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, 2009

Calculating Your Risks in Glacier’s Grizzly Bear Country

posted: September 29th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Several weeks ago I reported on grizzly bears in Montana’s Glacier National Park, mentioning specifically the sow grizzly bear that park rangers had to kill about a month ago.

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Smelling the roses. Sow grizzly seen on way to Iceberg Lake, an image that has sold well for me.


Since that time, park employees (seasonals and permanents) have met and attempted to resolve differences regarding management procedures. Most seasonals still believe the campground in questions should have been closed and that rangers should not have killed the bear. Permanents say elimination was necessary. Certainly debates are healthy, and probably out of it all management skills required to keep bears wild will only improve.

LEARNING BY OSMOSIS

Least anyone get the impression that I am the voice of seasonal employees let me dispel that notion right away. What happens is that as a former seasonal employee, I have many friends who still work in the park, and often we get together in groups for parties.

For example, this past week I had dinner with Chris McEwan, an old friend now from Florida who worked with me in Glacier in the early ‘60s. He was staying with Fritz Royer, another friend, and once we all worked on blister rust control (a disease that attacks white pine trees), and did so for a number of years.

Though Chris and Fritz are now lawyers, (Chris was once the Flathead’s Deputy Country Attorney) both have kept up with the grizzly situation in Glacier through friends employed in the park. We’re all still very much interested in bears – and concerned about how to keep them wild and out of the news.  However, I generally tend to believe we should err on the side of human safety, and fall back on my background of experiences in making this statement.

As one of the few rangers who has ever had to deal with all the horrible consequences of a fatal mauling, I believe park managers should consider every tool needed to protect people from habituated bears. But I cheer loudly for the bears, and want assurances that today’s park rangers and biologists will be thoroughly trained. Furthermore, when independent biologists say tools exist to reestablish the wild in previously habituated bears I want to be able to retain hope that those techniques will be considered. Beyond that anyone who visits Glacier must be willing to accept a certain degree of risk, but risk that can be calculated.

BERRIES NOW MAKING BEARS TOPICAL

Of course bears have always made news and right now they’re again topical. This is a late season for berries, and right now service berries are drooping from the branches. Bears love them, so if you are on the park’s east side and want to peer through binoculars and see grizzly bears grazing along the hillsides, this would be an excellent time to camp in the Many Glacier Valley.


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CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO SEE LARGER IMAGE. L to R: Grizzly bear, Many Glacier Valley; grizzly bear munching on service berries, now ripe; branches now heavy with service berries in most of the trails in Many Glacier Valley.

This is one of my favorite campgrounds. However, Many Glacier is the precise area in which one of the park’s ten fatal maulings occurred. In fact the Many Glacier area may be the area in which the most maulings have occurred, and here are a few examples. Knowledge of them should help you evaluate those “calculated risks,” for they reinforce the fact that Glacier is not a zoo and that tragedies can happen.

BEAR MAULINGS

On September 23, 1976, a grizzly bear fatally mauled a female camper in the campground. The attack was unprovoked and began while the young lady was asleep in tent.

On July 26, 1984, a small 150 pound grizzly attacked a hiker on the trail to Ptarmigan tunnel. The hiker’s male companion punched the bear and it left.

On October 24, 1998, at about 2 p.m. a lone grizzly attacked Mrs. Pelland and then her husband, Matt Pelland. According to their report, Matt ran about 20 feet down off the trail, tripped and fell in thick trees, where upon the bear began “eating” his left leg. He sprayed the bear in the face and eyes with an entire can of bear spray, whereupon he then ran for help, heading down Canyon Creek to the bridge and thence by trail to Many Glacier where he reported his missing wife. Mrs. Pelland was later rescued. She reported the bear had knocked her down repeatedly and rolled her over. The bear had also sat on her all in the course of about a minute. Though injuries were extensive, both victims were treated on an outpatient basis.

WORLD’S BEST GB HABITAT?

Why all these maulings in Many Glacier? Probably because when Glacier was but an embryonic park, managers authorized construction of the huge Many Glacier hotel in what may well be the world’s best grizzly bear habitat.


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Many Glacier provides some of North America's best bear habitat.

Despite attacks grizzly bear watching is an activity that dominates the very psyche of park visitors, and it is to the park’s credit that fewer mauling now seem to be occurring. Most likely that is because of increased trail closures, usually temporary but necessary when bears move into an area, and because of education. For instance, signs are posted everywhere, and once I made a tally counting something in the neighborhood of a dozen different signs used to inform people about the nature and the presence of bears. As well, hikers who intend to backpack overnight are required to watch an educational video.

BEAR SPRAY WORKS!

There’s also much information on how to camp in the front country, which includes the proper preparation and storage of food. Perhaps another big factor is the use of pepper spray, now carried by most hikers. It seems to work, and work well. In fact, Rick Millsap, a former Glacier Park Ranger and good friend, says he has used it several times, both in Glacier and in Wrangle St Elias, where he now serves as a park ranger. With it Rick says he has turned charging bears. Lesson: carry bear spray, such as Counter Assault.

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Bill Hutchison, former seasonal ranger, demonstrating use of Counter Assault

So what will Janie and I be doing? We’re firm believers that we’re safer in the backcountry of Glacier than we are driving roads in the Flathead, and that goes into our equation when calculating our risks.  In fact, statistically, park maulings are way behind such common activities as swimming and hiking, which always seem to count for several of the annual deaths the park invariably experiences.

So maybe we’ll see you in the park. Most likely, you’ll hear us before you see us. We like to sing as we hike, particularly when rounding blind corners, and that helps to keep the bears away. We like Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” and that seems to work, as we’ve never surprised a bear while crooning such spirited ballads .


——————————-


THIS TIME THREE YEARS AGO:


*Nova Scotia’s Incredible Cabot Drive


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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Debt of Gratitude Owed Rural Firefighters

posted: September 27th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Yesterday, (Saturday) I rode my bike down our driveway, turned south along our old country road, peddled about 100 yards, and suddenly saw a small fire from an old river landmark leap about 40 feet above the nearby farmlands. About the same time, a neighbor driving his pickup trunk also saw the flames and called the local fire department.

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Creston and Bigfork firefighters quickly arrest violent flames that seemed on verge of spreading.

I quickly peddled back home, got Janie, got my camera, hopped into our ancient pickup (not the one we use to pull our Airstream) and drove down a rutted dirt road to the old wooden structure located on the banks of the Flathead River. All that took no longer than ten minutes, but already fire trucks were arriving on the scene. And so, too, were area fire fighters, who arrived over the next 20 minutes in their own private cars. In so doing, they gave up  whatever they might have been doing: playing with children, making home improvements, watching a football game – whatever – they all rushed to the scene.

Janie and I followed them and watched as they moved in with power hoses to knock down the flames. Several trees had caught fire and firefighters removed those with chainsaws. Very quickly, the men (and the woman, too) contained the fire and we thought how lucky we were for their quick response. Winds were gusting at 30 to 40 miles per hour, and less than a hundred yards away was our small community known as Ranchettes. The Forest Service ranked fire danger “High” and was not issuing any burning permits.

FIRE BECOMES SOCIAL EVENT

Janie and I watched the firefighters for about an hour, and I took a number of photographs, using a 400mm lens. Other neighbors showed up and before long the fire had become a social event. Tom Heikens, the man who owned the old structure and the adjacent farmland, said he couldn’t remember exactly, but thought the dilapidated old wooden building might have been 100 years old. He said no one had lived there since 1948. I said it had become one of our river landmarks for times when we were boating on the river. When we saw the tired old home we knew we were near our takeout point. Again, we all wondered how the fire had begun, and one of the firefighters said they’d be conducting an investigation.

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Just how the the old structure caught fire remains a mystery. Without the quick response of local firefighters this could have metastisized to a real tragedy.

I then hurried back home and called the Daily Interlake, a newspaper I worked for ages ago. Once the evening news editor said she’d use the photo I then wrote the “cut lines.”  Though loss of the structure will cause no one any financial grief, it is just another of the old things that is now gone, reflecting on the way in which change comes to small rural areas. But more significantly, the quick response demonstrates once again the debt of gratitude we owe our firefighters.


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THIS TIME TWO YEARS AGO (Ironically, it was about local firefighters!):

*Firefighters In Creston Montana Recall 9/11

ADS FROM GOOGLE AND AMAZON AUGMENT OUR TRAVELS

(Note, we’ve been promoting books penned by other writers; here, then, are some of OUR BOOKS. Buy them from Google and we make a little extra, unless, of course, you buy them directly from us!)


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Jewel Basin Hiking Area

posted: September 21st, 2009 | by:Bert

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Birch Lake (foreground), one of the "jewels" in Montana's Jewel Basin Hiking Area. It is backdropped by Squaw and Crater Lakes.

©Bert Gildart: Whenever we return from a long trip, after settling back in our home, one of the first things we want to do is make the short drive to the Jewel Hiking Area. The lure is overwhelming as we can see it from our picture window, to include Mount Aeneas, the area’s highest peak. Hiking the Jewel also recalls the wonderful time Janie and I had creating our book Exploring Glacier National Park and the Flathead Valley, published by Falcon Press. For all these reasons we decided to take our book and climb to the top of Mount Aeneas.

Though distance-wise it is only about 10 miles to the Forest Service parking lot, known as Camp Misery, getting to the hiking area requires about 30 minutes, as the last stretch of the drive is over a bumpy logging road. But the views are spectacular.

The hiking area was created in the early 1950s, and as we hiked, we marked out sections from our book that either established background information or established a setting:

HIKER’S DREAM

“The Jewel” straddles the Swan Range within sight of Flathead Lake to the south, Hungry Horse Reservoir to the east and Glacier to the north.  It’s a hiker’s and backpacker’s dream and has more than fulfilled the promise which the Forest Service envisioned…”

That entry established a setting while the next paragraphs tell of features we commonly encountered:

“The area is characterized by glacier-carved peaks and cirques, which surround valleys dotted with 37 alpine lakes.  Fifty miles of hiking trails connect most of the lakes, and aside from getting from the valley floor to the basin rim, most of the hiking is not too strenuous.”

HAVEN FOR WILDLIFE

“Mountain goats are commonly seen and inhabit the region along with elk, mule deer and a few whitetail deer.  Black bear and grizzly and an occasional mountain lion are also known to live in the Basin.  As well, you may see upland game birds like the Franklin grouse, blue grouse and the ruffed grouse.

Furbearing mammals in the region include pine marten, weasel, and coyote.  There is also a sparse population of lynx, mink, beaver, and badger…”

Though we generally see mountain goats most every time we venture into the Jewel, such was not the case this past weekend. However, we did see grouse. About midway along the hike we came to a saddle and the final leg of our hike to 7,528 foot-high Mount Aeneas. And so a description:

MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY

“Named for an Iroquois Indian, Big Knife arrived in the Flathead valley sometime in the 1870’s and was adopted by the Kootenai people.  Somewhere along the way, his was changed to Aeneas, borrowed from the Greek and Roman, meaning ‘Man Without a Country’.

Also included in our book were quotes from one of the area’s noted hikers, who is also a good friend.

“Elaine Synder, a volunteer hike leader with the Montana Wilderness Association, says that from the top you can see in several directions and that your sweep includes vistas of early Indian settlements, some thousands of years old.  “There are places,” says Synder, “that were used in the last century by Native Americans who camped, hunted, and gathered in the valley.” Synder says that there is good evidence that the peak itself was an important perspective point for early day hunters, just as it often is for us.

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Mount Aeneas backdrops goats and hikers (file photo).

Snyder also says that Bob Marshall once hiked the area, noting that he walked through what is now the Bob Marshall Wilderness country in late August, 1928.  She also said that according to his trail diary Marshall climbed to the summit of Mt. Aeneas at 11:10 am, stayed for “for seven minutes” and then headed on, covering 30 miles, an impressive distance in the Swan Mountain range.

NOSTALGIC CLIMBS

This past weekend we reached the top of Aeneas in about two hours. Several other people were there and we all pointed to familiar features.


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Looking east from atop Mount Aeneas, one can see Great Northern Mountain, the tan-colored hump along the skyline on the far left -- and one my son and I climbed when he was 15.

We could see our house and the Flathead River behind it. In the other direction, we could see Great Northern Mountain and I was reminded that when my son was 15, we climbed to the top. Great Northern is the huge tan-colored hump on the far left of the last picture included here. Our trip coincided with the southern migration of many falcons and hawks, and their numbers had attracted a local ornithological club.

All together our outing required about six hours, but the hike accomplished our purpose in that we felt invigorated from our long drive to Alaska.

_____________________

 

 

THREE YEARS AGO AT THIS TIME:

*Kayaking The Bay of Fundy


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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Satisfying Life’s Basic Needs Is Often A Challenge – Even in National Parks

posted: September 14th, 2009 | by:Bert

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Shelter, plus food and water are required to sustain life.

©Bert Gildart: Long ago in a wildlife management course, I learned that all life has three basic needs. It must have food, water and shelter.

In Canada’s Jasper National Park, for some species, these needs are met, but not without some difficulty.

To acquire the much-needed water bighorn sheep must wade through a maze of traffic, and it is to the credit of the majority of drivers that most of the animals survive.

As we watched, virtually all motorist slowed down, even the huge truckers. In fact, one stopped and moved clear off the road while the herd crossed. That’s probably something you don’t often see.

TRIP’S END

Our fabulous trip to Alaska has ended and though we’re off the Alcan, the drive from Jasper and Banff back to Montana is often one of the most rewarding.

Last year, about three weeks later, we were here when the elk were deep into the rut. Right now, Canadian campgrounds are still filling, but with children back in school, that will soon taper off, leaving only the more dedicated nature lovers.

However, we’re anxious now that we are back home to sort everything out. I have a number of stories I must soon complete for various magazines, and the front end of our Dodge is making a ticking sound, which could well be the U-joints.

Our Airstream seems to have weathered the drive, but we’re anxious to give it a major cleaning. As well, the left hand side of our sofa, which I use in combination with the swing-up table as an office, has lost its elasticity. The local furniture shop says they can replace the springs.

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Threading traffic after satisfying need for water, sheep hope to safely return and find cover, one of the other two basic needs needed to sustain life.

In several weeks we’ll also be checking out fall colors in Glacier National Park, pulling our Airstream to the park’s east side. From all reports, this could be a banner year.


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THIS TIME THREE YEARS AGO:

*Bay of Fundy — World’s Most Extreme  Tides

ADS FROM GOOGLE AND AMAZON AUGMENT OUR TRAVELS:


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Shooting of Glacier Sow and Cub Grizzly Bear Generates Outrage – and Raises Many Questions

posted: September 10th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: On August 17, two rangers tracked a female sow and her cubs to the campground at Old Man Lake, which is located in Montana’s Glacier National Park near the Two Medicine area. As directed, they killed the sow using high power rifles. One hour later, they attempted to dart one of the yearling cubs, but inadvertently hit the cub near its carotid, which soon generated trauma and then, death. As well, they darted the second cub with a tranquilizer drug.

The sow was 17 years old, and the directive to kill the bear has generated much controversy – even outrage. The park has received many letters, and so have local news papers. Seasonal employees have opined that there were other options. In fact, so many have expressed strong beliefs that park officials will be holding a meeting September 15 on both the park’s east and west sides to answer questions. Seasonals, of course, are unofficial public relation agents, and when they return home, their voices will be heard.

FRIENDS AND I ENCOUNTER SOW IN QUESTION


Interestingly, the sow in question is one which I encountered along with several friends while hiking three years ago into Glacier’s Cut Bank valley. Nearing a place along the trail known as Atlantic Creek Junction, there, standing about 30 yards away was a large sow grizzly bear with distinguishing marks. Wind had been blowing hard and perhaps the old sow had not heard us, but when she did, she stopped and then stared.

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A tranquil Two Medicine Lake and Sinopah Mountain creates a serene setting that tends to obscure the difficult decisions park managers must make to maintain a balance between Glacier's primeval qualities and visitor safety. Over the years, about 200 bear maulings have occurred, 10 of them fatal. Recently, in an effort to protect visitors, park managers deemed it necessary to remove a grizzly bear family from a drainage adjacent to this one. But their plans went awry, generating much controversy, particularly among seasonals, which will soon be more formally addressed.


As a group, we all began backing away. In turn, the sow turned and ambled off into the brush. We waited for awhile, then continued, but we could hear her and occasionally see the brush slowly moving. She was leaving, but, admittedly, in no hurry to do so. That, apparently, is pretty much the way in which she has reacted when encountering hikers in the adjacent Old Man area.  She was never shy around people, but she was never overtly aggressive either, even with cubs. Of course, that is precisely the way in which a number of bears in the Many Glacier respond — and I’ve reported on that in the past, both here and in the Daily InterLake.

DECISION TO DISPOSE OF SOW

As a member of the outdoor media, I receive news releases from Glacier, and in one dated August 18, 2009, Superintendent Chas Cartwright stated the rationale for disposing of the sow – which now had cubs: “Unfortunately,” said Cartwright in the release, “this entire family group of grizzly bears had become overly familiar with humans… Park resource personnel worked to keep this bear and her offspring in the wild for five years, but given her most recent display of over-familiarity in combination with her history of habituation, we determined that the three grizzlies posed an unacceptable threat to human health and safety; and therefore, needed to be removed from the park.”

The park also points out that they had brought in Karelian dogs in an attempt to bring about aversive conditioning, and had closed the remote Old Man Lake Campground, but with no success.

Regarding the decision to remove the cubs, Cartwright continued. “Given the possibility that her offspring had learned this type of overly-familiar behavior and the diminished chance of their survival, we simply could not leave the yearlings in the wild. We deeply regret the loss of the one cub, but are thankful that the other yearling will soon be transported to the Bronx Zoo.”

NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY

Bears, of course, are one of the animal’s on the Threatened Species list, and most park visitors value their presence, and, so, you can bet your bottom dollar that every bear’s death is reviewed in bars, around supper tables, and sometimes, too, after reading from noted books. From these works, parallels are drawn and that’s when the questioning begins…

One of the similarities that cropped up is from Jack Olsen’s book, Night of the Grizzlies, which as Bill Schneider said in a recent New West column, “may be the best selling outdoor book ever.” In his column he  provides a link to one of my posts, which details the tragic events surrounding Glacier’s first fatal maulings.

The anecdote in question harkens back to a day in 1967 when Cliff Martinka, a park biologist of the time, decided over the objection of George Ostrom, a well know local media gadfly, to dispose of two yearling cubs. “Ranger executives,” as Olsen called them, had decided two yearling cubs had to be disposed of because they had become addicted to garbage in the backcountry, particularly at Granite Park Chalet. Here, chalet mangers were intentionally feeding garbage to grizzly bears so guests could see these most powerful of North American wild mammals, creating a number of “habituated” adult bears and even several yearling cubs. In turn, that contributed directly to one of the park’s two fatal maulings, which occurred one August night in 1967. Garbage was also associated with the other fatal mauling, which occurred at Trout Lake — the same exact night as did the one at Granite Park.

WHY SHOOT THEM?

” [But] why shoot them?” yelled an angry Ostrom, referring to the cubs at Granite Park. Then, growing even more angry: “God damn it! The cubs won’t come back if there isn’t any garbage to come back to!” But the damage had been done, for Martinka had already fired at the bears with his high-powered rifle. His shot, however, was not fatal. Rather it struck the lower jaw of the cub, leaving it hanging. How could the young cub survive?

Fast forward now six months to the following spring of 1968 when rangers sight an emaciated cub emerging from hibernation. Again they see it, and not surprisingly, they see that it is unable to forage effectively, for its jaw has been shattered. This anecdote is found between pages 199 and 206 in one print version of Olsen’s book, and, as the work relates, rangers soon disposed of the poor creature, saving it from a lingering death.

Information from this tragedy is one several seasonals have posed to counter park arguments. “If a cub could survive the winter with a shattered jaw, surely a healthy cub could also survive.”

As well, they wonder about the marksmanship – the training – of the rangers. In fact, Jenny Blake, a seasonal ranger had been ordered to dispose of the sow in the 2009 Old Man bear family with a shotgun, but resigned, saying she didn’t have the proper training. That much seems clear, but according to the rumor mill, Ms. Blake said yet more. She said she favored further aversive conditioning and “could not shoot the mother bear.” She was then told that perhaps she shouldn’t be working here – and that’s when she quit. Certainly, some of the rumors will be cleared up in the upcoming meeting of seasonals with their permanent counterparts.

Regarding the recently killed grizzly sow, seasonals also wonder why officials didn’t simply close the campground rather than shooting the animal. Said one, “If the bear family did return the following year, couldn’t they reopen the case against the sow, who would then have been nearing the end of her life?” Continuing, seasonals say that the cubs would have been two years old, and capable of taking care of themselves.

DELICATE TIGHT ROPE

None of this should be misconstrued in a way that makes today’s park managers come off as being callous, heavy-handed mis-managers of wildlife, for if the bear did maim a visitor, managers would carry a heavy burden. Someone would know that his or her decision produced a visitor’s disfigurement – or perhaps even a visitor’s life. No one wants that!

Certainly that is one of the lessons from Night of the Grizzlies. And so, too, is an old cliché, which recalls that there is nothing predictable about a grizzly other than the fact that the animal is unpredictable. Making decisions about bears is an extraordinarily difficult tight rope to walk, and must sometimes be made quickly and without the benefits of retrospection. Still, the hope is that input from all interested parties will result in the type of wilderness settings most  want to see.

Seasonals will be meeting with their permanent counterparts September 15, 2009. Hopefully, I’ll have feedback, and if constructive will certainly share it.


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THIS TIME THREE YEARS AGO:

*Mount Katahdin — An Appalachian Trail Terminus

ADS FROM GOOGLE AND AMAZON AUGMENT OUR TRAVELS (Note, we’ve been promoting books penned by other writers; here, then, are some of OUR BOOKS. Buy them from Google and we make a little extra, unless, of course, you buy them directly from us!)


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Back Home — But Alaska Is Still On Our Minds

posted: September 7th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Because access in Canada to the Internet was prohibitively expensive (about $800 each month) our blogs have been made a day or two after the fact. Postings of our travels could only be made from campgrounds offering WiFi, and they weren’t always available.

That worked fairly well, but, generally, connectivity was more like dial up. To compound matters, when we did gain Internet access, often it turned out that it was only temporary. For example, I’d move to a spot, find that access was satisfactory, but, then, a huge rig would move in next to us — dwarfing our Airstream. And that was the end of my reception. The only remedy was to move my computer into the washroom or to some other out building that was close to the campground’s antennae. Sometimes that worked, but there were several times when I was forced to a picnic bench, and then the glare on my screen was such that work was difficult.

Those, at any rate, are my excuses for delayed postings, and simply stated: it’s been a challenge — even in Alaska, where my Verizon card worked most of the time.

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CLICK ON EACH IMAGE TO SEE LARGER VERSION: L to R: Baby Contest which was popular adjunct to World Eskimo Indian Olympics; juvenile bald eagle, which probably slipped from nest; Thien, certainly one of the most enduring of long-haul bikers.

What I want to do with this posting is bring my work closer to real time, report that we are now home — and publish a few images I was unable to publish because of time constraints. Then I’d like to add a few comments about the photographs. There are also a few blogs I want to post these next few weeks that require the assembling of notes and materials that I simply did not have time to consider while scurrying from place to place.

ALASKA GENERATES HIGH ENERGY LEVEL

Those who travel the Alcan know what I’m referring to when I say that the state generates a high energy level, often derived from the fact that everyone seems to be making grand discoveries. Sometimes those discoveries derive from the overwhelming surroundings and, good Lord,  even from the gold you’ve discovered! Other times it’s because of the people you meet.

Case in point was a young man from Toronto who had bicycled over 2,000 miles from home when we meet him. His name was Thien, and we encountered him over and over. He said he generally covered 100 miles a day on his bike, and sometimes that’s all we covered. About the fourth time we met him, we told him to camp by us that we were having a cookout with some native friends from Arctic Village. Next thing we knew he was taking a bush plane to Arctic Village at the request of Kenneth and Caroline, who also took a liking to Thien.  Later, he biked the entire length of the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay.

OUTDOOR WRITER’S ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA

We also enjoyed immensely our visits with Karen and Willi Lundquist. Janie and I have known Karen for a number of years through the Outdoor Writer’s Association and have become good friends. One weekend Karen and Willi invited Janie and me to join them on an overnight  boat trip to their cabin — way up the Salcha River. At times the river seemed only inches deep, and Willi demonstrated boating skills that rank him in a class all by himself. Sometimes, the water was only inches deep, but we skimmed right over the surface.


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FOR LARGER VERSION, CLICK ON EACH IMAGE: L to R: Totems greet travelers at new native visitor center located at Teslin, British Columbia; Willi Lundquist holds up dorsal fin of arctic grayling — it’s key characteristic; fishing for grayling on the Salcha River, 18 miles from launch point.

During our stay, we fished — catching a number of Arctic Grayling — and one morning found a young bald eagle (top three verticals) that had apparently fallen from its nest in tree along the bank. It couldn’t fly, and sadly we could not envision a happy ending for this young flightless bird. I photographed it using a two strobe set up, and Karen (wearing shorts) bravely suffered the many sticky plants and mosquitoes to assist by holding one of the flash units.

BACK TO CHICKEN

Certainly one of our favorite stops was made in Chicken, Alaska, and when I mention the name, most chuckle until I tell them that gold mining and a teacher named Tisha made the area famous. I’ve covered Tisha in previous postings but plan to explain in the next week or so how the area contributed to the discover of gold and how that legacy still lives on through a man who would have been a candidate for John McPhee’s book, Coming Into the Country, had it been written at a different time.


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Mike Busby has helped to perpetuate the "golden" legacy of Chicken, Alaska, through interpretations of his Pedro Dredge and by offering opportunities to actually mine for gold at his Chicken Gold Camp.


Other photographs shown here are from the various native functions or interpretive centers we visited. At Teslin, British Columbia, we stopped to tour the relatively new visitor center, set off by a series of totems poles. I particularly liked one of the photographs Janie took (above verticles) while I was covering the World Eskimo Indian Olympics. She took the photograph during the baby contest, one of many additional events that took place when the athletes were taking a break from the intense contests.

Alaska never fails to excite us, and it is with much sadness that we see our trip now at a close. However, it lives on for us in our magazine stories (past and yet to come), in our photographs, and in our blogs, which is one of the many reasons we write them.

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THIS TIME TWO YEARS AGO:

*Fall Foliage Along the Natchez Trace Parkway

ADS FROM GOOGLE AND AMAZON AUGMENT OUR TRAVELS: (Note, we’ve been promoting other folks books, here are some of OUR BOOKS. Buy them from Google and we make a little extra, unless, of course, you buy them directly from us!)


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Season of the Elk – Night of the Grizzly

posted: September 2nd, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: It’s mating season for elk throughout the Rockies, and bull elk are now making their presence known. Several nights ago, while camped at Whistler Campground just outside of the townsite of Jasper, Alberta, Janie looked out the window of our Airstream and saw four cow elk being herded by a royal bull elk (that’s one with six tines).

There were about 10 feet separating our truck from our Airstream and the bull laid back his head and walked between the two. Then he tried to corral the four members of his small harem. Grabbing my camera I opened the door and moved to a positions where I could jump behind a huge tree should the bull come my way. Janie also stepped from the trailer and tried to take several photographs. My best image was one of Janie beneath the awning of the trailer jockeying for position.

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Janie attempting to position herself for a photo of bull elk in Jasper National Park.

This is the same campground at which we stayed last year for almost 10 days, gathering many images of elk. The trip was highlighted with a number of experiences which illustrate the fact that many believe seeing elk in Jasper is like seeing elk in a zoo. That, as my images show, is certainly not the case.

NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY

Several years ago I provided a posting about my involvement in the first two fatal mauling experienced in Glacier National Park (Night of the Grizzly). The posting continues to attract a number of comments, and for some reason, several have chosen this time to add their thoughts. All are interesting and I invite others to leave their thoughts as well. I’ve also posted on other grizzly bear situations, and here’s a link to one that could have resulted in serious consequences( *Training People to Watch Bears).

Last year reporters from Public TV interviewed me (and many others as well) about my involvement in the dual tragedy. I understand production is about to wrap up and that a program about the tragedy will air sometime this spring. Though the maulings occurred in 1967, this year marks the 100 year anniversary of Glacier, so the timing to report on bears in Glacier remains appropriate.

Note: After writing the above, I just figured out why so many are choosing to post comments about my involvement. Bill Schneider, a writer with New West, interviewed producers of an upcoming Montana PBS documentary about the maulings, and provided a link to my site. Here’s a link to his site, and his story about the interview.

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THIS TIME TWO YEARS AGO:

*Moose & Their Bizarre Feeding Techniques

ADS FROM GOOGLE AND AMAZON AUGMENT OUR TRAVELS

(Note: Several have requested links to the book Night of the Grizzly, which I’m now providing as well as links to books on the natural history of bears. These are all excellent works, and I personally know ALL the authors. If you follow my links to Amazon, and then purchase from that link — that really AUGMENTS our travels.)

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