- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002

The frontier may be gone forever from U.S. maps, but a group of amateur adventurers is finding renewed inspiration in newspaperman Horace Greeley's famous advice to "go West, young man."

Tomorrow, the Public Lands Interpretive Association an Albuquerque, N.M., nonprofit group that operates bookstores and distributes literature at national parks in the Southwest kicks off "American Frontiers: A Public Lands Journey" to promote awareness of government-owned parks and lands.

Two privately funded four-member teams will set out from the Canadian and Mexican borders on a two-month trek across America's public lands; they eventually will meet in Salt Lake City.

Cathy Kiffe is a Louisiana schoolteacher headed West with the group. "The American spirit is one of adventure and of pressing forward," she said at a pre-departure stop in Washington yesterday.

"I've never done this before," said Miss Kiffe, 52. "There are still frontiers, but they are individual frontiers." She said her previous outdoors experience is limited to "an occasional trip to the local state park."

The program is an effort "to expand beyond our regional boundaries and reach people across the country," said Lisa D. Madsen, PLIA executive director.

As part of the PLIA's "Southern team," Miss Kiffe will depart Las Cruces, N.M., at 9:30 tomorrow morning about the same time a "Northern team" leaves Glacier National Park near the Canadian border.

Accompanied by support-staff professionals and a National Geographic film crew, the teams will converge in Salt Lake City on Sept. 28 after two months of hiking, biking (all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and mountain bikes), boating and horseback riding.

New York City firefighter Robert Carlo, a member of the Northern team who was born and raised in Queens, said he was looking for "renewal and self-reflection" after his younger brother, Michael, and other members of Engine 230 died at the World Trade Center on September 11.

"I love the outdoors, and I just want to get away from New York for a while," said Mr. Carlo, 38, who is using his vacation time for this year and next to make the trip.

"A friend gave me the application because I love the outdoors. But I've never been in Montana or Utah before, so this is all brand-new to me."

The teams are made up primarily of amateurs ages 18 to 52 who hail from Pennsylvania, South Carolina, California, Alaska and other states.

A Web site (www.americanfrontiers.net) will enable spectators across the country to follow the journey via satellite.

At the National Press Club tomorrow morning, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman will address both teams via satellite before their departure.

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