Oklahoma Remote Spot

Project Remote is working to precisely calculate and travel to the remotest locations in each of the 50 United States.  Below is a written account of our 6.2 mile hiking expedition to document the Oklahoma Remote Spot.  This is our 35th state Remote Spot documented as part of Project Remote.  

In Ryan’s Words:

Late November, 2017.  After finishing Nebraska, we visit our good friends, the Hutchens, in NW Nebraska for a couple day rest.   Thank you Steve and Suzan!  Record warmth continues across the Plains states.  We make our way south toward Oklahoma in hopes of documenting the OK Remote Spot in a few days.  While traveling the country, we try to find public lands on which to camp.  We find a place in somewhere, Kansas to car camp tonight.

Project Remote 2017 camps out in the Great Plains

We awaken the next morning to a sweet sunrise on the Kansas Plains.

Sunrise on the Kansas Plains-Project Remote 2017

Time to roll.  The journey across the Plains looks a bit different today than it did a century ago.

roads blanket the American Great Plains

I spend most of the time traveling between Remote Spots shocked and disappointed.  We have altered our once vast American wilderness into an endless view of industry and infrastructure.   Nowhere is this more visible than during a drive through the Great Plains.  Here’s what it looks like from the air looking down upon anywhere in the Plains.

Massively altered Kansas landscape viewed from the air.

On the ground, this is what it looks like now.  Several industries completely dominate the landscape, including the beef industry,

beef industry in the American Great Plains

the mega-agriculture industry,

Mega-agriculture in the American Great Plains

and, of course, the oil industry is ever-present.  But honestly, if we are going to continue to drill for oil, there is really no better place to do it than within already-altered, privately owned lands.  What better place than a crop field in Kansas or Oklahoma should we place these unsightly reminders of our unsustainable consumption?

Oil industry in the American Great Plains

Now that I mention it, let me be quite clear:  in absolutely no cases should the oil industry ever be allowed to penetrate existing publicly owned wildlands.  (For example, especially not in a place like Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.).  The National Wildlife Refuge system exists solely to preserve wildlife and wildlands, not to put short-term wealth in the wallets of a few companies at the expense of remaining wildlife and wilderness.

Scores of wind farms are popping up across the Great Plains as well.  And it’s a suitable place for them, just as with oil derricks.

Wind farm in the American Great Plains–a great place for them

I have heard an argument against using wind farms for energy based solely on their unsightly appearance.  Actually, as we traverse the Plains, both oil and wind infrastructure are pretty ugly.  At least one of them is sustainable and would not pollute the biosphere into oblivion.  Sustainable, clean wind and solar derived energy need to replace filthy, unsustainable oil.  In the Plains, we’ve seen hopeful signs of sustainable energy gaining ground on oil.

Sustainable energy hope for America and the world–wind and solar should replace oil

When we look up to the skies on our Project Remote travels, this is what we commonly see–contrails criss-cross the American skies–even over America’s remotest locations.  We had better hurry up as a nation and cut our dependence on oil before irreversible damage occurs to the biosphere and  atmosphere.  Wanted in America:  Intelligent, moral leaders who care about preserving all that is remote, wild, and free.  Let’s plot a course into sustainable American greatness.

contrails slice the upper troposhere all across America-(photo courtesy of limpidoistock and smithsonian.com)

As we make our way south to Oklahoma from Nebraska, there are almost zero inspiring, intact wild places to experience.  I am saddened for all the children growing up in the once Great Plains, or anywhere else so un-wild, because they have no immediate access to public wild areas.

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November 28, 2017.  Give me something remote and wild.  Anything.  We awaken at camp within the Great Salt Plains State Park, Oklahoma.  We pulled into a campsite here last night after dark and pitched our tent in a cold, blustery wind.  It’s hard to imagine that there is a large, nearly 6 mile wide roadless area adjacent to where we are camping.  But I can feel it out there.   The Oklahoma Remote Spot is inside of 5 miles away from our campsite within a national public wildland called the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.  How fitting.  This isn’t the first time a state Remote Spot has been located within a national wildlife refuge.  In fact, seven other states thus far on Project Remote have Remote Spots residing within national wildlife refuges. That’s fantastic.  We commend the USFWS for preserving the remotest locations of at least 8 states.   First order of business this morning is packing for a Remote Spot day-hike.  Next, we eagerly visit the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge headquarters and meet the refuge manager, Shane Kasson.  It is all our pleasure to meet this delightful, helpful conservation professional.  Shane is a wealth of knowledge about the refuge and accompanies us on much of our documentary trip.  Thank you, Shane!

Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge manager Shane Kasson accompanies Project Remote near the Oklahoma Remote Spot

As we enter the refuge, there is a mix of shrubs and grasses along the edge of the salt flat.  We also spot an exotic, invasive shrubby tree from Asia called salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), which is naturalized in this region, and over much of the Southwest.

Salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), an exotic plant, is naturalized within the Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge

After about a half mile, we step out onto the vast, flat, white plain.

Project Remote travels to the Oklahoma Remote Spot-2017

The Salt Plain of Oklahoma is a significant geological and ecological feature.  This unique patch of preserved wildland is critical habitat for the endangered whooping crane, as well as important habitat for hundreds of other bird species.  Animal tracks, such as those left by deer, are common….

deer tracks across the Salt Plain of Oklahoma

Maybe the animals are after the salt…It certainly tastes good!

tasting the salt of the Oklahoma salt plain

We push on toward the center of the salt plain.  The salt is an ancient deposit left behind after the disappearance of the shallow inland Cretaceous sea that once covered almost all of the Great Plains.

Project Remote 2017 heads toward the remotest location in Oklahoma

We encounter old human buildings lying in ruins deep inside the salt plain interior.  We also learn that the salt flat was once used as a U.S. military bombing range.

past human buildings lie within the salt plain of Oklahoma

As we move along the salt flat, we frequently encounter century-old rubbish piles left behind by past human habitation.

rubbish piles from past human habitation can be found within Oklahoma’s salt plain

This is an otherworldly place reminiscent of much larger saline flats found in the Great Basin. Even out toward the center of the otherwise barren flat, we find an occasional vegetation patch, and observe shorebirds.   Skyla delights in finding anything on the ground.  There is a salty lake nearby to the east and south.

Skyla often runs out ahead in excitement…This place is unreal, like what you see while dreaming during sleep….

The remotest little girl in Oklahoma…Skyla Means of Project Remote-2017

Daddy and daughter enjoy a little togetherness while day hiking to document the remotest location in Oklahoma. . .

Daddy and daughter enjoy togetherness near the Oklahoma Remote Spot

After a nearly 2-hour hike, we approach the remotest location in the entire state of Oklahoma located within the center of the Great Salt Plain of Oklahoma,preserved within the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.

Project Remote approaches the Oklahoma Remote Spot

The hand-held GPS goes beep as we reach the remotest location in the entire state of Oklahoma.  Remote Spot arrivals always get us excited.  No one in history has ever calculated precisely the whereabouts, then journeyed to the remotest locations of all 50 United States.  We don’t just do it for kicks.   It is our greatest wish to raise a child outdoors, learn something about remaining remoteness of our country, and pass along our interesting findings to fellow Americans such that they–we–can better understand that wildlands preservation is in the best interest of all people and all other living things.

Project Remote reaches the Oklahoma Remote Spot-November 2017

 

 

 

 

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journal draft in progress….more coming soon!

 

 

 

 

 

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