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, 2013

Seals or People? Which Should it Be?

posted: April 26th, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: One of our coolest excursions during our stay in San Diego was a trip to upscale La Jolla to see the seals. During our weekday visit, parking was not a problem, after which we followed our ears to an overlook where the intensity of barking and roaring increased dramatically and became distinct — and recognizable.

Before us, on a horseshoe prominence overlooking the Pacific Ocean, herds of sea lions had gathered, all onto a piece of real estate that spanned but a few hundred yards.


LaJolla (5 of 7)

Seals and cormorants occupy a small section of real estate along a beach in La Jolla

 


Some of the seals were lounging, and were doing so by simply plopping on a neighbor.  But there was other activity as well.  Apparently mating season was winding down for several males were lunging at one another, attempting to claim an area for themselves.  Nearby females slept, occasionally peering up, trying to observe the grappling of the foolish males.  Sometimes females would open both eyes, but generally it seemed an effort for them to simply open just one eye.

SEAL LION OR HARBOR SEAL?

Surrounding the seals were hundreds of cormorants and dozens of brown pelicans.  Further mixed into the group were a few harbor seals, and when we could see their heads in entirety, we could differentiate.  Seal lions have external ear flaps while harbor seals have an external orifice where you would expect there to be an ear.



Seals (21 of 35) Seals (2 of 35) Seals (5 of 35)


CLICK TO ENLARGE

L TO R:  Bull sea lion warns intruders to stay off his turf;  not all interaction consists of sea lion battles (last two).


We could also differentiate between the two species when they moved on land.  Sea lions can rotate their flippers backward and forward and they often use them in this manner to accelerate over a beach or over a pile of rocks.  Harbor seals simply flop themselves in what appears to be a simple undulation of their bodies.

TWO WOMEN KICKING THE SEALS

We were drawn to this area in La Jolla specifically to observe the seals, and so were hundreds of other animal lovers.  Because of its geographical configuration the area has always served as a natural sanctuary for seals, bur recently a group in this upscale neighborhood say the odor created by all these animals undermines their quality of living.  Some miscreants have even parlayed words into animal cruelty.  A surveillance camera installed to monitor the beach – day and night – shows two women sitting on the seals and kicking them.


Seals (33 of 35)

Male sea lions seem to battle for every piece of land that might be available.

 


Mitt Romney lives in the area and his residence typifies other area homes.  To facilitate parking of his several vehicles the former presidential candidate has installed elevators so he can park his vehicles one over the other.  Residents of La Jolla are loaded.

COURT RULES FOR THE SEALS

Nevertheless, in the recent battle over seal smells, a local court ruled in favor of the seals, but in the long run big money always seems to win, so if you want a bird’s eye view of seals, a view that can acquaint you with seal behavior, better take advantage of the opportunity while you can.  You might also consider writing city fathers, but only, of course, if you agree people should go before the seals.

Remember, this small horse-shoe shaped section of beach has been a sanctuary for seals through the ages, and that should count for something.


——————————————


THIS TIME LAST YEAR:

*Does V-Bar-V Ranch Preserve A Solar Marker

 

—————————————

 

 

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




Read Comments | 2 Comments »

Twenty Hours of Photo Ecstasy

posted: April 24th, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  The past 20 hours have been filled with photographic highlights.  This time frame began Monday night about 6 p.m. when Don, Nancy, Janie and I made a drive from our Chula Vista campground to the ferry crossing on Coronado Island – immediately across from San Diego.  However, we stopped first at Coronado Beach where we encountered Nilaja Gardner accompanied by her promoter and camera crew (see photo below).

Seldom have we ever stumbled across a more engaging group, inviting us to watch Nilaja’s video recorder as he filmed her lip-syncing one of her pre-recorded songs back dropped by the sun sinking into Pacific Ocean.  The young lady was extraordinarily talented and I knew I would kick myself if I didn’t ask permission to take her picture.

“Thank you,” said Nilaja, “Please do.” Later she gave all of us big hugs and then asked if they could photograph us?  How gracious can a person be?  She said her style of music has been inspired by R&B icons such as Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner, and Etta James. But Gardner also says that life, her own and others, is the main inspiration for development of her soulful voice.

ICONIC EMERALD PLAZA

Half an hour later we made the five-minute drive from the ocean to the ferry landing where I set up my tripod-mounted camera.  I pointed it toward San Diego Bay and the ferry dock – and, of course, toward the city’s magnificent array of lights.  I was so pleased with the results that I sent the image to photographer friend Bill D, who wrote back saying he liked the picture and then explained in his email letter to me that the green lights emanate from “the iconic Emerald Plaza,” and that it is the most distinctive building to shape the San Diego skyline.


Night (31 of 2)

City lights of San Diego showing iconic Emerald Plaza

 


Bill explained that the hexagonal green neon halos glow each night acting as a beacon for visitors intrigued by the city’s revitalization. He said views from the building offer panoramic images of the Pacific Ocean, San Diego Bay, Coronado Island, Point Loma and the Cuyamaca Mountains.  In his email Bill also provided a link which further explained that the tallest tower was 30 stories and 400 feet tall and that the structure’s eight rooftops are all angled at 33 degrees to match San Diego’s latitude.

Some may be interested in the technical data required to make this picture, which includes a 20-second time exposure, an aperture setting of f-20, an ISO of 150 – and the obligatory setting of the camera’s “High Noise” reduction program.  Without it, the image would have contained unwanted “points” of light, which result from long time exposures.

WHALE WATCHING PROVIDES THE UNEXPECTED

The last part of my 20 hours of photo Nirvana included a whale watching trip.  Yesterday morning we drove to Mission Bay and hopped aboard the 60-foot “Eclipse” whale watching boat, which made its way  toward the five Mexican owned Coronado Islands.  Though March is said to be the end of the whale migration, which transports several species from Baja to Alaska, nevertheless, our luck was incredible.  In the course of our five-hour trip we saw a fin whale, several minke whales and, finally, and most dramatically we saw the breaching of a Blue Whale.



Dolphin (40 of 1) Night (30 of 2) SeaLion (30 of 1)


CLICK ON EACH IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION

 

L to R:  Bottle-nose dolphin caught at apex of its “flight”; the extraordinarily talented Nilaja Garder who we think is on a fast track to becoming a house hold name when
R&B music is mentioned; small group of seal lions lounge on marker buoy in Mission Bay
.

 

As the world’s largest animal, Blue whale facts are impressive.  A full grown blue can reach 100 feet in length and weigh up to 200 tons, which is huge, as Melissa, our “ship’s” on-board naturalist, tried to dramatize.  Melissa said a blue whale heart can exceed the size of a Volkswagen and that the spray from a blue whale’s blowhole can spew as high as a three-story building.  She said a toddler can fit into the creature’s blowhole. She continued, and we whale watchers remained enraptured.

Though seeing whales was a highlight the creatures are difficult to photograph.  For one thing, they can outpace most whale-watching boats.  Nevertheless, I thought I made up for it by virtue of the photographs I managed to get of several bottle nose dolphins – and of the sea lions lounging near the entrance to our dock.

As I implied, for a photographer the past 20 hours have been exhilarating.



————————————————————

THIS TIME LAST YEAR:

*In Beauty We Walked


————————————————————

 

 


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




Read Comments | 3 Comments »

San Diego – “Greatest Diversity of Wildlife in Continental U.S.”

posted: April 21st, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: In the southwestern most part of the United States, there is a stretch of beach fed by the Tijuana River that empties into the Pacific Ocean.  San Diego is situated toward one end of the beach while an International fence separating Mexico from the USA is situated at the other.  To prevent illegal immigration one can see as he or she walks the beach several 4-wheel drive American Border Patrol vehicles whose drivers seems to monitor our every move. Helicopters fly overhead and the sound of their engines dominates the landscape.  It’s a wild scene further dramatized by the overwhelming presence of the Pasa del Toro, a bull fighting ring that is part of Tijuana, Mexico and that seems to glare as one hikes the beach.


BorderField (1 of 1)

International fence separating Mexico from the U.S. On one side Mexican bathers enjoy surf while on the other Least Terns bask in protection afforded them by Border Field State Park

 


But there is also a different view one takes from the setting, a more natural one.  Overhead, squadrons of brown pelicans wheel in a clear blue sky, while along the shoreline dozens of birds brave powerful ocean waves.  All the birds time their forays into the tidal zone – hoping their efforts will return an assortment of insects, worms, and crustaceans – before powerful waves engulf them. Included in this group are dozens of sanderlings, who scurry just ahead of waves that are measured not only in power but in miles.  When the sanderlings sense a breaker’s approach they accelerate their tiny  bodies on twig-like legs that are simply a blur. In this manner they escape what could be a watery fate.

The contrast between the artifacts of urbanization and the residuals of a wild America is intense, and in this setting it is preserved by Border Field State Park.  But as I walk the beach I’m not sure just how closely I can approach the huge fence that separates the two countries.  Nor am I sure what kind of a reaction Border Patrol agents will have when I erect my tripod and unpack my long 600mm lens.  I don’t want them to mistake my caisson-appearing lens for a weapon, so I carefully tilt the setup in their direction.


BorderField (31 of 4) BorderField (32 of 4) BorderField (20 of 1)


L to R: Back dropped by San Diego, Don and Nancy Dennis stroll along the beach celebrated at  Border Field State Park; sanderlings  race ahead of pounding surf; “Tony”, a Mexican/American
horseman strikes out for recreational ride along beach — pointing toward Tijuana and international fence.

 

But not to worry, and I begin my passion of photography, trying to capture all the bird life that seems to huddle near the American side of the international fence.  Near its base, undisturbed by Mexican bathers on the other side, rests a flock of Least Terns, which add to my tally of shore-dwelling birds.

The setting overwhelms me and I am simply amazed that this city of sour mesh graffiti, navy bases, and expansive bridges – all used by some 1.5 million people – can preserve such wildness.  But it is one of the awakenings Janie and I have enjoyed as we have explored what I call the wild side (to include the famous zoo) of San Diego.


BorderField (33 of 4)

Willets bask in sun in wake of pounding surf

 


We hike on, waving at the folks on the Mexican side, and now at the men in their patrol cars.  As well, we tally our San Diego bird list, concluding that it now numbers close to 30.

This day is simply a continuation of the wonders we’ve enjoyed as we’ve learned more about all that is protected by some of this city’s far-seeing fathers.  In some ways this may be a form of “Noblesse oblige” — but I am starting to understand the compelling mandate, for San Diego is said to be home to the greatest diversity of wildlife found anywhere in the continental U.S.

Again, we walk on, continuing with our explorations.


———————————————-

AIRSTREAM TRAVELS ONE YEAR AGO:

*Montezuma Well


———————————————-

 

 


 

 


 

BOOKS FOR SALE:

 

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




Read Comments | 1 Comment »

California Condor Milestone

posted: April 19th, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  April 8th, 2013 – this past Tuesday – marked a milestone in the history of both the California Condor and in the role the San Diego Zoo.

Thirty years ago four California condors hatched in the zoo and soon came to form the foundation of a breeding program.  The fate of one of the condors remains a mystery, but officials named the other three Sespe, Sisquoc and Almiyi.  However, Sespe is still exhibited at the San Diego Safari Park, which is located in Escondido.  This facility is huge and is an affiliate of the San Diego Zoo.  In addition to exhibiting a variety of animals in realistic habitats, Safari Park conducts much research and engages in various experimental programs to include a condor breeding program. The park is joined in their condor research efforts by several other wildlife centers, to include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Though I have no way of knowing which of the several condors I photographed this past week, I have to assume that one of the birds might have been a descendent of this original group.  The bird shown here appears to be relatively young, but it really makes no difference to me which I photographed, for all are magnificent – and their presence represents the best of qualities in humans. Just a few years ago, the species was extinct from the wild.  Apparently not a single bird remained from a land in which it had once been prominent.

Condor5 ZooSafari (37 of 18) Condor3


L to R:  Immature California Condor; condors have a wing span that approaches 10 feet, largest of any North American
birds; mature — or breeding — plumage of adult condor, showing light red head.


Still, the California Condor remains one of the world’s rarest bird species. In May 2012 population counts put the number of known condors at 405, including 226 living in the wild and 179 in captivity.  The successful reintroduction derives from the cooperative – and successful – work of four wildlife organizations working together, which is the reason we are now seeing the magnificent California Condor in the Grand Canyon and Zion national parks.

CONDOR CHARACTERISTICS

As you can see Condors are quite large, and at well over nine feet, the species has the greatest wingspan of any North American bird.  Typically, the head of young birds is grey while that of older breeding birds range from yellow to bright orange.  Several other birds were displayed at Safari Park and one of them had a head that was colored a bright orange.

DIFFICULT TO PHOTOGRAPH

Though the Safari Park provides a huge enclosure for their condors, they are confined by a mesh cage which makes photography difficult.  The secret is to use a telephoto lens and then open it to the widest f-stop your camera will allow.  You must then position yourself so the eyes of the bird are not covered by the mesh, then selectively focus on the bird’s eyes.  Everything else will most likely have a soft focus appearance, but no matter.  Just so long as the eyes of the bird are clear there will be no clue that the bird is caged – and not wild and free.

Condors are long lived and may reach the age of 60, but because of the history of successful reintroduction, this birthday was special. In commemoration of the bird’s birthdays a local newspaper reported that handlers at Safari Park filled a cardboard box with treats for the birds to tear open and enjoy.  Tidbits included mice, rats, meatballs and beef spleen.  Kudos should also go to the dedicated wildlife managers for without them, the world would now be bereft of this magnificent bird.



———————————————-


THIS TIME LAST YEAR:

*Lower Antelope Canyon



———————————————-




 

 


 

BOOKS FOR SALE:

 

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




Read Comments | 2 Comments »

Airstream Friends

posted: April 16th, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  Before any more time elapses and we continue on with our independent explorations of San Diego, I want to take a moment to thank our  friends Bill and Larry for all the help they have provided these past few weeks.  About ten days ago, they introduced us to William Heise County Park, a campground situated 4,200 feet above sea level in a pine and oak forest above Borrego Springs. The park is located in the northern extremity of the Cuyamaca Mountain Range, and true to form, during our afternoon visit, Larry prepared a Mexican seafood stew consisting of squid, catfish and shrimp.   Outside their Airstream trailer, we dined in grand  style.


WhaleyHouse (2 of 6)

Bill showing Janie the "theater" of the Whaley House.

 


Today, they helped again, this time to show us a portion of San Diego we would not have seen had it not been for their knowledge.  As well, they showed us their “state of the art home;” and Larry, who is an indisputable gourmet cook, introduced us to a grocery store that specializes in Oriental groceries.  The store carried oysters, crabs, live snails – the stomachs and intestines of pork – and dozens of different species of fish swathed in chipped ice.

But for Janie and me our day began with a tour of the Whaley House, at one time the largest brick home in San Diego.  Built in the Greek Revival style the old home retains stories of ghosts said to still wander the premises.  Bill works at the old home as a docent, and he dresses the part of someone who might have lived in the home just after the Civil War.  Work there is essentially a retirement position, for Bill once worked as a master-level nurse.


WhaleyHouse (4 of 6) WhaleyHouse (1 of 6) WhaleyHouse (6 of 6)


L to R:  Bill works as docent at Whaley House where he watches the time with his old time piece for the next tour.  Larry shows
Janie his Koi, which he has raised from fingerlings over the past 20 years.


Bill also introduced us to Pat,  another interpreter who said that as she wanders the old home that she has experienced the presence of spirits.  “At the time,” said Pat,  “it felt like I was moving through a spider web charged with electricity.”

Larry has kept busy since his retirement as an occupational therapist creating a home that should be a candidate for Better Homes and Gardens.  He has created a garden out of unique flowers complemented with a beautiful koi pond. Koi are a form of carp and looked to Janie and me  like huge goldfish.

Of course Bill and Larry tow an Airstream and during our get-togethers they have provided us with many suggestions about the use of our Airstream.  We remain appreciative for all their help and advice with our various travels.


WhaleyHouse (5 of 6)

Entrance to Whaley House

 


Let me also say that Janie and I wish Don and Nancy – back dropping my last posting on graffiti – the very best of luck during surgery scheduled for tomorrow.  It is break through surgery and this good man deserves a gigantic  infusion of  luck.  We’re watching over Don and Nancy’s Airstream Trailer here in Chula Vista RV Park.


—————————————-


THIS TIME LAST YEAR:

*Ascending From Mother Earth




—————————————-

 


 

BOOKS FOR SALE:

 

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




Read Comments | 2 Comments »

San Diego Graffiti – Is it Art?

posted: April 15th, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  I guess I was supposed to be offended by graffiti that covered the hundred-yard concrete wall that flanked the Bay Shore Bike Trail  Don Dennis and I were riding in San Diego, but I was not.  Quite the contrary, for there was nothing written or painted that seemed vulgar.

Perhaps I am naïve, for the letters that had been strung together had no meaning to me.  Nor did the image of the skull, though I’m sure it was conveying a message of death.  If that’s the case, I have no idea to whom the message was directed.  The area through which we rode seemed free of gang violence and except for a short distance, the trail meandered through areas with park-like settings.


Grafiti (3 of 18)

Wall along bike trail is about 100 yards long. Is it art?

 


Apparently the city has made attempts in the past to control graffiti on this wall – up that is until a year ago.  Each year prior to 2012, the city of San Diego hired crews that would whitewash the wall and return it to their notion of purity.  That, at any rate, is what another biker told Don and me.

Often times, graffiti is used to express underlying social and political messages and this wall, which spans well over a hundred yards, probably contains political “art.”  By using a whole genre of artistic expressions, various objects had been spray painted on the wall manifesting a graffiti style.

Graffiti has a long history.  Research on the internet says that the first known example of “modern style” graffiti survives in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus.  Local guides say the art was an advertisement for prostitution.

Grafiti (4 of 18) Grafiti (16 of 18) Grafiti (8 of 18)



Closer to home more research suggests that Bozo Texino was responsible for much of the graffiti that tours America daily on our railroad boxcars. Though Patrons of urban art scenes may wrinkle their nose at Bozo, his art has garnered an audience most artists can only dream about.  People in Maine and Michigan may have seen his work, but so, most likely, have people in San Diego, California.

In San Diego, reports say that the vast majority of graffiti has been created by “taggers.” Tags can be recognized by their particular style, which consists only of the tagger and/or crew name. Tag names are typically one short word, like “BUSTER,” or perhaps one of the word inscribed in this wall paralleling the bike trail.


Grafiti (13 of 18)

Don Dennis biking along Bay Shore Bike Route

 

 

Don and I stopped often along the wall, invariably prompting others to stop as well. The drawings elicited quick conversations and though none of us could ever quite decipher underlying meanings, we all thought some of the work was a good quality, and did, in fact, approach the level of “art.”

And now, if anyone can explain other meanings that might be attached to these works, I’d like to know.


————————————

 

THIS TIME FIVE YEARS AGO:

*Montana’s National Bison Range


————————————-

 

 


 

BOOKS FOR SALE:

 

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




Read Comments | 3 Comments »

More on the Black-crowned Night Heron

posted: April 11th, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  Four years ago Janie and I made an extensive trip through Florida, stopping for weeks at wildlife sanctuaries to include Big Cypress, the Everglades – and the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the latter of which is located on Sanibel Island.  Here, we found the subject of my most recent posting, a Black Crowned Night Heron.


NightHeron2

Black-crowned Night Heron stalking the marshland of Florida's Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.

 


Because several readers have said they are not familiar with the species I thought I’d post a few images of a mature Night Heron – those which I took in Florida, mostly at Ding Darling.  Those from my last posting were made just a few days ago, almost adjacent to our camp here in California’s Borrego Springs.

Wildlife refuges provide a safe haven for their inhabitants, and as a result animals become somewhat acclimated to the presence of people, but that doesn’t mean you can approach with impunity.  Nor does it mean that the more docile creatures will completely ignore your encroachment.  Endless patience is required to convince skittish birds that you mean them no harm and that’s necessary, of course, to create good images.


NightHeron1 NightHeron4 NightHeron5

 

L to R:  Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron; adult Night Heron; adult Night Heron, illustrating that head is not entirely a “black  crown.”


As far as photography is concerned I used essentially the same set up I did several days ago to photograph my immature Night Heron, and that was a 600mm lens with a full-frame Nikon camera.  Like my picture of the other day these images are but little modified from the way they were first recorded.

Looking now at the images shown here, specifically the one I have labeled as an immature Night Heron, and I’m sure we’ve identified the individual correctly.  The main difference is that my Night Heron images made here at Borrego shown an individual who is losing the stripped appearance common to extremely young birds.  I suspect that the one here at Borrego will soon begin to acquire adult coloration which includes the black crown.

Images from our Florida adventure have all been published either to accompany stories I’ve written – or to illustrate concepts in various outdoor publications.  I find much satisfaction in this work and hope these pictures provide some pleasure for those who follow our blogs and my stories. I also hope these images inspire an appreciation for our natural world, which is much needed, for our natural world is taking damage at an alarming rate.


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THIS TIME FIVE YEARS AGO:

*The Dry Tortugas


 

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BOOKS FOR SALE:

 

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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Black-crowned Night Heron, Now a Neighbor

posted: April 8th, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: The Black-crowned Night Heron is an extremely secretive bird but here at the Spring of Borrego, an RV park engulfed by Anza Borrego Desert State Park, a juvenile has taken up residence. That residence is – literally – at The Springs.

There’s nothing wrong with this normally secretive  bird.  It flies – and the bird is also true to its nature – because it fi shes, and it has picked a superb spot.  The bird is also leery of intruders so I’m using a 600mm lens, and it is adequate to provide frame-filling images at a distance that seems comfortable for “My”  bird.


B-C-Heron-2

Black-crowned Night Heron, virtually a next-door neighbor

 

The little pond associated with the springs is loaded with fish, and though I have now made dozens of images, I have yet to capture a picture of “my” bird with a fish in its beak.  Either a palm tree or a huge boulder is in the way.  And now the wind is blowing with gusts of up to 60 miles an hour.

But I hope to try again.


IS IT A NIGHT HERON?

I made the bird’s acquaintance two nights ago when Janie and I joined a group of RVers with whom we’ve made friends this winter.  We gathered about 6:30 to sit around a fire pit located near the spring, but for a while, at any rate, we were all drawn to the water’s edge to admire this interesting bird.  We all had thoughts on its identity but none of could provide a positive I.D. Eventually we were helped by a lady out for an evening walk who has participated in this Park’s bird walks.


BlackCrownedHeron-43 BlackCrownedHeron-41



She said the bird had been I.D’d as juvenile Night Heron.  At first I thought it was a juvenile American Bittern, but she said “No,” and, though there are some distinct Night Heron characteristics, she’s probably right.  American Bitterns are characterized in my guide book as a bird that extends its neck and head upward, and this bird certainly exhibited that trait.

My guide book, however, also says that Night Herons are “relatively stocky with shorter bills, legs, and necks. Their resting posture is normally somewhat hunched but when hunting they extend their necks and look more like other wading birds. In other words, it looks much like the images shown here.


SpringsAtBorrego-1

Our neighbor has taken up residence at the base of these falls, where it "shops" for its daily intake of small fish.

 

My guide book also says Night Herons stand still at the water’s edge and wait to ambush prey, mainly at night or early morning. Again, that certainly fits the description of this bird.

I hope the wind dies down, and if so, I may try once again to photograph the bird gulping a fish.


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THIS TIME LAST YEAR

*Departing Lost Dutchman



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BOOKS FOR SALE:

 

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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So Let the Good Times Roll

posted: April 5th, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  Two weeks ago Susan Maffei photographed Janie and me at The Slabs.  Her photographs remind us of that  great (much repeated) trip to this  funky area of California.

But they also remind us of the active times that Janie and I will soon be enjoying again. Immediately after our trip with Adam and Susan to this funky area, Janie had surgery to correct a painful tear to her rotator cuff.  The operation, performed by a leading orthopedic surgeon, was a success and, soon now, following a bit more PT, we’ll be completely functional again.


KeepOut

Keep out? Not us.

 


In the meantime, Janie and I have become local socialites, taking advantage of the kind treats provided by friends.  Several nights ago Eleanor Luhr handed me a plate of food she’d prepared while boondocking at Dry Clark Lake.  Two nights ago Brian and Leigh drove in from their camp in Blaire Valley and served us a dinner that Leigh had prepared.  Both Eleanor and Leigh are FAMOUS for their cuisine, but I’m not sure what they’re saying about my ability to cook?

While Brian and Leigh were with us we caught up on all the gossip of their trip to the Slabs.  Because our travels are temporarily limited, we missed out on Prom Night, an annual event held every year at the Slabs. Leigh’s pictures of the event capture the night perfectly making Janie and me declare that next spring we will be attending!

While there Brian and Leigh visited Radio Mike and learned yet more about Love Life – Slab style.  Next morning, they joined Mike for a dip in the hot springs.  Clothing there is optional but they said they enjoyed the 100-plus degree waters in a very modest manner. They also toured East of Jesus, an annex of The Slabs which features the highly creative graffiti of local but very talented artists.


AdamBertJane Bert&Janie SlabBert


L to R:  All images made at the Slabs, suggesting we have secular values. 
So now, “Let the Good Times Roll,” which we soon will again.

 

Because we’re a bit confined we’ve had a chance to meet other folks here at Springs of Borrego, particularly a few other Airstream enthusiasts, and we’re always amazed by some of their accomplishments.  Of particular interest to me was the work of Gregory Zeigler who has recently duplicated John Steinbeck’s insightful journey described in his Travels with Charley.  Zeigler, a retired English teacher at a private school just published his book Travels with Max, and it is described on Amazon.  The introduction so intrigued me that I ordered the book — so I can read the rest of the story.

Last night I enjoyed a glass of wine with Zeigler and learned during the course of our conversation that he was intrigued by my descriptions of the Slabs. Obviously Zeigler’s interests are somewhat secular, but then so were those of John Steinbeck.

I think Susan’s images suggest that Janie and I may also have secular values, but at any rate, they remind us that the good times will soon roll again.


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THIS TIME FOUR  YEARS AGO:

 

*Reflections from my years at Cut Bank Ranger Station


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BOOKS FOR SALE:

 

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




Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Love Affair with Flowering Cacti

posted: April 2nd, 2013 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  Naturalists advised me this yesterday that the profusion of flowers for which Anaza Borrego Desert State Park has become so famous will not materialize this spring.

“Not enough rain,” they say, adding:  “We need it in the fall and we didn’t get it.”

Still, as I wander around I find that the cacti are producing flowers that contain some of the most vivid colors I have ever seen. Of course, after 100 million years of working things out as a New World species that’s what they should be doing.

Once again we’re here  to see this display,  for observing this awakening has not only become  an obsession but an enduring love affair. And now you must forgive me for below I have attempted to describe  some of the precise botanical features that make up each flower.  I have done so because cactus produce flowers that are large enough to see these features!


Cacti-60

Ganders Cholla back dropped by Indian Head Mountain


 

Brilliance, of course, is the essential feature of plants that enable them to propagate, for it is this exhibit of rakish colors that attracts insects.  In turn, insects transport pollen from the “anther”  (pollen bearing portion) to the “stigma” of the flower’s ovary.  Generally cactus flowers are perfect for attracting insects, for they are large and striking.  Size makes them easier to study for – relatively speaking — all the floral structures in cacti  are immense.

Look at the images included here (most notably the Ganders Cholla, above) and you’ll see that cactus flowers have many greenish sepals that surround numerous yellow petals.  Look some more and you’ll see that adjacent to the petals there are numerous stamens, the pollen-bearing portions of the flowers. These are shown in the column immediately below.


Cacti-82 Cacti-67 Cacti-80


L to R:  Extreme close up (about half life size) of the multi-branched pistil of the Gander’s cholla; barrel cactus, the largest of which is about
five-feet high; close up of pistil (center portion) from another cholla surrounded by dozens of  stamen.

CLICK TO ENLARGE ANY OF THE POSTED IMAGES

 

Now really focus your attention (again, in the column just above)  to the center of the flower and you’ll see that there are several stigmas placed atop the stalk-like “style.”  These features are all parts of the ovary, the female part of the flower.  That said, about the only floral feature you cannot see in any of the images is the precise structure that joins with the stigma and the style — and that is called the ovary.  In other words from the top down you have the stigma, style –and ovary, the latter of which is covered up with the flower’s myriad pollen-bearing structures – called the stamen.

In cacti, stamen (the male portion) number in the dozens and each consists of two parts.  On the very top is the actual pollen-bearing structure called the anther and it is attached to the flower by the tiny stalk-like structure called the filament.  You can see all of these structures in the included images.  I’ve mentioned these features because with many flowers the structures are diminished but not so with cactus.  In fact if you look hard you can actually make out some of the tiny pollen grains, located atop each of the “anthers.”


Cacti-63 Cacti-64 Cacti-51


L to R:  Ganders Cholla; barrel cactus; Wolf’s Cholla.

 

I’m much intrigued by such botanical manifestations because the complexities add to aesthetics of these plants which can be so standoffish.  These plants have adapted to one of the world’s most hostile environments and have done so in part by doing what all other plants do, but which cacti do even better.  They survive desiccating winds, prolonged periods of drought, and long days of intense sun.  To do so, leaves have become spines – but they do more.  Near each spine is a tiny structure known as the glochid, the point from which each flower begins to develop, ultimately producing all these vivid colors. It’s something that happens every year, and you can see them, too, in the pads of the red flower on the right and just above. Actually, these green pads are analogous to stems, from which they evolved long ago.


Cacti-81

Hedgehog Cactus

 


It must be obvious that I love photographing these desert flowers, and each image here was carefully composed from a tripod, and each is shown full frame with very little post processing.  Because color is most pleasing when harsh shadows are reduced I use two methods to achieve that result.    Sometimes I cast a body shadow over the subject, but other times I use electronic flash units.  As well I use a 105mm Nikon lens that has excellent macro capabilities.

Experience can be critical and I’ve worked out these techniques over the course of decades, meaning this is truly a labor of love.


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THIS TIME LAST YEAR:

*Everything Cholla

 


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BOOKS FOR SALE:

 

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




Read Comments | 1 Comment »