GPT Photo of the Week – Purgatoire River Canyon

In southeast Colorado, in the Comanche National Grassland, there is an outstanding canyon along the Purgatoire River. It features trails, scenic bluffs, stellar views, and even dinosaur tracks!

Yep, you read that right, dinosaur tracks.

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GPT – Photo of the Week

Clouds and sky – what better way to describe the Great Plains . . .

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Ecoregions Level IV

Ecoregions Level IV is a beautiful map, but very complex. Too complicated to go over in detail on this blog, so I’ll copy a link to the map and you can have a go at your leisure. It’s unreadable on a computer without zooming in. The EPA also has Level IV maps for each state as well and that is probably easier to read in its standard form.

Still, as a map and as a concept it’s really quite interesting and gives us a true picture of the diversity of ecosystems in the US. The map breaks down each of the Level III (number) regions into smaller subsets (letter) (ex. 43a and 43b). With this system, there are a total of 967 Level IV ecoregions in the 48 states!

The GPT passes through at least 36 Level IV ecoregions by my count. That’s a lot of diversity in what some people call flat and boring. I highly recommend spending some time with this map or the maps by state. You’re sure to learn a thing or two either about the Great Plains or about your own home state. Here are the links:

Level IV Map

Maps by State

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GPT Photo of the Week – Where the Buffalo Rom

I used to be an elementary school teacher not so long ago. This is a part of a third grader’s project on Colorado that was posted in the hallway. As far as I’m concerned, it gets an “A” for Awesomeness! Enjoy!

ps. Unfortunately, the photo is cut off. It may have said Rome, like the city. I can’t remember, but Rom works just as well.

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What in the Blazes?. . .

The following is a guest blog written by Luke Jordan, a.k.a. Strider, the first thru hiker of the GPT. Feel free to post a comment and let us know your thoughts on blazes for the GPT.

For thousands of miles America’s hiking trails wander across ranges and rivers, reaching basically every corner of the country. The 11 National Scenic Trails alone offer almost 20,000 miles of hiking opportunities. First envisioned in the 1990’s, and currently stretching for over 2200 miles from Guadalupe Peak in Texas to the Canadian Border, the GPT seeks to join the list of America’s most prestigious trails.

So how exactly does one successfully navigate these long trails? Anyone who has set foot on the famous Appalachian Trail has undoubtedly seen several of the infamous “white blazes”. The blazes are, at their simplest, trail “markers” to keep hikers on the right path. A traditional blaze is 2” wide by 6” tall and is painted on trees, fence posts, rocks, or anything else available nearby. They can also be found in plastic or metal nail-up versions or as adhesive decals for carsonite posts. A general rule of thumb is a single blaze should be visible at all times to a hiker on a well-marked trail, maybe two depending on the layout. Over-blazing (more than 2 blazes visible from one spot on the trail at a time) is considered overkill and can be classified as form of visual pollution.

Interpreting the blazes to find your way along a trail is fairly straight forward. A single blaze by itself just indicates that the trail ahead is fairly straight or obvious and you are traveling in the right direction. A double blaze indicates a turn in the trail, with the offset blaze (the top one) indicating the direction of the turn. Two blazes directly on top of each other with no offset just simply means “pay attention”, something about the trail up ahead may not be obvious. Each long trail designates their own color for marking the trail, the AT famously adopting white. Spurs or loop trails often have a common but different color as well, in order to distinguish them from the main trail.

As the Great Plains Trail acquires permission to incorporate existing trails into it’s route, as well as establishing new segments, blazes will start popping up along the route to show hikers the way. The question is, what color will they be? GPTA is currently accepting comments from everyone on what they think the color of the GPT should be. Shall the trail adopt an existing color as one of the other trails? Or shall they select one not yet in existence to make their unique presence known and pave their own way. What color do you think should be used to mark the 2200 mile route through the sub-arid shortgrass prairie ecosystem of the Great Plains?







The blue blazes used on the North Country Trail







The white blazes of the Appalachian Trail







An example of a directional blaze, the top blaze is off-set indicating a right turn.







The Ice Age Trail uses yellow blazes.

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GPT – Photo of the Week

Pawnee Buttes, eastern Colorado. It’s fun to get up close and do some exploring around the chalky flanks.


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Ecoregions Level III

We’re breaking it down now for Level III to just the Continental United States. The entire continent gets too complicated when the finer points start to emerge within the broader regions.

Here is a link to the PDF Map: Level III MAP

I’m really enjoying these maps! Let’s look at the Level III regions that the Great Plains Trail traverses in numerical order:

#17 The Middle Rockies – The Black Hills are a part of this ecoregion.

#23 Arizona/New Mexico Mountains – Guadalupe Mountains National Park fits this ecoregion.

#24 Chihuahuan Deserts – Extreme southern New Mexico is in this region.

#25 High Plains – That seems fitting. This area exists in parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

#26 Southwestern Tablelands – The GPT crosses this region in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

#42 Northwestern Glaciated Plains – These can be found in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana.

#43 Northwestern Great Plains – The home states here are North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and a little bit in Nebraska.

#46 Northern Glaciated Plains – If the GPT ends in North Dakota instead of Montana, the GPT will also cross this ecoregion, which exists in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

That’s as many as eight Level III ecoregions highlighting the enormous diversity of the Great Plains!

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