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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
Wednesday, September 11
Happy Days
It goes without saying that the events of a year ago significantly impacted our nation. In a year’s time we faced one of our greatest fears, and we prevail stronger and more aware of our freedoms than prior to September 11. We are Americans. We are proud. We are determined. We are free.

On the roof of our houseboat Bob Hammond led us in a moment of silence under a flag that once flew over the White House. Dr. Kay Gandy belted out a soulful rendition of “America The Beautiful.” We were all touched, some to tears.

But today is significant to me for a beautiful reason. Today, three years ago, I was married to the most amazing person I will ever know.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!

In 1879-80 a remarkable journey took place. About 250 Mormon men, women and children drove 83 wagons, 1,000 cattle and 200 horses from the settlements west of the Colorado River to Bluff, Utah, where it was their mission to establish a community. It was part of the Mormon settlement program of the time. At the time if you were called on such a mission, you went.
What makes the journey so remarkable is not the mission but the route they took to get to Bluff. To cross the Colorado River meant first descending from the plateau on the west through a steep chasm that dropped 900 feet to the river canyon. Called Hole-in-the-Rock, probably because Hole-in-the-Chasm didn't have the right ring to it, the Mormon settlers first had to smooth out the descent by filling debris around the boulders and over the steep drops. The wagons, not covered wagons but freight wagons, needed a platform on which to skid, not roll. The wagon wheels were tied so they wouldn't roll, but the mules and oxen teams hitched to the wagons determined the pace. At one point, Uncle Ben's Dugway, a road was blasted from the side of the sandstone.
At the Colorado River, a small platform boat was used to ferry across the settlers. From the river the journey continued through Cottonwood Canyon and up to the Grey Mesa to the east. From there it was by no means an easy journey to Bluff, but the story is not as harrowing as it is through Hole-in-the-Rock and across the canyon.

My story starts here where we are moored to a beach in Cottonwood Canyon. The settlers route may actually be under our boat because of Lake Powell, which I'm guessing was not even a wild dream at the time of the Mormon journey.
I was late in joining most of the team on a hike to explore the historic trail up Cottonwood Canyon. I had voiced plans to catch up with them up the canyon but when I began hiking their tracks veered south. I figured that they had changed plans to explore a sidecanyon, but I wasn't really sure. Perhaps they had decided to take a meandering route up the canyon.
Hiking up the canyon, at times climbing to the tops of sandstone spires to get a look up and back down the canyon for my teammates -- and maybe plan an ambush -- it finally dawned on me that I was going to be alone on this hike. What to do? My calf was still hurting from the incident on the lake. Should I go back to rest it?
I began to think of the people who used Cottonwood Canyon to get to their new lives in Bluff. What was this part of the journey really like for them? I could see the skyline to the east, some miles away, which may be the place the settlers could get a fresh view of the land ahead.
I thought about the settlers and how they were likely to be broken and hurting but onward they dutifully pushed. I then decided to follow the trail until I came to a place where the settlers were likely to have given their first sigh of relief, probably in weeks. I wouldn't turn back until I was satisfied that the wagons had come to a place that crested this canyon. That place would be somewhere on that skyline where the top of this canyon began to form its descent. That place would have clear views far to the east.
The trail was getting easier to follow. From the houseboat for the first couple of miles the trail was actually many trails meandering up the streambed. Near the concordia, a place where several canyons became one, Cottonwood Canyon, the trails became one and was marked with posts. A covered wagon was etched into each post.
The trail began to angle decisively southeast up along a sandy bank. Then, my heart skipped a beat. There was a rock wall built to support the trail, which at that point made its first appearance as a road. My mission to walk this historic route to its crest really kicked into gear then, and I pushed on. Over a sandy ridge I walked, toward lumps of successively ascending sandstone elbows.
At the base of the first elbow, my heart skipped again and began to pitter patter. Rock steps had been carved to the north side of the road, and down the middle of the steep, impossibly rugged passageway were deep furrows an inch wide. Several of these furrows were aligned parallel to one another. Were these the bottoms of wagons scratching furrows in the rock? How could so many bottoms hit the same spot?
It didn't occur to me until the second, maybe third, place on the road where I found these furrows that they were actually ropes or cables the settlers used to pull their wagons up the road. I believed I had finally figured it out. At another point of the road where the wagons had to squeezed through the narrowest passageway, it was possible to see where the wagon wheels had scratched the side of the rock.
Up I went, my enthusiasm soaring with historic significance. Up I went, until the rocky road hit sand. Here it is, that place where the settlers wheezed their first sighs of relief. Here, on this flat, sandy wide place where the brush and grasses delineate the top of Grey Mesa, the pioneers would stop and look back across the canyon. They could even see Hole-in-the-Rock. At this center of this spot is an old, but contemporary, fire ring. I think I see some tire tracks.
But this was not the end of my journey nor the settlers. The sandy, brushy slope continued another 400 feet to the actual skyline. The terrain did not suggest the possibility of a "false summit" and indeed there was none. To the east for probably 25 miles it is possible to forecast the rough details of a foot journey by sight alone. To the settlers, the details of a wagon journey may have also been apparent. The southeast was punctuated by high sandstone canyons and deep ravines. The east and northeast looked more promising. Flattish sandy brushy areas poked in and around the sandstone abutments on the mesa. I believe that the settlers' route must have crossed to the northeast.

This evening we are treated to a program by our friend Allen Malmquist. He is accompanied by his wife, Sharron. Both are employed by the National Park Service. Both were teachers, and tonight they will teach us about the Hole-in-the-Rock journey.
A monstrous storm sweeps into the canyon and dumps a tremendous amount of rain. The sandstone cliffs come alive with waterfalls. Torrents of water cascade into the cove.
But that's not all that gets rain. Allen and Sharron teach us the facts about the Hole-in-the-Rock journey, and the facts rain on my parade. The furroughs that I believed were caused by ropes or cables used by the settlers to haul up wagons were in fact cables used to winch up four-wheel-drive vehicles. A commercial business had created the furrows years prior to my history lesson.

So it goes.

Allen and Sharron inform us that the Hole-in-the-Rock settlers did arrive safely in Bluff. And became rich. They raised cattle in nearly a perfect location for the time. The railroad was moving west and making lots of important land and community connections. People needed to eat, and Bluff, Arizona, prospered by providing the west with cattle. Now the tiny town makes a good tourist stop because of its abundant mansions.

Tomorrow, the trek team will continue the history lesson. We will climb the Hole-in-the-Rock chasm to the top where we will drive much of the actual historic route. The chasm has never seen a motor vehicle through it but we won't be without irony: we will drive 57 miles of the historic route in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
for Wednesday, September 11
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
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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
   >> more...

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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
   >> more...

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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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