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 June, 2006

Never A Bad Day At Logan Pass

posted: June 30th, 2006 | by:Bert

With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

©Bert Gildart: Logan Pass in Glacier National Park is a photographer’s delight, even when a few stacked clouds interpose themselves between my camera and the sun that in June rises over the Garden Wall about 5:30 a.m. On days when the sun is unfiltered, it can illuminate Mount Reynolds, Mount Clements, Bear Hat, Heavy Runner, Bishop’s Cap—and a host of other grand mountains in ways that can create some of the most stunning and compelling compositions in the country. Point your camera in almost any direction, and daybreak at Logan Pass on a sunny day can not be beat.

Yesterday morning, however, conditions were not ideal, but that doesn’t mean we had a bad day.

Expecting a repeat of the faultlessly blue skies we’d been enjoying all week long in Montana’s Flathead Valley, I rendezvoused at 4:30 a.m. with photographer friend Tom Ulrich and the two of us made the 40-minute drive from West Glacier to Logan Pass along the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road. Because torrential rains had produced mud slides that covered the road, the road opened later this year then it had in decades, frustrating us photographers, desirous of making our annual pilgrimage to this mountainous shrine. But our early morning jaunt was worth the effort despite the muted sun.

Practiced photographers learn to work under a variety of conditions, and after over 30 years of making images, I place my self in that category, and when the light was not perfect for landscapes we turned to flowers now emerging.

Up here at 6,000 feet, spring arrives late, and flowers that we’d seen in the valley were only now appearing at Logan Pass.Brilliant yellow glacier lilies carpeted areas that were covered with snow just days before, and they interspersed themselves between the vast banks of snow that still covered the ground.

These lilies derive their energy from tubers that are edible.

In the spring, they are a favorite food of grizzly bears and so we maintained a wary eye. Other plants emerging include the anemones and the tiny spring beauty, and we focused on them, too.

And then, we found a white-tailed ptarmigan, now in summer plumage, and for awhile we photographed this exceedingly tolerant species, wondering at times how it had escaped its many predators.

Because the sun was still muted, we used flashes, creating the type of light that makes for better photographs.

But our greatest find of the morning were several families of goats, which we stumbled across as we left Logan Pass and began our return home.

For both Tom and me, the chance encounter provided wonderful opportunities. The goats were all poised on rocks and two kids (the goat kind) seemed to be playing a game that we might call “King of the Mountain.”

First, one of the two young would leap on the rock, followed close behind by the other, who would try and shove off the first. From such play, young kids develop strength and coordination. The pair looked as though they had been born only weeks earlier and how they contrasted with the adult billies and ewes.

Both of the kids were fully furred, unlike the adults that were now shedding in great swaths. Because so much bare skin showed on the adults, they appeared to be suffering from the mange, but it’s all a normal response to summer heat.

Newborns, however, need the extra warmth.

Despite the washed out sun, we both considered the trip worth the effort. We had arrived at 5 a.m. and were now departing at 9 a.m., and as we did, we turned for one last photograph of a big billy that suddenly emerged from a rocky crevasse.

Looking at the image on the screen of my Nikon D-200, I realized that it is almost impossible to ever have a bad day at Logan Pass.

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At 86 He’s Still “The Keeper Of Kintla”

posted: June 28th, 2006 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: At 86, Lyle Ruterbories has got to be the oldest ranger currently employed by the NPS, and the job was no gift, as this ramrod-straight man believes he must point out.

“I got the job through a competitive examination—just like anyone else,” says the octogenarian.

Lyle is stationed at Kintla Lake in Glacier National Park, working out of the same ranger station at which I worked in 1965 while still in college, and the same one Janie and I visited this past weekend while tent camping at Kintla. In those days, to hold the job, you had to demonstrate the capability of dealing with the public at all levels. As well you had to be able to support fire-fighting efforts, hike trails, operate a chain saw, and operate a boat, among other things.

Not one thing has changed, and about the only difference age has made for Ranger Lyle Ruterbories is that he apparently believes he must work harder than most of the 22-year old rangers that I ever knew.

“People question my ability because of age,” said Lye, “So I try and show them I’m still capable.”

That, of course, translates into some very good news for the National Park Service, which now say Lyle is the “Keeper at Kintla.”

Lyle earned the job through area familiarization as much as anything. For seven years Lyle and his wife Marge worked as VIPs throughout Glacier, the last three at Kintla. In those years they worked out of their motor home, and then came the day in 1993 when his supervisors said they’d finally gotten funds again for a ranger position at Kintla and that he would have to go. “Well, I told them that I wanted to apply, and they wished me good luck.”

Next spring when job announcements rolled around and Lyle hadn’t been notified, he called regional headquarters and inquired about his application. When they told him they couldn’t find it he responded, saying, “Yeah, I bet you can’t find it; you saw the 1920 birth date!

“ ‘No, no,’ ” they said. “ ‘That’s not the case at all. Please send us a copy right away.’

“Well, that’s what I did, and several days later, I got a call saying the job was mine. They also said that Marge, my wife, would stay on, too, as a VIP.”

Lyle may have the perfect background to serve as the Keeper of Kintla. As a young man, Lyle was a certified journey man, sheet metal. But employers recognized his skill handling people and he was soon supervising 22 men in his job with Beechcraft. The ranger station (as I well remember) requires that you heat water and maintain the cabin, though it has changed a bit. Today, Lyle has solar panels which operate two gel batteries. That’s the energy for the emergency radio.

Lyle says the position was perfect for him and his wife, but tragically, fate intervened.

“Read this,” says Lyle. “It was my wife’s last entry.”

“October 14th. Leaving Kintla for another year. Just paradise on earth. And that’s it.”

“We got back home to Colorado,” says Lyle a bit wistfully, “last year on October  21st she died of a massive stroke. But she’d wouldn’t want me to say home and wallow in sorrow; she’d want me back here, where we enjoyed life so much together, and hopefully helped maintain this beautiful site.

“Marge’s last entry says it all. It’s where Marge and I may have been the happiest. So count on me coming back as long as I can. ”

For us campers, interested in a quality experience, that’s very good news.




*The Park that Made a President





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The Tranquility of Kintla Lake

posted: June 27th, 2006 | by:Bert

With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Bert Gildart: Kintla Lake, located in the most extreme northwestern portion of Glacier National Park, is probably the most remote lake in the park that can still be accessed by a vehicle. The last 15 miles of the road, however, is bumpy, narrow and windy. In places you have to check overhead clearance, particularly if you are toting kayaks as were we.

In 1965, while in college, I worked there as a seasonal ranger, and know that days when the lake is perfectly tranquil are rare. But that’s precisely what we’ve enjoyed these past two days.

In the ’60s power boats were allowed, but that’s not the case today, and that makes it a haven for those interested in kayaking. Each morning we arose early, and each morning we tried to improve on the reflection picture of the previous day, realizing, finally, that the human element might add an extra dimension. Positioning, however, had to be precise, and that meant lots of hand signals between Janie and me so as not to disturb other campers still asleep. The results paid off, and Janie’s presence added to the reflection of Starvation Ridge and Starvation Peak (in Canada) and Long Knife Peak (still in the United State on far right) reflecting in this lake located about five miles from the Canadian line.

Since I worked at Kintla, more has been learned about the area. Once Indians used the lake’s shore, and because archaeologists found a Folsom point near the campground, digging—even of trenches around tents—is not permitted. Size restrictions have also been placed on the types of RVs that can use the area, and that is not only to create a more wilderness type atmosphere, but to help protect RV units themselves. Trailers over 19 feet are not permitted, meaning that when we visit the area we do so with a tent (our Airstream is 28 feet long).

For a variety of reasons, Kintla will always be one of our favorite places in Glacier, certainly because of its beauty, but perhaps as well, because it is such an ideal place to kayak and reasonably expect to see moose, bears and fox along the shores of the lake. That’s what we’ve seen over the years and predict that you will too.

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More On Bears & Bear Maulings

posted: June 23rd, 2006 | by:Bert

PURSUING PHOTOS & PROSE With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Grizzly Bear Skull

Grizzly Bear Skull

©Bert Gildart: As we prepare to depart for a camping trip to Kintla Lake In Glacier National Park, it is impossible not to think about bears, both black and grizzly. The two species are an integral part of the heritage many of us would like to see preserved, but to dramatize their possible impact on man, I photographed this skull to emphasize that bears must be treated with respect. In that manner most tragedies will be prevented and pressure on bears will then be averted. The picture was made (and that’s the correct word), by placing a black cloth on a table located adjacent to a wall. There remained a considerable length of cloth, which I pinned to the wall behind the head. I photograhed the setup with a 2- 1/4 Hasselblad, and the resulting detail was impressive. I then used the photo as a backdrop for evaluating the many maulings that have occurred in Glacier, and those results will appear in an upcoming guide book about Glacier and the Flathead Valley. With luck the book will be on the market by Christmas. Some of the past misfortunes have resulted from the absolute arrogance of visitors, several of whom lured bears into their cars so they might photograph them next to their children. A few records extracted from the many show reports as follows:

1939: 3 persons injured when they fed bears; 3 others injured while watching those who were feeding; 1 injury when visitor stepped between sow and cub…

1941: Lone unknown bear climbed on running board, pulled windshield and broke it…

1947: 4 personal injuries to visitor while feeding bears of unknown species…

1948: 2 people injured by black bears while feeding them chocolates. Woman scratched below eye; man scratched on lip…

1958: While walking with dog, lone GB attacked…

Black Bear

Black Bear

Incidents of that type occurred prior to the first fatal maulings in Glacier National Park in 1967. At that time, the park recognized some inherent problems of its own, specifically the incredible buildup of garbage.In 1967 I was working in Glacier as a seasonal ranger and once helped the chief ranger of the time sack up and load into a helicopter 17 burlap sacks of garbage from the Trout Lake area. Garbage, as I reported for a major story in Smithsonian Magazine, had contributed directly to the park’s first two fatal maulings, one at Granite Park Chalet, the other at Trout Lake. Both occurred the same night in 1967. Today, garbage is gone from all backcountry campsites and park managers are pretty much on top of things. People caught feeding bears are immediately cited, and dogs are no longer allowed on backcountry trails in the park, and there’s a very good reason for the rule. If a dog is loose, and it encounters a bear, it will return to its owner for protection. Now, if you see a bear, generally it will be under completely natural conditions, and most likely, it will run. For all these reasons, I feel much safer sleeping on the ground in a tent–as we’ll be doing at Kintla–than I do driving to the park.

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So You Rolled A Kayak–Once. Big Deal!

posted: June 22nd, 2006 | by:Bert

With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

©Bert Gildart: Bottom line, I guess, is that I made one successful roll during my second lesson last night with Sue Conrad of Silver Moon Kayak Company. But I had believed that after I rolled the kayak—once—I’d then be able to perform the roll with grace and precision hence forth and forever more.


A modicum of success does not confer talent. Excellence in rolling a kayak derives from much continued practice, for there is so much that goes into a successful roll that although you might luck out—once—fine tuning the skill requires dedication. But one roll is a start, and after watching a training video dozen of times, I understand the concepts. My target’s in sight.

The proper roll starts with the “set up,” a position in which you lean hard into the side of the kayak at an angle of about 10 o’clock to your craft’s long axis. Then you dump—on purpose. Then, from an upside down position you check that the shaft of your paddle is parallel to the side of the kayak and slightly above the water’s surface. And here’s where it really gets tough.

In theory, you are supposed to then sweep the surface of the water, blade angled in such a way that it doesn’t dig into the water. If your blade is angled the slightest bit it will dig down hard, and, as Sue says, “It will throw you out of your roll.”

I know exactly what she’s saying, and am a textbook example of falling out of the roll.

At the same time you are skimming the surface of the water with your blade, you are supposed to be executing a flip of the hip, and if done properly, the entire action is smooth and graceful. That, I can see is going to take practice, but since I have now rolled a kayak—once—I am encouraged to sweep on.

Nevertheless, I lack total confidence, and think I could use one more lesson. Sue believes that might be beneficial, but then spoke words that were music to my ears. “After that,” she laughed, “I’m gonna’ have to wean you from your instructor. I think you’re about ready to face the world alone.”

As I’ve said to others, “If I can do it, I suspect anyone determined to do so can also do it.”

Just find yourself a good instructor, and then be ready to spend lots of time practicing. But think of the rewards of being able to look the world in the eye and say, “I can roll a kayak.”

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Patting Your Head; Rubbing Your Stomach. In a Kayak. Upside Down. IT’S ALL ABOUT ROLLING!

posted: June 20th, 2006 | by:Bert

With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

©Bert Gildart: It’s not normal to hang upside down in a kayak—trying to gain a perch for placement of your paddle on the water’s surface so that you can then right yourself with a flick of the hip into an upright position, but it’s what I found myself doing last night.

Kayaking has become a part of the outdoor world we write about as we travel in our Airstream in search of stories. I’m no spring chicken, so it’s my thought that if I can do it, anyone who puts their mind to it can do it. But I’m not there yet, and liken my lack of complete success in the first lesson to that of a child learning to pat his head and rub his stomach for the first time. I suspect if I hadn’t learned that maneuver as a child, learning it now might be a bit more difficult. Rolling a kayak, however, seems much more difficult.

Essentially what you’re trying to do is bring your paddle to the water’s surface and then sweep it as you simultaneously flick your hip, all while upside down. “It’s not a power thing,” repeated Sue Conrad of Silver Moon Kayak Company.

“It’s a coordination thing. You’ve got to put together the independent actions of hip flick with paddle sweep.” Between gulps of breath and the clearing of my Eustachian tubes, I also recall Sue saying that it’s a confidence thing, too, for you’ve got to get used to hanging upside down and then believing—as you hold your breath—that you’ll be righted before you run out of breadth.

That thought was so compelling I even missed the gorgeous rainbow Janie captured in one of her photos.

Sue said I did well, but I know some have grasped the procedure with but one lesson, though others struggle throughout an entire season. Baring the unforeseen, I’m scheduled for another lesson later this week. I hope I get it, but if not, I’ll have time for yet another lesson. Please cheer for this time- and water-wrinkled rooster, ‘cause I now know I ain’t no spring chicken, try as I might.

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To Win a Photo Contest it Helps to be Local

posted: June 18th, 2006 | by:Bert

With Kayak, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Bert Gildart: The Northwest Outdoor Writers’ Association, a local affiliate of the national association, inaugurated its first photo contest several weeks ago, and fortunately, perhaps, for me, the annual convention was held in Whitefish, Montana, my backyard. Contest organizers provided participants with a list of five categories that include wildlife, scenic, family camping, and outdoor travel. Participating photographers could win a prize in each category, and then if they placed high in a number of categories, they could win a grand prize for best portfolio. Each participant was given five rolls of film and then we were told we had from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to fulfill the assignment.

The competition was keen, and included participants who had won awards for their specialty, such as travel and bird photography, but I had the home front advantage, and I used it every way that conformed to the contest’s rules. What’s more, I also arranged to have one of the very best of outdoor models, my wife, accompany me, and together, we began what was really a mutual effort to help me win the contest.

We wanted to be on the shores of Glacier National Park, not far from where we’d parked our Airstream in Whitefish, just as the sun was popping over the Apgar Range–with kayak in water, and ready to begin shooting. Luck was with us, for the clouds, sun and water all obeyed my wishes. As well, Janie who had helped me with the pose I’d selected on various other occasions, knew exactly what to do to help me align my kayak with hers. Other efforts fell into place, and worked because we had mapped out a route, and spent much time in preplanning the other pictures.

Because the Flathead has been my home since high school, I knew how much time would be required to go between the sites we’d selected for our pre-envisioned photo opportunities. For a picture of camping, I wanted a campfire next to a tent, and wanted that in front of Lake McDonald. I knew the scene was a good one, because I’d seen it literally thousands of times.

To facilitate my goal we chopped wood prior to arriving and then we used fire starter to accelerate our efforts. And we had a 5 gallon container of water to quickly douse the flame so we could proceed to our next site. Time, after all, was critical.

Our efforts paid off, for although I don’t know for sure how many categories I won, but I must have placed high in at least several for I won Best Portfolio.Grand prize was several nights free lodging in a top Whitefish Hotel and, if we stay there this winter, the prize also includes free ski passes at Big Mountain. Next year, the contest will be featured again, but in Washington State, a place where I certainly won’t have the home front advantage. But I’ll enter again, essentially because I learned so much about quality photography from fellow participants.

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posted: June 17th, 2006 | by:Bert

With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Hogan Sheep

Hogan and Sheep

Janie’s Journal: Six months ago, I didn’t know what a blog was, leaving its description and use to the high “techies”. Now I know and find it exciting to be part of this new way of creating a diary.

At the moment we are about to depart on yet another series of travel adventures, this time in our Airstream. As we wonder about the types of people we will soon be meeting, it seems only normal to reflect on some of the wonderful people we’ve met—and hopefully will be meeting again.

Virtually all personify our great country, and it is, after all, the people who make this land what it is.Take the one-legged Vietnam vet who travels in his RV; his passion in life is canoeing (lots of white-water). Kirk’s optimistic outlook and wonderful sense of humor makes him very special. Recalling the loss of his leg, he simply said , “Guess I zigged when I should have zagged.”

We met Steve, (Not real young, maybe 50ish) who was following the Lewis and Clark Expedition trail. Steve traveled in a double kayak, paddling solo from sea to sea against the current. He wrote in his journal each night, often about his loneliness and some scary times, always persevering toward his goal.

Then there’s the couple from CA we met just as we were entering the Natchez trace from the north in Tennessee who insisted that we stay an extra day to have Thanksgiving dinner with them (which they would prepare).

And we’ll never forget a lovely, aged Navaho lady who still keeps her sheep at the bottom of a deep canyon; she makes the round trip of four miles straight down the trail to her Hogan and sheep, then back up to the canyon rim each day.

Dulcimer Players

Dulcimer Players

Other people come to mind, and include two couples who full-time in their RV and play Appalachian dulcimers, and were only too happy to give us a concert and share their experiences…

Carole (who looks a lot like Emmy Lou Harris) spent three months on the Yukon and Porcupine Rivers in Alaska on a solo trip in her canoe. She admitted to being scared to death at the start of her trip, but to me, she came across as totally strong and self-sufficient. (She carried a shotgun, but never had to use it). I’m still jealous of her courage in making such a trip.We met a bush pilot in Alaska while on a seriously long hike; he offered to call our families to let them know we were OK.

A Gwich’in Indian elder prepared a first-aid kit and made rabbit snares for us as we set off on a month-long hike in the Alaska wilderness; she was worried about us being “out there” alone. Often when folks discover that we are free-lance writers and photographers, they’ll say, “Have you seen such and such” or “Have you been to…?”

“Never judge a book by it’s cover” certainly applies to meeting folks along the RV road. And thus are launched new friendships along with the gathering of information.

This sampling of memories stays with us and is one reason we can’t wait to get “on the road again”. Yes, as we depart, ole Willy Nelson sings it just for us. Already we are anticipating the new friends we’ll soon be making.

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Mission Statement

posted: June 17th, 2006 | by:Bert

SEARCHING FOR PROSE & PHOTOS With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast Airstream

For us, it’s mostly about travel—and outdoor travel at that. But it’s also about adventure and recording those adventures with pen and pad and, then, with cameras, too.

Because we are on the road 6-9 months of every year, we’re often asked how we retain our sanity, how we work effectively, how we cope with the constant unknowns. In response, we say that it’s really not all that difficult, once you develop the right mindset. In fact, it’s downright enjoyable.

What will follow in our Journal Entries are our reflections on the joys of travel as well as some thoughts on what we’ve learned (and are learning!) from our work as outdoor travel communicators. And because we’re so convinced that our mode of travel can educate all travelers to the basic goodness of our fellow Americans—and that it provides opportunities to see things you’d never see any other way—we will often be suggesting ways in which you can pursue (and learn) from our style of travel.

Look for us along the way—as we’ll be looking for you.

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Training People To Watch Bears

posted: June 12th, 2006 | by:Bert

When You Can’t Train People, Train Bears

©Bert Gildart: June, again, and already bears are being sighted in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Just last night I visited with a friend, a bicycler, who had been riding the Going-to-the-Sun Road when he spotted a grizzly bear—as had others.

According to my friend, several were approaching the bear with their pocket-size digital cameras, trying to move in closer for a better shot.Some, apparently, were dangerously close, and the story reminded me that once again people apparently believe when they drive into Glacier, they’ve arrived at a zoo, where everyone is protected and only good things can happen.

My friend’s story also reminded me of an incident that occurred two years ago, and that I reported on in the form of a feature story to the Daily Interlake, the Flathead’s local paper. At the time, Janie and I were hiking along the well-used trail from Many Glacier to Iceberg Lake, when we encountered about 10 to 15 people peering down a bank toward a huge grizzly located about 50 yards away.

The bear was munching its way through a lush patch of serviceberries and now it was moving uphill. Suddenly, a couple with cameras around their necks began running up the trail, intent on cutting off the bear from its apparent goal of crossing the trail—away from the crowd. The couple’s action generated pandemonium among some. One lady sprang off the bank flanking the trail. With legs churning, she scurried downhill toward the safety of the Swiftcurrent Motor lodge, located about a mile away, yelling all the while, “Hey bear. Hey bear.”

A middle-aged man from Alabama decided to go the other way, for the bear was now on the trail, and he wanted a frame-filling picture of the 350 to 400 pound bruin, which he intended to obtain with his disposable camera. But he was so flustered that his approach to within 30 feet of the bear, produced nothing, and he panted out to the crowd as he jogged back. “My camera was empty.”

By now the bear was hemmed on two sides with several hikers moving yet closer. Strangely, the bear was tolerating them. But a biologist would have understood the tolerance—for in the parlance of bear managers, the animal had become “habituated” to the presence of people.

The condition has often contributed to the almost 200-plus maulings Glacier has now experienced, 12 fatal. Just how the events between an acclimated bear and a crowd of people, which vacillated between fear and absolute arrogance might play out, would be anybody’s guess.

At the moment the bear was focused on that same lady with the camera who had sprung from the crowd. And now the distance separating bear, lady and her companion had diminished to about 15 feet.

According to a subsequent conversation with several managers, almost everything that could be done wrong had been done wrong, not only by the crowd but probably by me as well; it was simply a matter of degree. Certainly I should have known to retreat calmly and deliberately, for once I’d worked as a seasonal ranger in Glacier and seen in the course of my work the very worst that can ever result when bears and people meet. But at the moment I was too was caught up in the ongoing drama to use caution and depart. I wanted to see how all this might play out.

According to bear expert Tim Manley of the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, our reaction was fairly typical. Manley emphasized, however, that no one should ever run in the presence of a grizzly. Grizzlies are predators and could interpret flight as that of a species of prey. Manley continued, suggesting that since you can’t seem to teach people, you must train bears.

“That may be easier,” says Manley,” adding, too, that the park must continue with its Bear Management Plan.In a nutshell that means closing the trails or attempting to reshape the personality of an habituated bear. Sometimes, reshaping might include such a fundamental technique as shouting.

In the case of a more severely habituated animal it means that rangers must detonate firecracker-type rounds fired from a shotgun.Or, it means they must shoot the bear with rubber bullets fired from a rifle. They can also set out Karelian dogs. But if all else fails, they must kill the bear.

Apparently the Iceberg Trail bear had become severely habituated, for a week after my initial encounter I hiked back up the trail intent on visiting Ptarmigan Tunnel. Though I was making much noise, the same dark-colored bear with silver ruff was now bathing in a tiny creek that ran through the trail. Because the bear was lying in that creek I didn’t see it until I was within about 40 feet when it slowly rose.

Quickly I backed off, and when the bear simply stared as I retreated, I realized that this could be a dead bear. And now I was angry. And though I was mad at myself I felt that it was not unreasonable to share the blame, for the serviceberries (a prime grizzly bear food) had been lush and plentiful, and the bear had been well known for its habituation, and though the people and the bear gathered last week had gone their separate ways, the crowd had reacted with something far less than insight. In fact, a potential disaster had been averted only because the bear had eventually climbed the bank and sulked off into the brush to a chorus of shouts.

“Good bear,” a nearby spectator shouted in what may have been a supreme paradox. “Good bear!”

“Have a good life,” said another.

And then I wondered just how often the curtain over this scenario had risen before, and how many more times it might rise again before that same curtain would come crashing down…

And now, two years later, I’m wondering if the groundwork has already commenced to be laid for more tragedies either to people, or to Glacier’s bears.

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Where To Kick The Computer?

posted: June 9th, 2006 | by:Bert

Or, Knowing Where to Kick the Computer

This past spring I received several telephone calls from Tom Ulrich, a photographer friend, asking if I’d yet learned how to work with raw images. Though we’re both Montana based, we travel extensively, and he was in Texas, while I was in New Mexico. Just weeks earlier, we’d all been in Bosque del Apache, relaxed—photographing the massive wintering congregations of snow geese and sandhill cranes. Now, we were experiencing digital difficulties, wondering if a swift kick to the mainframe of our respective computers might relieve frustrations.Problems originated when we tried to load raw images (raw is akin to your unmodified negative back in the good old days of film) from our new Nikon D-200s, which we’d both purchased, and into a dedicated program called Picture Project.

For some reason, the integrated PhotoShop program wouldn’t allow us to use the Nikon raw images from Picture Project. My situation was maddening, but Tom’s was urgent, and he needed a remedy. Tom was competing in a nationally recognized photo contest, one in which a number of Texas ranches were being made available for one month to individual photographers participating in the contest. Eventually Tom concluded he’d have to shoot in the jpeg mode, and then later convert the images to tiffs. That would create larger files, ones that would generate an 8×12 image at 300 dpi (dots per inch), but it still wasn’t quite as good as shooting in the raw mode.Because I was closer (in the physical sense) to answers than was Tom, I began questioning representatives, but because the camera was new and because the technology is so rapidly changing, no one person was able to provide all the answers. The frustrating fact is that this may portend the way all this digital stuff is going to go.

And, so, to transform a long story into but a moderately short story, I’m here to report that I wasn’t able to get many of the answers. In fact, it wasn’t until Tom returned to Montana just weeks ago, that we were able to put our heads together and resolve the puzzle.

For starters, our conviction that most PR people in the digital world were also struggling proved true. None were really sure whether or not we had to have the latest version of PhotoShop; but as it turns out, we did. So both Tom and I updated. Cost-wise, that was not a big, big deal, though I’m the one that really benefited, because I had never updated since I’d purchased PhotoShop 5.5 several years ago—and in the computer age, that’s like going back to the days of the dinosaurs. Nevertheless, CS2 loaded effortlessly over my 5.5, and with it I set about trying to deal with raw images.

Tom, on the other hand had upgraded long ago, and was now upgrading from a recently upgraded version of CS—not CS2. Ouch! But darn it all, updates didn’t resolve the problem for me—or for Tom, who is light-years ahead of me in ability to resolve digital difficulties.

At this point, I was ready to start kicking—and go back to film. Tom, however, prevailed and got on the phone with an Adobe representative, who advised him he’d now need a “plug-in” called Camera Raw.8BI. And now we can make a long story into a more abbreviated one.

After four days of struggle Tom finally managed to load Camera Raw.8BI into PhotoShop CS2. Then, bless him; he graciously shared his knowledge with me. The technique required the push of three or four buttons, but the punching had to follow the right path once in My Computer. (Program files>common files>Adobe>Plug-ins>CS2>File Formats>into which you then load Camera Raw.8BI) Simple isn’t it… and it reminded me of the old story about a mechanic fixing a car by kicking it, then charging the customer $100. “Yes,” says the mechanic, “I kicked the car, and you can too. But I knew where to kick it.”

Happily my system is now “all goes,” at least for awhile. To celebrate, I immediately had to go out and shoot raw. It all worked, and here’s my first image, shot raw and then converted to a tiff. The image is to accompany a story on pike fishing, and one of the flies represents a mouse, the other a frog. The file loaded onto my computer defaulted to a 70 megabyte file—and even this digital newbie knows that’s huge! Now I have to figure out where to kick the computer, so as to load smaller files.

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Denali National Park

posted: June 2nd, 2006 | by:Bert

DENALI NATIONAL PARK (In part from Trailer Life Magazine)

By Understanding the Restrictions, RV Users Can Maximize Their Explorations of this Park’s Unparalleled Natural Wonders

©Bert Gildart In Alaska, in Denali National Park, on the night of June 21—the summer solstice—the sun dips to its lowest point about 1 a.m. and then rises again about 20 minutes later. Light, of course, is most dramatic around the time of sunset and sunrise, and that evening, I set out from a campsite to film the majesty of Mount McKinley. Mosquitoes were thick, and when I struck out over the muskeg, swarms of vicious demonic bugs rose with each footfall and descended with a vengeance.

Mosquito Relief

Mosquito Relief

Alaska hosts 20-some different species of mosquitoes, and that night every single last species (please don’t doubt me!) attacked. In my crazed state of mind, these mosquitoes seemed birdlike in size prompting me to recall the empirical observations of one noted naturalist who maintains that your average Alaskan-male mosquito “can stand flatfooted and kiss a turkey.”

On another more sober occasion, this same naturalist said that at the peak of mosquito season the hordes could suck a quart of blood a day from a caribou (and, by inference, from me!). Still, I hurried on, reaching a point I had scoped out earlier in the day. Here, a blessed breeze was blowing, enough so that many of the mosquitoes were knocked down—allowing sanity to return. Hurriedly I set up my tripod, and though a number of persistent bugs swarmed not only in my face but also in front of the lens, I controlled the situation by waving my hands just before clicking the shutter. To make sure that my long hike would not be in vain, I took many insurance shots. After all, here was THE MOUNTAIN, as some proclaim in reverential terms. But the bugs were such a distraction that I couldn’t linger, fully understanding why criminals who have escaped to the tundra grow frantic before the onslaught of winged-demons and happily surrender. That night I returned to the protective shroud offered by my tent; next day, I surrendered to the comforts of my trailer, and did so with alacrity.

Denali  reflections

Denali Reflections

Without qualification, RV travelers to Alaska have an advantage over other forms of exploration, and over the years, I have driven the ALCAN and visited the park many times, progressing from tent camper, camper van to Airstream travel trailer. With but one exception, we’ve always found ourselves waiting out adverse conditions—or spending a day or two retreating from a swell of mosquitoes, obsessed with ways to cope (more on that later). Nevertheless, moody—even contentious—Denali has never disappointed, for in between spates with mosquitoes, and dark days of rain, there have always been visits with wildlife enjoyed nowhere else in the world. And, finally, of course, there had been THE MOUNTAIN, and when it did come out from behind clouds, sometimes the occasion could be so moving that it seemed to affect our very souls.

alcan highway

Alcan Highway

Denali National Park is best known for the 20,320-foot peak known as Mount McKinley. It is the tallest mountain in all of North America and is the flagship of the Alaskan range. Appropriately, Alaskan Natives call it “The High One.” Certainly, the mountain provided the major reason that in 1917 Congress established the park then know as McKinley National Park.

Since that time McKinley has evolved in both size and name. Originally, it was named for a president who never set foot in Alaska. But in 1980 Congress signed into law the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The act set aside approximately 100 million acres of land and resources for enduring protection throughout Alaska. Simultaneously, Congress tripled the size of the park to 6 million acres and renamed it Denali National Park and Preserve.

dall sheep polychrome pass

Dall Sheep Polychrome Pass

Camping and travel in the park have also evolved. Once, visitors could drive all the way to Wonder Lake, a distance of 85 miles. But as the number of visitors grew, in 1972 the park implemented controls to protect the resource. Protection came in the form of the shuttle bus, which, today, provides transportation past popular Polychrome Pass (with its many Dall sheep), and, then, all the way to Wonder Lake where views of Mount McKinley can be out of this world.

Denali shuttle busses

Denali Shuttle Busses

Today, visitors who arrive in their RVs have several options. If there’s a campsite available, you can drive to the visitor center, buy an appropriate pass, travel to the Savage River checkpoint, show your pass to continue, and then drive on another 15 miles to Teklanika Campground. Because of wolf activity, you must have a hard-sided camper, and, once there, you cannot move your trailer or motorhome until you leave for good. Because the campsite is more remote and more central to the park’s interior, many opt for Teklanika, and then travel throughout by shuttle bus…

RV ADVENTURE Though my story for Trailer Life continues, I hope what I’ve provided will whet your appetite to embark on a trip to Alaska and to Denali. It’s the adventure of a life and it may one of the more exciting uses anyone can make of their RV.

But how about mosquitoes. Yes, you can control them while afield, and can do so fairly effectively with liberal applications of Deets. You can also control them in your RV.

Start by patching up holes in your screen door before leaving home. Then, check into virtually any grocery store along the ALCAN and ask for a Pic. Pics are coils that burn, and although they create a slightly acrid smoke, the coil is lethal to mosquitoes. Burn one well before bedtime to make sure you’ve killed every last one of the winged demons, for invariably, several will have winged into your camper as you open and close the door. If you don’t burn a Pic, I can guarantee you’ll hear their infuriating buzz in the wee hours of the morning. Believe me, the sound will awaken you—and you’ll start swinging madly.

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