The 1st Anniversary
American Frontiers Trek 1st Anniversary and Reunion
A year ago this September two groups of volunteers met in Wasatch-Cache National Forest outside of Salt Lake City, Utah in an emotional team-joining ceremony. They had just completed an epic journey from Canada to Mexico blazing a trail entirely on public lands: a feat that has never been accomplished before. Dubbed “American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey,” the border-to-border trek was the culmination of a larger educational effort sponsored by Public Lands Interpretive Association, National Geographic Society and by government and corporate partners.
A year later the teams’ first reunion was held in New Mexico, a most appropriate location given the fact that the concept for American Frontiers was conceived and developed by the Public Lands Interpretive Association, an Albuquerque-based educational organization. Twelve out of the 26 men and women who comprised the two teams spent a memory-filled National Public Lands Day weekend camping at the Army Corps of Engineers’ Tetilla Peak campground overlooking Cochiti Lake.
Team North trekkers Charlotte Talley and Michael Murphy (accompanied by wife Janet) flew in from California for the occasion. Team Leader Charlie Thorpe and wife Charlie drove from Alabama, support team members Cheryl Fusco and Bob Van Deven from Tucson, and Steven Braunlich flew in from Virginia. Rounding out Team North were support team member Bob Ashley and his wife who drove in from Illinois, and BLM’s indefatigable Team Manager Dave Mensing accompanied by his quitar. Dave’s wife Trisha joined the group for the final night.
Team South members included trekkers, Richard Tyrell and Jan Nesset with wife Chris, and two-months old “Public Lands Baby” Silva Heidi Nesset. Trekker Julie Overbaugh was on a Grand Canyon float trip but still made it for the final day, much to everyone’s delight. Support team members Jessica Terrell and Jake McLeod drove over from Missouri. Rodger Schmitt, the unofficial “Godfather of American Frontiers” had recently retired from the BLM’s Washington Headquarters but flew in from Port Townsend, WA where he now lives. Also joining the group was Charlotte Telly’s sister Christine and her roommate Jan, both from Phoenix.
Hurricane Isabell cancelled Ken Chapman and Ravi Gupta’s plans to leave the east coast while last minute changes kept Cathy Kiffe, Kay Gandy, and Dona Bell from attending.
The reunion got under way on Thursday, September 18, with a hike and reception at Albuquerque’s Petroglyph National Monument. The following morning the “reunionites” traveled by van to the Valles Caldera National Preserve for a hike up Abrigo Mountain and a tour of this awe-inspiring crater in the Jemez Mountains. Turning the table on the teams, it was now PLIA’s job to set up camp at Tetilla Peak where the all too familiar yellow Caravan canopies, Camp Chef stoves, and Coleman chairs greeted the hikers on their return from the Valles Caldera. Young Antal Maurer served as principal chef for the meals, assisted by Lisa Madsen and Stephen Maurer, aka Antal’s parents and PLIA Board President Libby Foster.
Saturday, September 20 was National Public Lands Day and the American Frontiers Team, wearing their signature purple shirts, were soon busy with planting trees at and around the Tetilla Peak campground. After carefully putting down more than fifty trees, the team traveled to the other side of Cochiti Lake where a full-fledged Public Lands Day celebration was well under way. Under the supervision of Cochiti Lake Operations Manager Douglas R Bailey, a few more trees were planted at campground’s playground following which team members dispersed, some going for a hike at the nearby Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, while others shopped and took in the sights of Santa Fe.
By the time everyone returned to Tetilla Peak, American Frontiers’ crack website team had also arrived in the persons of Ellen Dornan and Craig Goldsmith, accompanied by two year-old Rapture Dornan-Goldsmith. As night fell and everyone gathered around the campfire, Craig videotaped team members as they recollected their most notable memories of the Trek.
It was goodbye time again come Sunday morning. There were hugs and a few tears and talk about plans for next year’s reunion -- perhaps in Missouri.
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