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 April, 2007

Stroke—Learn The Symptoms For One Day Such Knowledge Could Help You Or A Love One

posted: April 30th, 2007 | by:Bert

Bert Gildart: As indicated in previous post, this past week Janie and I traveled to Kennewick, Washington, to attend an outdoor writer’s conference. Kennewick is the home of the famous Kennewick Man, discovered along the banks of the Columbia River. Its discovery about 15 years ago set off a round of world-wide debate regarding its origin and the debate continues yet. Certainly the skull and complete skeleton are ancient, perhaps over 10,000 years old. But was the person Native American or did HE (and it was a he!) belong to some other ethnic group? At a later time, we plan to learn more about this great mystery.

However, right now we need to regroup following a bit of misfortune and take this time to express gratitude to family, friends, strangers!–and to an incredible group of medical providers.

Certainly Kennewick is home to some of the nation’s best doctors, despite the fact that the town is somewhat remote. What luck, for this past Tuesday, Janie suffered a stroke, and they were there in full force when she needed them!

Problems manifested themselves when Janie started slurring her speech, and when she did, I knew something was wrong. Parking the truck, I rushed into a nearby medical facility shouting that my wife was having a stroke. Immediately these good people went into action. They hurried to our truck with a wheelchair. They called the ambulance and within 45 minutes, Janie was in Kennewick General Hospital where a team of doctors began administering a massive clot buster known as TPA.

Later in the day, hospital administrators told me to move my Airstream from the campground parked 30 minutes away and park it in their special RV site. Interestingly, as Janie improved she could see it from her room. In that location our home-away-from-home was but a three minute walk away from Janie’s room. And wow, did our polished Airstream draw comments from the hospital staff. One doctor said our trailer added a touch of nostalgia to their hospital grounds.

One week later, and back home in Bigfork, Montana, it seems as though the lucky proximity to a medical facility and the subsequent great care administered by doctors will result in a full recovery, though there are hurtles we must yet overcome. Nevertheless, doctors say the problems will resolve themselves favorably.

Obvious some of the events Janie and I had planned to enter this year had to be postponed until next year’s conference. However, I would like to take a moment and express our gratitude at the outpouring of sympathy not only from family members but from the local community of outdoor writers who sent flowers, cards and to those who stopped by the hospital to personally express their concern.

Tana Bader Inglima, Vice President of Marketing & Public Affairs for the Tri-Cities Convention Center, made several trips to the hospital. She really had nothing to gain from these trips. She simply wanted to let me know that she would personally help in any way she could. She said she knew how difficult it must be for us as perfect strangers to the community to have such a scary problem. Well, she may have been a stranger before our trip to Kennewick, but now she’s a friend.

As well, we know that we have the support of family, friends, and neighbors. In fact, when we returned home late last night (in caravan with Janie’s sister and brother-in-law), we discovered neighbors had cut our lawn and that another neighbor had prepared supper and placed it into a cooler. Wow! Did we chow down.

In closing this posting I want to suggest readers learn the symptoms of stroke. Because other people in my family have suffered from strokes I knew what to do; I’ve had experience. Though panic spurred me on last week, nevertheless doctors said I did do the right things—and that I did recognize at least the one symptom Janie exhibited.

Cut and paste these symptoms to your word processing program, print them out and then review them periodically.

*Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
*Sudden confusion, trouble speaking (this is what Janie exhibited) or understanding
*Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
*Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
*Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

In a day or so we’ll be back on track, and in between some follow up doctor appointments, will resume postings on natural history subjects and adventure travel. I still want to share (mentioned in an early post) with you some trips we’ve made to Alaska. Our setbacks are but temporary, so perhaps we’ll see you along the way. In several months you might even look for us along the Columbia River where we’re hoping to learn more about Kennewick Man–and why the banks of this fabled river in eastern Washington produce some of the world’s best wine!!!

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Planet Earth and Earth Day

posted: April 22nd, 2007 | by:Bert

Bert Gildart: Since its establishment in 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated 37 times, and with much justification. At the time of designation, I was serving as a school teacher in a logging community and I remember the enthusiasm with which the small town of Troy, Montana, rallied behind events the town had prepared.

POLLUTION (Photo From Internet): Those were different times. It was a time when rivers caught fire and cities were hidden under dense clouds of smoke. Because of the status of our environment at the time over 20 million people celebrated the first Earth Day.

Enthusiasm was great and though it has waned since those times, nevertheless our nation has made remarkable progress in protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment.

WHITE PELICANS: To help recall some success stories I’ve posted a few photos, and began with a picture of White Pelicans, a population which had suffered immensely from DDT. The chemical, as many recall, interacted with eggs—and weakened them to such an extent that when adults incubated them, they’d crush them. Rachael Carlson, of course, was one of the far thinking scientists of the times, who also happened to be extraordinarly talented as a writer, penning Silent Spring. She predicted such results.

BALD EAGLES: Fortunately DDT was banned else in all probability other magnificent species as our American symbol would now be absent. The bird was placed on the Endangered Species list, but removed in 1996, an environmental success story. But it might not have happened without an Earth Day, which helped us all realize the need for an Environmental Protection Agency, created by President Richard Nixon. The agency helped eliminate the wide-spread use of DDT.

PEREGRINE FALCON: Another species once on the endangered species list was the Peregrine Falcon, but today, there are an estimated 1,650 breeding pairs in the United States and Canada.

Other environmental achievement of the time include the 1970 Congressional amendment to the Clean Air Act, which set national air quality, auto emission, and anti-pollution standards. The following year Congress restricted the use of lead-based paint in residences and on cribs and toys. As well, in 1972 EPA baned DDT, a cancer-causing pesticide, and required extensive review of all pesticides. That same year the United States and Canada agree to clean up the Great Lakes, which contain 95 percent of America’s fresh water and supply drinking water for 25 million people.

PURE FISHING STREAMS: There was also something in movements of the times for the sportsman and in 1972 Congress passed the Clean Water Act, limiting raw sewage and other pollutants flowing into rivers, lakes, and streams.

We fishermen benefited for at the time only 36 percent of the nation’s assessed stream miles were safe for uses such as fishing and swimming.

Today, about 60 percent are safe for such uses, so there’s still more work to do.

Today, in view if the fact that we are facing what some consider a major crisis because of excessive green house gases spewed into the environment, it is interesting to contrast our success with our failures. We recall that over the past 37 years we have polluted the environment to such an extent that once the Cuyahoga Rivers caught fire. But we can also recall with pride that we have been able to remedy mistakes of the past.

All it takes is commitment, and once we proved that we had it and that the result was Earth Day.

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Alaska’s Denali National Park—and THE MOUNTAIN

posted: April 21st, 2007 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: In Alaska, in Denali National Park, on the night of June 21—the summer solstice—the sun dips to its lowest point about 1 a.m. and then rises again about 20 minutes later. Light, of course, is most dramatic around the time of sunset and sunrise, and that evening, I set out from a campsite to film the majesty of Mount McKinley. Mosquitoes were thick, and when I struck out over the muskeg, swarms of vicious, demonic bugs rose with each footfall and descended with a vengeance.

Alaska hosts 20-some different species of mosquitoes, and that night every single last species (please don’t doubt me!) attacked. In my crazed state of mind, these mosquitoes seemed birdlike in size prompting me to recall the empirical observations of one noted naturalist who maintains that your average Alaskan-male mosquito “can stand flatfooted and kiss a turkey.”

THE MOUNTAIN: On another more sober occasion, this same naturalist said that at the peak of mosquito season the hordes could suck a quart of blood a day from a caribou (and, by inference, from me!). Still, I hurried on, reaching a point I had scoped out earlier in the day. Here, a blessed breeze was blowing, enough so that many of the mosquitoes were knocked down—allowing sanity to return.

Hurriedly I set up my tripod, and though a number of persistent bugs swarmed not only in my face but also in front of the lens, I controlled the situation by waving my hands just before clicking the shutter. To make sure that my long hike would not be in vain, I took many insurance shots. After all, here was THE MOUNTAIN, as some proclaim in reverential terms.

But the bugs were such a distraction that I couldn’t linger, fully understanding why criminals who have escaped to the tundra grow frantic before the onslaught of winged-demons and happily surrender. That night I returned to the protective shroud offered by my tent; next day, I surrendered to the comforts of my trailer, and did so with alacrity.

TENT CAMPER: Without qualification, RV travelers to Alaska have an advantage over other forms of exploration, and over the years, Janie and I have driven the ALCAN and visited the park many times, progressing from tent camper, camper van to travel trailer. With but one exception, we’ve always found ourselves waiting out adverse conditions—or spending a day or two retreating from a swell of mosquitoes, obsessed with ways to cope (more on that later). Nevertheless, moody—even contentious—Denali has never disappointed, for in between spates with mosquitoes and dark days of rain, there have always been visits with wildlife enjoyed nowhere else in the world. And, finally, of course, there had been THE MOUNTAIN, and when it did come out from behind clouds, sometimes the occasion could be so moving that it seemed to affect our very souls.

If you’ve ever wanted to go to Alaska but were afraid of the ALCAN, let me reassure you that the horrors no longer exist, for in 1994, the road was straightened out and most of the gravel replaced with asphalt. However, the journey is still an adventure, and you’ll want to plan your outing well in advance. Now is certainly not too great to get started.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll provide some thoughts on places to stop along the way, and items you should take. However, we’ll be traveling this next week, pulling our Airstream to Kennewick, Washington, for an outdoor writer’s conference. So we’ll be reporting for several days on activities from there. For those who have been following along with this blog, you’ll recall I’m entering a photo contest and I’ll let you know how I make out.

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Montana’s National Bison Range Is 18,500-Acre Classroom

posted: April 18th, 2007 | by:Bert

Bert Gildart: Next year Montana’s National Bison Range will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary, and perhaps in part because of that historic event, much attention is being focused on the refuge.

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE: What I’d like to do in this posting is graphically suggest what an incredible outdoor classroom these 18,500 acres can provide. At times various members of the staff enhance the experience by providing hand’s-on outdoor instruction, such as in this discussion of the skeletal makeup of a bull bison. But for the most part, you discover the excitement of nature by driving—and staying alert.

The photographs are from my stock files, and were taken in spring over a ten-year period. All were made on this incredible chunk of land that has been accorded so many accolades—but that is currently under so much scrutiny. (See previous posting.)

BISON CALF: Guaranteed, one animal you’ll see here is the bison, and right now there are 130 cows of breedable age among the refuge’s 300 bison. On average about 90 calves are born each year, and this one was born in the spring. It’s a photograph made 10 years ago, and was taken at the first pasture that greets you near the visitor center.

To facilitate your explorations, there’s a 19-mile long loop road that takes you through all habitat types, and you can make the complete drive from early May to about the second weekend in November. Other times, there’s a shorter drive and it too provides numerous wildlife sightings. But in a few weeks, you can make the entire loop, and those who do will see some form of wildlife within the first few miles of the one-way drive every time you visit. Guaranteed!

ANTELOPE: That’s where I found this group of antelope. The area is known as Pauline Springs, and if you look closely you’ll see two young antelope on both sides of the adults. They’re lying in the grass, trying to remain obscure. The one on the right almost succeeds, but look near the left hind leg (oriented so it’s on far right) of the adult antelope and you’ll see an eye.

Skipping along—and many bison sightings later—the road peaks at mile 8 at an elevation of 4,700 feet. Here, the Bitterroot Trail links with the road and proceeds for several hundred yards to the highest point in the refuge, which is 4,800 feet.

BLUE GROUSE: This lofty region overlooking the Mission Mountains is also a favorite hangout for blue grouse, and I photographed this one in early May several years ago. It’s a male, and if you listen closely you’ll hear the ventriloquist hooting of this bird. Simultaneously, it puffs out its shoulder area displaying the orange patch, which is really a feather tract devoid of feathers. The swelling, which changes from orange to red, tells other male grouse that this is its territory, “STAY OUT.”

The area is also a hangout for sheep, deer, elk, and blue grouse, and sightings of all these critters are back-dropped by glacier-clad McDonald Peak. At such times, it’s easy to see why radio commentator Paul Harvey proclaimed that one of his favorite Montana drives takes him through the Mission Valley.

FAWN: From here, the road drops and you’ll possibly see bison and more antelope. But then the road flattens out, and as you near your point of departure on this loop road, look to your right along the creek and often you’ll see white-tailed deer—and sometimes a fawn or two.

So there you have it, a very quick sampling from one of our nation’s most incredible outdoor classrooms… Thanks for your time.

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Who’s King of the Pasture at Montana’s National Bison Range?

posted: April 16th, 2007 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: High atop a wind-swept butte in western Montana, Janie and I watched a wildlife spectacle few are ever fortunate enough to see. Below us, late evening sun transformed stalks of summer-dried wheat grass to a soft rose-colored glow. There, two giant bull buffalo backed ponderously away from one another until they stood 20 feet apart. The mammoth beasts pawed angrily at the parched grass, kicking dust high into the air, roaring like lions.

BISON IN RUT: Muscles tensed; then the animals bore down on one another crashing with such momentum that the sound of their impact carried far above the gusting wind of the sprawling plains. Again and again they repeated the ritual, colliding like locomotives until it appeared their skulls would shatter.

For 15 to 20 minutes, the brutal punishment continued. Finally, just as the sun dipped toward a distant range of peaks, one combatant turned groggily and staggered off. With eyes a-glare, the other turned—defiant, angry—searching for yet another challenger. Clearly, this huge bull was king of the pasture—at least that is until recently.

Sadly, two other groups are vying to determine who will assume that highly contentious role, and they’re battling as vigorously as the two bison bulls. Specifically, these two antagonists are the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe.

Because the bison were all acquired from Native Americans (at least indirectly), and because the land on which they roam might arguably be said to have been purchased from Indians at a time when they lacked business acumen, almost a hundred years later—right now, today!—local Native Americans are attempting to take over (or at least obtain greater involvement) the National Bison Range. Of course, the government counters, and two years ago, Regional Fish & Wildlife Director Rick Coleman told a group of us reporters that the lands comprising the refuge were morally and legally obtained, adding, “The refuge belongs to all Americans.”

HERDING BISON: Nevertheless, the CSKT gained inroads, and for about two years it appeared as though a cooperative effort might be achieved. The USFWS would maintain management, while the tribe would perform maintenance. Unfortunately, that didn’t work at all, and recently at the height of the disagreement, allegedly members of the CSKT physically and verbally attacked National Bison Range Project Leader Steve Kallin.

Obviously those actions detract from the tribe’s other achievements as successful business managers, and when working alone, they’ve managed to successfully oversee Mission Valley Power. As well, the tribe has established water quality standards on Flathead Lake that are the envy of the nation. Perhaps that’s the problem. Perhaps on a tribal basis they have difficulty assuming a subordinate role, a role that I, too, have always hated.

Nevertheless, the upshot is that those of us who find satisfaction in visiting this national wildlife preserve are the losers. What’s now happening is the bison herd is being reduced through roundups much like those conducted in the fall. Some of the bison will be shipped to other national herds, and this, the tribe says, didn’t have to happen. They say they could have successfully managed a larger herd. Fish and Wildlife Service managers counter saying recent involvement resulted in abuse to the animals and that most involved received poor job-performance ratings.

AIRSTREAM: On average Janie and I pull our Airstream to a campground near the refuge several times each year. From it, we drive the 20-plus mile dirt road and in spring see all sorts of wildlife to include antelope, blue grouse, bighorn sheep, owls, and, of course, bison. In summer we drive the refuge to look for deer and around late July for bull bison, which are staking out their territory. Battles are furious; one of nature’s most dramatic spectacles.

It can be a wonderful tour, one everyone passing through western Montana should not pass up. And like us, when management proceeds properly, you probably don’t care too much about who is king of the pasture. But when there’s mismanagement, the resource suffers, and suddenly we realize that there’s not a great deal left of our natural world. And then we understand that we simply can’t afford to take chances. And then we realize that we want only professionals managing this very refuge that was responsible for helping to save bison from extinction in the early 1900s. In short, we certainly don’t care about a person’s ethnicity, but we most certainly do care about the individual’s over all professionalism.

In the meantime, there’s little that will prevent Janie and me from making our annual trips to the National Bison Range. We’ll want to watch the various bison attempt to establish themselves as King of the Pasture, for there simply are not too many places left in America where such drama unfolds. If you have a chance, we guarantee you won’t forget your tour of the National Bison Range.

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A Spring Awakening In Montana’s Flathead, Which Here Includes Bears, Flowers and Birds

posted: April 12th, 2007 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Though it has been quite cool, each evening we’ve been out biking the small country road that runs past our home in Bigfork, Montana. The road, which might see a car every 15 minutes or so, flanks a number of wheat fields and several marsh-like areas.

One of the marshes attracted our attention because a number of yellow flowers are rearing their heads.

SKUNK CABBAGE (r) : From years of watching spring marshes I knew the plants were called skunk cabbage, and that they were one of the first, if not the first to emerge. In fact, they emerge so early in the spring that sometimes heat from cellular respiration resulting from rapid growth is adequate to melt any lingering snow.

Though there was no snow for the plants to melt this year, their growth has been phenomenal and they have grown almost a foot in the past week.

Now, the bright yellow petals that so characterize the plant have unfurled, and the odor that serves as its name sake has been unmasked.

Truly, this plant is appropriately called a skunk cabbage, something you’ll detect if you get close enough to photograph it. Crush a leave in your fingers and the odor will be particularly pronounced. Its purpose is to lure insects for pollination—kind of like perfume, isn’t it?

Also along the road, Janie and I have noted while riding bikes that the Kill Deer have returned, and once again, the birds are going through their broken-wing act. The display indicates they have started building nests or may, in fact, have even laid their eggs. Because the eggs are mottled, they are difficult to see.

KILL DEER (below): But Kill Deer don’t know that. All they’re hoping is that their frantic displays will lure you away from what they value so highly, their nest, their eggs, and, soon, their young. They believe that by faking injury, you and I will be attracted to them, and that we’ll follow wherever they lead, which is, of course, away from their nests.

Other spring activities occurring around the valley include the release of a 425-pound grizzly bear to an area north of Polebridge in Glacier National Park. The six-year-old grizzly had been captured on Sunday morning, April 8, 2007, and released this past Monday.

The capture and released is significant as it indicates bears have emerged now from hibernation. Officials remind visitors to take precautions to avoid a bear encounter by making their presence known by calling out or clapping at frequent intervals, especially near streams and at blind spots on the trails.

That’s something that even we country dwelling folks need to keep in mind, for several years ago a grizzly wandered right through our yard. We didn’t see it, but we sure heard the story from the woman who did.

Apparently, the bear proceeded from our yard to the neighbor’s house, where it poked its head through the small access door for their dog.

Scared the woman to half death when she saw it! Also scared the bear, who then swam the river not to be seen again—that year. So now we also keep our eyes open for bears when we go riding.

Welcome back spring in the Flathead.

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Global Warming/Al Gore Editorial

posted: April 9th, 2007 | by:Bert

ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE (R): Two weeks ago, editors at the Daily InterLake here in Montana’s Flathead Valley (just south of Glacier National Park) posted an article about Al Gore, Global Warming, energy independence and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—all subjects about which I have an immense interest.

However, rather than address the subjects at hand, I thought they dwelled too much on Al Gore’s personality rather than the science behind his book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

And that was the underlying thought behind the really BIG point I was trying to make. Though we may have different opinions, with a little less hostility toward one another, generally we can find common ground.

Because global warming affects us all, I thought my letter of response might be of interest. Certainly, the ultimate outcome will affect some of the areas in which we outdoor people like to roam.

At any rate I was pleased when the paper’s editors not only published my letter, but designated me as a “Guest Editor”.

©Bert Gildart: (From Daily InterLake, published April 8, 2007) On a recent Sunday editors at the Daily Interlake provided a comment about environmentalists, using such terms as “eco-groovy” and other catch-all expressions to chastise those who found merit in Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The editorial went on to imply that anyone who didn’t want to development the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—or who opposed the development of all the other forms of energy development they listed—was an obstructionist. With that kind of an attitude, my knee-jerk reaction to anything presented by the authors of this editorial would be, “Hey, no way; I’m against it!”

In this new period, when most politicians recognize that the language of polarization is not working, the editors chose wording intended to alienate. I doubt if John McCain, Joe Lieberman or Barack Obama would have written such a piece, for I sense they want to avoid the politics of personal attack. These three men, incidentally, are all politicians who at some time in their career have sided with those desirous of preserving such unique areas as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

BIG CYPRESS (R) IS BIRDER’S HAVEN: There’s precedent for preserving unique natural areas, and I’m proud to say I’ve had some slight involvement. The first “obstructionist” letter I ever wrote was back in the late ‘60s when I worked in Glacier as a young seasonal ranger. I wrote asking my representatives to veto creation of what would have been the world’s largest airport—to be built just north of Everglades National Park.

Though the thousands of authors of such letters were certainly considered by some to be obstructionists of the times, one man didn’t think so, and that was President Richard Nixon. In 1974 Richard Nixon stopped the airport and then went on to create Big Cypress National Preserve to add further protection to the contiguous Everglades.

Like the Arctic Refuge, the Everglades is unique in the world, and eventually was designated an International Biosphere Reserve. The world is better off without the airport, and will certainly be better off if we look to sources other than the Arctic Refuge for oil.

Regarding other forms of energy, the Interlake overlooked the fact that not all representatives (or members!) of environmental groups oppose nuclear energy. In fact, just last year a spokesman for one of the most prominent groups (the Sierra Club, I believe) said nuclear energy must be considered. Now, I certainly know how I feel, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if I partially agreed with the authors of Sunday’s editorial, their polarizing language would discourage me from letting them know.

GLACIER’S GRINNELL (above), ONCE A GLACIER NOW A LAKE: As well, I’m also inclined to question the intent of anyone who focuses on a man’s “hypocrisy,” and fails to acknowledge that the science behind an “Inconvenient Truth” might have some merit. The National Academy of Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union and the World Meteorological Organization agree with Gore, and so do most who have hiked to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park—and then peered down on what is now little more than a large chunk of ice.

Unlike many in the valley who paint global warming as a myth,” Gore hiked to Grinnell, something I wonder if all local energy pundits have done. To see the effects of global warming on Grinnell, go to: www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/repeatphoto//gg_mt-gould.htm

PIKA (above) WILL LOOSE THEIR HABITAT:So until such time as the real obstructionists (those against thoughtful environmental advances) acknowledge that there just might be some merit to what may be the most peer-reviewed science of our times; and stop using catch-all terms to chastise my beliefs, henceforth my knee-jerk response will be:

“No way; I’m against it!”

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Preparing For A Photo Contest

posted: April 8th, 2007 | by:Bert

Bert Gildart: Daylight comes early when you’re in a photo contest. At least that’s the way it was in Montana’s Flathead Valley last year, site then for the Northwest Outdoor Writer’s Association’s annual “Shootout.” Each of the contestants had been given five rolls of film, told to strike out, take photos and then return by day’s end with their film. Film was then taken to Photo Video Plus in Kalispell (just south of Glacier National Park) for development.

Next day each person had several hours to assemble what they considered their ten best photographs from their take. Judges then evaluate the pictures and winning pictures were shown several nights later at the annual banquet. Obviously, shooting time was limited, requiring the person conduct much preplanning.

BOOTS & BEAR (Placed High): This year will offer the same opportunities with the exception that the Shootout will be held in Kennewick, Washington, which is the city hosting this year’s annual convention. Like last year, there will be five different categories, though this year the Shootout won’t include a wildlife category. Instead, the contest will focus on those categories for which the host city best provides and so it will include: People, Family Fun, Youth sports, Golf, and River and Water sports.

Last year, judges awarded my work the Grand Prize. That doesn’t mean I placed first in each and all categories, though it did mean that more of my work rated first or second in each category than did the work of my competitors. It also meant that one of my photographs was considered to be the very best of those submitted.

FAMILY CAMPING: As in all outdoor photography knowing something about the area is a distinct advantage, and I must admit the knowledge helped, for the Flathead is my home. Nevertheless, I still conducted much preplanning and selected the very best model I could find. That, of course, was Janie, who worked hard with me to achieve our goal of winning. We believed that with all various stories I’ve authored and the books that Janie and I have authored together, that we should know something about the valley’s best “shooting” locations.

Though the contest area covered almost 100 miles—meaning that we could photograph subjects from the Moeise Bison Range to Glacier National Park—we concluded that my time would best be spent making pictures rather than driving. As a result, I confined our locations to a region of about 30 miles, which I began with a “wildlife” subject in my own back yard (see above). After that, we scurried to Glacier, where we took photographs of bicycling and family camping.

DEER: Then, as luck would have it, we stumbled across a small herd of deer. My luck held, for the herd moved down to the shores of Lake McDonald where they began drinking water.

Last but not least, we unloaded our kayaks, and then “my model” did her very best at positioning her kayak so that the tip of mine would form some complementary lines with her kayak, all of which would then point toward the distant mountains. And here I want to take a little credit, for the image was not one I lucked onto by some fluke of the lake’s currents, rather it was one I had pre-visualized.

KAYAK AND MY GOOD MODEL AWARDED BEST PHOTO: Prize for the best portfolio was a weekend at Grouse Mountain Lodge—one of the valley’s most luxurious inns—as well as a weekend of skiing at Big Mountain.

Unfortunately, because of extensive travels, we were unable to cash in on the prize. Still, the intangible rewards were substantial, for the competition was keen, and several of the competitors were very, very talented. Shown here, then, are four of the ten that received a top award.

This year, the competition will again be keen, and for me the challenge will be one of area familiarization, for we’ve never spent time in Kennewick. As a result, I’ll be talking with as many locals as I can prior to arrival.

The other difference is that we’ll all be shooting digital rather than film. Because Janie and I have spent most of this year on the road posting blogs from our digital images that will not pose a problem.

The problem will be knowledge of the area, and because I’ll at least want to place, it means we’ll have to arrive several days ahead of schedule—and that my model and I will also be arising very, very early.

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Flathead Valley’s Annual Creston Auction

posted: April 2nd, 2007 | by:Bert

Bert Gildart: “Six-dollar, six-dollar; do I hear six? Five-dollar, five-dollar; do I hear five?

“Five-dollars, five-dollars; there! Do I hear six? Six-dollars, do I hear seven?

“Seven-dollars, seven-dollars; do I hear eight?

“Going, going, gone to the women in red for seven dollars,” beamed one of the auctioneers working the crowd that day.

AUCTIONING TONKA TRUCKS: Auctioneering is an art, no question about it. Try it yourself. See if you can spew out run-on words in a sing-song voice that might lure someone in and not drive them away. Try, too, if you’re a bidder to avoid getting caught up in an auctioneer’s hypnotic cadence…

“It takes months of practice,” said Sam Scott, one of the auctioneers at the Creston Auction located beneath the base of the Rocky Mountains in Montana’s Flathead Valley.

Sam explained that it was all about learning repetition, but that to do so effectively, he had attended a two week auctioneer school in Billings, Montana. “They have you memorizing tongue twisters.”

Big black bug bit the big black bear so the big black bear bleed bright red blood on the bathroom rug.

“Say that over and over and before long you’ll hear your voice starting to assume a rhythm…

“But then, you got to stay on top of it.

DICK WILSON: Each year for the past 41-years, professional auctioneers have plied their trade for residents at large. Sales items tend to run the gamete from kitchen ware, old wood stoves, firearms, and to items ranging in the thousands of dollars. But it’s more than just about sales; it’s about old friends buried deep in the woods, coming down to see one another. It’s about people getting dressed up in their favorite outdoor garb. It’s about vendors of all description, such as Dick Wilson.

Often dressed in blue jeans and plaid shirts, no way would you ever know that Dick was once a college professor, but today, he simply likes being known as the Nutty Professor. That’s because he makes and sells his own special blend of popcorn.

Then there’s Ken Conway, who makes beaver hats and now likes to attend the auction dressed in the garb of a trapper attending a rendezvous.

Typically, the Creston Auction runs for two days and during that time, auctioneers may generate over $100,000. “Whatever the sum of money,” said Sam, “it all goes to a great cause, helping the Creston Volunteer Fire Department.”

Still, the big attraction to me was the talent itself. Though highly capable, I learned that most auctioneers in the Flathead do other things as well. This year half a dozen different auctioneers plied their skills, but come Monday, one would be back as a control tower operator for the local airport, another at a second-hand store, yet another running his own auction. Sam. Of course, would be back at his local barber shop. However, what all share in common is that their work at the Creston Auction is donated, and that weekend their skills were drawing in the crowds.

“You can learn the basics of auctioneering in a fairly brief period,” continued Sam, “but to be really good at it you need to practice for months. I work as a barber so it took me longer. Took me almost a year, practicing to master those tongue twisters.

“Try this:

Rubber baby buggy bumper. Rubber baby buggy bumper…

“Now do it fast. Try saying it three times as fast as you can.”

Moments later Sam rose, and returned to the podium, vocal chords now rested. Within minutes the skilled auctioneer had sung the bid on a pot-bellied stove to several hundred dollars. Next he went on to a Tonka Trunk I was sure one of my grandchildren might want… The bid was up to $7, and maybe I could get one for $10.

It’s mesmerizing, simply mesmerizing, and if you stick around you’re sure to be drawn in. So now you’re forewarned…

SOME FINAL RAMBLINGS: Several weeks ago Airstream owner Roger Smith sent me a photo of an elk crossing in Canada’s Banff National Park to complement the one I posted two weeks ago. Subsequently, I learned that there are many such passes, all needed to provide elk with the basic components required for existing, namely food and shelter. Apparently, Highway 1, the Trans-Canadian highway, which passes through this park in Alberta, had been depriving these magnificent animals of these components, resulting in much vehicular damage and death to elk.

Just finished Doug Peacock’s highly acclaimed book entitled: Walking It Off. I knew Doug during the early 80s in Glacier National Park, where I worked as a seasonal ranger. Simultaneously, Doug worked as a fire lookout. Doug, a Vietnam Vet, makes a terrific case for preserving wilderness to help, among many other things, the nation’s many war veterans reconnect with the person they once were.

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