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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
Wednesday, July 31
An Excellent Start
With one foot in Mexico and the other in good ol' U.S.A., this morning the southern trek team took its first steps toward its goal of traveling across the country exclusively on public lands.
Our northern counterparts were stepping southward approximately the same time, but rather than the Chihuahuan Desert to ooh and aah their voices were celebrating Glacier Park.

For the next 60 days we will walk in the dreams of untold numbers of people as we do our best to let the land speak to us so that we may speak for it. This is our mission as described by those who organized this event: American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey. And we've all taken it to heart.

Today's segment of this historic event included two short hikes to bookend a 70-mile four-wheel excursion through the West Potrillo Mountain Wilderness Study Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Our guide is Mark Hakkila, a BLM wilderness specialist.

Mild mannered and well-spoken, Mark speaks passionately about this wilderness, a land which he obviously loves, which is 50 miles from 2 million people, mostly centered in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. We learn that this 160,000-acre wilderness is thought of more of a wasteland than a treasure, which is truly too bad.

Mark tells us that solitude and primitive recreation are this land's gifts, which is easy to understand. I'll add beauty.
Rugged, rocky as in laced by ancient lava flows, the land here is not easy to travel. We break parts off the undercarriage of one vehicle. Another develops a grinding squeal. Our first day the route is taking a heavy toll. We wonder if we'll make it another mile, often. But we do.

We climb to nearly 6,000 feet elevation before we crest a pass and make a slow descent to the north. We see shield and cone volcanoes in the distance and Mark points to a feature called a Maars. Maars, Mark says, can be interpreted as zits on the Earth's surface. Actually giant gas bubbles burst from the Earth's surface, one of the Maars is 300 feet deep and a mile across. Other geologic features within sight are Mt. Riley and Mt. Cox. To the northeast rises the Organ Mountains. The Uvas, East Potrillo, Franklin, all mountain ranges, stand blue and broad in the vistas.

Pancho Villa passed this way but today my interest is in the area's current residents. Walking from the Mexico border, we made little progress in our first hour of the Journey as our team lingered here and there over tarantuala wasps, velvet mites, a centipede, and a glossy snake. Traveling the bumpy roads jackrabbits and raptors added a wild flavor. Ubiquitous cattle herds did the opposite. This is a multiple-use area. Mark captured a fat horned lizard for a close look. Meanwhile, one of our team members made history with her first outdoor pee. I guessed that my count was somewhere in the millions, and we both laughed. It was a glorious day!

North of our high point in the West Potrillo Mountains, we descended northward. The gently sloping mountains descend to wide, flat and open spaces where we finally saw our spedometer could indeed register something more than three miles per hour. We were in no real hurry but dinner was in mind.

It's impossible to travel any distance here without taking special note of the vegetation. Barrel cactus, ocotillo, creosote, yucca, walking stick cholla, mesquite, these sprinkled with grass tufts paint the landscape in verdant cremes and hues of rich green.

Occasionally a forest of ocotillo steals the show and around the bend the scene-stealer is yucca. The yucca are past blooming stage but the flower stalks telescope to 15 feet, some higher, supported by shaggy slender bases. I'm inclined to describe them as resembling tall and slender pineapples.

The ocotillo, when blooming red, and the yucca, white, are among my favorite desert blooms. Perhaps I'll be fortunate to visit the Chihuahua Desert when these blossoms are a show. For now I'll take the days and what they bring to us as they come, each moment a prize.

This has been a good day to begin the Journey. I'm sure we all agree.
for Wednesday, July 31
North South Both




Biographical
•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
An experienced outdoorsman, Jan Nesset knows that everyone has to pitch in at camp
A native of Montana and the third of four children, Jan Nesset joins American...
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List of All Journal Entries
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Wednesday, April 28
Jan Nesset
American Frontiers: Part II: Taking Stock
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Sunday, December 1
Jan Nesset
Canyonlands in December
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Thursday, November 21
Jan Nesset
Snow Raspberry Bounty
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Sunday, November 17
Jan Nesset
The Bisti Badlands
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Friday, November 15
Jan Nesset
Public Land Flows Through It
   >> more...

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Thursday, November 7
Jan Nesset
A Day At Earth Analytic's Home
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Tuesday, October 29
Jan Nesset
Slot Canyon Adventure
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Monday, October 28
Jan Nesset
Some Things Never Change
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Sunday, October 27
Jan Nesset
Back To The Wave
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Monday, October 7
Jan Nesset
The Thing About Summits
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Saturday, September 28
Jan Nesset
A New Beginning: National Public Lands Day
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Thursday, September 26
Jan Nesset
Big Day of Sneak and Salvage
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Wednesday, September 25
Jan Nesset
History-Coated Strawberry
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Tuesday, September 24
Jan Nesset
The Last Of It
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Monday, September 23
Jan Nesset
Dinosaurlandia
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Sunday, September 22
Jan Nesset
Over The Edge
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Saturday, September 21
Jan Nesset
God Bless America
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Friday, September 20
Jan Nesset
Sometimes It's A Tough Life And We Get To Do It
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Thursday, September 19
Jan Nesset
The Niche Near You
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Wednesday, September 18
Jan Nesset
Snow Day
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Tuesday, September 17
Jan Nesset
A Capitol Reef Bull's Eye
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Monday, September 16
Jan Nesset
A Lucky Rift
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Sunday, September 15
Jan Nesset
Riding The Hog's Back
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Saturday, September 14
Jan Nesset
Oh Rhythm My Rhythm
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Friday, September 13
Jan Nesset
Precious Images
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Thursday, September 12
Jan Nesset
From the Hole to the Staircase
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Wednesday, September 11
Jan Nesset
Happy Days
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Tuesday, September 10
Jan Nesset
Do You Believe In Magic?
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Monday, September 9
Jan Nesset
The Bridge Over the River Why
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Sunday, September 8
Jan Nesset
Public Lands And…Not You?
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Saturday, September 7
Jan Nesset
That Place So Special
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Friday, September 6
Jan Nesset
Just Looking To Have Some Fun – Be Dammed!
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Thursday, September 5
Jan Nesset
Do The Wave
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Wednesday, September 4
Jan Nesset
The Condors Are Coming!
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Tuesday, September 3
Jan Nesset
Fires Are For The Birds
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Monday, September 2
Jan Nesset
Back On Top
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Sunday, September 1
Jan Nesset
Perfection
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Saturday, August 31
Jan Nesset
The Wheels Have Left The Tarmac
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Friday, August 30
Jan Nesset
Star Light
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Thursday, August 29
Jan Nesset
The Traditional Connection
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Wednesday, August 28
Jan Nesset
Onward and Upward On Mountain Bikes
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Tuesday, August 27
Jan Nesset
Checkerboard Kings and Queens
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Monday, August 26
Jan Nesset
Aldo Leopold As Ranch Manager
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Sunday, August 25
Jan Nesset
A Story In Everything
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Saturday, August 24
Jan Nesset
Fire In The Whole
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Friday, August 23
Jan Nesset
"Good Morning, Flagstaff!"
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Thursday, August 22
Jan Nesset
Hoping For The Best
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Wednesday, August 21
Jan Nesset
Could Get Stinky
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Tuesday, August 20
Jan Nesset
Wheels Asunder
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Monday, August 19
Jan Nesset
Hurt Me, Thank You!
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Sunday, August 18
Jan Nesset
Roads Aplenty and Rocks of Pleasure
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Saturday, August 17
Jan Nesset
Of Dragons and Fire
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Friday, August 16
Jan Nesset
Motorcycles and the Zen of Route Mechanics
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Thursday, August 15
Jan Nesset
Puzzled
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Wednesday, August 14
Jan Nesset
A Day Off, Sort Of
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Tuesday, August 13
Jan Nesset
A Delightful, Light Day
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Monday, August 12
Jan Nesset
Courage On Eagle Mountain
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Sunday, August 11
Jan Nesset
Farewell
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Saturday, August 10
Jan Nesset
My Aching Back In The Saddle
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Friday, August 9
Jan Nesset
Back In The Saddle
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Thursday, August 8
Jan Nesset
In The Saddle
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Wednesday, August 7
Jan Nesset
Shut My Mouth!
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Tuesday, August 6
Jan Nesset
Diversity and Song
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Monday, August 5
Jan Nesset
An Unraveling
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Sunday, August 4
Jan Nesset
A Bagged Peak
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Saturday, August 3
Jan Nesset
Lines On A Map
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Friday, August 2
Jan Nesset
GPS-Marriage Made In Heaven
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Thursday, August 1
Jan Nesset
Free Wheelin'
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Wednesday, July 31
Jan Nesset
An Excellent Start
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