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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
Thursday, November 21
Snow Raspberry Bounty

Trekker Nesset lays tracks under the watchful eye of Sultan Peak
Trekker Nesset lays tracks under the watchful eye of Sultan Peak
Courtesy Jan Nesset

Skiing is one of my favorite ways to experience the outdoors, although I admit that none of the ski sports come to me naturally. Off groomed slopes I have a lack of reliable talent, which means I am prone to setting myself up for trouble. Today, in too-big boots on long and narrow cross-country skis, I head into it.

My day of pure trouble is set in some of the most beautiful scenery in the land, in the San Juan Mountains in the Molass Lake Winter Recreation Area, which is at 10,000 feet elevation nearly 40 miles north of home. I have a contract job where I work 30 hours a week, so for one day during a work week Iím off, free to seek out adventure. Checking out the mountain snow on cross-country skis seemed like a logical thing to do on such a fine, clear day.

The Molass Lake Winter Recreation Area is managed by the Forest Service but it is in view of some of the most beautiful Bureau of Land Management turf in the United States. Spreading wide and far to the northeast, reaching above 12,000 feet elevation, are some of the San Juan Mountain Rangeís finest peaks, and an excellent backdrop to where I am today. Watching my every move from up the slope just to the north is Sultan Peak. Everything around me is covered in snow, although not the thick blanket of which, according to the weather report, may be soon in coming.

Iíve chosen a ski plan based on the suggestion of a friend. He said that skiing to Little Molass Lake is a nice trip. Heís a skate skier and a two-time world champion slalom kayaker, so he has an intense side. Iíve never spent any time with him in the outdoors but heís a great guy with good intentions so I take his suggestion to heart and strap on my skis.

The trail is groomed for multiple use, mostly for snowmobiles. But today I have it to myself. It doesnít take long for me to recognize the character of the trail. It begins by winding steeply up into a forest and then steeply down. It winds steeply up again, and then steeply down. Each up and down takes me a bit higher in elevation until Iím out of the trees and able to see whatís ahead. More steep up and down.

I donít much mind the steep up but Iím terrified of the down on cross-country skis. I waver in and out of control by man-handling the snowplow technique. Slam Ė that hurt! What makes matters worse is that at the bottom of most of the steep descents the trail veers abruptly up-slope, causing me to consistently miss my turns. Slam Ė that hurt! Up and over the steep ridges I go, one over another, until I get to a point where I can feel a cloud of doom bearing down on me. Slam Ė that hurt! To go back means more pain, which I feel as unavoidable each time I climb a steep section of the trail. Going up means that Iíll be going down on the return trip. Slam Ė that hurt! To make matters even worse itís T-shirt weather, and Iím wearing a T-shirt. Each time I slam the ground I inevitably slide, grinding a red raspberry into my arm. Slam Ė damn it!

Itís pretty terrain, though. But where is Little Molass Lake? Slam Ė aaaaargh!

Itís rare for me to turn around before reaching my intended destination but, nonplussed more and more by the minute, thatís what I decided to do. I had reached a point so far from the trailhead that going any farther I considered just plain stupid. In fact, I had decided to forego wasting my body any further by skiing south down the broad back of one of the ridges and then cutting northeast across a meadow to where I could cut the trail again, closer to the car.

Getting off the trail put me on a descent in deep virgin snow. Splat Ė oooh, cold! My falls no longer hurt Ö but the cold! I had to struggle to my feet immediately or freeze. You know how it is, when you fall in deep snow you like to take a minute or so to catch your breath, gather your thoughts, and grieve the loss of another dollup of pride. It doesnít work that way, though, when youíre wearing a T-shirt. Yes, it did occur to me to put on a parka or pile jacket but in sight was the meadow and flatter, easier skiing. I could make it. Splat Ė oooooh, cold!

Back in the trees, across the meadow and cresting the top of a rise, below I saw a huge flat area void of trees. What the...!? Itís a lake! Yes, Little Molass Lake was hidden from view by the snow as I passed it in the trees not 200 feet away during my painful epic ascent of the ridges. The user trails to it were obscured and not part of the ski trail system. Easy mistake.

Back at the car, joints aching and my raspberries on fire, I noticed that a highway sign had been pushed over into a snowbank. The toppled sign said ďLittle Molass LakeĒ with an arrow, now pointing down at the ground. Beneath that was a stop sign sharing the same post. All together I thought it showed a good metaphor for the best of my progress today.

Thatís just how it goes some days. Long ago I learned that thereíll be days that kick my butt. Whatís strange is that no matter how terrible or difficult the events of the day, by dayís end Iím often overcome by a feeling of satisfaction. Even exhilaration.

Another day enjoying public lands.

What a great day!
for Thursday, November 21
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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Wednesday, April 28
Jan Nesset
American Frontiers: Part II: Taking Stock
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Sunday, December 1
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Canyonlands in December
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Thursday, November 21
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Snow Raspberry Bounty
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Sunday, November 17
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The Bisti Badlands
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Friday, November 15
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Public Land Flows Through It
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Thursday, November 7
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A Day At Earth Analytic's Home
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Tuesday, October 29
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Slot Canyon Adventure
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Monday, October 28
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Some Things Never Change
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Sunday, October 27
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Monday, October 7
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The Thing About Summits
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Saturday, September 28
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A New Beginning: National Public Lands Day
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Thursday, September 26
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Big Day of Sneak and Salvage
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Wednesday, September 25
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History-Coated Strawberry
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Tuesday, September 24
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The Last Of It
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Monday, September 23
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Dinosaurlandia
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Sunday, September 22
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Over The Edge
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Saturday, September 21
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God Bless America
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Friday, September 20
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Sometimes It's A Tough Life And We Get To Do It
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Thursday, September 19
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The Niche Near You
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Wednesday, September 18
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Snow Day
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Tuesday, September 17
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A Capitol Reef Bull's Eye
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Monday, September 16
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A Lucky Rift
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Sunday, September 15
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Riding The Hog's Back
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Saturday, September 14
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Oh Rhythm My Rhythm
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Friday, September 13
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Precious Images
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Thursday, September 12
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From the Hole to the Staircase
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Wednesday, September 11
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Happy Days
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Tuesday, September 10
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Do You Believe In Magic?
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Monday, September 9
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The Bridge Over the River Why
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Sunday, September 8
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Public Lands And…Not You?
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Saturday, September 7
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That Place So Special
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Friday, September 6
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Just Looking To Have Some Fun – Be Dammed!
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Thursday, September 5
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Do The Wave
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Wednesday, September 4
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The Condors Are Coming!
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Tuesday, September 3
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Fires Are For The Birds
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Monday, September 2
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Back On Top
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Sunday, September 1
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Perfection
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Saturday, August 31
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The Wheels Have Left The Tarmac
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Friday, August 30
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Star Light
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Thursday, August 29
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The Traditional Connection
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Wednesday, August 28
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Onward and Upward On Mountain Bikes
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Tuesday, August 27
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Checkerboard Kings and Queens
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Monday, August 26
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Aldo Leopold As Ranch Manager
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Sunday, August 25
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A Story In Everything
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Saturday, August 24
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Fire In The Whole
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Friday, August 23
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"Good Morning, Flagstaff!"
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Thursday, August 22
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Hoping For The Best
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Wednesday, August 21
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Could Get Stinky
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Tuesday, August 20
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Wheels Asunder
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Monday, August 19
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Hurt Me, Thank You!
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Sunday, August 18
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Roads Aplenty and Rocks of Pleasure
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Saturday, August 17
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Of Dragons and Fire
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Friday, August 16
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Motorcycles and the Zen of Route Mechanics
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Thursday, August 15
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Puzzled
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Wednesday, August 14
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A Day Off, Sort Of
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Tuesday, August 13
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A Delightful, Light Day
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Monday, August 12
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Courage On Eagle Mountain
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Sunday, August 11
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Farewell
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Saturday, August 10
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My Aching Back In The Saddle
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Friday, August 9
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Back In The Saddle
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Thursday, August 8
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In The Saddle
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Wednesday, August 7
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Shut My Mouth!
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Tuesday, August 6
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Diversity and Song
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Monday, August 5
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An Unraveling
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Sunday, August 4
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A Bagged Peak
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Saturday, August 3
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Lines On A Map
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Friday, August 2
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Thursday, August 1
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Free Wheelin'
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Wednesday, July 31
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An Excellent Start
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