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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
Monday, October 28
Some Things Never Change
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Moqui balls at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Moqui balls at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Courtesy Jan Nesset

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Christina Nesset hikes the Grand Staircase-Escalante in the footsteps of the American Frontiers trekkers.

Christina Nesset hikes the Grand Staircase-Escalante in the footsteps of the American Frontiers trekkers.
Courtesy Jan Nesset

Revisiting an area comes with new discoveries. In September, on our first attempt at hiking a 10-mile loop in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we were successful but our day did come with a variety of humorous challenges, as in navigational challenges.

Although both of our BLM guides had hiked the loop -- from near Calf Creek Campground to Deer Creek Trailhead -- prior to our September hike, they apparently had not paid attention. They themselves were guided on their hikes that resulted, in effect, in a “follow the leader” loss of navigational details. It happens.

During our September hike our guides had us back track and needlessly extend our hike. Although our team pleasantly offered to help with navigation, our offers were swept aside. Our team knew we were backtracking and that our guides were making much ado about nothing, yet we courteously walked the extra distances anyway. We were having fun just being in this spectacular place of white and pink slick rock and deeply cut canyons.

Today, back to show the Grand Staircase-Escalante to my wife via this same hike, I was so confident was that I knew the route that I did not bother to take a compass or map. I had paid attention, memorizing both the details of the terrain as well as the topo map that I had used during the prior hike.

Taking the right path made the hike go quickly, so in no time my wife and I were sitting at the edge of Boulder Creek putting on our sandals for the few hundred feet walk down the creek to the confluence of Deer Creek. There we turned up Deer Creek where we would walk in the stream up to a point where we could safely climb the slickrock out of the canyon, and resume our hike.
But this time, rather than a summer-time flow to cool our feet, frigid water flowed from the nearby snow-covered mountains. The water was freezing. It was so cold that in seconds our feet began hurting.

My wife clambered for every sliver of bank available just to give her feet some relief from the cold. Fortunately the few hundreds of feet that were necessary to travel in the streams went by quickly and we were soon out of the canyon looking ahead to the large half of our hike.

Ahead was a lot more slick rock and a stunningly beautiful culdesac where scattered ponderosa pine trees guarded small pools of water. It is one of my favorite places on this hike, and I was glad to be back. Here I hesitated to allow the cold fall wind bathe my face, to breathe in the sweet air and soak in the magical sense of “place” that these spots bring to me. In times of need, if I could transport myself to a select few places in the world to find solace and peace, this would be one of them.

I shared that sentiment with my wife, something that I did not share with my American Frontiers teammates. There’s another place in the Grand Staircase-Escalante that emotes the same feeling from me. I also kept that a secret from my teammates and, unfortunately, could not share it with my wife. I would have but couldn't because my betrothed and I were not able to find the time to visit that special place. We will, though, some day.

That’s the thing. Traveling the land with the American Frontiers people shed a lot of light on the historical and educational aspects of our public lands, but traveling the land with family takes on the kind of meaning that makes the land special like a mother's embrace. Memories and not lessons are higher on the list of importance when family shares the magic of the land experience. I’ll always have fond memories of the American Frontiers experience and of my trek brothers and sisters who shared with me delicious slices of the cake of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But sharing the land with family that I live with day in, day out is icing on the cake. The smile on my wife’s face makes it all that much sweeter.

There’s a spot on the hike that has created what I think is a geologic phenomenon. Let loose from millions of years in sandstone are thousands of Moqui balls. The Moqui balls are nearly perfectly round balls of some kind of mineral, probably iron. Millions of years ago they somehow landed in the sand and became imprisoned there when the sand got compressed into sandstone. Now, as the sandstone turns back to sand by wind and rain erosion, the balls are let loose to roam. At this one spot, where the thousands of them are loose, they arrange themselves according to the rules of gravity and geology, meaning that they line up perfectly in furrows and cuts in the sandstone. Simply amazing are the orderly arrangements of the Moqui balls.

On the previous hike our guides informed us that some people make a business of collecting and selling Moqui balls. What a shame! Fortunately, these Moqui balls are miles from the nearest road, which means it’ll take a lot of trips to haul out the thousands of Moqui balls collected in this “I’ll never tell” spot.

Near the end of our hike I found a spear head constructed from churt. There are thousands of churt fragments there so it is not surprising to find something with a little bit more shape. It’s difficult to put back these remarkable artifacts but that’s what we must do in order to save some of the best of our American heritage for the people who follow our footsteps. Right or wrong, I like to put a little covering over the artifacts when I put them back so they’re not so obvious. They’ll poke back out in time.

Ending the hike was a bittersweet time for me. Our camp was smartly placed at the Deer Creek Campground, so my wife had a resting spot ready for her to use. I, on the other hand, had a new leg of the journey to complete. Traveling without a support team like that of the American Frontiers journey means that the only shuttle option is a do-it-yourself option. Chris and I had thought ahead and took with us my road bike. Ahead, at the end of 17 miles of pavement, mostly up but with some nice downs, was our car.

I arrived tired after the hike but by the time I reached the car I was exhausted. I did have fun, though, riding again on the Hogsback section of the road. The chilly air blasted me hard as I finally hit a point where I could descend the road to where the car was parked. I made the most of it, forgetting the cold and cranking hard to get a nice speed thrill before I hit the brakes at the car. I remember getting that same speed thrill when I used a mountain bike to shuttle me back from a hike down to Upper Falls.

A speed thrill is a speed thrill. Some things never change.
for Monday, October 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
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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
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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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