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 The Trek: The Journals

Recent Journal Entries

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Stephen Braunlich
Sunday, September 22
Spectacular Scenery
Back on the water today. Paddled from a put in somewhere on the outskirts of Green River to Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Partnered with Dana again, although this time we were not in the lead most of the time, but followed Rob and Paul. The wildlife was not as great as it was at Seedskadee, but it was not bad and the scenery was spectacular. Almost all the time we had steep, loosely packed, rock-strewn slopes leading up to the cliffs around us. Sometimes on one side, sometimes both. The cliffs themselves were made of stratified sandstone in shades of amber, orange marmalade and tan. At the top they would be abruptly sheared off into a butte.
When cliffs occupied only half the view, flat meadows or sage are the rule. The sage is now a tired green, dried up by the summer’s heat. The grasses are brittle and the color of wheat.
My favorite scene thus far came 30 minutes or so after we started. We came round the bend with a meadow to our right and the cliffs to our left. The wide cobalt Green moved in front of us, part obscured in shade, part in golden sunshine. Cottonwood willows lined the river to our starboard side. The sun was not yet fully up, and so the walls to our left were still in a cool shade, while those in the distance glowed red as a baseball field’s soil. The sky was still a deep blue; the sun had yet to whiten it. It was beautiful.
While we did not see tons of wildlife we still saw a respectable amount. Among the waterfowl were common merganser ducks, grebes, hawks, pelicans, deer, and antelope. One incident is particular is memorable. Again, it was early in the trip. We were still in meadows on both sides, although the cliffs were beginning to climb. To starboard, a doe mule deer and her fawn were standing near the water. As we approached, they began to ford the river. The doe made it most of the way before swimming, while the fawn swam most of it. While there was nothing particularly spectacular about it, it was a first for me.
The landscape tonight is fantastic. I cannot find words true or eloquent enough to describe it, but I shall attempt to do so nevertheless. A nearly full moon lights the high desert environment in an ethereal embrace. The sage catches the light coming down from the cloudless sky, illuminating the rolling hills near the reservoir. The outlines of the chimney rock formations stand firm while the moon provides enough illumination to see many shadowy details. Everything picks up a silver tinge from the distinct lighting.
Now imagine this heavenly scene around the campfire with some of your crew. Dave is playing the guitar and harmonica, or accompanies the former with his voice. The repertoire is large and gentle on the ears. The fire’s glow lights the faces of everyone as it warms your front side. Meanwhile your back develops a pleasingly contrasting chill. You enjoy the scene, knowing that this is one of the most amazing places on earth, and it is part of your public lands.
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Team: North
Stephen Braunlich
Saturday, September 21
ATV in the Dunes
View
The ATVers on a sand dune.

The ATVers on a sand dune.
Courtesy Kimberly Green

View
Stephen Braunlich and Dave Mensing on ATVs

Stephen Braunlich and Dave Mensing on ATVs
Courtesy Kimberly Green

View
A petroglyph

A petroglyph
Courtesy Kimberly Green

September 21, 2002

Went ATV riding today in the Killpecker Sand Dunes outside of Rock Springs, WY. I had a ton of fun. There, in the middle of the seas of sage, are huge dunes of pure sand. We spent several hours going up the dunes, traversing them, and when we knew it was safe, traveling over them. The dunes, which spread for miles, offer acres of riding. This is the perfect condition for Off-Road Vehicles, in my mind. There is a large area to recreate that is made specifically for that purpose. This allows the impact to concentrate in one area, but doesn’t restrain the enthusiast. Moreover, it is trail-less, and so allows freedom of movement.
I fail to mention that earlier in the day we went to view wild horses on the BLM’s horse management area. These creatures were in excellent condition. At the first siting, we pulled off to the side of the road to photograph them. I shot a total of 10 photos of them as I moved closer to them, always thinking that they’d scatter. Amazingly, I got within a stone’s throw of them. The closeness, combined with Pilot Butte in the background made for what I hope will be some incredible shots.
After the ATV’s, we went to the White Mountain petroglyphs. Amazing location. Into the side of this hill Shoshone Indians have carved figures telling of various events. There were pregnant elk, Spaniards on horseback, arrows, bison, and horses. I found the whole thing fascinating. Here were writings from centuries ago, preserved in the rock. What a high! The drawings themselves date to sometime after the 1700’s as that that is the time the Spaniards first arrived in the area.
On our return to Tex’s Travel Camp, I used the shower to wash the dirt off of me before dinner, which was provided by C-Store Catering. The meal was incredible. Although the steak sandwiches may seem simple, they grilled them perfectly and were generally very lean. Along with this, they served sautéed mushrooms, and a mix of spicy peppers. Those, piled onto the sandwich, made my mouth jump for joy. The caterers also made a mean French fry.
A satisfying day.
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Team: North
Stephen Braunlich
Wednesday, September 18
View
The Dambergs pose with a bandanna.

The Dambergs pose with a bandanna.
Courtesy Kimberly Green

View
Gorgeous Seedskadee sunset.

Gorgeous Seedskadee sunset.
Courtesy Bob Ashley

September 18, 2002

We’re going to get soft, as that we are staying with a roof over our heads for two nights in a row! Carol Damberg, the head of Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge has allowed us the use of the refuge’s guesthouse. This was particularly nice as that it was a downpour outside at times. She and her husband Doug are a couple of the nicest people that we’ve met. Besides letting us use the house, they also baked some blondies for us, gave us some antelope sausage and moose steaks that we cooked for dinner, presented us with hats and pins, and gave an excellent program on the history and purpose of the National Wildlife Refuges system. Carol has also guided us into the refuge.
Today, as you can see, we are staying at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. Woke up kind of late today from the Energy Inn, we were in no rush, and moved the vehicles to the refuge headquarters. After that we went down to Lombard Ferry, where Mike Brown gave a walking talk on the Oregon Trail era ferry. We also went to a site where the Oregon Trail crossed a modern day highway. One can still see the ruts from the wagons snaking their way across the prairie. For a history buff like me, it was a neat experience. Over the same place where I stood, thousands of immigrants had crossed the plains, looking for religious freedom, money, or a new life. Incredible.
To top off the day, the sunset was an unbelievable light show, straight from the heavens. The rouge, pumpkin, and purple colors stretched from one end of the horizon to the other. With no mountains or trees to block the view, the colors went on forever.
The effect on the clouds should also be noted. Large cumulonimbus clouds were painted burnt orange, and silhouetted everyone. It became all the more amazing when a vivid rainbow appeared on the other side of the house. The stream of light went out of the Green River, and it appeared as though where the water hit the horizon, it passed through a prism and burst into color.
I should note here, before I forget, that this was also the first time that any public lands officer made not of Scouting. Carol mentioned that several Eagle Scout service projects were done on the refuge. This led to a long conversation in which we both ended up agreeing that some projects are so easy, or parents too involved, thus denigrating the prestige of finishing a project.
To me this is one of the great sins of Scouting. We place a large emphasis on Eagle, and sometimes this leads to the overemphasis of it as a physical award and not an attitude. To be an Eagle means more than completing the requirements, it means having a certain air about you. There is no way to measure this most important part of being an Eagle. There is no way to measure a candidate’s respect for the meaning behind the badge. The role in the world of an Eagle is difficult to comprehend at some of the younger ages. Can a 14-year-old appreciate what it means to be considered a leader? There is so much more to it than can be measured in however many terms as den leader, patrol leader, or SPL. Well there is my ramble on the matter. My only closing words are this, I urge each and every parent to not push their child to Eagle before his time. The badge is not just one more rank to get; it is a way of life. Allow your child to come to know this on his own, and he will come to better appreciate what he’ll accomplish. I did not launch my drive for Eagle until I was 17. My parents did not push me, but supported me. When I did go for the gold, though, I had a clearer knowledge of the responsibilities the rank would incur, and could appreciate the weight of what I drove for. So thank you Mom and Dad for letting me do it my way.
•
Team: North
Stephen Braunlich
Tuesday, September 17
Paddling and Fishing
View
Carol Damberg at the canoe launch.

Carol Damberg at the canoe launch.
Courtesy Kimberly Green

View
Fossil of a fish.

Fossil of a fish.
Courtesy Kimberly Green

View
The canoes at Weeping Rock.

The canoes at Weeping Rock.
Courtesy Kimberly Green.

Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2002

Moved to Energy Inn, Kemmerer, WY.
Woke up early today to go onto the Green River and paddle and fish. We set out from Weeping Rock CG and pulled out 14 miles late in Seedskadee National Wildlife Refugee. It was a fun paddle with no shortage of waterfowl. We saw white pelicans, ospreys, bald eagles, gulls, common merganser ducks, and Canadian geese. Took several photos of the wildlife, which also included coyotes, pronghorn antelope, and deer. The area was just teeming with life, and it was amazing to paddle.
The second purpose, fishing, was met with some difficulty. While we hoped to catch trout, we were only outfitted with 6 lbs. test, which could not hold onto many of the fish that well. Twice today my line snapped while I had a bite. However, the team was not skunked, as that I did manage to catch one 12” cutthroat trout.
We were paddling down stream and I had sent out another cast. I knew that I had a bite by the amount of play on the line. Knowing that if I just pulled it in without weakening it first, it could snap the line, I let it out some in order to let the fish get stressed and tired. Slowly I reeled the prey back in. By this time, Chris Pipkin, our BLM paddling guide, had pulled even in his and Mike’s canoe. The fish came in with the line, and I had held him near the canoe, just under the water. Chris identified it fairly quickly as a cutthroat trout, but then it swam off the hook and away, so I could not take a photo. THIS IS NOT A FISHING TALE, THOUGH! J My story can be verified by others.
After paddling we went to the Fossil Butte National Monument, where we were given a tour of the visitor center, a history of the area, and an explanation of the need for preserving the fossils. Apparently, Fossil Butte has more fish fossils per square acre than anywhere else in the country. However, the Park Service limits the amount of excavating done per year because it has a mandate to preserve the fossils. Consequently, many new discoveries are done outside of the monument, and could fall into a private collection.
Tonight we slept at the Energy Inn and went into dinner at the local Pizza Hut. It was great. I could take a long, hot shower, and then change into clean clothes. After that I stuffed myself with nice hot pizza loaded with toppings, and I could return to a room with a roof over it and a bed with springs. Best of all, I slept between fresh sheets, and covered up with a warm comforter. Bliss.
•
Team: North
Stephen Braunlich
Sunday, September 15
Weeping Rock
Biographical Info
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Team: North
Stephen Braunlich
Braunlich sports the latest look in bear collar technology

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List of All Journal Entries
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Thursday, September 12
Stephen Braunlich
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Wednesday, September 11
Stephen Braunlich
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Sunday, September 8
Stephen Braunlich
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Wednesday, September 4
Stephen Braunlich
Easy Day in Yellowstone
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Tuesday, September 3
Stephen Braunlich
First Day in Yellowstone
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Monday, September 2
Stephen Braunlich
Long Hard Hike
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Monday, August 26
Stephen Braunlich
More of the same...
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Sunday, August 25
Stephen Braunlich
Bit o' Heaven
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Saturday, August 24
Stephen Braunlich
Humbug Spires
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Friday, August 23
Stephen Braunlich
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Thursday, August 22
Stephen Braunlich
A Pockmark on Progress
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Tuesday, August 13
Stephen Braunlich
Many Thanks
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Tuesday, August 13
Stephen Braunlich
Bushwacking
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Monday, August 12
Stephen Braunlich
Welcome to Aspen Grove
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Sunday, August 11
Stephen Braunlich
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Saturday, August 10
Stephen Braunlich
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Friday, August 9
Stephen Braunlich
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Thursday, August 8
Stephen Braunlich
First Posting
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Thursday, August 1
Stephen Braunlich
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Wednesday, January 9
Stephen Braunlich
Targhee Creek Continued
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