In order to effectively hunt and gather, Vietnam’s indigenes trekked through the mountains over an ancient network of footpaths. These trails had first been developed by Indochina’s non-human mammalian species. Thousands of years ago, such creatures as the Asian elephant, Indochinese tiger, gaur, wild water buffalo, and Asian black bear discovered the routes of least resistance through the Annamese cordillera. They not only located the most gradual gradients across difficult terrain, they also found the mountain passes, and they located the driest routes through otherwise boggy lowland areas. The pounding of hooves and feet over thousands of years deepened and widened the most-used routes into veritable animal superhighways. Continue Reading »
The French named the mountain range that extends through the center of the Indochinese peninsula the Annamese Cordillera. In the nineteenth and early twentienth centuries, French colonists referred to the Vietnamese as Annamese; thus, the reason for the name of the range. The Vietnamese know the range as the Truong Son. The cordillera’s mountains, thick triple-canopy jungles, and flat, grassy plateaus cover portions of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The mountain range stretches southward in a roughly 815-mile arch from its origins in Laos to its termination northeast of Saigon. Continue Reading »
[Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming] In the winter months, when deep snow covers the sagebrush plains, hilltops, and scenic river valleys of Yellowstone National Park, bison abandon their trails and smaller traces and instead travel upon the park’s plowed asphalt highways. The animals have adopted the use of human highways for a simple reason. It is much easier for them to trek down a cleared, snow-free highway than it is to trudge off-road through several feet of snow. They expend far less energy moving from point A to point B, or from grazing site to grazing site. It is also safer for the big wooly mammals to move atop the paved highways. They can run faster from pursuing predators on the hard-surfaced roads. Plus, shy predators, such as wolves, are less likely to get close to the roadways for fear of coming into contact with homo-sapiens and their gawking, intrusive behaviors. It is likely that the plowed roads have increased the winter survivability rates of the park’s bison herds.
The Missouri River Canoe Expedition of 2003 took Todd Siefker and I through the White Cliffs of the Missouri and past several of the campsites of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We actually stayed overnight in a few of the same camp sites used by the famed explorers. We did not stay in those campsites because we wanted to somehow imitate the explorers. As a matter of fact, we knew our two-man expedition paled in comparison to their epic journey. For starters, we navigated the Missouri in a plastic Royalex canoe. We also carried with us an array of ultra-modern outdoor gear that made our expedition more comfortable, faster, and lighter than that earlier sojourn. We slept inside a nylon tent, kept the rain off our bodies with Gore-Tex jackets, cooked food on a Primus multi-fuel stove (it could burn everything from unleaded gasoline to jet fuel), and called our loved ones from the remote reaches of Montana on a cell phone. We had nothing in common with Lewis and Clark. Rather, we chose to camp where they camped because their 1805 and 1806 campsites were still the best sites for camping along the Upper Missouri, especially in a land dominated by towering bluffs and gullied badlands. Continue Reading »