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

Five Years Ago A Ranger was Murdered In Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument—What’s Happened Since?

Bert Gildart: The inscription on the rock just outside the Kris Eggle Visitor Center in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument tells part of the story.

On August 9, 2002, while protecting visitors from harm, United States Park Ranger Kris Eggle was slain in the line of duty.

His service and sacrifice to the National Park Service and the people of this country will never be forgotten.

KRIS EGGLE: Kris Eggle was born in 1973, and died from bullet wounds of an AK-47 fired at him in the monument by a drug runner. Ranger Eggle had been chasing the man, and with the help of his radio and an overhead helicopter was closing the gap. Everyone says Kris was a fast runner and in excellent shape, and if all things had been even, his killer would not have had a chance.

Agents in the helicopter radioed the young ranger that one of the drug runners was near him, and so Kris stopped running, and that’s when the man with illegal drugs stepped from behind the massive clump of organ pipe and fired his lethal blast. Kris was shrouded in Kevlar but the bullet ricocheted off his radio and struck his femoral artery. Tragically, the 28-year-old man died shortly thereafter.

The assailant then fled into Mexico where he was gunned down by Mexican Federales in a barrage of fire that some say numbered 32 shots.

Two men had been involved in the drug run, and Federales also caught the other man, but here’s the part of the story that is just incomprehensible. He was sentenced to 15 years, and was placed in an American jail. That means the man has 11 more years to serve before he will be out and free to again run drugs again.

Sadly, that’s just a part of the injustice, for Kris Eggle was attempting to protect the resource so that visitors to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument could immerse themselves in the Sonora desert, the most diverse and splendid of all American deserts. Because of America’s inability to control the flow of illegals from Mexico, huge sections of this monument are now closed—and, once again, it is because rangers have encountered illegal drug runners.

The drug runners who killed Ranger Eggle had rammed through the wire fencing just east of the Lukeville border crossing and had progressed about a mile when Eggle mixed with his killer.

Though there have been changes, they’re not substantial. However, there is a wire fence and now a stout railroad tie fence intended to stop drug runners from plowing through. Nevertheless that has not stopped the flow of pushers, so backcountry roads in the monument remain closed. They’re closed because people have still managed to overcome the barriers and cross into the U.S.

One section that is closed is a section Janie and I drove about 10 years ago, but according to one ranger, “it may never be opened again. “There’s much too much of a financial incentive and we don’t have the resources to stop it.”

The road the ranger was talking about is the 53 mile long Puerto Blanco Road, which departs from the Kris Eggle Visitor Center, heads north and then sweeps south toward the Mexican border. When it nears the border it swings back east, and from here it courses about 15 miles along the border.

Though you can drive the first 5 miles of this road, after that your passage is blocked by a gate. Beyond that lie verdant tanajas, or water pools, but all are closed to protect visitors from encountering undesirables.

BORDER CROSSING: The government has, however, begun extending the railroad tie fence both east and west of Lukeville, Arizona, hoping that it will one day create a boundary along the monument’s southern boundary, which is contiguous here with Mexico.

One day, drug runners may not be able to plow through a wire fence in their cars, but it won’t stop desperate men with wire cutters. This past year some 10,000 illegals (that’s one of several numbers tossed out) are thought to have crossed the border here at Organ Pipe. And so, because of inadequate funding, over one third of the park remains closed, in part because of illegal immigrants, but more because of current drug activity.

It’s not what visitors want; it’s not what most in the National Park Service wants; and I doubt it is what a man trying to protect the resources so visitor could enjoy the majesty of the Sonora Desert would have wanted.

It’s a sad state of affairs, and we find ourselves asking what can be done to protect American visitors and the park’s law enforcement people? It seems the situation is steadily worsening…

Note: Hi, Joe, Think your dad might approve of our sentiments. Glad you’re logged on!

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.

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Big Sky Country is beautiful

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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

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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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