Story and Photos by Tim Brtis
Landmark Crew Member
There is more to walking through mud than just moving each leg in turn. During my time with Landmark, I’ve learned that technique can be the difference between voyaging through the mud at a swift 1.2 mph, and struggling in one spot for 15 minutes. Becoming stuck can drain valuable energy, and if freedom isn’t regained, you might run the risk of attracting a hungry, circling turkey vulture.
I hereby propose the compilation of an academically thorough guide to mud maneuvering. I will begin the effort by sharing the knowledge a coworker and I have compiled here. However, because I don’t possess every technique related to mud walking, I plan to consult experts from around the world for future volumes.
It’s best to avoid becoming stuck. Maintaining your liberty may require one or more of the following techniques.
The Pointed-Foot Technique
While trudging through an increasingly mucky area, I could feel the ground playfully tugging at my feet with each step. Eventually, the mud got greedy and did not let go. With my literal next step denied, I was pulled back to the gluttonous ground, which then took my second foot.
“Walk on the balls of your feet, and you don’t stick as much!” Elaine called over to me. I tried walking in place using this technique and was promptly liberated.
Story and Photos by Hannah Larson
Landmark Crew Member
Ryan, Emma and I are trekking across a flat stretch of prairie that, at the moment, looks more like a shallow lake than a grassland. With each step, we lean forward to gain traction, but our hiking boots disappear under thick brown gumbo mud. This is our first hike on Sun Prairie North, a 22,000-acre parcel added to the American Prairie Reserve in summer 2014.
Hiking through the mud is exhausting, but all we can do is laugh at the absurd amount of muck coating our boots and legs. The weather is lifting our spirits, too—it’s an unseasonably warm day with bright sun and azure sky reflecting off of the water around us. Our hats and jackets are stuffed into our backpacks. Eight miles behind us, four more to go.
By Grace Kay Matelich
No one loves driving down the road and seeing an animal plastered to the pavement or, worse, flattening one themselves. There is no denying that we share the Earth with these animals—but perhaps we don’t share enough.
The United States alone has more than 4 million miles of roads. Whether a highway or a country lane, these throughways divide wildlife habitats, making the likelihood of an animal-vehicle collision greater than ever before.
It is estimated that anywhere between 725,000 and 1.5 million animal-vehicle crashes occur in the United States per year, resulting in an average of 200 human fatalities and costing $8 billion in damages. Not surprisingly, thousands of animal deaths go unreported each year, but in 2008, the Federal Highway Administration reported that between one and two million large animals are killed annually. However, these estimates vary greatly—one more reason why collecting roadkill data is so important.
By Alex Hamilton
“Startup” is a ubiquitous descriptor in the business world. It suggests a dynamic nature, a potential for rapid growth and, as Forbes says, “a finger on the pulse of the future.” The startup boom is a recent phenomenon, brought on by the technological reality of a business unconstrained by geography.
The explosion of for-profit startups has paved the way for a generation of nonprofit startups. Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation is riding the forefront of this wave: We are a small organization, empowered by modern technology, with a mission and reach that is global in scale.
Story and Photos by Ryan Rock
Landmark Crew Boss
We see it in the distance and know it is along our transect—a house. A house and a few old buildings. Easily seen from the road we regularly drive; visible from the house where we currently stay. Amber suggests we detour slightly to investigate. Emma and I agree.
As we approach, it looks like nothing more than a collection of dilapidated structures: a main house, a couple of outbuildings, a silo, the remnants of an old corral. Only the silo appears in decent shape.
Turning to the south, the wind at my back, I step over the remains of an old fence that once surrounded the plot. Suddenly, the place takes on an entirely new character. What seemed like a home in decay now seems like much more. It radiates a strange energy that allows me to envision the working ranch this once was. I can imagine the corral filled with cows, tools in the sheds and grain in the silo.
Peering into the house gives me an eerie sensation. It’s a glimpse of the past. A look into someone's life.
I feel like an invader. Someone foreign and out of place. Different than the raccoon who’s left evidence of his passage all over the floor, the swallows whose nests are plastered on nearly every wall, or the coyote whose tracks we see outside, probably hunting the resident rodents. These opportunists have capitalized on the lack of human presence and replaced it with their own.
Given the chance, the prairie too will once again claim this section of land. Bit by bit, parts of the outside world will continue to seep in until it is consumed and returned to what it once was.
Walking away across a dike, the cold wind chilling my hands, thoughts fill my mind. What would it have been like to make a living out here? What would it take to start a family and raise children years ago in such an unforgiving landscape? I'll never know.
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