GPT Photo of the Week

Sometimes rocks just, well, rock!  From small stones to huge boulders, they are the raw materials of the planet, and can be strikingly beautiful.  Rocks are, of course, not unique to the Great Plains, but sometimes in an open landscape, they can stand out and assert their presence, reminding us that while we and our civilizations come and go, some things will remain unmoved and unchanged.

I find this comforting, and yes, I like rock music too!

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Great Grizzlies!

As a follow up to the earlier post about The Revenant, where the historical (not Hollywood) Hugh Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear on the Great Plains, it occurred to me that some people might not know that the Great Plains was historically part of the habitat for the grizzly.  Today most people think of the grizzly residing in remote forested mountain areas, and that’s true enough, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Today, outside of Alaska and Canada, most grizzlies are in Montana or Wyoming, plus a patch or two in Idaho and Washington.  The total number is under 2,000.  Historically speaking, the big griz had a much wider territory to roam which included most of the West (minus the desert areas), as far east as Minnesota, and as far south as Mexico.  The total number in the lower 48 was likely more than 60,000.  In the Great Plains, not surprisingly, they tended not to stray too far from rivers.  Lewis and Clark encountered a number of them of their journey in the early 1800s, and although this particular encounter did not occur on the plains, I can never resist a quote from William Clark:

“In the evening we saw a Brown or Grisley beare on a sand beech, I went out with one man Geo Drewyer & Killed the bear, which was verry large and a turrible looking animal, which we found verry hard to kill we Shot ten Balls into him before we killed him, & 5 of those Balls through his lights This animal is the largest of the carnivorous kind I ever saw we had nothing that could way him, I think his weight may be stated at 500 pounds [227 kilograms]…. we had him skined and divided, the oile tried up & put in Kegs for use.”

Speaking of history, Hugh Glass saw the historic Great Plains, and therefore he encountered a historic grizzly bear.  You won’t find them on the Great Plains today, but then again, there’s this story from just this week:  A hunter, who was hunting pheasants on the plains just east of the Rocky Mountain front in Montana (and therefore on the Great Plains), encountered a grizzly coming out of the nearby willows that his dog had been combing.  It was a sow bear with two cubs.  The bear charged and the man shot the bear.  The bear eventually died of its wounds, but later, the cubs were nowhere to be found.  Perhaps those cubs will survive and once again make their home on the Great Plains.

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GPT Photo of the Week

White Butte, North Dakota

The View from White Butte, the highest point in North Dakota (3,506 ft)

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GPT Photo of the Week

Yes, there are a lot of road miles on the Great Plains Trail, but that is by necessity, not by design.  In a perfect world (ha!), the entire GPT would be trail, and the goal is always to move in that direction – increase the trail mileage and decrease the road mileage.  That said, many of the road miles are actually quite enjoyable to walk.  Here’s a lonely road in western Nebraska that’s part of the GPT.

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The Revenant

Frederick Manfred’s house, now a visitor center, at Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota

I’m a little late in seeing the movie, The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  It came out in 2015 and I only just recently saw it on DVD.  It was good.  It was action packed and entertaining, and I suppose that’s all we can ever expect from movies anymore.  Maybe a true movie buff could set me straight, but it seems like Hollywood is in a bit of a rut, but I digress – already.

The movie, set in the 1820s, tells the story of Hugh Glass, who is left for dead by his comrades after a brutal grizzly attack.  He survives all manner of tribulations and eventually gets his revenge for being abandoned.

It’s based on a true story, and as it turns out, the Great Plains plays a central role in a couple of ways, but Hollywood, being hell-bent on ignoring middle America, misses the boat once again.

The real life Hugh Glass did get attacked by a grizzly and did have to make his way back to civilization after being abandoned.  His adventure occurred in 1823 entirely on the Great Plains. He was attacked west of the Missouri River in present day South Dakota, and traveled two hundred miles, with a broken leg and a host of other injuries to Fort Kiowa, also in South Dakota.  The Hollywood version of course ignores South Dakota entirely and takes place among the soaring snow capped peaks and dense forests of the Rocky Mountains.  It’s stunning, and admittedly, it makes for good cinema, but the Great Plains can make for good cinema too.  Remember Dances with Wolves?  South Dakota had a starring role in that film.  The Great Plains can be just as dramatic as the mountains, except Hollywood usually typically chooses scenery that is less imaginative, and in this case, false in terms of historical accuracy.

The second slight for the Great Plains is that they based the movie on a recent book of the same name by Michael Punke.  However, Punke’s book was not the first to be written about the Hugh Glass saga.  Another book, called Lord Grizzly, written by Frederick Manfred, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1954.  It’s a much truer biographical account of the story of Hugh Glass, and it was written by an author with real Great Plains credentials.  Frederick Manfred spent much time traveling in the Great Plains doing research for Lord Grizzly.  He eventually settled in a house which he built at what is now Blue Mounds State Park in southwest Minnesota, smack in the middle of the tallgrass prairie in a region he referred to as Siouxland.  Manfred’s book is true to the setting, plot and spirit of the real story.

Does Hollywood care about authenticity?  Nope.

 

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GPT Photo of the Week

Black Mesa – El. 4975 ft

This is from a trip to the high point of Oklahoma (one of 5 state high points that the GPT connects with) way back in early 2010.  That’s before I was even actively working on the Great Plains Trail project, and therefore it seems like a very long time ago, but I remember the hike well and this slice of extreme western Oklahoma is very scenic.

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GPT Photo of the Week

Near Toadstool Geologic Park in western Nebraska is a lonely landscape of dry, cracked earth where even grasses have a hard time in the shifting clays.

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