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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Bob Hammond
Saturday, September 7
An Update
I had intended to maintain this journal on a daily basis, however the workload of team management, logistics and mapping support have prevented me from doing so. Some days it is difficult to find 5 free minutes to reflect and write. Even though I have not had the luxury of time to sit down and enter information that has not kept me from thinking about the value of public lands and the impact that the lands and the people have on each other. Allow me to provide a few of these reflections and thoughts and hopefully it will help you understand my feelings and observations.

At Snow Lake in New Mexico, it was a super clear evening, the canopy of stars was magnificent and we were treated to a meteor shower. As I lay there enjoying the night sky, I wondered how many people living in urban areas had ever had the chance to see the sky as I was seeing it then. Had they had the chance to see the millions of stars in the Milky Way, or watch a shooting star, or see a satellite pass over head? The vastness of the sky makes me has to think about our relative importance in the grand scheme of things and I think that helps to keep us calibrated to the few things that are really important and are ours to impact. Without open areas, without public lands unfettered by development, we may lose these opportunities forever!

Sitting in the middle of the ranch land in northern Arizona, it was clear that even today we have a group of highly self sufficient people in this country that know how to live on the land, how to coordinate their lives with the natural order of the land and to gain great strength from that symbiotic relationship. There is no mini mart nearby, no video store, and no pizza delivery, nothing that we city dwellers take for granted. There is just a broad expanse of open land that looks very much as it did 150 years ago when the cowboys and pioneers settled this land. If it was not public lands, I fear that I would have seen a mini mart and a condo development and we would have lost a great connection to the history and traditions that helped make this country what it is today.

How can a trip to a zoo replace the opportunity and excitement of seeing wild animals in their natural habitat? Watching a coyote hunt, or a herd of elk casually walk past you, a bighorn sheep standing 15 feet away, or see how clever a Raven can be as he opens the zipper on your pack to pull out the snacks you have inside. How can you replace the thrill of waking up in the morning and rolling over to see a ring tailed cat standing on a rock not 3 feet away wondering what sort of weird creature you are? Public Lands allow these opportunities for all the Americans that chose to take advantage of them.

The Forest Service offers an opportunity they call "dispersed camping" and until this trip I did not appreciate the statement of freedom that is embodied in those two words. What this equates to is you can go essentially anywhere on that Forest and set up your camp and enjoy the experience. I was especially struck by this near Flagstaff AZ when we drove past many crowded RV camps with travel trailers and motor homes parked side by side and then we drove to a little spot call Pine Springs about 3 miles off the paved road and enjoyed a huge meadow and lovely forested site that only we were using. I understand that the remote and maybe wilder experience is not for everyone but it is so wonderful that the public lands permit those of us that seek a less "civilized" experience to enjoy it so easily. Of course there are some interesting differences between the RV park experience and the more remote sites. Instead of listening to your neighbors talk, or their TV, we were treated to an all night serenade of two young bulls bellowing at each other as they practiced the art of being the big guy on the block. Perhaps the lesson in this for us humans is the noise we make is not directly proportional to our impact on the world?

"Routinely spectacular" was a phrase that we made up as we rafted the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. I feel totally inadequate to explain the feelings you get or the beauty that surrounds you as you float through the canyon. Everywhere you turn it is just more exciting, more impressive and more beautiful then the last glance, hence the term, "routinely spectacular". I was impressed by the folks that made the river a part of their lives. Meeting and watching JP and Meg, our boatman and cook, has been one of the real highlights of this trip. They show such a reverence for and love of the river and their lives are directly tied to the river, having met there and eventually getting married and now working together to show others the joy of the river environment. If I could rewrite the dictionary, I would put their pictures next to both happiness and contentment. I learned so much from them and look forward to traveling the river with them again in the future so I can continue to learn from them and share in their joy of the river. Sara Hatch who runs Hatch River Expeditions is another great example of the close personal relationship that people have with the land and the rivers. She is so passionate about the river and wants to be sure her daughter has the opportunities to see and experience its wild beauty. You could think it was just the impact that a new Colorado River Management Plan that is being proposed might have on her business that made her so intense, but all you have to do is look in her eyes as she holds her 21 month old daughter to see it is really a love of the land, the river and a special lifestyle that drives her. As I ended my discussions with JP, Meg and Sara, the phrase "routinely spectacular" again seems appropriate. It is truly impossible to separate the land, the river, and the people from the lifestyle and attitudes they exhibit. If anyone thinks the frontier spirit of this country is gone just visit these folks and you will find all the drive, the independence and resourcefulness of the past coupled with the technology of today and a clear set of dreams for the future! This can also be said about Becky Campbell and her friend Sherry that were the outfitters for our horse pack across the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. Here are two ladies who could be totally comfortable in the 1880s doing what might be looked on as a man's job, yet when I first met and talked to Becky in the house her family built in the 1880s I saw a computer in the corner of the beautiful log home that had withstood the challenges of the last 100 years.

This trip has heightened my awareness to many issues about our public land and I have no intention of using this forum to voice my own opinions other than to say it is wonderful that we have public lands so we can have the discussion of the issues. If this great resource was not held by the people the decisions would be made by a very few individuals for their personal gain and not the good of the whole!

Vastness is a small word with huge impact here in the west. Yesterday we learned how the Mormons established Lees Ferry across the Colorado River to help with their settlement of Northern Arizona. Without the ferry there was no other crossing available for over 600 miles along the river. I appreciate that fact even more as I look at the drive we will do with the support vehicles just a day from now. The trek team will move a few miles up Lake Powell and we drive over 5 hours to meet them, and that is with the modern day road systems and 65 mile an hour speed limit. What a huge challenge and at the same time what a huge opportunity the vastness of this land and its resources must have offered the native Americans and the settlers of the 19th century. But more importantly, what incredible challenges and opportunities it offers us today.
for Saturday, September 7
North South Both




Biographical
•
Team: South
Bob Hammond
Bob puts in a late night working out the maps for Team South

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List of All Journal Entries
•
Sunday, September 15
Bob Hammond
THE DAY OFF or “VACATION?”
   >> more...

•
Saturday, September 7
Bob Hammond
An Update
   >> more...

•
Tuesday, August 20
Bob Hammond
The First 21 Days
   >> more...

•
Wednesday, July 31
Bob Hammond
   >> more...








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