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

Ripe Mexican Marijuana Crop Now A Concern at Organ Pipe

©Bert Gildart: Several days ago Janie and I attended a presentation in Organ Pipe provided by two U.S. Border Patrol agents.  It was an excellent talk, and we took away much information.   One thought, however, that sticks with us is that the marijuana crop is now ripe and drug dealers are now attempting to smuggle tons of it across the border that Organ Pipe shares with Mexico.

One of the agents said if we see people with huge backpacks most likely they’re smugglers and they may well be carrying guns.  “Leave the area immediately,” he urged, “and notify us.”  The agent went on to say smugglers don’t want to see visitors any more than we want to see them.  He said smugglers have scouts posted on hills with commanding views, and when they see Border Patrol agents they have signals that warn “the mules” to scurry back to Mexico.”  The two men also spoke about the skills members of their unit possess to track smugglers.

Dos Lomitas-5 BlackBottles SenitaLoop-6

Jane Gildart, who says that here she could jump across the border.  (The waist-high fence is for stopping cars.)
Dave Vedder with pair of black water bottles.  Black is used by most undocumented immigrants
because they don’t reflect sunlight; three hikers, which the landscape can easily swallow.


Securing the American border has a long history that can best be appreciated by hiking some of the park’s trails.  About a week ago friends from Tucson (Rich, Emma and Eleanor Luhr) joined us and we hiked to the Milton Mine.  The mine was named after Jefferson David Milton who was of the first people to patrol the area, doing so in 1887.  Davis rode horseback between Yuma and Tucson.

As we explored the area once patrolled by this now historic man, we found a few discarded water bottles and several worn out shoes.  We found carpet material, used by smugglers.  When placed over their boots fibers in the carpet obscure tracks.  One of the presenters noted, however, that some of their trackers have become so talented they can follow fibers through the brush.  Indeed, Janie and I were impressed by the described capabilities of men and women now attempting to protect the wonderful resources so unique to Organ Pipe.  For one month, now, Janie and I have been enjoying those resources.  Sadly, we may soon have to get on to other business.

HouseFinch CactusWren (1 of 1) GhostFlower

An infinitesimal representation of the plethora of life to be found in Organ Pipe, an International Biosphere Preserve. 
L to R: House finch helping to pollinate ocotillo, cactus wren, hibiscus.


While visiting this 330,688 acre preserve, we’ve ridden bikes and hiked trails.  We’ve enjoyed evening presentation and the clear night skies, and we have taken advantage of park shuttles, one of which took us to the Milton Mine trailhead.  Here, while hiking to the mine, sharp-eyed Emma (now 15) spotted a Cristata at the tip of an Organ Pipe.  Previously I thought the strange growth was confined to the saguaro.

As well, we’ve marveled at the various species of birds that have adapted to a life in thorns, most notably the cactus wren.

A-Mt-Bike2 EmaRichElanor AjoMtDrive-15

Organ Pipe provides magnificent biking opportunities; a day of hiking to both Milton and Baker Mine
where we observed artifacts discarded by illegal intruders;
Valentine Day celebrated with drive of the beautiful Ajo Mountain Drive.

Certainly the monument enjoys these natural resource features in part because over 90 percent of Organ Pipe has been designated wilderness.  Obviously that presents an immense management dilemma, especially now because the marijuana crop has matured necessitating an increase in surveillance.  Some of the patrol work is conducted on horse, but often, to insure visitor safety, they must respond urgently, and that means they must also use 4-wheelers.

“What do you prefer,” they ask pointedly, “thousands of illegals denuding the landscape, or us trying to ensure visitor safety and reduce environmental impact?”  The answer should be obvious for last year Organ Pipe was able to reopen the 60% of lands that had been closed.  But there is still work to be done.  Last year agents seized 100,000 pounds of pot, while in 2005, they seized but 17,000 pounds.  But hopefully these losses to smugglers will continue to benefit the successful program the Park Service has been implementing.

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(Over the years I’ve written a number of magazine stories about OP and posted about a dozen blogs. 
Here are five examples.)

Organ Pipe1, Organ Pipe 2,
Star Light– Star Bright,

Natural History of Organ Pipe,

Airstream Camper Tips from Organ Pipe


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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