Update: First GPT Thru Hike

Nebraska, cows, Pine Ridge, Strider!

Nebraska, cows, Pine Ridge, Strider!

Luke “Strider” Jordan has been sailing along and is having a grand adventure as the first ever GPT thru hiker.  He has conquered Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, and as I write this, he is already half way through South Dakota.  As mentioned, the best way to track him is through his Facebook Page:  Strider NCT

He has great photos and a riveting play by play as he fights hurricane force winds, hops fallen trees, battles with loose dogs, and meets lots of “trail angels” who are excited just to meet him and offer what help they can.

Here’s just a taste from the Nebraska chapter:

Today will be a shorter day so I sleep in an extra hour and enjoy another hot breakfast at the motel before hitting the road. I pass by Scottsbluff once again and take the road through Mitchell Pass along many historic routes. This road is not only the official auto tour route for the Oregon Trail, but also of the California, Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express Trails. Many of these trails have been mostly swallowed up by modern agriculture so these auto tour routes are often all that remains. Just north of the pass a group of bikers pass me on the road and one of them slows down as he rides by. “Are you Strider?” He asks. Apparently the article Steve interviewed me for was already in this morning’s paper and my giant pack must give me away. He wishes me luck.
When I arrive in Mitchell the same thing happens, I pull in to the Subway for lunch and a car pulls up right next to me and a man gets out and walks over to me. “Are you the hiker? Great story in the paper!” We chat for a few minutes and then he hands me 20 bucks. “Good luck, and safe travels.” I thank him for his donation and then he speeds away. Inside the subway the woman behind the counter also recognizes me. “You must be the cross-country hiker. I’ve had four people come in today talking about you.” Amazing! 
After lunch I hang around for awhile figuring out my next move. The only place to camp around here is the county fairgrounds down the street, but I was hoping to get a little further today so tomorrow isn’t such a long haul to Agate Fossil Beds. I head into the local bar for a drink. Just as I enter another guy pops in with the owner of the place, Loren. The guy hands me a $20 bill and wishes me luck. This is amazing, folks around here are really excited about this hike. Afterwards Loren sits with me and chats for a bit, he hasn’t read the paper yet so he wasn’t aware of the trip I was on. Later some more folks come in and one of my drinks gets covered. Around this time some regulars start coming in and I get invited to join them at their table. Hence Loren introduces me to Taylor as he asks a few questions. Soon after someone familiar looking walks in and I meet Tanner. I immediately realize he reminds me of my friend Trevor back home, almost a doppleganger: same black sweatshirt and baseball cap, same age, Tanner just has more facial hair. I end up making good conversation with the three local friends til after dark. I find out there is a dog show in town and the fairgrounds is the staging area, it looks like that route isn’t going to work for camping. Then Tanner offers a place at his house just north of town, he has a sofa that never gets used. I accept his offer so we pay our tab and head out. Fine folks here in Mitchell.

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Book Review: Trespassing Across America

Ilgunas_Trespassing#20DF01FA new book by author Ken Ilgunas comes out this month.  It’s called, Trespassing Across America – One Man’s Epic Never Before Done (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland.  

Right off the bat, you’ve gotta love that title.

Actually, there’s very little not to love about the book as it follows the first person account of Ken’s journey along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas.  You see, the journey was more than just a hike, it was also intended to shine a light on our oil economy and whether we really need another long distance pipeline.  Along the way, Ken meets locals who are for the pipeline and many who are opposed.  He talks with oil workers, towns people, and ranchers, and gets a wide range of opinions on the matter which stew informatively in his thoughts as he traverses, often trespassing on huge tracts of private land, the bulk of the Great Plains.

Truth is, in many places, Ken was following very close to the route for the GPT, and one thing he finds, not surprisingly at all, is the sheer beauty of the land – especially in the most wide open areas where wildness still abounds.

I think it’s easy for many people in America (or Canada for that matter), who live along the populated coasts to discount the interior as some sort of windblown wasteland, and not the expansive and invigorating landscape we know it to be.  An above ground pipeline is nothing more than an eyesore, and even though I personally benefit from the oil economy as much as anyone else, I agree with Ken that there has to be a better way.

I suggest you pick up a copy of his book and travel along with him.  Stay alert – you might have to dodge a cow or two, but you’ll get a good feel for the place, and the good people who call it home.


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The First Thru Hike of the GPT!

Strider on his way in New Mexico.

Strider on his way in New Mexico.

Luke Jordan, trail name “Strider” is marching along on the first ever thru hike of the Great Plains Trail!  Luke gained thru hiker notoriety three years ago when he completed the North Country Trail as a non stop end-to-end thru hike – one of just a handful of people to have done so.  Now he’s chasing spring as he heads north from Guadalupe Mountains National Park to the Canadian border.  There will be lots more to come with this, but for now, you can follow his progress on his Facebook Page:



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Support GPTA

IMG_0413Now you can support GPTA when you purchase things on Amazon.  Their program AmazonSmile allows you to choose Great Plains Trail Alliance as a charitable organization, and they will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to GPTA!  Pretty cool, huh?

Follow the link below for more information:




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The Trail: From South to North

DSC00921I’m always doing things from north to south.  Let’s switch gears and take a general (not too detailed because the route will remain a very fluid thing in many areas for a long time to come) look at the Great Plains Trail from south to north.  Break out the atlas and check it out.

The southernmost parts of the route are essentially wide open desert lands with significant topographical relief only in the Guadalupe/Lincoln NF areas.  Other areas are flat to rolling with some distant hills.  Here are the first few southernmost sections.

**It should be mentioned that there are many challenges along the GPT route.  Lack of water, and lack of public campgrounds (in some areas) are chief among them.  Anyone interested in planning to walk the GPT (even shorter sections) will need to plan ahead and have some vehicle support along the way.**

  1.  Southern Terminus:  Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountain National Park – The high point of Texas

2.  Follow the Tejas Trail north through the park, then east on the McKittrick Canyon Trail

3.  From the McKittrick Canyon Visitor Center, take the Wilderness Ridge Trail all the way into Lincoln National Forest, and the Texas/New Mexico border.

4.  Follow one of several forest service roads to the town of Queen, then north on mostly trail to Sitting Bull Falls.

5.  Follow the road out of Sitting Bull Falls north and east through mostly BLM lands to Brantley Lake State Park.

6.  Backroads or the main highway take you north to the town of Artesia, New Mexico.

7.  Continue north through the towns of Hagerman and Dexter to Bottomless Lakes State Park.

8.  Go through parts of Roswell, New Mexico to the Salt Creek Wilderness.

As with many parts of the GPT, the southern sections will let you know right away that this is NOT the Appalachian Trail.  This is wide-open western adventure, just like so many experienced in the westward expansion era of the 1800s.  OK, maybe not exactly like that, but is it adventurous?  Absolutely, and that’s what the Great Plains Trail is all about!

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American Bison Extraordinaire

"Hi, I'm ABE.  It's time to make me your National Mammal. OK?"

“Hi, I’m ABE. It’s time to make me your National Mammal. OK?”

Just this past December, a Bill to make the American Bison the National Mammal unanimously passed the U.S. Senate!  It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.  We here at Great Plains Trail Alliance say, “Well, it’s about time.” Our mascot, ABE (American Bison Extraordinaire) agrees.

I guess you could call it the “Bison Bill” or the “Buffalo Bill” if you like.  Heh, heh.

Here’s a link to a group trying to promote this idea.  Vote Bison

Let’s support them, and the movement to make the bison our National Mammal!



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Why Not? It’s Free!

Scottsbluff National Monument, Nebraska

Scottsbluff National Monument, Nebraska

If you’ve ever driven I-90 across South Dakota, you’d know that the state is not afraid to advertise its charms.  In addition to the ubiquitous signage for the famous Wall Drug, there is also 1880 Town, and one of my favorites from the eastern part of the state, the Corn Palace in Mitchell.  Of all the signs enticing you to visit, far and away the best one is this:  Why Not?  It’s Free!

Well, in addition to the esteemed Corn Palace, and in honor of MLK Day, all National Parks and Monuments are free tomorrow! (1/18/2016)

Right on the Great Plains Trail route there are six options:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Wind Cave National Park

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Scottsbluff National Monument

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Not far at all from the GPT there are three more options:

Jewel Cave National Monument

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Also in the Great Plains, but further from the GPT:

Little Bighorn National Monument

Badlands National Park

Devil’s Tower National Monument

That’s a dozen options all told!  If you live anywhere near any of these, I highly recommend taking the day and going to check them out.  Why not, it’s free!


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