This is the first in a series of posts about the 106 mile journey I completed two weeks ago with Ken Ilgunas, Kevin Purdy, and Robert Pahre. It was a test drive of the first few sections of the GPT, and it was also the backdrop for an upcoming Backpacker Magazine article to be published later this year (stay tuned as to when exactly). These posts will be light on the prose, and heavy on the photos, which is a break from my usual style, but Ken came up with some excellent photos and I want to let them them tell most of the story.
We started on an unseasonably warm March day in Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. After meeting with the rangers there and taking a tour of their excellent (and I do mean excellent) collection of historical artifacts (including Red Cloud’s shirt, and American Horse’s war club) we started down the road, heading east toward the Pink School House. We met some ranchers on the way who were, in addition to being surprised at seeing people walking, a little disconcerted that we were riling up the cows who were still in their winter pens. I explained what we were doing and that this area might one day be part of the Great Plains Trail, to which he responded, “God, I hope not!”
It turns out, however, that he was a hiker too, and was planning on scaling Laramie Peak the next day. We also shared a common bond over education. I mentioned I was a teacher on spring break, which was true, and he said his mother was a teacher, and that he attended elementary school at the little Pink School House just up the road where we were headed. We both lamented the disappearance of one room school houses, and we parted on amiable terms. From there, we hiked a mostly uneventful 12-14 miles, turned north at the Pink School House, and on toward the Pine Ridge of western Nebraska.
All photos by Ken Ilgunas