Showing posts with label geography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label geography. Show all posts

October 22, 2018

Across the Wide Missouri

The bridge across the Missouri River on US 212 near Charger's Camp.
Friday found me driving through western South Dakota's buttes county. There was the famous Bear Butte — state park and ceremonial site —hazy to the south, like one of the Black Hills that had wandered out from the herd. 

Mud Butte (also the site of a famous T-Rex skeleton, but not as complete as Sue's, was close to the highway. There must be stories about it that go way, way back.
"Hey, remember the time when there was that little herd of mammoths on the north side of the butte? Crazy Kid, Many Arrows, and White Dog were going to circle around on the west side, but they bumped into some of those really big wolves that had the same idea. They about shit themselves."

"Oh yeah, those big big wolves. Haven't seen any since I was a kid."

"Me neither. Not so many mammoths either."
"That's all right. I like the taste of bison better anyway."
The story of Charger's Camp. Click to enlarge and read.
The Missouri is wide here, but what you are seeing is Lake Oahe, backed up by a dam down by Pierre, the state capital. One of those big Corps of Engineers projects from the 1960s. Still, the river was big enough for 19th-century steamboats, at least during a window of high water from late spring into late summer.

If we followed the geographer's rule that a river is named from its longest piece, not for a tributary, then the Missouri (2,341 miles/3,767 km) is the main river, while the Mississippi (2,320 miles/3,734) is, by a riverine whisker, the tributary.

Huckleberry Finn and Jim would have rafted the Missouri River. The bluffs at Vicksburg and Natchez would look down on the Missouri. Some people like that Missouri Delta blues sound, while levees keep the Missouri from flooding New Orleans.

Most of all, instead of the Mississippi dividing the 48 states into East and West, the Missouri would divide the continental US on a sort of northwest-southeast line, and I wonder how differently that would make us think about ourselves — how it would line up with cultural patterns.

For instance, "East Dakota" and "West Dakota." West Dakota would have been scenic but economically struggling until the Bakken oil came in.

January 08, 2017

Using Outdoor Electronic Technology the Right Way

In the current issue (Jan.-Feb. 2017) of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation magazine, Bugle, P. J. DelHomme talks about using electronic technology (smarphones, Google Earth, GPS gear, etc.) to draw kids into outdoor experiences.
If you have an area in mind to hunt, see if your kid would be willing to scout it for you via Google Earth. Turn it into a biology lesson. Elk need food, water, shelter, and space—lots of space. Have them pick out likely elk spots away from roads, mark them on the map, and then find a way in. You might just spark enough interest so they'll want to go with you to see if it pays off.
He also suggests geocaching, among other things, as a way to let the screen-obsessed do stuff outdoors. All good.

At the same time, however, you would want to educate those kids about "Death by GPS," the title of a recent article at Ars Technica.
What happened to the Chretiens is so common in some places that it has a name. The park rangers at Death Valley National Park in California call it “death by GPS.” It describes what happens when your GPS fails you, not by being wrong, exactly, but often by being too right. It does such a good job of computing the most direct route from Point A to Point B that it takes you down roads which barely exist, or were used at one time and abandoned, or are not suitable for your car, or which require all kinds of local knowledge that would make you aware that making that turn is bad news.
And J. R. Sullivan wonders at Outside, "Our Reliance on Technology Makes the Backcountry More Dangerous."
“One of the worst trends we’ve seen in the past 20 years is the proliferation of cell phones and technology in the backcountry,” says Tim Smith, a registered Master Maine Guide and the founder of the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, which instructs students in brush living, guide skills, and long-term winter survival. “It gives people a false sense of security. It's the idea of, Who cares how bad of a jam I get myself into? Because if there’s cell coverage I’ll call and someone will come get me. But if you had no outside line, no way of contacting other people, you’re way less likely to take risks.”
And a neurologist suggests that using GPS instead of building mental maps affects the structure of the physical brain:
An integral component of brain organization is that it changes with experience. So yes, our modern lifestyle alters our brains. The important question, however, is not whether technology changes the brain, but whether our technology driven life damages our brain.
And did you remember to charge your phone? 

January 30, 2012

A Geologist's Hammer under the Pilgrim's Robe

The trouble with the Telegraph's (UK) obituary of explorer and geologist Augusto Gansser is that there is no one good paragraph to excerpt. They are mostly like this:
Due to the war, the Ganssers were unable to return to Switzerland until 1946, when they took passage on a recently decommissioned British aircraft carrier. Augusto took with him two emeralds which he had found jutting out of a Colombian rock but, at the port, learned that it was forbidden to export uncut precious stones. On the spot, he hid them in the nappy of his infant son.
So you will just have to read it all.

October 26, 2011

Improbable Mountains

Last month the Denver Post's daily website quiz was a list of Colorado mountain ranges with the question, which name is bogus?

Anyone with a little historical sense could get it right. All the names were assigned in the 19th century, and there were no moose in the state then, so "Moose Range" has to be the right answer.

But a lot of people thought that the Wet Mountains were mythical. Perhaps that is a Good Thing.

October 06, 2011

Where Was I?


I have been on the road the past week, so I thought that I would throw in my first-ever puzzler. Be the first commenter to tell me in what region this photo was taken, and I will send you some little outdoor trinket or other. Precision counts. Don't just say, "Montana," for example. (Family members and people whom I visited on this trip are not eligible.)

The Answer (Oct. 14):  The photo was taken along the Niobrara River's "national scenic river" corridor east of Valentine, Nebraska. I know that I have one reader in Nebraska who should have gotten it. Oh well.

February 21, 2011