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

Channel Islands National Park Boasts Many Success Stories


Elephant seals have highly success breeding strategy that insures virtually every female that departs San Miguel is pregnant, which helped restore the species from the brink of extinction.

©Bert Gildart: Hoping to find some small remnant of the vast populations of elephant seals that once swam the Pacific Ocean until the first part of the 19th Century, Dr. Townsend sailed the Pacific Ocean near the Baja Peninsula, exploring island after island.

At long last the scientist was rewarded, and in 1910 he discovered a tiny population on Guadalupe Island. He notified the Mexican government, and it posted armed guards on the island instructing them to shoot any and all trespassers.

Not surprisingly, the measure worked, and because of the restrictions one of the world’s most spectacular and fascinating mammals has returned from virtual extinction.

Channel Islands National Park also deserves credit, for without a secure place for females to give birth to their young and for males to gather in their harems the species still might have perished.

For awhile, in fact, it was nip and tuck, but today, elephant seals are a fairly common sight along the California coast. In fact, soon these gigantic mammals will be hauling ashore to further their species. In view of the fact that the island fox (see last post) has also made a dramatic recovery here, it seems appropriate to recall yet another Channel Island success story, particularly when I had such a wonderful sideline seat.


About 20 years ago, Smithsonian magazine flew me to a tiny landing strip on San Miguel, the largest and most distant island in the chain from the coast. A biologists accompanied me and together, we spent almost a week.


Males battle one another in various ways for domination of harems and ocean front territory.

During the time I photographed the seals, and learned much about this incredible mammal.

What makes elephant seals so unique is, in part, their size. Males may weigh as much as 6,000 pounds, and it is for this reason the species was almost eliminated. Exploited for their rich source of oil, whalers almost exterminated this largest of all seals, not hard to do as they have no fear of man. As a result, with guidance from the biologist, I was able to approach them and pick out behavior patterns I wanted to photograph.


In early January males begin establishing their territory and gathering in their harems. All males have this goal and maintaining these harems is a difficult task. If an interloper moves in, males will insert their noses into their mouths to amplify their lion-like roar. If that doesn’t work, one male will attempt to force the intruder from the beach.


Battles might begin on the beach and continue into the ocean, usually ceasing only when one male grabs its opponet by the snout. Ripping free the challenger swims off, hoping for a better day.

Often fights break out, and when they do, they can be brutal. Males attempt to grab one another’s snouts, and usually the victim escapes only by ripping itself free. Look at the scars in the photo below and you can see the results.

About the time fights are beginning, females are giving birth to their young, which may weigh as much as 80 pounds. Mother’s milk is rich and within one month pups gain several hundred pounds. During this time, females eat little to nothing, living off stored fat.

Visiting the Channel Island during this intense period of time has been one of my most interesting memories. I camped in my tent on a bank of sand and around the clock could hear the roaring of seals. California sea lions also gather here between December and March, adding yet further interest.


Exhausted from battle and attending to his harem this bull almost seems to relish the fact that it is now season's end.

You can see that my last post was also about the Channel Islands, about the restoration of the island fox. Helping to save elephant seals may be an even bigger success story, illustrating yet again the crucial role national parks play in preserving a more primitive America.







Bay Bayou RV Resort (Tampa Florida)

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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