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

Huge Hail, Snake in the Grass & Other Travel Trivia

©Bert Gildart: Erick Hanson is generally a reticent man, but yesterday at Montana’s Little Bighorn Battlefield, he hollered out loudly. “Watch it;” he hollered. “Snake!”

Rattlesnake In-the-Grass

Snake In-the-Grass

Erick was yelling at Dave Vedder and there was a real reason. We were hiking along a trail to the Reno-Benteen hold out, when Erick heard a rattlesnake. Dave was no more than four feet from it, and the snake so blended with the grass that neither David nor I saw it nor did we hear the rattle of the rattles. But Erick sure did! And fortunately, he let us know.


That was not our group’s first lucky break in the past 24 hours. The night before while camped in a KOA located about 15 miles from the battlefield, the wind had swelled and it blew with a fury, battering the three RVs our group was now driving on the way to Bismarck for the annual Outdoor Writer’s convention. Thick rain and silver-dollar-size hail had accompanied the wind, and the next morning I rose at the crack of dawn, fearful the pounding had mangled the aluminum on our Airstream. Because of our concerns, neither Janie nor I had slept that night.

The cracking noise of the hail inside the trailer had been deafening, but as I looked around, I could find no denting, which simply amazed me. Likewise I examined another nearby Airstream, but it, too, appeared OK. However, I then walked over to a utility trailer also made of aluminum, and the entire shell of the man’s cargo trailer was pitted in a way that was sickening.


Apparently (as one would hope) the Airstream’s aluminum is of a very high quality, but I knew that if the hail had been a bit larger we might not have been so lucky. The year before I’d seen an Airstream Bambi pitted from what the owner said had been huge, almost apple-sized hail. That’s somewhat freakish, but still, it can happen.

Peace and Unity

Peace and Unity

And so after thanking the Great Spirit that morning for sparing us, we carpooled from the KOA to the Battlefield, encountered the rattlesnake and then made our way to the new Indian Memorial.


As a writer and photographer, the battlefield has been good to me, and I’ve worked with the park historian on various stories for a number of magazines. Recently, two of the battlefield’s superintendents have been Native American, and one of them, Gerard Baker, has become a good friend. He’s a man I first met at Theodore Roosevelt National Park where he’d been serving as a ranger, and we immediately hit it off because of our love for Ray Charles and for blues music in general.

Not all work for Sue

Not all work for Sue

Several years later the park transferred Baker to Little Bighorn where he was instrumental in securing a name change. It has not been easy, and he had even weathered several death threats.

Previously, the battlefield had been called Custer Battlefield, but, now, rather than celebrating the person who lost and was responsible for the death of over 220 men in his command, the park with its new name celebrates those who won a battle. Now the park celebrates the victory of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and other Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne in a way intended to set aside the animosity that has cropped up during the year, for the theme of the Indian Memorial is “Peace and Unity.”

That message is symbolized through an open slot in the memorial that leads the eye to the obelisk on Last Stand Hill listing the names of all those fallen 7th Calvary soldiers.


Our time at the battlefield was limited and so we scurried back to the KOA, loaded up our respective campers and then proceeded on, driving four hours to Makoshika State Park, still in Montana. Pam Vedder and Sue Hanson mixed up a batch of Gimlets using their battery powered blenders, Dave fired up a portable barbeque to cook salmon he’d caught only the week before in the Queen Charlotte Islands, and in that way we recounted all of our good fortune. The snake had not bitten either Dave or me, and none of us had sustained any damage to our RVs.

Celebrating the Setting Sun

Celebrating the Setting Sun

And so we celebrated the beauty of the setting sun and the fun all six of us were now having as a group.

Comments are closed.