posted: July 10th, 2015 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: Commemorating a landmark passage in age, I’ve been reviewing pictures forwarded by friends and family, using them to help me evaluate life altering choices I once made. Were they good ones?
First thoughts. In most cases I shudder to think what might have happened if I’d followed other roads. Why I might have become an accountant, an engineer — an officer and a gentlemen.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, I heard other drummers, though it took much trial and error to reach my destiny, for I was attempting to veer from the military tradition created by generations of high-ranking and insistent forefathers, and sometimes rebellion got in the way.
L to R: Confused and floundering young man; two, older and creatively searching
In high school and my first year of college, rather than seeking academic success, I boxed; and during those years I became the Alabama state runner up in the Golden Gloves.
INFLUENCES OF MUSIC
Music also influenced me, and there were times when all I could hear was Hank Williams crooning “Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow.” And so I headed away from the sanitized environment in which I had been reared and headed west, the most significant move of my life.
Boxing took me to
many places in the South, and though I lost but one fight by a technicality, wisely I got out of the sport.
Nevertheless, I still floundered for awhile and suspect a good name for me during my early years in Montana might have been Bourbon Bert. But simultaneously I also learned to ride a horse and even got to the point where I could stay on the back of a truly wild cayuse. I learned to shoot well, and once I dispatched a charging bear with a .30-06. The bear had killed a young girl.
Rogue bear was created by its
association with garbage dumps, and in1967 it killed a college girl. A ranger friend and I were assigned to find it and kill it.
I guess roving might also be called “getting your shit together,” and that’s what happened. As birthdays began to mount I returned to college in Montana. Upon graduation I became a teacher and summer-time ranger, and then, a few birthdays later, I began working as an Outdoor Writer for a newspaper. Simultaneously I freelanced and published in most magazines that used outdoor material to include Field & Stream, National Wildlife, and Smithsonian. I even tried Playboy, but editors there replied that I simply had not covered the subject adequately.
DON’T WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES?
All this is not to say that everything was perfect, and that I didn’t make a few mistakes. But then that’s what birthdays are for. They’re intended to instill wisdom, and I finally concluded that Playboy was not for me. As well, a very good part of my past caught up to me. I found a girl I had dated in high school.
L To R: Photography and writing have become not only an avocation
but a vocation; two, photography has taken me all over the globe; three, peripatetic Janie, my kindred spirit.
In 1991 I married Janie and that inaugurated a genuinely adventurous period of time. Together, we’ve shared 25 more birthdays — highlighted by months on the Yukon, hikes through the Arctic Refuge and a very meaningful association with the Gwich’in Indians. More recently it has inaugurated explorations of North America in an Airstream trailer resulting in literally dozens of travel stories. It also marked a period during which I’ve produced some of my best works. Significantly Janie and I have coauthored several hiking books and I authored several celebratory books on national parks and scores of magazine stories.
Because of the sterling life I’ve led I’m anticipating that I’ll add another quarter of a century to my current tally. If that proves to be the case, I plan to spend the years with my children — and of course with all family members – helping, I hope, when I can. Perhaps, too, I’ll come out of retirement as a Golden Gloves boxer and return to a symbolic ring to help others fight for the things that have come to mean so much to Janie and me. In a nutshell, that would be the diminishing quality of life I firmly believe we have lost because of our vanishing wildlands.
In another quarter of a century I’ll provide a tally detailing those birthday years. I hope you will check in, for I expect to be wise beyond my years. Some of you already are, I know, and I hope for no less.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy