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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
Saturday, September 28
A New Beginning: National Public Lands Day
It’s National Public Lands Day, a great event to celebrate, but those of us on the American Frontiers teams feel it more as the last day we’ll be together. It’s a strong feeling, merging our glee and happiness with a heaviness. We’ve made some lasting friendships through a very real, intense experience. We hope in a big way that we’ve done some very real good. Today we ride that hope on a high horse of pride despite how unclear we are regarding our national impact.

There are good signs, however, that we have reached a wide audience. Event Director Ken Chapman says that four million people hit the American Frontiers website to watch the journey (www.americanfrontiers.net). We are told that four news stories of the journey aired on the National Geographic channel. We got solid proof of that when we spoke with a public lands user who had seen one of the programs. In addition to what we already know because of our participation in local and national television and radio broadcasts we are told that other stations had spread our news. Countless articles in newspapers, magazines, websites and ezines are out there, somewhere, we are told.

Is the country more aware of – or interested in – public lands because of what we have done? Today is expected to help.

This Is The Place State Park on the east side of a windy Salt Lake City is our stage to celebrate National Public Lands Day, a date that many of us have marked as the end of our long public lands’ Journey or, to the mind’s eye, enlightenment. Our enlightenment grew brighter with every step of the Journey, to what extent each of us would become enlightened is too personal for one person, me, to know.

But by today many important things about each of us had been revealed for the world to see and share. From my perspective of the southern team:

Trekker Cathy Kiffe’s interest in public lands had grown to undeniable love and passion.

First teacher alternate Dr. Kay Gandy was on a path to discover ways to spin her life around new goals and dreams that are impossible to approach through a curriculum.

Trekker Richard Tyrrell, from an American Frontiers’ perspective, had morphed from a quiet observer to public lands’ voice.

Trekker Julie Nichols Overbaugh had lost all control of the word “gorgeous” when she is caught in the rhythm of the land.

Second alternate Jake McLeod’s unrelenting bewilderment of public lands had infected the playful side of us all.

First alternate Jessica Tyrrell’s tender touch on all things wild and natural had won our hearts.

Team leader Bob Hammond’s quiet side had turned the corner to announce to the galaxy that his every side viewed our public lands as “routinely spectacular.”

Cook turned techie Lorie McGraw’s physical ability to enjoy public lands hit full gusto when she learned how to finesse the throttle of an All-Terrain Vehicle. Furthermore, as website techie, Lorie’s eloquent public lands’ message got its global voice through postings of her remarkable American Frontiers’ images.

Food and beverage guru – our cook – Sam Altman is soundly blessed with inclination to forever see shapes in the clouds, never allowing a glimpse of public lands zoom by, either figuratively or literally.

Ron Monnig, a maniacal wizard on a fast-moving motorcycle, is in love with how he can through a machine meld his body with the land.

Doc Vipul Lakhani and his rhinoceros are an important part of our public lands accomplishment despite their midway (albeit necessary) departure.

We have crossed the entire country entirely on public lands and each of us had learned and shared good things along the way, and that’s something to celebrate.

The true honor of the day was being able to share the accomplishment with the people who helped it happen. Our silent partners, Yin and Yang, undoubtedly held us together in a way, but in heart were countless people across the country who lent support as a sponsor, land agency employee, guide, outfitter, family or friend. I owe my biggest gratitude to my family, especially my wife, Chris, whose support I needed most to join the American Frontiers effort, and to my mother and biggest fan, Donna Nesset, who drove from Glendive, Montana, to Salt Lake City to watch the sun shine on her son’s face. From heaven, my father, John, showed up as a glint in my eye. Of all the heroes they are my biggest.

There were many parts to today’s celebration, such as an official tree planting and a “Gold Medal Walk”, but for the official-official part of the program I was elected to speak for the southern team, an honor I used to thank all the heroes of the American Frontiers’ effort. North Team Support Bob Van Deven was elected by the northern team to speak for it. On the stage were a handful of heroes that America knows or were getting to know: Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton, Public Lands Interpretive Association's (PLIA) Executive Director Lisa Madsen, Utah’s Governor Mike Leavitt and Representatives Jim Hansen and Chris Cannon, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation John W. Keyes, Deputy Chief Forester of the Forest Service Tom Thompson and Derrick Crandall of the American Recreation Coalition.

Sitting in the audience, somebody whom we had all grown to appreciate for his support and presence on various legs of the Journey, was Rodger Schmitt, the Director of Recreation for the Bureau of Land Management. A true American Frontiers’ hero.

Standing with his arms crossed, watching, was PLIA's Stephen Maurer, the man whose dream we trekkers got to live. The idea to cross the country entirely on public lands materialized in his mind and then, through us, on the land. He must have been wrought with emotion as he watched dozens of people get recognized for their parts in living his dream. Hero.

The teams re-enacted our rejoining of yesterday but rather than hugs and halloos we filed past one another giving high-fives. Olympic Games-sized and -looking gold medals were hung from our necks. A great many supporters were recognized. Then it was time for the speakers to bring a personal voice to the proceedings.

Hoping not to bumble my speech I tried to pattern in my mind a coherent order to my speaking points. In doing so, I became too nervous to listen well to the first speakers, one of which was Secretary Norton. I did hear her express the need for public lands and the importance of each of us to play a part in protecting and making decisions for them. She quoted from Cathy Kiffe’s on-line journal. Nice touch! A tear welled in Cathy’s eye. Others spoke of great public lands things, very eloquently mostly. When it was time for my five minutes I was not altogether sure if I had my points collected but when it’s time to go there’s not a lot to do other than go for it. I leapt onto the stage and opened my mouth, trying to keep my eyes up and moving around the crowd. Although I am not positive that I hit all my points, by the time my mouth stopped moving I was hearing robust applause.

What I had hoped to say in brief points was basic but representative of what the Journey meant to me and – hopefully! – of that collected in the conscience of the southern team.

After thanking our heroes, my speech headed for the gut of my thoughts of our 60-day adventure. Just like most people presented with a high honor such as speaking at a national event, my hope beyond hope was in five minutes for something to spring eternal from my mouth.

In training the week before the Journey was to begin, we were asked to listen to the land speak to us so in turn we could speak for it. I listened hard but it wasn’t until my epiphany a few days before the Journey’s end that I was able to understand how the land spoke to me.

Every leg of the Journey did speak to me, but on most accounts it didn’t really say anything that I understood as a message or sign. Listening to the land for me was not as simple as placing a seashell to my ear or watching for a sign fall through the sky. What I did hear was a beckoning, an urging to explore. What’s around that corner? Is there something lurking in that cave or under that rock? That summit, so beautiful, what’s the view like up there?

Those urgings, that beckoning, have had a life-long pull on me so it was gratifying to be able to share my take on it with so many people.

I posed a question: what have we really accomplished? Sure, we crossed the country entirely on public lands, but what did we really do? The one thing that I was sure of is that we had made discoveries. No one in 60 days had put into my mind a better way to think about the breadth of what we had discovered than Charmaine Thompson of the Uinta National Forest. While explaining the historic happenings around Strawberry Reservoir during our visit less than a week prior to our arrival here, she said that “No matter where you go something extraordinary has happened.” She was meaning it historically but I thought it could apply more broadly. No matter where we went on our journey, something extraordinary did happen – historic, geologic, cataclysmic, magic, etc.

My reason behind speaking of this was to point out the discoveries that we can all make in our own ways on the journeys of our choosing. Where? Well, primarily on public lands, of course. There are 650 million acres of public lands to make the discoveries – a third of the country.

In the audience was my wife and mother, and my friend Dan Connors, a current Salt Lake City resident who also grew up in eastern Montana. It meant a lot to me to have them present to listen to me speak, each of them hoping for the best but ready to support me if my lips failed. I don’t think they did.

But did a word or thought spring eternal from my mouth? I'm not so confident (or arrogant) to think so, but, really, who can know for sure?

Later that evening at the farewell gala at the Snowbird Ski Resort owned by renowned mountaineer Dick Bass, the American Frontiers’ teams, families, friends and support people gathered for a final dinner.

Both teams got their chance to entertain the mass with songs, stories and slide shows. Jake MacLeod, Lorie McGraw, Dr. Kay Gandy and Michelle Williams stole the show with their beautiful singing. Kay’s “American Frontiers Blues”, a song she wrote while on the Journey, hit the southern team in the heart. It was probably the last time we’d hear her sing it.

Bob Van Deven and Bob Ashley gave jaw-dropping slide shows of the northern route that not only mesmerized the crowd but got everybody laughing. Those two guys are funny.

Rob Carlo also put the crowd in stitches with his story about Dana Bell and the nail gun “reloads”. During training week Rob passed off clips of the nails to unsuspecting Dana as necessary backpacking gear. She carried them with her the entire Journey, not knowing of the prank until the end.

For my part of the show, I had a delightful time presenting Cathy Kiffe and Dr. Kay Gandy with honorary “Off The Porch” degrees. They earned them. Both these southern belles had spent most of their lives in the throes of the southern life in Louisiana, which apparently does not lend itself to an outdoor lifestyle or much adventure outside the social realm. In fact, and this became public knowledge at this event, Cathy and Kay enjoyed their first outdoor pees while enlisted in the American Frontiers effort which is a good indicator of how much time they’ve spent in the outdoors.

But that changed, dramatically, on the Journey. By Journey’s end Cathy was leaping into streams and catching salmon with her bare hands. Kay was riding ATVs like a champ, proving herself on steep and long ascents that required technical maneuvers midway up. They were, as we all had become accustomed to saying, “off the porch”.

So on two of my bandanas I designed a degree that was personalized to each recipient but shared a common sentiment:
“Be it known to all those present that
[NAME]
Has demonstrated the skills
necessary to be certified
OFF THE PORCH
And is hereby granted all privileges
And freedoms that she has always had
But did not fully realize.”

Team leader Bob Hammond and I had signed each of them. In accepting them it was apparent through the hugs and tears that the degrees were appreciated. I have no doubt that they’ll do their best to stay “off the porch”.

The evening drew to an end. As we all said so long, see you later, keep in touch, and thank you, it occurred to me that the American Frontiers Journey would never really end for any of us. It’ll be a part of us forever, imbedded in our souls as one of those once-in-a-lifetime grand adventures. It’s there as a permanent marker to one of the truly good things that we were able to contribute in our lifetimes. If we are truly fortunate people and not just momentarily lucky we’ll each be able to contribute to the American Frontiers legacy, somewhere, somehow.

For me, I have something special to share with all the American Frontiers fans who read our online journals. Making it this far in this lengthy journal entry is just one indication that you are one of the people who not only share the spirit of American Frontiers effort but appreciate the freedoms and beauty bestowed upon the American people through our public lands.

Today, on National Public Lands Day, a new life began to grow in my wife’s belly.

The Journey continues....
for Saturday, September 28
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
   >> more...

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Sunday, December 1
Jan Nesset
Canyonlands in December
   >> more...

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Thursday, November 21
Jan Nesset
Snow Raspberry Bounty
   >> more...

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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
   >> more...

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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
   >> more...

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Monday, October 7
Jan Nesset
The Thing About Summits
   >> more...

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Saturday, September 28
Jan Nesset
A New Beginning: National Public Lands Day
   >> more...

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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
   >> 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!"
   >> more...

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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
   >> more...








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