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 The Trek: The Journals

Recent Journal Entries

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Team: North
Michelle Williams
Thursday, September 19
Back on the Green River
It is 7 AM on Thursday morning, and I’m sitting in a car waiting for the BLM guy to arrive. He’s taking us on a tour of the Trona Mine, but he managed to lock his keys in his car so he’s running a little late. We’ve locked many a key in a car on this trip, so really, he’s just keeping with the program.

It’s now several hours later, after the mine tour, and after I got to go on yet another paddle down the Green River. My arms are so tired I can barely hold them up to type, but I will soldier through somehow. First, I must describe last night, at the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, where we were treated to one wonderful occurrence after another. First of all, we stayed in a brand-new, three-bedroom house at the headquarters. There was no furniture, but there was carpet and walls and warmth and protection from the wind. Secondly, we got to spend the entire evening with Doug and Carol Damberg, two of the people who manage the refuge. They are great fun, informative, and simply wonderful. Cheryl, Paul and I made a huge dinner of steaks (and/or tofu), salad, and roasted potatoes and there were 16 of us eating together on our portable tables that stretched the length of the house. Dinner was abruptly interrupted by Mother Nature who put on a show out the back window that was beyond belief. The horizon was layered in a thick, orange-red mist, colored by the setting sun, and there was a stream running away from us which reflected the craziest rainbow I have ever seen. The only part of the rainbow that was visible, the edge that started at the horizon, looked perfectly vertical, and shone brilliantly through the reddish mist. It was amazing. Out in front of the house, facing west, was an equally gorgeous sky, albeit without the crazy colors. There were storms all over the land that we could see, miles and miles away, and you could pick out the sheets of rain covering valleys in the distance. Just incredible. I was on the computer, emailing a friend, and every few minutes I would run outside, holler at the beautiful sky, and run back in to keep typing. Sometimes when I see overwhelming beauty I just sorta have to scream out loud.

After dinner, and the sunset, we all went over to the new visitor’s center for a three-fold slide show. Carol went first, teaching us about Seedskadee and other wildlife refuges. Next Bob A. and then Bob V. showed us slides that they have taken so far on this journey. It was great fun. We tried to name every campground and every hiking trail from the last fifty-odd days and surprised ourselves at how much we had already forgotten. This whole trip has been information overload and it was nice to revisit the first few weeks of the trek. It also reminded us how long we have been gone. After today, only a week left…

This morning we woke at 6 to be on the road at 7, which naturally meant we left about 8. Our first stop was the Trona Mine. “Trona” is part baking soda and part soda ash, and 95% of the world’s trona comes from this area. We had to get all kinds of gear just to visit the mine- helmets, goggles, foot protectors, a breathing apparatus, earplugs, and a headlamp. We then got on an elevator of sorts that whisked us down over 800 feet below the surface of the earth. It was pretty much just a cage, and you could watch the lights from below get bigger and bigger as we plummeted down. The gear was heavy, and the mine a little… not small, but it felt small, and it certainly felt like there was no escape. The elevator ride was followed by a long truck ride, through cavernous tunnels, to the spot where they were currently mining. By then I was so stressed by my anxiety that I started getting really sleepy. This is always my defense mechanism. But we had another hour or so to go. It was certainly interesting and informative but I was starting to feel nauseous, and so were several team members near me. We watched a crew as they mined, which mostly involved men and women driving huge machines that carried the trona from the mining spot to the conveyor belt. I have a lot of respect for these folks- I could never work underground like they do, particularly not for their twelve-hour shifts. I’m sure I would adapt, but I don’t think I’d want to.

Finally, we went to the top, and we burst into the sunshine, thankful for the beautiful morning. Next was another paddle down the Green, and we drove to the river and lunched before shoving off. I somehow lucked into another spot on the canoes, and we all lucked out on the weather. It was beautiful- not to cool, certainly not too warm, and although we saw less wildlife because of the late hour, it was another great day. There were two particularly interesting sights today: first, the difference between the left bank and the right bank through most of the paddle. Grazing is allowed on the left bank, and as a result, the shore is terribly eroded, which has killed off all of the trees and wild grasses. The right bank was an island, where grazing was not allowed, and it was lush and full of cottonwoods and grasses. The other interesting sight was a long stretch of shoreline that was held up entirely by old, abandoned cars. The cars were buried, their sides exposed along the bank of the water. Grasses and trees were growing above them, and as we paddled by, Dave was naming the makes and years of the cars. There were ’58 Fords, Chevys, old buses, and cars so rusted or buried that we couldn’t quite make out what they had been.

Finally, we pulled out about a hundred yards from our campsite, and six of us are now in the RV, typing away. I have to run off to help Cheryl with dinner but all I really want to do is go to bed as early as I can. It is supposed to be cold again tomorrow, and the trekkers face a 21-mile paddle. I’d still go with them if I could, but I don’t think I’ll get to go a fourth time. But… I’ve been lucky before… maybe I will be again.
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Team: North
Michelle Williams
Tuesday, September 17
Two Days In A Canoe
So… I have to admit something. It’s probably not terribly fitting for this public lands trek, and I’m almost embarrassed to make it known, but here goes: I’m in a motel. On a real bed. The TV is on (the National Geographic channel, of course) and I recently got out of a really long, hot bath. I don’t know what stroke of genius brought us here, on this particular night, but I have to admit, I’m really, really thankful. The weather is terrible- windy, rainy, cold, and yet here I am, typing away in a warm, dry, comfy hotel room. I wore my jammie pants to dinner.

But… not everything has been so cushy the last two days. Yesterday, Bob A., Kimberly and I got to join the trekkers on their first day canoeing down the Green River. It was a stunning day- around 75 degrees, light breeze, sunny, gorgeous. We had a 7.5 mile paddle, and we were so jazzed about being on the river that we made great time. Too great- only an hour and a half later, we reached the support team, waiting by the edge of the river to pull us out. We have a terrific guide, named Chris, who joined us from the BLM in Colorado. We’re lucky enough to have him with us the whole time, as well as Sean, who works for the BLM here in Wyoming. All of us caravaned to the Weeping Rock campsite, where we were treated to more sunshine and conversation near the river. Most of the team took off to go get fishing licenses, but I stayed behind with the BLM guys and listened to their banter. Sean said that he thought one in two Wyoming residents were somehow involved in hunting. I joked that it was about the same in New York City.

After dinner, I went to my tent, pitched just away from the water, and was so tired I fell asleep in my clothes on top of my sleeping bag. Once again, in my sleep, I found my way inside my bag, and woke up at 6:45 to get the trekkers on their way. I crawled out of my tent to find two pelicans, floating on the river, waiting for me to rise just so I could see how beautiful they were. Half an hour later, I was making lunches for the team when Dave said they needed one more in the canoes- one of our guides brought her own kayak and they needed one more paddler, right now. I ran to my tent, broke everything down, and in minutes I was throwing my gear into the dry bag and strapping on my paddling gloves. This morning, the weather had turned; it was cold, cloudy and windy and all of us were wearing all three layers of warm clothes before we even climbed into the canoes. We had around 15 miles to cover, and there was no sign that the sun was going to show itself today. I shared a canoe with Rob, and we shoved off just after 8 AM. The paddle was long, and at times hard, but it was also amazing. We saw blue herons, pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, flocks of pelicans, raptors, one golden eagle and six- count ‘em, six- bald eagles. I had only seen one before, far away on a cliff as we paddled across the Clark Canyon Reservoir. These eagles were in trees on the shore of the river, close enough for us to make out the details of their feathers. The first pair we saw were flying back and forth between several huge trees, one of which housed their enormous nest. As we paddled by, the male dove from one tree and sailed to another, and we could hear the whoosh of his wings as he climbed through the air.

The rest of the day, we paddled near hundreds of birds, including two more pairs of eagles. Our new guide, Carol, paddled with us through Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, where she is a resident wildlife specialist. She had great information about all of the birds, and also encouraged us when the headwinds and rain started to dampen our spirits. This was also supposed to be a fishing trip, but only Stephen managed to catch anything-a cutthroat trout- but you have to throw back anything below 20 inches, and Stephen’s was about a foot. Finally we reached our team, and although it was a terrific trip, I was exhausted and ready for a little rest. But- no rest for the North Team- as soon as the cars were loaded we headed for the Fossil Butte National Park, where several informed park rangers waited to tell us all about fossils. It was a terrific program. We got to see the kinds of tools that are now used to reveal fossils, as well as the many complete fossils housed in the visitors’ center. One of our rangers took us to the back of the building where you can gaze up at buttes that are literally filled with fossils, most of which will be preserved in the stone for many years to wait for new paleontologic technology.

After the presentation, we headed here to the Energy Inn in, I think, Diamondville, Wyoming. Population 864. And now, with a belly full of pizza, I am going to sleep in a bed. A real bed. With sheets.
Biographical Info
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Team: North
Michelle Williams
No rest for the wicked-- Michelle Williams spends a day at the office, typing up journal entries for the trekkers

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List of All Journal Entries
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Thursday, September 19
Michelle Williams
Back on the Green River
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Tuesday, September 17
Michelle Williams
Two Days In A Canoe
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Monday, September 16
Michelle Williams
Jammie Pants and a Wood Cabin
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Saturday, September 14
Michelle Williams
Wild Horses!
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Friday, September 13
Michelle Williams
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Tuesday, September 10
Michelle Williams
Reflections, September 10, 2002
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Sunday, September 8
Michelle Williams
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Saturday, September 7
Michelle Williams
Saturday Night Near Jackson Hole
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Thursday, September 5
Michelle Williams
Yellowstone
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Wednesday, September 4
Michelle Williams
Is it Wednesday?
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Sunday, September 1
Michelle Williams
Fall In Idaho
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Saturday, August 31
Michelle Williams
Saturday Morning, Day 32
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Thursday, August 29
Michelle Williams
Hump Day
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Wednesday, August 28
Michelle Williams
A Ghost Town, A Dug-out Canoe, A Birthday and A Compound Fracture
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Monday, August 26
Michelle Williams
Oh, Happy Day
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Sunday, August 25
Michelle Williams
Sunday, August 25th
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Saturday, August 24
Michelle Williams
A Better Day Already
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Friday, August 23
Michelle Williams
A Challenging Day
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Wednesday, August 21
Michelle Williams
Wednesday, August 21
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Tuesday, August 20
Michelle Williams
Tuesday, August 20
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Monday, August 19
Michelle Williams
Monday, August 19
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Sunday, August 18
Michelle Williams
Easy Like...
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Saturday, August 17
Michelle Williams
More on Saturday, August 17th
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Saturday, August 17
Michelle Williams
Saturday, August 17th
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Thursday, August 15
Michelle Williams
Thursday, August 15th
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Wednesday, August 14
Michelle Williams
My Top Ten List
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Tuesday, August 13
Michelle Williams
Freezing and Fires
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Monday, August 12
Michelle Williams
Explore the River
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Saturday, August 10
Michelle Williams
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Friday, August 9
Michelle Williams
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Thursday, August 8
Michelle Williams
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