I'm the web designer for this site; I live in Yorkshire, England, scratching out a living repairing computers and providing websites and associated services.

In the Spring of 2011, having developed a minor interest in Mari Sandoz & Old Jules by association with Alan, I visited Nebraska for a couple of weeks, staying near the populous town of Merriman (pop. 118). I read 'Old Jules' on the plane journey and the interest developed into something of a fascination, so Alan & I just had to 'do' the Old Jules Trail.

This proved less straightforward than we had anticipated; Alan had a photcopied sheet of directions, which included a sketch map of the route, so we started with the idea that this would be easy and that all was fine.

However, when it came to matching the map with the terrain, all became cloudy and dark - it was more like a cryptic 'treasure hunt' than a guided tour. The directions and map were more suited to someone who had already done the Trail. However, we solved the cunningly encrypted clues and made it round in reasonable order, thanks to peevish concentration, coarse words and my iPad,
which had some clear and detailed maps showing the tracks, trails and lanes through the Sandhills. And thankfully, a GPS chip.

It was, for me, an intense experience. Having engaged more fully with the Old Jules story than I had realised, standing in those wild places brought into real existence both the harshness and beauty of the lives of those old pioneers. The geographical isolation is intimidating enough, without the searing summers and winters at thirty below for weeks on end. But on a bright, cool day it was a beautiful, peaceful place of endless skies and rolling hills.

Towards the end of the tour, standing by Mari's grave, I felt something of her love of the Sandhills. I enjoyed the tour tremendously and felt that I would like to do something to make The Old Jules Trail more accessible to all - and being a web designer, this was the obvious thing to do.

Alan and I decided to make it a collaborative effort, and he agreed to provide the copy and photographs, collected during his run around the Trail with his partner, Alyson Learmonth. It has been quite an exercise to complete, across the Atlantic via email with a seven-hour time difference, but here you have it - the International Electronic 21st Century Guide to The Old Jules Trail.
Philip Carpenter, August 2011
Alan Wilkinson traces his lifelong interest in America to his great-great-uncle, Captain John Wiltshire of the ship Mohawk, that took Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show back to New York in 1893.

He has written on the subject for many newspapers and magazines, including American Cowboy. He first read Mari Sandoz’ work in 1991, since when he has visited the Sandhills on numerous occasions, most recently in 2011 when he spent six months alone in an abandoned frontier period house beside the Niobrara river.

You can follow Alan's experiences in Nebraska by reading his interesting and entertaining blog HERE.
Alan & Philip have recently been re-captured and are currently giggling happily together in the grounds of the North of England Institution for The Aberrant & Eccentric. No-one is quite sure exactly where, but they usually show up at meal times. They drink Real Ale and like to fulminate.
background courtesy of ftisis-stock.deviantart.com Nebraska map © nationalatlas.gov site ©2011 Philip Carpenter & Alan Wilkinson