Mountains

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Episode 1 of 3

Duration: 1 hour

Ray Mears looks at how the landscapes of America's three great mountain ranges - the Appalachians, the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada - challenged the westward push of the early pioneers.

As Ray travels through each landscape he discovers how their awe-inspiring geography, extreme weather, wild animals and ecology presented both great opportunities and great challenges for the native Indians, mountain men, fur traders, wagon trains and gold miners of the Wild West.

Ray begins his westward journey in the Appalachians where he explores how their timbered slopes fuelled the lumber industry and provided the fuel and building material for the emerging nation. Native Appalachian Barbara Woodall and lumberjack Joe Currie share their family history with him, and he gets to grips with the rare 'hellbender' salamander.

Further west, in the high jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains, Ray goes mule trekking with modern-day mountain man Stu Sorenson and he has close encounters with beaver, elk and black bear.

Finally, in the desert mountains of the Sierra Nevada, he explores the tragic story of the Donner Party wagon train whose members allegedly turned to cannibalism to survive. His journey ends as he pans for gold with modern-day gold prospector John Gurney, and explores the boom and bust story of ghost town, Bodie.

Credits

Presenter
Ray Mears
Producer
Sian Jones
Executive Producer
Andrea Cornes

Broadcasts

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