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 September, 2007

Montana’s Grant Kohrs Ranch Brings the Old West Alive

posted: September 27th, 2007 | by:Bert

Ranch hand and Belgian horse

Ranch hand and Belgain Horse

©Bert Gildart: “Don’t go anywhere,” said the ranch hand, “I can get those big Belgian horses here to the barn. They’re so easy to work with and they just love the attention.”

Janie and I are back on the road again, traveling throughout Southwestern Montana for the next few weeks, camping in our Airstream as we continue our work gathering material for various magazines. Stop one required a four-hour drive south of our home in Bigfork, Montana to Deer Lodge, site of the Grant Kohrs Ranch, renowned for its living history programs on the life of the cowboy.

An Historic Ranch: The ranch is under the auspices of the National Park Service and it preserves a significant slice of the Old West. Johnny Grant first owned the old ranch but shortly after the Civil War, he sold it to Conrad Kohrs, and today the living ranch not only raises cattle, but interprets life on a ranch reminiscent of the period when cowboys were driving cattle from Texas into Montana. For Old West enthusiasts and movie watches, it interprets the period that picks up from when Gus and Call drove cattle into Montana in the classic movie Lonesome Dove.

Horse use is one of the aspects interpreted at the old ranch and it hard to imagine a more beautiful setting. Several horses trotted to the barn where we stood with the ranch hand. They stuck their heads through the window–all back dropped by Mount Deer Lodge. But soon we moved on for there was so much to see.

Walking around we gravitated toward an old Chuck Wagon. Allen Vaira was interpreting the setup and as he began his narration, I realized I had photographed the man in another setting, in Death Valley, where he worked as a ranger in the late 1990s. For us, that was one of the joys of RV travel, constantly running into people we’ve previously meet but in different and sometimes, exotic, settings.

Ranger Allen Vaira says Chuck wagon changed cowboy life

Worker explains the impotance of the chuck wagon

Chuck Wagon Changes Cowboy’s Life
Though time and distance had altered the substance of what Allen interpreted, his information was sound. He talked about the history of the Chuck Wagon, which he said had been developed by Charles Goodnight. “This wagon improved the cowboys life,” said Allen. “Food was carried in the back of the wagon and was available shortly after stopping. It improved the moral of the cowboy because it maintained his energy level.”

Allen poured us a cup of coffee and then served us some beans he had specially prepared, adding bacon bits and several types of spices.

Ranger Julie Croglio and historic wagon

Ranger Julie Croglio and historic wagon

Grant Kohrs Ranch is extensive and also houses about 30 old wagons, one of which attracted our attention because it was once used as a Civil War ambulance. The old wagon was brought up the Missouri River to Fort Benton, Montana, on the Steamboat Emily. Later the wagon was used to transport soldiers wounded in 1877 at the battle with the Nez Perce at what is now Montana’s Bighole Battlefield.

The wagon was owned by Johnny Grant who initially established what is today the Grant Kohrs Ranch as a trading post. In 1867 he sold the ranch to Conrad Kohrs who became one of Montana’s first cattle barons. As a wealthy cattleman Kohrs added to the home begun by Johnny Grant, and the home remains a lavish repository of elegant living.

VIP Bob George intereprets Grant Kohrs Ranch

VIP Bob George intereprets Grant Kohrs Ranch

Fulltime RVers
Bob George, a retired army officer, fulltime RVer and volunteer (VIP), has immersed himself in the history of the old ranch, and detailed the origin of the various pieces of furniture. He explained how an old chair was developed for the dual use of sitting and help as a step stool. The chair has attracted much interest and you can purchase plans from the Grant Kohrs Visitor Center.

We spent the entire day at the old ranch, also visiting the blacksmith shop and the pasture which corrals long-horn cattle. Indeed the ranch is a window on Montana’s past, and as our trip progresses you will see how this ranch also links to several of Montana’s other historic settings.

But first, a stop at West Yellowstone and the interior of Yellowstone National Park, now hosting some of fall’s most spectacular dramas.

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Fall Along the Natchez Trace National Parkway

posted: September 24th, 2007 | by:Bert

Entering Natchez Trace

Entering NAtchez National Parkway

©Bert Gildart: For a period of time I lived in the South and though I now live in Montana, I am constantly drawn back to renew acquaintances with friends I knew while in high school and then again in college (before transferring to Montana State University). In those years I was drawn more to the country side both for its excellent hunting opportunities, though I was also drawn because of an interest in the history of the Old South.

Stretching 450 Miles: In recent years, Janie and I have returned often to the South, essentially because there is an incredible national parkway that allows me to see friends and renew my fascination with both the area’s natural history and history. It does so because the parkway travels past such places as Florence, Alabama (where I began college), and places me within striking distance of Huntsville, where I graduated from high school.

And because I’ve returned so often, several years ago I convinced interpreters at the Natchez Trace that they needed a book that documented in both text and photographs some of the features this incredible area preserves.

Sunken trace

Sunken Trace, worn down by many footsteps

Because fall is one of the best times to visit the Natchez Trace, it is only natural mental images from this 450-mile long road should crop up again. Fall is beautiful throughout the country , and it’s the season along the Trace that has provided me with my so many recollections. In other words, the reds and yellows here in Glacier evoke memories from other parts of our nation, particularly when they are as splendid as those found in the South.

To beautiful to burn gen grant

General Grant: "Too beautiful to burn." Winsor Ruins

First Major Research Trip: My first major fall trip was made in the late 1980s. Winnebago loaned me a Mini-Winnie Motorhome, which I photographed and it provided a cover for Trailer Life that complemented my story for them. More significantly, that trip was one I made with my parents when I was single and the trip ultimately became one of their favorites. For that dear retired military couple who traveled the world, that’s saying something.

In1990, shortly after I married Janie, we traveled the modern-day road, taking time to hike all sections of the ancient road. During that time, we lived out of our first Airstream where we completed gathering material for my Natchez Trace book.

Because Shes Boss.

Because "She's Boss".

Below is a section from that book, which is available from the Park Service or from us. The book is $17.95 plus $2.00 shipping, and if you’d like to purchase an autographed copy from us, please send a check to me at my posted address . Include, of course, all your pertinent mailing information.

And, now, here’s a short segment from my book of 98 pages, lavishly illustrated with color photographs:

Stretching from historic Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, is a highway that parallels an old trail, a trail which once was a major thoroughfare for an emerging nation. Stepping from a pullout on the modern highway, Janie and I walked down a short path that ended where the much older trail began. Spanish moss on the branches above drooped over this pathway, while along the ground lay dense carpets of darkening leaves. Deeply eroded, the trail appeared ancient.

Here ran the Old Natchez Trace, a trail of sublime beauty that once had seen the passage of Pushmataha, Meriwether Lewis, Andrew Jackson, Aaron Burr, John James Audubon, General Ulysses Grant, Abe Lincoln’s father-as well as thousands whose faces remain nameless. Fate had smiled kindly on many of these travelers, but not all. One black night Lewis was mortally and mysteriously wounded.

The Old Natchez Trace harbors many secrets, and we took a few more steps, to learn more about the lives of those who had preceded us and to absorb the path’s pristine beauty…

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Want To Hear And See Elk Do Battle? Head To Glacier National Park

posted: September 20th, 2007 | by:Bert

Elk Bugling in Fall

Elk bugling on a fall day

©Bert Gildart: Each fall in Glacier National Park you can hear the bulls loudly and clearly. The cry begins on a high note followed by an exclamatory low note: “Eeee-Uh!” cries a large bull elk. “Uh!” it bellows with strong, forceful notes that fill the wilds of Montana. Uh! Uh!

Soon, a rival bull, contesting the first bull’s claim of the 30-some cows gathered into a harem, meets its challenge.

What will the outcome be?

As the curtain over the drama goes up, you can have a front row seat at many areas in the park–and you can do so right now. If you join these watches what you are seeing is a pagan sort of ritual: males contesting for a harem; males warning other males to stay clear of their harem or incur a fight that, in the extreme, may result in death.

For those who wish to watch the drama an excellent area is Two Dog Flats area located in the St. Mary Valley of Glacier not far from the campground where we park our Airstream . If you wish to hike, another area to watch elk is Poia Lake, accessed from a trailhead several miles past the entrance to Many Glacier Valley. Follow it for about three miles until you break out above the aspens.

But now a note on park etiquette. Though you may be tempted to bugle in elk yourself, the park prohibits such practices and with darn good reason. Imagine watching the drama of a bull attempting to defend his harem diverted by someone blowing on an elk bugle. Some people get carried away with the sounds they can create and it can go on for hours–to the point you yourself would like to make a bugling cry for battle. Obviously, that’s not where the action should be directed, and, fortunately, there’s generally plenty of action in the meadow.

Fights among bulls often begin with just a push and a shove, but they often escalate into full-blown battles that carry them over the entire field of battle and it can go on for hours. For the victorious bull, it is a case of “winner take all.”

Despite the fact elk are now abundant, that has not always been the case. In the early 1900s, other ungulates were far more common, as author Vernon Bailey suggests in his book, Wild Animals of Glacier National Park. Wrote Bailey, “In 1895, I was told that moose were more numerous in the Park than elk.

Sometimes antlers interlock resulting in death

Antlers interlocking sometimes results in death

Such was the situation prior to the establishment of the two parks, but following creation, much began to change. On March 31, 1912, managers acquired 31 “tick-infested elk” from Yellowstone, transported them by boxcar to West Glacier, and, on April 1, released them into the park at the old bridge across the Flathead River.

For a time the elk remained on the adjacent Belton Hills, but gradually, they dispersed, their fate never really documented. Nevertheless, the number of elk began to increase. In fact, they increased to such an extent both west and east of the Continental Divide, that in the mid 1940s, park managers began attempts to reduce the numbers.

Going to the sun mtn provides  backdrop

Going to the Sun Mtn provides backdrop

To reduce the number of elk, biologist attempted a number of techniques. Park rangers used rifle grenadesand flare pistols. Flares seemed to work best, but as Ranger Fladmark, Chief in 1954, said when managers attempted further reduction, “We are convinced that elk will go where they want to go.”

Nevertheless, in 1961 a reduction program was attempted once again and four rangers were out again in January. For seven days they worked hard to reduce the herd and were able to kill 74 animals.

Despite the program’s apparent success, much has changed since those days. Managers no longer reduce elk number through hunting; rather they endorse management through nature, allowing starving animals to starve and sick animals to succumb, realizing that the carcasses will not be wasted. Wolves now feed on the carcasses, as do ravens and coyotes. Should a carcass survive until spring, it will provide nourishment for bears emerging from hibernation.

As a result of a more natural approach to herd numbers, elk populations proceed just as they have since time memorial. As always fire helps create elk habitat, and because of the fires of 1988 and 2001, elk habitat is substantial. Where once I seldom saw elk now each fall I see-and hear-them frequently.

In fact, some believe elk numbers could soon reach all-time highs-and for the elk enthusiasts wanting a spectacular view of nature, that’s good news, particularly now when bulls are fighting and gathering their harems.

Perhaps we’ll see you in the St. Mary region, where elk are still bugling and fighting. Just like the changing of leaves, out here in Montana, it’s the sound of the wilderness and another ritual of fall .

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Fall Foliage in Glacier National Park

posted: September 18th, 2007 | by:Bert

Mountain Ash, symbolic of early fall in GNP

Mountain ash, a sign of early fall in GNP

©Bert Gildart: Several days ago I visited with a very perceptive media representative who works in Glacier National park. In the course of our conversation, I said that with Logan Pass now closed for much needed repair work, essentially that meant the park was closed.

“No,” she said, it’s not closed. Virtually all the campgrounds are open, and you can still hike most of the trails.” And then she went on to say that it was fall-and after that there was no reason to say anymore.

She’s right, of course, it is fall, and that got me to thinking about all the times Janie and I have ventured into the park in late September clear on into mid and even late October. In fact, right now is the time to tour the park. Along the slopes paralleling the trail to Iceberg Lake, mountain ash berries are now a deep crimson.

Over near Two Dog Flats, elk are bugling, and all around colors are changing, and certain colors are intensifying. Granted, the Northwest doesn’t have the hardwoods so common in Eastern forests, but I defy anyone to show me a more beautiful setting than the one that results when cottonwood and quaking aspen are transformed from green to yellow and when they’re all back-dropped by mountains covered with a dusting of snow.

Though these photographs were taken over a period of several years, they suggest what you may expect to see in the next two to four weeks, for all were taken starting mid September.

Because I so thoroughly enjoy photography in Glacier in the fall, invariably I pack along a 4×5 with my 35mm equipment, just as I did several weeks ago on our trip to Two Medicine . Though 35mm works extraordinarily well for fast moving subject or for situations that require an instant response such as an elk bugling on a misty morning, for times when the winds die down and the peaks of Glacier are touched with snow, I love the 4×5. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll put aside my 35mm camera.

Red Eagle, Mahtotopa and Little Chief mountains

Red Eagle, Mahtotopa and Little Chief mountains

Last fall we were in New Jersey, and I needed photographs for publication. Winds however were kicking up, and that’s where my 35mm came in handy. The photographs satisfied my publisher and also enabled me to publish a blog (Leaves Fall and Birds Fly And I Wonder Why ) about the biological conditions that cause leaves to change.

Nevertheless, I like the 4×5 even though it’s cumbersome, and under the proper circumstances, I image myself joining Ansel Adam’s f-64 club and attempt to duplicate his technique, which called for tiny apertures and long exposures. (That also works for 35mm but isn’t so critical.) So doing, everything from the closest of objects to those most distant are in focus.

Chief Mountain

Chief Mountain

Because everything must be still, the technique requires patience, but if you look at these photographs and evaluate the depth of field, hopefully you’ll understand why I appreciate the 4×5-particularly for landscape images in Glacier National Park.

So, now, even though Logan Pass is closed, there’s still much to look forward to, just as managers are now suggesting. In other words, now is the time for Fall Foliage in Glacier National Park.

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Firefighters in Creston, Montana, Recall 9/11

posted: September 11th, 2007 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Remember 9/11/2001? How can any one ever forget? Certainly not America’s firefighters who deserve a particular debt of gratitude, though, in reality, it is we who should be honoring them. But today, in Creston, Montana, firefighter Joey Wood was trying to help Americans remember those things for which we tend to believe.

Firefighter Joey Wood Wants Everyone to Remember 9 11

Firefighter Joey Wood Wants Everyone to Remember 9/11

When I first saw Firefighter Wood she was standing in front of the small building representing our rural fire department not far from a plaque asking America’s to remember 9/11. Behind her were two fire trucks polished to perfection-all ready to go.

Ms. Wood was also attired for work dressed as she was in her helmet and fire-retardant suit. The day was hot, but she wanted to call attention to the fact that 9/11 is a day all Americans should come together and remember the many sacrifices so many have made.

Her presence prompted a flood of memories, and I recall that on 9/11 I was hiking in Glacier where I heard the unbelievable rumor that New York had been bombed-and, later, from some ridiculous camper, “that it was the haughty nature of Americans that had prompted the attack.” Possibly the comment was the product of an irrational thought of the moment, when emotions were frayed, though I never learned, for I quickly departed.

Today, I was delighted to visit with Joey Wood and learn that not only are firefighters in Creston trying to help Americans remember the significance of this day, but also, according to Joey, so are fire fighters in other parts of the valley. I also suspect that the Flathead is not unique and the Americans all across the nation are recalling where they were and what they were doing on that tragic day.

Again, I thought how fitting it was that Joey Wood was standing at attention in front of the tiny fire station in Creston, Montana, population, perhaps 30.

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Glacier National Park’s Many Storied Valley

posted: September 11th, 2007 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Last week Janie and I joined daughter Angie and her husband Will Friedner and my granddaughter Halle Mae on a camping trip into what I like to think of as one of the most storied valleys in all of Glacier National Park. While hiking and learning a little something about grizzly bears (see photo of Halle below), we also learned a little about the significance of place names.

Sinopah, a Many Storied Mountain

Sinopah, a Many Storied Mountain

To set the stage, I rose early one morning when the Two Medicine Lake was perfectly calm and photographed one of my favorite mountains in the park, Sinopah. Because it was one of the most perfectly calm and reflective mornings I’d seen in a long time, the scene called for the detail offered through the use of a 4×5 view camera. Though I can make wonderfully clear photographs with my Nikon D-200 up to 24 inches, with the 4×5 I can sell mural size photographs.

Referring to Sinopah, the center mountain in my reflection photograph, you can see that there are many mountains that surround it. These include Painted Teepee, Lone Walker and Never Laughs. Sinopah was the daughter of Lone Walker, who belonged to a Piegan Indian Tribe known as Never Laughs, and he gave her in marriage to Rising Wolf.

Rising Wolf, the mountain, is the backdrop for the now dismantled ranger station, shown below as a black and white image. The mountain is to the right of Sinopah-but not so far that a narration would lose its focus.

I learned about the relationship of the people for whom these mountains were named during a cross-country ski trip in 1968 with two other rangers.

Halle Mae exaiming grizzly bear postings

Halle Mae exaiming grizzly bear postings

At the time, I was attending college in Bozeman, Montana, working seasonally in Glacier and the trip was made during our spring break. One of the rangers, Jerry DeSanto, had brought with him a flask of wine and I recall that we sat around an old pot bellied stove and listened to him recount the stories. Jerry had completed all but his thesis for a doctor’s degree, but decided not to finish as he really wanted to be a ranger, not a college professor. However, his interest in history remained–and for that matter, still does .

Two Medicine Ranger Station once served as a layover for rangers patrolling the east side of Montana’s Glacier National Park. Rising Wolf Mountain, one of the park’s more famous monoliths, provides a backdrop for this turbulent winter scene.

Rising Wolf, the mountain, was named for Hugh Monroe, one of the first white men to see what is now Glacier Park. The Blackfeet [Indians] named Monroe “Rising Wolf” (Mahkuyi-opushsin, “The way the wolf rises”), and he (Rising Wolf) married Sinopah (Swift Fox). Her name is celebrated by the mountain in the first photograph above.

Monroe/Rising Wolf died in 1892 at the age of 93 and he is buried at Holy Family Mission near Browning, Montana.

Old Two Medicine Ranger Station, backdropped by Rising Wolf Mountain

Old Two Medicine Ranger Station, backdropped by Rising Wolf Mountain

Meanwhile, the ranger station provides little more than past recollections of the splendor of a Montana winter, for the buildings were removed about 25 years ago, shortly after I photographed the setting. Subsequently, the photograph has been published about 20 times in magazines, newspapers and books-whenever print media wants a picture that epitomizes a Montana winter. It was also purchased by Montana Magazine from my Christmas line and used one year by publisher Rick Graetz as his Christmas card selection. Not to undermine a good story with commercialism, but the Christmas card is still available and carries the above story.

The setting will always be one of my favorites, and I was pleased that I could explain the meaning behind Glacier National Park’s Many Storied Mountains for my granddaughter Halle Mae.

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Moose Photos From Glacier National Park Show Bizarre Feeding Techniques

posted: September 5th, 2007 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: How long can a moose hold its head under water? That’s a question not many people get a chance to resolve, but yesterday, at Two Medicine Campground in Glacier National Park, Janie and I had a chance to do ask that question.

Why such a long nose?

Why such a long nose?

Early yesterday morning, a cow moose with its calf passed through the campground, then wandered onto a small bog that was about 30 yards from our campsite. Though the yearling calf moved on before we could get set up, the cow stuck her long, long nose into the water. Then with a last roll of her eyes in our direction, she inserted her head, holding it there for about 30 seconds.

She knew we were there, and perhaps that was why she kept her ears out of the water on her first feeding. But as we watched her for a period that edged close to an hour, she grew more and more confident, soon immersing her head—ears and all.

How Long Can it Remain Submerged

How long can it stay submerged?

From research conducted long ago for a mammal book I wrote for the Glacier Natural History Association years ago, I learned that when a moose dips its head under water, the difference between the water pressure and the air pressure causes the nostrils to close. This long nose enables moose to locate food more easily, while the variation in pressures prevents water from flooding into its nose. Feeler-hairs on the over-sized nose further enable them to locate the best plants in the murkiest ponds—and to then feed for hours.

Moose, in fact, can eat 40-60 pounds of plants each day and it appeared that our cow would do it all in one very long “sitting.”

Bizarre Feeding Technique

Bizarre Feeding Technique

Our moose had no interest in us and continued to munch and munch. She must have been ravenous, for she had swallowed most of what she clipped before raising her head. By my watch our cow held her head under water for almost two full minutes, but I don’t believe that is any sort of a record. Later I read that some observers have recorded moose holding their heads under water for over three minutes.

Though that’s not a time we recorded, nevertheless, we had a chance to ask the question, one of the rewards of gathering moose photos from Glacier National Park.

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