GPT – Photo of the Week – 7/17/17

It’s back to South Dakota this week for no particular reason other than I really like this photo and I really like this place.  This is in Custer National Forest.  The rolling terrain here is spectacular and almost has an alpine feel to it.   It was a hot day in July.  I rode my bike to cover as much territory as I could, and then climbed a modest hill to get this view.  If you continue on the forest road in view, you would eventually come to Reva Campground at the north end of the National Forest.  This is on the GPT, but it needs some scouting and additional development to make it happen.

In the coming weeks, look for how you can become a founding member of GPTA, so you can help make trail sections like this become a reality.

 

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Thru and Back Again

Just finished reading Luke “Strider” Jordan’s book about his 2013 thru hike of the North Country National Scenic Trail.  Reader’s of this blog are well acquainted with the fact that there is such a thing. I’ve posted a number of times on the diversity of the NSTs, and the fact that they go well beyond the AT or the PCT.  If the North Country Trail has a claim to fame, it’s that it is, at 4,568 miles, by far, the longest of the bunch.  It runs from the middle of North Dakota to Vermont and is in no way a straight shot.  It winds considerably, going as far north as the famed North Shore of Lake Superior, and as far south as southern Ohio.

Few have even thought seriously about attempting a thru hike of the entire NCT.  It’s far more likely to attract a local crowd along its shorter sections, or perhaps a thru hike of one of its longer pieces such as the Superior Hiking Trail or the Buckeye Trail.  We don’t know how many people have thought about it, but we do know how many people have actually done it:  4.  That’s right. Strider was just the 4th person to thru hike the trail since its inception in 1980.  A few others have completed it in sections, but that’s about it.

That should tell you all you need to know about the difficulty of the NCT.  Let’s face it. The NCT makes the AT look like a trek to the mailbox.

Enter Luke Jordan.  It takes an indomitable will and a level of perseverance few possess to succeed, and Luke has the right stuff.  Most of the book is essentially his journals from the trail, so it is heavy on day-to-day details, and light on philosophy, but even the fact that he had the strength left to write a daily journal after pounding out 25-30 miles a day in often adverse conditions is remarkable.  Also, this kind of writing makes you feel like you’ve pitched your tent right next to his.

Let’s see . . . There was cold, then extreme cold, then bugs, then more bugs, then heat, then extreme heat, then dogs, then snakes, then bugs again.  I’m not saying he didn’t have a few enjoyable days in there.  He certainly did, but when the trail got tough, it got really tough.  No one would’ve faulted him if he’d called it quits when the mosquitoes in Michigan were thick enough to carry him away, or the ticks in Ohio numbered in the hundreds on his legs!

But he didn’t quit, and as much as it’s his own personal grit, it’s the “trail angels” that help him through.  Acts of kindness from strangers are a near daily occurrence for Luke on the NCT.  So if you want your faith in humanity restored, or if you want your faith in America restored, then read Thru and Back Again – A Hiker’s Journey on the North Country Trail.  

 

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GPT – Photo of the Week – 7/10/2017

The previous two photos were both from South Dakota, so let’s switch it up a bit and head south on the trail to Nebraska.  This is one of my favorite shots of the Pine Ridge, taken in Oglala National Grassland.  The dark skies give it an ominous and powerful look.

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GPT – Photo of the Week 7/3/17

Oops.  Missed last week (been on vacation), and I’m barely sneaking this one in on Monday due to absence on said vacation.  Here’s this week’s shot from the trail, this time from the famous Black Hills of South Dakota:  They are an island of forest in a sea of grass.  You can see the grassy plains shining in the distance!

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GPT – Photo of the Week – Slim Buttes

Here’s a new thing:  Every Monday we’ll post a photo of the week from somewhere on the Great Plains Trail.  This week is a shot from Custer National Forest in western South Dakota.

This parcel of National Forest is in the Slim Buttes region, which was the site of an influential battle between the Sioux and the U. S. Army in 1876.   Like a lot of places in the Great Plains, it’s bursting with fascinating history.  I don’t claim to be an expert on this particular piece of it, but here is the wiki page for the Battle of Slim Buttes.  That should serve as a starter in case anyone is interested in researching it further.

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National Trails Day!

Today (June 3) is National Trails Day.  It’s a time to celebrate trails of all shapes and sizes. From well known long distance trails like the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail to local bike paths and neighborhood walking trails.  That said, not every trail is technically a “national trail.”  There are three categories for national trails – National Scenic Trails like the AT or PCT, National Historic Trails like the Santa Fe Trail, and National Recreation Trails.  This last category has over 1,000 trails of local or regional significance.  They include rail trails, hiking trails, urban trails, rural trails, and wilderness trails.  It would be impossible to list them all here, but the odds that there is a National Recreation Trail near you are excellent.

Here is a link for a list of trails by state as well as a link to the NRT Database from American Trails. Find one and get on it!

State by State List

National Recreation Trail Database

 

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The National Trail System Act of 1968

On October 2, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the National Trails System Act, which among other things, seeks “to promote the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation.”

Notice how they’re staring right at the Great Plains region.

Here are some more wise words about the NTS Act from a wise President:

“We are preserving for the pleasure of these people one of the most beautiful regions on God’s earth. I also have before me the first Federal legislation ‘providing a national system of both urban and rural trails.

The simplest pleasures–and healthful exercise–of walking in an outdoor setting have been almost impossible for the millions of Americans who live in the cities. And where natural areas exist within the cities, they are usually not connected by walkways. In many cities, there are simply just no footpaths that lead out of the city into the countryside.

Our history of wise management of America’s national forests has assisted us in designating the initial elements of the National Trails System. Two National Scenic Trails, one in the East and one in the West, are being set aside as the first components of the Trails System: the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

The legislation also calls for study of 14 additional routes for possible inclusion in the Trails System.”

We’ve done the math, and it looks like 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act.  Here at GPTA, we will be planning a few things to help commemorate this historic milestone.  Unlike the photo, everything we plan will happen in full color!  Stay tuned!

 

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