Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Archive for August, 2006

RV Travel That Works

posted: August 27th, 2006 | by:Bert

PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE
With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Airstream Fish

Fish and Airstream

Bert Gildart: Time wise, we’ve probably completed about half of our trip with our Airstream Travel Trailer and 3/4-ton Dodge Ram, in which we anticipate logging in more than 10,000 miles. Our journey began in early July and will probably end by Thanksgiving, when we’ll be back home in Montana. We really need to beat the snow in the mountain passes into Montana. The major purpose of this trip has been to fulfill a number of magazine assignments.

This most recent leg of our trip, which has spanned about two weeks, has been devoted to time with our East Coast children and grandchildren. The remainder of the trip will concern the business of travel, which has already produced a number of stories (several already logged with appropriate magazines) and literally hundreds of photographs. The photo posted here is dedicated to my son-in-law, Will Friedner, a Minnesota native who claims his state has fish large enough to gobble our Airstream. Now I believe him.

From here, we’ll be heading north to Quebec City. From there, we’re covering Baxter State Park in Maine, hiking up Mt. Kahtadin, the terminus of the Appalachian Trail. After that, it’s on to Nova Scotia to bike the Evangeline Trail and do some kayaking.

On our return trip we’re visiting a number of military parks including several in Washington, D.C. Finally, at least on the East Coast, we’ll be covering Shenandoah, the Great Smokies, and Cumberland Island–in part with our kayaks. Finally, we’ll return to Montana, but that leg will also include stops.

The backbone of all of our travels have been, of course, our ¾ ton Dodge with its Cummings Diesel engine and our 28’ Airstream with its space-enhancing slideout. Since leaving Bigfork, we’ve averaged about 13.9 miles per gallon and have paid between $3.40 and $2.79, the latter price in New Jersey, where, ironically, they do not allow you to pump your own gas.

Our 2004 Dodge is fully loaded, though much, but certainly not all, is bulk. On top, we carry two 17’ 9” kayaks. Inside the topper, we’ve compartmentalized our equipment so that all camping items are in one storage bin and all kayaking items in another. I place one of these bins beneath a shelf, which I constructed, and the other on that shelf. The shelf occupies half of one side of the topper.

On the other side of the topper, go our two bikes, held fast with Bungi cords. Also inside the topper, but overhead, I glued four small pieces of wood and inserted eye bolts into them. Between the eye bolts, I stretch yet more bungi chords, and they keep our carbon-light kayak paddles secure and up and away from damage that could result from loading. Though it may sound that we’re pushing the load limit, we’re not—at least according to a weigh station. According to it, we are about 500 pounds below the 9,100 max on the Airstream and about 250 pounds on our 3/4-ton truck with its heavy duty suspension. Tongue weight is about 1,200 pounds, but our equalizer hitch distributes that weight over the truck’s four wheels, rather then just the two rear ones.

Francisco Morazan

Francisco Morazan

With this set up, we’ve been equipped to fish in Fort Peck Lake and kayak to such incredible places as the wreck of the Francisco Morazan (See August 6 post). As well, we’ve simply been able to tow our Airstream through some of the nation’s most incredible country, such as Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

To a large degree the continued success of our travels is the direct result of our Airstream. We’ve owned other types of travel trailers, but the aereodynamic configuration of the Airstream is superior and it enables us to slice through winds that might topple other brands. Once, those winds gusted to near 70 miles per hour, and in abject fear we sought out shelter, waiting until the winds abated.

TRNP-Airstream

Teddy Roosevelt National Park

In years past, we’ve been caught in winter snow storms where temperatures have dipped to -10°F. To the other extreme, this summer we’ve been caught in temperatures that have soared to 103°F. During such times we’ve generally sought out commercial hookups and activated our air conditioner. But once (this past month) in Theodore Roosevelt NP, we elected to tough it out, essentially because the bison were in rut and I wanted to catch them fighting, which I did. But that night, our Fantastic Fan ran on high power throughout the entire night. The fan helps maintain a flow of air through the trailer, and in the prairie, where humidity is low, you can survive.

Generally, we’ve relied on the long cloud-free days to recharge our batteries through the roof-mounted solar panels, and that has worked well. On overcast days, however, we’ve resorted to the use of our generator. Because we like quiet, we purchased a Honda 2000 (Yamaha also works), and it does indeed live up to its reputation, which is one of “Quiet Power.” In other words, when possible, we are boondockers, not only for the savings, but because boondocking generally places us in magnificent surroundings—which is the focus of my “National Lands” web page.

In several days we’ll be visiting Rich Luhr and family in Vermont, but without any concrete idea of where we’ll be landing, and that—to us at any rate—is one of the biggest joys of RV travel. We like to think of it as Adventure RVing, and the lifestyle (with our Airstream and loaded Dodge) serves us well.

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Ticonderoga—America’s First Revolutionary War Victory

posted: August 25th, 2006 | by:Bert

PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE
With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Bert Gildart: If you visit Fort Ticonderoga in New York—the site back-dropping one of the first significant battles for the Colonies in the Revolutionary War—your first stop should be Mount Defiance rather than the 1700s fort.

Though that’s not what we did yesterday, it’s what we now know we should have done. From the small village of Ticonderoga, located along Lake Champlain, it’s about a five minute drive to the top of the small hill over looking the fort—and much of what that fort once commanded.

That’s what we should have done, for it’s the quickest way to acquire an understanding of the fort’s strategic importance—and the significance of its name.

Mohawk Indians helped name the area, and to them the word Ticonderoga meant “the place between the great waters.” Standing there on top of Mount Defiance, it’s easy now to envision the fort’s importance. To the east, Lake Champlain sprawls before you. Turn now 180 degrees and you can see the drainage of Lake George, something cannon fire could control. And now, it’s time to visit the fort proper.

If you join one of the tours you learn right away that the security of New France and New England depended on the fortification and defense of this critical pass. And so, in 1755, the French began to build a fort, but because war was being waged in Europe, little attention was paid to this far flung outpost, and it remained unfinished—and vulnerable. In 1758, English troops, which outnumbered French troops five to one, stormed the fort. But under the superb leadership of the French general, Marquis de Montcalm, Fort Carrilon, as it was then known, held. Today, a marker commemorates the bravery of General Montcalm. In fact, you see the marker along the picturesque drive leading to the fort.

Subsequently, the British acquired the fort through negotiations, but they didn’t hold it long. On May 10, 1775 Ethan Allen demanded surrender from the British. He was joined by Benedict Arnold (Yes, the man who later turned traitor to the American cause), and together they claimed the first victory in the Revolutionary War.

That is a thumbnail sketch of the historic significance of this colorful fort, but it’s only a part of what we came to see. We wanted to see the pageantry still celebrated at this fort, and part of that is the first order of the day.

Because the history of the fort was shaped by three nations, each morning at the fort the day begins with the raising of French, British and American flags. About an hour later, there’s a cannon demonstration, and interpreters demonstrate the correct way to load a cannon. Simultaneously, they explain that cannon ball range is well over a mile, and that that range is adequate to control the passage to and from Lake George.

As well, the grounds on which the fort is housed also contains an elegant series of gardens, reminiscent of the time early French soldiers produced their own staples, as well as of the first attempts to attract tourist interested in Revolutionary history.

Recognizing a business opportunity, William Ferris Pell purchased the fort and the grounds in 1820, built a hotel and enhanced the grounds with a garden that offered beauty and the historic interpretation of the French to produce their own food.

Though the fort and grounds subsequently passed through several owners, today management is controlled by the Fort Ticonderoga Association. It’s all very photogenic, and is what Janie and I spent an entire day attempting to interpret.

Typically, Janie approached images with more standard lenses while I search for close-up opportunities with my 80-400 Nikon lens with image stabilization. At this stop, Janie also devoted more attention to the gardens. It’s a way of optimizing our time at a site that has such an incredible amount of material to absorb.

After all, Fort Ticonderoga lays claim to America’s first victory in the Revolutionary War, and they’ve gone to lengths to interpret, in time and place, the conditions of that claim.

 

——–

 

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.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy


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




Read Comments | 1 Comment »

New Jersey—Historic And Surprisingly Rural

posted: August 23rd, 2006 | by:Bert

PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE
With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Bert Gildart: Through the years, when I’ve traveled in New Jersey, I’ve generally been driving the Turnpike near Trenton, being scrunched between semis on three-lane madhouses. But New Jersey has another side to it, one that is surprisingly rural and that includes names other than Hoboken or Newark.

If you take time to travel the northern part of the state, you’ll find a surprising assortment of quaint villages with names like Long Valley, Mendham, Chester, Hope, Tranquility, Great Meadows—and Morristown. You can select most any part of this state that’s off the interstate and, here, you can absorb a potpourri of rural American.

In the area in which we’ve been staying, we’ve discovered a fish hatchery; a number of state parks, such as Jenny Jump; a number of quiet country roads where farmers have placed their produce on tables asking that you select what you want and pay by the honor system—and a national park with a significant story to relate.

To begin with, most of these attractions interpret pride in history and country and in some cases date back to the early 1700s. Not surprisingly, people in all these little towns are extraordinarily proud of their heritage, and most seem to be extraordinarily patriotic, displaying the American flag in various ways.

Some display Old Glory from porches while others have taken the hours or even days, to paint one of the permanent structures, such as a house, and, as I discovered while bicycling one of the area’s rural roads, the entire side of an old barn. Flags, it seems, are flown without regard to political affiliation and are exhibited to say simply that “Here lives a proud American.”

Yet another surprise—as we’ve discovered while visiting family who live along Shades of Death Road—was the presence of a significant national park. The park is devoted essentially to the year George Washington was forced to winter in the little town of Morristown, more horrific than his winter at Valley Forge.

Morristown National Historic Park, though small, includes almost 30 miles of hiking trails and an interpretive program that explains the conditions of the times. The park includes the home where George Washington wintered and from which he delegated orders to troops of the newly formed Continental Army. That Army was housed in Jockey Hollow, which forms the bulk of this park.

Jockey Hollow is about a 20 minute drive from Morristown and is reached by following the Tempe Wick Road. “Tempe,” said the volunteer at the Wick House in Jockey Hollow, “was short for Temperance, a biblical association appropriate for the time when people were so extraordinarily—temperate. In those days,” said Pauline Kint, “women wore clothing that downplayed their femininity.”

The area now comprising the national park was one that was carefully chosen by Washington. Here, he could maintain a watch on the British wintering around Manhattan Isalnd, guard the roads connecting New England with the Revolutionary capital at Philadelphia, and move swiftly to any threatening point. What he did not count on, however, was the severity of the 1779-1780 winter, the worst, at the time, in Morristown’s recorded history.

“That winter made Valley Forge look like a picnic,” said Kim Watts, another park interpreter, explaining the significance of the Wick House.

Because of the picturesque setting, we devoted much time to the Wick House. Kim detailed life as it was in those far off Colonial times, demonstrating techniques for tightening ropes on the bed, gardening, and techniques for creating fabrics.

As well, she explained the layout on one of the desks, which contained writing material. The results detailed the output of a soldier during Washington’s times, and the layout included a promissory note, a map and a ledger of troops and supplies.

All this was just another manifestation of the way in which New Jersey has emerged to so successfully tell a story about its rural past, a state with more than an adequate amount of resources to tell this story surprisingly well. That, however, is something residents have realized for years.

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Shades Of Death Road

posted: August 20th, 2006 | by:Bert

PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE
With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Bert Gildart: For the past few days, our forwarding address in New Jersey has been: Shades of Death Road. Each time we’ve provided the address, the response has been an audible intake of breath.

“What did you say your address was?”

“Did I get that right?” “Is it really Shades of Death Road?”

Shades Of Death Road

Shades of Death Road

Shades of Death is a popular road sign, and yes, it’s true, some of our family members live here, specifically our grandchildren, and like all young children living under the shadow of such a name, they can tell you a number of legends associated with the name.

So, in fact, can many other people, as I discovered when I went into Hackettestown for a haircut. And because you keep hearing the same legend told in more or less the same way, apparently there’s some truth to the legends. But whether the legends are true, swiping the sign in midnight raids was so popular, that according to our grandchildren who have the fortune (or misfortune) of living along this road, the New Jersey Road Department has had to implement means of discouraging theft.

First, according to Kelsey, Kyle and Corey, who all know the stories, the department coated the pole with oil. When that didn’t work, officials created a one-piece structure made of hard metal, and that seems to be working, at least for the time being.



Ghost Lake Overlook Hike

Ghost Lake Overlook Hike

Shades of Death Road runs from Great Meadow to Allamuchy, and according to one legend this road, which is approximately five miles long, has its name rooted in murder. One tale relating to murder says that the original inhabitants of the area surrounding Shades of Death were an unruly band of squatters.

Often, men from this vile gang would get into fights over women, and the squabbles would result in the death of one of the participants. As the reputation of these murderous bandits grew, the area they inhabited was named “Shades of Death. ”Yet another legend is rooted in association with the marshy swampland which surrounds it.

Around 1850, an outbreak of malaria carrying insects was discovered near a cliff face along Shades of Death. As the citizens around Shades came to expect the yearly outbreaks of this terrible disease, they began to anticipate the annual spate of deaths of friends and family members which came along with it. Like any community, their landmarks, in particular this one road, came to reflect the morose attitude they had regarding these epidemics.“But whether or not any of these legends is true or not,” emphasized Chick, who is a third generation barber in Hacketstown, respected for his fellowship, “is something we may never know.”

Still, legends do what legends always do: they grow; and typical of areas with morose sounding names, other features also take on sinister sounding names, as did a man-made lake created by a small dam in the 1940s. Because of its association with Shades of Death and the ghostly apparitions of fog wisping over the water, the men who constructed the lake called it Ghost Lake.



Ghost Cave

Ghost Cave



While here with grandchildren, we decided to hike to a cave that was supposed to connect to Ghost Lake, which we did following a half mile walk. Kyle wanted to explore the cave, but we quickly discovered that despite the claim of a connecting passage, that it was not one we wanted to take. Keith and Katie, the children’s parents, say the passage does exist, but that it is narrow and includes a drop off, from which you must then scuba dive.

We all agreed that performing such a feat sounded as sinister as Shades of Death Road—and that we wouldn’t add any possible bodies to the still growing legend. In the meantime, we’re happy to let “Shades,” as it affectionately called, assume its rightful name among a pantheon of other descriptive names such as the Bucket Of Blood in Virginia City Nevada.





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.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy


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




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Old Sturbridge Village

posted: August 14th, 2006 | by:Bert

Bert Gildart: With a few quick pulls on a handle, the blacksmith filled the bellows with air which was in turn directed at smoldering embers in an old fashion hearth. Then the young bearded man inserted a piece of metal and heated it until it glowed red. He then removed the metal from the fire and began pounding it until it assumed a predetermined shape, which at times was a horseshoe, other times an implement of some type.

The setting was a scene from Sturbridge Village, a village recreated to preserve and celebrate a way of life which existed in the mid 1800s in Massachusetts.

The plan was conceived by members of the Wells family, who purchased in 1936 an old farm belong to the Wight family. It was their intention to create a historical museum in which to display their collections of antiques and to portray a way of life that once existed in New England.

The village was a made-for-us opportunity, as it provided us a chance to learn about the history of this part of the country and do so with our grandchildren, Cassidy, Griff and Piper and their parents, Alun and Karen Polga. Cassidy and Griffin immediately recognized the opportunities and climbed aboard the stand from which they then poke their faces, instantly transforming themselves into soldier and drummer.

Opportunities to immerse yourself in our historic past are fast fading fast from our country, and sadly, Old Sturbridge Village may be struggling to stay out of the red, for apparently the majority of Americans aren’t all that interested in history, preferring instead to visit theme parks (carousel rides, water slides, etc.) , rather than to visit parks interpreting our national heritage. That is a sad commentary, as the village provides excitement for people of all ages—and a golden opportunity to learn. For me personally, the village offered interesting photographic settings, filled with lighting opportunities that proved artful.

Old Sturbridge Village is set along the Quinebaug River and sprawls over about a 100 acres of land. Building were purchased or otherwise obtained from various areas of the state and then brought to the old David Wight farm. Throughout Old Sturbridge Village paid interpreters take you back in history. Trails took us to a number of places to include wallows for pigs, a cotton mill, an old Grist Mill and a tin shop.

For me, the tin shop provided unique photo opportunities because the light was so soft, lacking the type of contrast that would have completely washed out detail inherent in the bright tin and the dark walls.

What’s more the interpreter was engaged in the making of a number of objects which were used in the 1800s, such as plates, tin cups, and washing bowls. Virtually all of these objects can be purchased at one of the local shops.

Of course, the most imposing structures were the old Salem Towne House, the old Fenno House and the Center Meetinghouse, with its skyward pointing steeple.

This latter structure served a dual purpose, that of a center of spiritual power and as a symbol of town authority. This structure dates back to 1790, and represents a time of religious revival, a time when residents attended lengthy Sunday morning and afternoon services. Interestingly, not far away were posted the various punishments imposed on those who strayed far from the fold.

Punishments included branding and dunking, in which a person was strapped into a chair affixed with long pole which rotated from its fulcrum up—and down—and then into the river, where they were held until their breath ran out, and sometimes, possibly, beyond the air that a person had inhaled. Times were harsh then, but on the frontier, apparently harsh conditions were needed to control those who strayed to far from the fold.

Throughout the day, demonstrations were held, and these included shooting demonstrations as well as an attempt to launch a hot-air balloon in front of the old Salem House.

Because the wind was blowing so hard, the demonstration was not particularly successful, but it did provide the opportunity to study the old home, which was built, according to the Old Sturbridge Visitor’s guide, in accordance with the principles provided by the 1792 American edition of William Pain’s Practical Builder.

We spent the entire afternoon on the grounds, and concluded as we sauntered along in an old horse-drawn wagon, that for us, at least, this was a wonderful way in which to not only have fun, but to learn much about life the way that it once existed in much more puritanical times.

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Kayaking To the Wreck of the Francisco Morazan

posted: August 6th, 2006 | by:Bert

PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE
With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Bert Gildart: From a distance, the wreck of the Francisco Morazan, a Liberan freighter grounded on November 23, 1960 looks like the lower jaw of the deer so many of us find in the spring while walking in the woods. In this case the teeth are formed by the hundreds of cormorants that have found nesting sites on the iron girders, the old smoke stack, the railings that once functioned to keep this huge vessel afloat. Cormorants are bold creatures, and, they remained so until Janie paddled into the contortion of metal that Lake Michigan waves have twisted and folded over the years. Then the dark birds lost their nerve, departing the wreck by the hundreds.

It’s not an easy task to reach the Morazan, but it is certainly worth the effort, and is something we knew in advance we wanted to do. Several days ago, we pulled into the John Day Campground on the mainland in Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore. After meeting several campground hosts, and learning that we could in fact leave our Airstream unattended in the campground for several days (and feel safe), we began planning in earnest for a trip to South Manitou.

The real planning, however, had been done back in Montana and all camping gear and kayak gear was compartmentalized in substantial bins we carry in the back of our pickup. Arriving at a site, all that’s needed is to quickly transfer necessary items into daypacks, backpacks and kayaks for easy use. More monumental were other decisions: Should we attempt crossing the same narrow nine-mile-wide Manitou Passage the 26-year-old captain had braved the same passage that has claimed over 140 ships since 1835? Or should we drive 30 minutes to Leland and make the hour-and-a-half ferry trip to South Manitou?

Park rangers don’t try and persuade you one way or the other; they simply present the facts. And one of the facts was rather persuasive. “Each year,” said the ranger at the entrance to the John Day Campground, “the Manitou Passage seems to take a kayaker or two.” Then she explained that just last week two kayakers had set out for South Manitou. One kayak made it, but a week later now, and the other kayaker has yet to show. “We fear the worst,” said the ranger. “In fact, we’re simply watching for bodies to wash ashore…

“It’s the uncertainty of weather on Lake Michigan,” said the ranger, “and it can never be predicted.”

Several days later we took the ferry to South Manitou, and two hours later were erecting our tent at Bay Campground, a campground designated as “an entrance to the wilderness.” Three hours later we were shoving off for the three-mile paddle along the shore of South Manitou. Four hours later, the wreck of the “Francisco Morazan” was in sight.

When you first see the old freighter, the huge ship seems an apparition; it simply doesn’t seem real. Sure you’re acquainted with tragedy of some form or other; most of us are. But because we’re so insulated from massive catastrophes, the sight of one, even a relatively old one, seems unreal. But there it was, a huge wrecked ship–a significant tragedy–and even from a distance, you know something is wrong, for the ship is listing slightly away from the shore.

Closer now, and you can see that the bow of the boat is separated from its more central part, but, essentially, the front of the ship is beneath the water’s surface, and it may or may not be connected. Only the scuba divers really know.

The Morazan met her fate on November 23, 1960. The previous day, the young captain had departed Chicago bound for Rotterdam, when he suddenly encountered one of those unexpected storms we had been told could so quickly occur—and that could make our kayaking most unpleasant. Now, with decks awash and navigators blinded by heavy snow squalls, the captain turned to the port and ran his 246-foot freighter aground on the southern shores of South Manitou, where it has remained for the past 46 years.

For several hours we paddled around the Morazan, examining it from a variety of positions. We recalled that others had met their fate here and had created legends of their own. One island legend concerns two young men determined to explore the Morazan. Swimming from shore to the vessel, both climbed aboard. One of the young men apparently slipped, and though the specifics are unknown, apparently he cracked his head, was knocked unconscious and then he drowned. Because the young man had once been so vibrant, some islanders believed they could look through the portals and see his ghost. The “sightings” so unnerved some that they covered the portals, and so eliminated further such “encounters.”

Other stories abound, and though we had difficulty breaking free of the magnetism created by the Morazan, we paddled ashore, climbed the bluff and viewed the wreck from that perspective. Unlike the 26-year-old captain, we had wonderful luck, for Lake Michigan had turned to glass, and from the bluff we could see the shallow water into which the captain had the misfortune to direct his vessel. But he did retain some luck, for his crew of 13—and his wife and unborn child—were all rescued.

That evening, our magnificent luck continued unabated, for a slight wind rose up from our stern, almost pushing us back toward our campground. Off in the distance and on the mainland, a crescent moon ascended over the huge expanse of sand that comprise the Sleeping Bear, and we recalled the legend of the Sleeping Bear and her cubs cited in an earlier posting. Then, turning around for one final look of the shipwreck, we saw that the cormorants had returned, creating that ominous appearing “jaw,” we had first seen.

The apparition reminded us that this national park was created out of a land containing much uncertainty. Such conditions, of course, give rise to some of the best stories, and it was impossible to conceive that we might never pass this way again.




 

——–

 

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.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy


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




Read Comments | 4 Comments »

National Parks Unite In Strange Ways

posted: August 1st, 2006 | by:Bert

PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE
With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Bert Gildart: My nephew’s email address contains the word “anywhere,” as in WalterAnyWhere@whatever. The address is apt, as we’ve been discovering this past year and just yesterday at Sleeping Bear Dune National Seashore.

This morning, while packing near the town of Empire, Michigan, hoping for a camping site to open up in the national park-administered campground at the famous dunes , we received a call on our cell phone.

It was Walter, and he said he was in Traverse City, Michigan, visiting friends, and that they, in fact, planned to spend the day hiking in Sleeping Bear. “Where,” he wondered, “are you?”

Ironically, we had seen Walter and his finance, Erin, twice this past year, once in San Antonio, Texas and then, a month or so later, at Mesa Verde. And each time, which ever one of us had placed the call, the question always had been: “Where are you?”

This is the third now, this year, and yesterday, the proximity had been uncanny; our timing better then if derived from months of planning. For instance, this morning, neither of us knew the other would be in the same state, much less just 15 minutes away.

At first I thought the coincidences uncanny, but on reflection, we both enjoy seeing national park administered areas. Essentially, that’s my job; it’s what Janie and I do. In a way, it’s also what Walter does, for he has been involved in the outdoors either as a vocation or an avocation since he was young. And now, what better place to chance into one another then in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore?

Yesterday, we hiked a short trail in the park and learned about the legend of the park, easy to appreciate from the vantage ultimately offered by the overlook reached by the Alligator Hill Trail.

In the distance we could see two islands, North Manitou and South Manitou. These islands represent two black bear cubs that perished when they—with their mother—were fleeing from a forest fire by swimming across a wide bay in Lake Michigan.

The sow waited for her cubs on the mainland, but they never showed. Today, she still waits, but in the form of the huge “sleeping bear” sand dunes. She is the Sleeping Bear Dune and the two substantial islands are her cubs, still trying to reach the mainland.

The park is beautiful unit in the national park system and it is one we will be reporting on for several magazines. Cursory exploration tells us that this park became a park in 1970, and that it is certainly worthy of designation, as it seems to offer so much.

We’ll be here for about a week and during that time plan to hike many of the trails, take in a Coast Guard demonstration, visit an old general store preserved by the park service and, visit South Manitou by taking advantage of a shuttle service to transport our kayaks. There’s an old ship wreck there, and we’d like to kayak around it.

After leaving here, we’ll be seeing Walter and Erin again, but this time our visit is a planned one, and will be at my sister’s at Lake George, New York. After that, I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again, but more then likely it will be serendipitously: “Walter, we’re in Nova Scotia. Are you anywhere nearby?”

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