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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: North
Bob Van Deven
Friday, September 20
A Little News
September 14th was our final day at the KOA in Teton Village, a little hamlet of nylon tents and aluminum trailers where we’d been living for nearly a week. It was also our final day with Kevin Burtnett, our National Geographic videographer, and later some of the team took him to the Million Dollar Cowboy bar in Jackson where they sat on stools made from old saddles and toasted all the excellent work he’d done for the project. Not only did Kevin film the team hiking and riding through hundreds of miles of rugged country, he also helped with dishes, setting up camp, running errands, and a dozen other chores he might just as easily have declined to do. The same should also be said for his coworker, Wayne, and all of us on the North Team agree that without them and National Geographic the mission of American Frontiers would remain unfinished and its story largely untold.

On the morning of the 15th we dragged ourselves from our dew-soaked tents and began the tedious but now familiar process of breaking camp. Fortunately three friends were there to lighten the load---Gen, the prodigal GIS genius, Liz, her brave and mathematically inclined friend, and Kimberly, our talented new photographer. We never expected to draw any groupies to the project but in these three women and all the other folks who have jumped on board we’ve been lucky. Within an hour or so everything was packed and five of our six vehicles rolled out of the KOA on their way to Scaler Cabin in the Wyoming Range. Steven, Gen, Liz, and I were left behind to finish packing the tech trailer and motorhome. Because the road to the cabin was long and unimproved we’d decided that the motorhome and trailer would go to Weeping Rock campground on the Green River to be joined by the rest of the team the next day.

Before driving down to the campground the four of us figured we’d have one last fling in the Tetons so we headed to Teton Pass just outside the town of Wilson. We left the motorhome in the parking lot of the Stagecoach bar---Live Music Fri & Sat---then piled into Gen’s Toyota pickup for the winding ascent to the pass. We found the high country brushed with a few patches of orange, wild aster and Queen Anne’s lace gone to seed and the south-facing slopes covered with short, golden grasses. A trail led up a ridge and when we reached the top we could see into Idaho. For anyone who’s curious, Idaho looks a lot like Wyoming, just farther away. Gen had hiked the trail before and she told us about a loop we could do, one which might require a little bushwacking.

We took another trail that descended to the west but went too far in that direction; by the time we decided to bushwack there were several hills and ravines in our way. We plunged down a slope and up a hill thick with spruce trees, deadfall, and brambles, then contoured around to the base of another slope. The trail lay just on the other side but it was a long, steep slog to the top. Steven and Gen went ahead but I had a chance to talk to Liz and the conversation kept me from thinking too much about the long, sweaty climb. When we finally reached the vehicles it was about 3:30 and ahead of us lay a three hour drive to Weeping Rock campground. We stopped off at the Stagecoach long enough for Stephen to buy some mozzarella sticks, then sped south as fast as our monstrous motorhome could go while towing a trailer.

Since that day much has happened but because I don’t have much time what follows is just a shotgun rendering of recent events:

Swimming with Stephen across the Green River to the spring on the other side, water streaming from between layers of mudstone and a carpet of moss on the bank; wrestling in the water; Gen and Liz watching; drying off with a sheet. The sunset that ignited 180 degrees of the horizon; making dehydrated lasagna in the RV; sleeping in. Pronghorns beside Route 372; the clutter of fishing tackle, canned goods, snacks, lawn chairs, and boxed ammunition at the Fontenelle store; the angel who seated us at the Ham’s Fork Café and the vision who served us the next day. Watching a Park Service paleontologist clean bits of stone from the bones of a 50 million year old fish at Fossil Butte National Monument; rain soaking the sage and rabbitbrush and dark, swollen clouds bulldozing their way across the sky; a night at the Energy Inn in Kemmerer, our first in a hotel since the trek began. Floating the river with Charlotte and spotting bald eagles, trumpeter swans, mergansers, golden eagles, and pelicans; the crumbling ranch house on the bank with its root cellar and log outhouse; two 1940’s era cars marooned near a brush corral; the kindness of Carol and her husband, Doug, who work at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge and who paddled the river with us; the sunset that stained the storm clouds purple and sent a shaft of rainbow into the sky above the refuge; the fog that rolled in the next morning and turned gold ahead of the sunrise; mule deer grazing in a field and the antlers of an enormous buck floating above the tall grass. Driving across mile after unbroken mile of sage-dotted earth under an enamel sky on a strip of highway so straight it must have been laid out with a 50 mile plumb line; dropping 850 feet into the cold, windy shaft of a trona mine and the almost overpowering smell of that alkaline mineral mixed with diesel exhaust; driving down a tunnel in the back of pickup retrofitted for mine tours and peering into one dark passage after another at huge, dinosaur-like machines gnawing on the walls. Hearing my voice on the radio; making dozens of phone calls to newspapers with the help of Ray, the Public Affairs Officer from the BLM; watching Michelle, Amanda, and Kimberly do yoga on the lawn at Tex’s travel camp; trying to do a handstand; three baby racoons watching us from a tree in Pioneer Trails Park….

There’s so much more I wish I could include but people have been waiting for me to post an entry so I’ll have to continue later. Stay tuned….

for Friday, September 20
North South Both




Biographical
•
Team: North
Bob Van Deven
Bob Van Deven

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List of All Journal Entries
•
Monday, January 6
Bob Van Deven
Sunny Weather
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•
Sunday, December 1
Bob Van Deven
   >> more...

•
Wednesday, October 9
Bob Van Deven
The End of the Journey
   >> more...

•
Friday, September 20
Bob Van Deven
A Little News
   >> more...

•
Monday, September 2
Bob Van Deven
Middle Ground
   >> more...

•
Wednesday, August 28
Bob Van Deven
Disasters and other fun
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 21
Bob Van Deven
People
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 17
Bob Van Deven
August 17 or Thereabouts
   >> more...

•
Saturday, August 10
Bob Van Deven
AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
   >> more...

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Thursday, August 1
Bob Van Deven
   >> more...








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