief of some Pleistocene giant. A sparse cover of oak and manzanita is not enough to screen their progress and I can see Skyota lurching as she crests a saddle. A pause, just enough to spin the wheel hard right, then she noses over and disappears. Miles overhead two parallel streamers unspool behind an eastbound jet, the only marks on a sky bracketed by cliffs of pink andesite and volcanic tuff.

I limp back along the road to the cabin which sits at the base of a hill surrounded by primrose buds. I push open the door, rusted knob ratcheting uselessly in my hand, and emerge moments later with an old spindle-backed chair. In the hour before dusk cold air begins to slough off the peaks, coiling around my legs and prying open the primroses to reveal whorls of yellow petals and stamens like tiny swabs. The process seems counterintuitive---flowers opening at night---but within a few minutes the yard is jeweled with dozens of three-inch blossoms, each awaiting the arrival of the sphinx moth. It’s been a good season.

In the past three days my friends and I have hiked through some of the most severe country imaginable, carving a route through Redfield Canyon and traversing the foothills on an old jeep road before heading over the West Ridge. We’ve soaked our bones in a warm spring and recorded no less than 52 species of wildflowers, including three species of primrose. We’ve seen a male bighorn (a first for most of us), gone swimming under an icy waterfall, and slept in a stone house set deep in the hollow of a cliff. But somewhere along the way a tendon parted in my right ankle.

I knew it was about to go, have even scheduled surgery for the following month, but still I intend to spend the next three days in the mountains by myself. The ankle is swollen, the pain a dull presence under 800 milligrams of ibuprofen. Seated in the yard I find myself wishing for beer, then abruptly forget my thirst as a trio of sphinx moths flits into view.

Sphinx moths are large, about three inches in length, and often mistaken for hummingbirds because of their ability to hover. With their straw-like tongues they are the only creatures able to siphon the nectar from a primrose and because they cool themselves by transpiratio---a curiosity among insects---they need all the liquid they can find. They zip around my legs, following some mysterious pattern or perhaps no pattern at all, never spending more than a second at each blossom. To a sphinx moth this must look like a landscape studded with giant pina coladas. Twilight comes and still they chase each other from flower to flower, their frantic search mirrored by the zigzag paths of bats swooping low over the valley. It’s a sublime performance, yet in the long history of the Galiuro Mountains there have also been episodes of startling violence and human struggle.

About 25 million years ago a series eruptions fractured the ground where I sit, sending rivers of magma across the landscape and throwing up tall cauliflowers of ash. Rather than creating lofty cindercones, these eruptions laid down sheets of andesite and rhyolite, the ash settling and curing under its own weight to become a cap of welded tuff. Millions of years later a process called block faulting would cause these layers to rise and tilt, building a pair of high ridges in the same way many other mountains in the basin and range province were born. Thus the Galiuros took shape, subsequent years of erosion carving two deep canyons between the ridges---Redfield draining to the south and Rattlesnake to the north---so that today the range appears as a narrow, elongated “H”. Early Spanish maps labeled this the Sierra de San Calistro. The name probably refers to Saint Callistus, a third century pope who gained favor within the church for purchasing and expanding a Christian cemetery on the Via Appia. With the arrival of Anglo settlers the name “Calistro” slowly metamorphosed into Galiuro (pronounced gal-oor-o), yet centuries would pass before anyone took up residence among the jagged peaks.

One of the first Anglos to pass through and record his observations was James Ohio Patty, a 19th century fur trapper who wrangled permission from the Mexican Governor in Santa Fe to trap beaver just west of the mountains. Patty is credited with killing the first grizzly in Arizona as well as a great many other animals, but by the spring of 1824 he and his men were starving. Frequent Apache raids had convinced them to gather the lightest of their possessions and make a break for it, heading directly over the Galiuros. Wrote Patty in his journal:

"On the morning of the first of April, we commenced descending the mountain, from the side of which we could discern a plain before us, which, however, it required two severe days to reach… We had nothing to eat or drink. In descending from these icy mountains, we were surprised to find how warm it was on the plains. On reaching them I killed an antelope, of which we drank the warm blood; and however revolting the recital may be, to us it was refreshing, tasting like warm milk."

With reports like this coming back it’s no wonder Americans steered clear of the Galiuro country. For decades afterward the mountains were ignored, left to the bears, ringtails, Apaches, and antelope.

The next morning a cold wind blows through the cabin. I rise, dress, and make coffee. Stepping into the yard I find the primrose flowers wilted by frost, the valley lidded with clouds. By 11:00 it is snowing. I put on all the clothes I have and start a fire in the fireplace. Two miners built this shelter in the early 1900’s while working a nearby claim and as I warm my hands it occurs to me their dreams of gold were probably inspired by William Blake, a Territorial Geologist who attempted to develop a lode along the very same fault line. Not one to be encumbered by facts, Blake took to promoting his mine and in 1902 he declared: “It is not our purpose to exaggerate or misquote the facts, and we say without fear of contradiction that this is the largest ledge of gold ore in Arizona, if not in the U.S.” In fact it was one of the smallest and Blake’s company went bankrupt, but the only thing harder to wrest from the land than gold is the rumor of gold. No one would do more to prove the truth of this statement than the Power family.

The Powers arrived in the Galiuros in 1909 after ricocheting around the west for nearly ten years. In Rattlesnake canyon they found a place that would hold them longer than any other, a green and sinuous corridor leading away from civilization and deep into history. For a while they ran cattle but in 1917 Jeff, the father, acquired an abandoned mine in the heart of the range. His wife and mother had both died and his eldest son had moved to New Mexico leaving him to tend his herd with the help of a daughter, Ola May, and two younger sons, John and Tom. Before long Ola May would also pass away, her death unexplained even after a coroner’s inquest. Jeff may have read Blake’s shining report and he had certainly heard the legends of vast mineral wealth hidden under the mountains. Striking it rich must have seemed the only way to redeem a life of misfortune and poverty.

The men labored to build a wagon road through 25 miles of rugged country, then purchased an old stamp mill and brought it to the mine piece by piece. Headstrong and suspicious, the old man kept his sons from registering for the draft so that they could begin work in the main tunnel. In the midst of WWI this was considered a serious crime. On the morning of February 10, 1918, the local Sheriff and three other men surprised the Power men at their shack and a gunfight broke out. When it was over Jeff Power had been mortally wounded and the Sheriff and two others lay dead.

Tom and John dragged their father into the mine and attempted to make his last moments as comfortable as possible, then lit out for the Mexican border. After three months on the run Tom and John Power were captured by the army just south of the Mexican border, about 60 miles from the Galiuros. After a brief trial they were both convicted of first-degree murder and remanded to the federal prison in Florence, Arizona where they lived for 42 years.

I shiver all night in the cabin and awake the next day determined to move camp. I load the truck and head out of the valley, morning sun blazing on the snow-covered East Ridge. Once over the saddle I can see the south end of the range, a jumble of hills and draws arranged perpendicular to the road so that the muddy ribbon is soon lost in endless folds of green. Blooming yuccas stand like candles on the slopes but give way to uniform groves of pinyon and juniper where the land rises above 6,000 feet. I drive slowly. Over my left shoulder I can see Bassett Peak and for some reason I think of the B-24 bomber that lies crumpled on its flanks.

Cottonwood leaves flutter in the drainage where I leave my vehicle. I have a map but I don’t really know where I’m going, only that the stream leads west into a narrow defile and that there is no trail. I find half of a geode, coppery green and lined with quartz crystals, and spook a pair of mule deer who go bounding up a slope covered with shin daggers. How any mammal can run through a field of these plants without skewering itself is beyond me. River cobbles give way to shelves and channels of water-worn stone, making for easier passage. My ankle throbs. I’ve gone a mile, maybe two, when I come to a confluence. With no schedule and no clear destination in mind I turn left and am soon forced to detour around a pool by clambering over a cliff. The rock here fractures into large plates and I kick one free, hearing it break like china in the canyon below. I stand and squint at the route before me, amazed to see the creek issuing from a what appears to be a wall of solid tuff in the middle distance. I descend once again and continue walking.

Soon I come to a five-foot sill and I lever myself over, discovering at once my mistake. The creek does not issue from the wall ahead, rather it pours over the wall at the back of a perfect, U-shaped grotto. A trick of the stone renders the little amphitheater invisible from anywhere downstream, yet now I can see bunches of scarlet penstemmon growing nearby and hear the seductive patter of the waterfall. I sit by the shallow pool at its base, remove my boot and plunge my foot into the cool water. The pain in my ankle fades and the sun hovers just beyond the opening of the grotto, pouring an ingot of warm light into the shadowy bowl. I feel lucky. In a mountain range named after a saint who purchased a cemetery, not all have been able to find such peace.


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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