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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
Friday, November 15
Public Land Flows Through It
I love to paddle canoes and kayaks. It really doesnít matter where I paddle, just that I am paddling. Oh, the thrill of whitewater is splendid and the serenity of a nice wilderness lake is soothing, but what really matters most to me is simply being on the water. Thanks to good training and the privileges I had as an editor of a national paddlesports magazine I can paddle nearly any type of canoe or kayak. And I am confident to paddle alone.

Today I decide to launch on the Animas River for a three-hour paddle in my trusty Dagger Crossover kayak. I know nothing about the stretch of river Iíve chosen other than it is relatively flat and, according to many reports, longer than it looks. This section of the Animas flows south from the San Juan Mountains through the Animas Valley, otherwise known as prime real estate in this neck of the woods. The Animas Valley is being developed into living spaces for the well-to-do. Few of the people of Durango can afford the houses in the Animas Valley, which in large part are second or retirement homes for people from far away places like Texas and California. Golf course communities are the development du jour here nowadays.

But, fortunately, public land runs through it. Rather, the Animas River.

The way I understand it, any navigable river or lake is public domain. I use to believe that the public domain on rivers extended to the high-water mark but I am no longer sure about that. If I understand it correctly, river users can walk a river bank as long as they keep their feet wet and lake users can use the shore up to the high-water mark. I do know that with rare exception the water is public, so stay afloat to avoid trouble. I also know that water and access rights have been a subject of controversy for years, resulting in wars between private land holders and recreationalists.

My put-in for my chosen stretch of river is on private land. But fortunately, too, Durango Construction was nice enough to set aside access and a parking lot for people who want to use the river. Iím new to the area so I do not know if the put-in was created through a war, and I care. I have no idea how I could have reached the river without going through this private property.

On the river Iím delighted to work my paddling muscles. I went paddling another time after returning from the American Frontiers journey, through the whitewater section that runs through Durango. The water was low, as it has been most of this year, but what a joy it was to be on it. Today as then Iím alone on the water. Durango is a town full of whitewater paddlers, but without ample water or a competition pending they donít spend much time on the river. Thatís okay by me.

Iím not alone, really, as I quickly see. Canada geese and ducks are abundant on the river. Red-tail hawks hunt the nearby fields and magpies do whatever they do. A kingfisher clings to a branch. The sun is low on the sky, blinding me on a turn where I spy a raft of waterfowl ahead. Paddling close, the birds explode from the water directly into the sunís brilliance. Squinting to identify the birds, all I can see are water droplets flying like shattered diamonds in the ascent path of the birds. A beaver slaps its tail near the bank, distracting me from the birds to the tell-tale rings of water where the startled beaver dove from view. I see no beaver but know itís nearby, balancing instinct with experience to keep the perfect distance from me, the man thing.

If I were one of natureís wild creatures I donít believe that Iíd choose to live here in this section of river. Cement rip rap and old automobiles are used to stabilize the bank from erosion. Private water-front landowners protect their interests in a lot of ways, and this way is selfish to nature but practical to the wallet. At one point I surmised that I had passed two dozen decrepit automobiles either holding up the bank or loose in the river. By the time I near the end of this paddling stretch, I give up counting somewhere around 50 cars. I also lose hope that I will paddle free of rip rap or cars. Just when I think I've left the unsightly messes behind, there they are again.

At the outskirts of Durango where I figure Iím a half hour or so from my planned takeout in town, I see something fuzzy near the bank. Thinking itís a dead animal, I paddle closer to satisfy my curiosity. Face down half in the water and half on the bank, I find a stuffed animal -- a koala bear, I think -- with a floppy hat on its head and a red bandana around its neck. Itís a fresh loss and a fresh buy; the hang tag is still fastened to its back. I pick it up and place it on my kayak in front of the cockpit, thinking that the baby growing in my wifeís belly will someday enjoy this furry prize. Even though the Animas River is not as wild and pristine as it was before man and privatization hit our world, it still flows free. I tell myself that the best of the river has flowed through the koala, filling it with good energy. Thatís worth holding onto.
for Friday, November 15
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
   >> more...

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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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