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, 2008

Photo Blinds

posted: April 30th, 2008 | by:Bert

Cinnamon Teal pair

Cinnamon Teal pair

©Bert Gildart: Question: What does creating good photographic opportunities share in common with finding an outstanding fishing hole?

Answer: Generally, you don’t share the opportunities with the rest of the world, particularly when a friend has created the opportunities.

In this case an Oregon photographer agreed to share a photo blind with me, one that he built in cooperation with a wildlife agency. Though I wasn’t asked to swear to secrecy, I’m certainly not going to draw a map to the area. I will, however, share some of the photos and then explain a bit about the advantages of creating a blind. If you are interested in improving your wildlife images, particularly waterfowl, you should know about photo blinds.


Let’s call my friend Eric, and then let me share with you that fact that Eric has been photographing waterfowl for a number of years. Early on he realized that if he could conceal himself that waterfowl would ignore his presence, often to within feet of his camera. Contacting a local wildlife agency, he proposed the idea of erecting a semi-permanent wooden blind. Because he knew he might be spending entire days in the blind, he wanted some comfort, so he covered the floor with a rug. Lens holes were created and then his real work began: waiting for the birds to move into position.

Eric was particularly excited the other day because he knew wood ducks and cinnamon teal were courting and nesting, and so we settled inside the blind for a long afternoon wait. From inside we could see birds on the other side of the blind, but it wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped, and we waited for several hours before there was any action.


In the interim, Eric told me about some of the bird life he’d seen from the confines of the blind. Wood ducks, he said, nest inside the cavities of trees, much like a woodpecker and once, he said, he watched as ten wood duck chicks leaped from the cavity into the pond below. The mother coaxed them out with a clucking sound.

Wood duck

Wood duck

We continued to share stories, but then suddenly Eric placed his index finger to his lips, pointed and told me to move into position. Position was on the floor just a foot or so above water level and the birds were just feet away, at times not more than 6- to 10-feet away. Ideally, you hope the birds will engage in some type of action, but the several male wood ducks simply sat there, but they looked gorgeous.

Preening Cinnamon Teal

Preening Cinnamon Teal

The Cinnamon Teal, however, climbed onto a small log, and then started preening, creating just the type of images I had hoped for. All together, we spent about five hours in the blind, and we were both pleased with our results. Unfortunately, Janie and I had to leave next day; but Eric opened my eyes to techniques we might use near our home in Montana, where we’re now heading.

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Outdoor Writer’s Organization Entertains and Educates

posted: April 27th, 2008 | by:Bert

Santiam River and Guide Eric Smith

Santiam River and Guide Eric Smith

©Bert Gildart: Our Northwest Outdoor Writer’s (NOWA) Conference, held in Salem, Oregon, is over for yet another year, and again, Janie and I leave with some vivid memories.

We’re in agreement that the most significant presentation was John Martin’s overview of global warming. The title of his talk was “Climate Change and Development: Salmon Caught in the Squeeze,” and essentially he said that the future of salmon in the Northwest was bleak. “Only by protecting the headwaters of salmon habitat,” said Martin in part, “can we expect to find salmon in the year 2100.”

Martin was a passionate speaker, and though I doubt all NOWA members agreed with his thesis, Martin certainly held everyone’s attention. As well, he generated constructive debate, and that, of course, is a positive thing.

There was, however, no debate with Martin, who was like an apostle on conditions that could help eliminate global warming. Tragically, he said that so much warming had already occurred that we were “hard wired” for the remainder of the century. He said modifications in energy use would not so much benefit us as it would our children’s children. “But that,” he said, “is a worthwhile reason to modify our life styles.” Though I’m certain many know where I stand, you can go to the annual produced by the Wilderness Society and read my story on Global Warming. You can also link to other blogs (click and click ) I’ve posted on the subject, and hopefully, they’ll add more constructive information.


For Janie and me, some of the more memorable activities began Thursday with a float down the North Santiam River, one of the primary salmon fisheries in the state. Because the day was rainy and chilly, many members originally scheduled to be included in the float declined, in part because the weatherman’s predictions for favorable weather had been wrong. In short, the weather was rotten.

Dennis Phillips (R), Dennis Clay and new Scopes

Dennis Phillips (R), Dennis Clay and new Scopes

Janie and I had, however, had packed our Airstream for many different varieties of weather. When you’re gone for four months, you’ve got to, and so we had foul weather clothing, and were able to enjoy all the river offered. Eric Smith, our guide, pointed out osprey, hooded mergansers, nesting geese and eagles. He said the Santiam was a great salmon fishery and that we should come back. Certainly we will, for fishing is one of our passions (click “Fishing Fools ).

For those not wanting to float, NOWA offered a shooting contest, and the opportunities were many. Later we learned that supporting members had provided over 1,000 rounds of shotgun ammunition. I also enjoy shooting activities, so it was a toss up as to which event I’d attend. However, the river guides had gone to so much work I decided to float rather than to shoot.


The next day, our sponsors introduced to us their many new products, which included new boats, rifle scopes, state of the art GPS systems and Toyoto trucks and SUVs. Dennis Phillips was the GPS man, and over the years, he and I have become good friends. Dennis works for the Walker Agency, which also represents Yamaha, and the summer Janie and I spent on the Yukon, their help was vital.

Humorist Alan Leary & What the Heck items

Humorist Alan Leary & "What the Heck" items

Through the years, I have tried to reciprocate, with literally dozens of stories about our adventures on the Yukon and McKenzie rivers. Saturday night when NOWA acknowledged Dennis’s contributions to our organization, Janie and I felt accolades were certainly warranted.


Our big moment was presentation of items for our “What the Heck Is It” contest. With the exception of one or two items, everything came from the Northwest, Exceptions included alligator poop and a tarpon scale. We included those items, however, as many not only belong to NOWA but to the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America (OWAA) and have attended national conferences held in Florida and in Louisiana.

Aging Turkey by length of spur

Aging Turkey by length of spur

Items from local areas include turkey spurs, a bone turkey call, and skulls of various types. Also included were various lures and the spent casings of various calibers. All totaled, our contest had 25 possible points and the winning table totaled 12. In view of the fact that most members have been exposed at one time or other to all the items, that may not seem like a very good percentage. However, they see many such items infrequently, and so the recesses of the memory must be deeply probed.

As always, we learn much by attending NOWA conferences, but at the end of the day, it remains the opportunity to see old friends that we value most. Already, we are looking forward to the OWAA convention to be held this year in Bismarck, North Dakota, and seeing once again our many good friends–who also belong to NOWA.

Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Airstream Updates Simplify Work

posted: April 26th, 2008 | by:Bert

Janie at Airstream Work Station

Janie at Airstream Work Station

©Bert Gildart: We’re in Salem, Oregon, attending the Northwest Outdoor Writer’s Association. The convention includes lots of seminars, and perhaps most importantly, enables us to make new contacts and renew acquaintances with old friends. The convention also provides supporting members with the opportunity to acquaint us with new products.

Two days ago I met, Mike, the PR man for Toyoto, and had the chance to learn more about their line of pickups (such as the Tundra) and their SUVs.

But more interesting, Mike and I shared a mutual interest in the Gwich’in, and he has traveled through some of the same Arctic lands that Janie and I have traveled. Go to our Home Page and you’ll see the Gwich’in have figured so significantly in our lives that one of my pages is devoted to the Arctic Refuge and the dependency of the Gwich’in on the refuge.

Like us, Mike has thrilled to the passage of throngs of caribou through this sensitive land. As well, we’ve both spent time in the Canadian Arctic, but he has been to Hershel Island, located near the mouth of the McKenzie. The fabled river flanks Gwich’in Indian land, and one day, I’d like to visit this old whaling stopover.


But other meetings are just getting started and so this seems a good time to share some updates we’ve made to our Airstream. Several weeks ago, while in Tucson, I visited with the Airstream dealer about installing an inverter I’ve carried loose for the past few years. I wanted to have it installed to an area of the trailer that would enable me to use it without wires running all over the floor–because 12V outlets are remote.

Airstream suggested they link it to the wires from the stereo located immediately above the Airstream’s work station. They created a permanent installation and now, when we have no 120 electrical hookups, we have easy access to a 12V energy source.


As well I purchased a much smaller inverter which now provides power for our TV, meaning that we can remain pretty much independent of commercial campgrounds. Of course we need a source of power to keep our batteries charged, which we had in the desert. Sun and our solar panels kept the batteries fully charged.

Permanently installed inverter

Permanently installed inverter

That will also work in the Northwest when the sun shines, but when it doesn’t, we’ll have to rely on our generator, a Honda generator in our case, which operates at less than 50 decibels, and so is fairly unobtrusive.

All totaled, our expenses for these new modification was about $80. That, however, does not include the pure sin wave (required for a computer) 300 watt inverter we purchased about five years ago when we bought our first Airstream. These additions (cost about $300) mean we can work anywhere, watch TV (or movies) without the necessity of commercial hookups.

Our meetings conclude tomorrow, but tonight is the big night for Janie and me, for this is banquet night and the night Janie and I get a chance to see how our small part goes over. As mentioned in previous posts, we have about 24 “mystery” items we display. They’re all related to the outdoors and are intended to test the knowledge of all these outdoor writers, but in a way that provides a few chuckles.

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

World’s Eighth Wonder?

posted: April 23rd, 2008 | by:Bert

World's Eighth Wonder

World’s Eighth Wonder?

©Bert Gildart: Though most of us have probably never heard of Burney Falls, Theodore Roosevelt, probably our most noted conservation president, pronounced the hundred-yard long lip with its thousands of plunging rivulets “One of the wonders of the world.”

Our acquaintance with this northern California park, known officially as McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, was purely accidentally. Tired from so much driving we pulled off the Volcanic Legacy National Byway and into the park.

The park is located on the Modoc plateau halfway between Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak, and we should have suspected that any area located between two such spectacular areas would itself be spectacular.


Still, it was the camping that initially lured us there, for with the exception of but two other campers, we had the park all to ourselves. Maintenance people said that’s the way it is before Memorial Day and then again after Labor Day.

After setting up our Airstream, we walked to the overlook and began taking in the scenery. The park offered a 1.25 mile long nature trail, well laid out with interpretive signs posted along the way. Geological conditions, we quickly learned, converted the 50- to 60-foot wide stream into wide basaltic plateau over which millions of gallons of water dropped each day.

Hundreds of mini falls cascade over 130 feet

Hundreds of mini falls cascade over 130 feet

Though water from this falls was primarily confined to two major drops, still there were hundreds of other mini cascades. Together they created a resounding roar and then, as they splashed almost 130 feet into the pools below, a mist swept up and then drifted over the trail below.


From the pool, the trail paralleled the creek and passed a number of yet other features the park celebrated with interpretive panels. One area that stopped us short was a talus slope created from black basaltic chunks of rock. The sign said that the slope was the result of erosion of the softer strata and that eventually that erosion caused the lava layer to collapse, leaving behind the near-vertical talus slope that descends into Burney Creek. The slope provides mute testimony that once-in the geologic past-the falls existed here.

Talus Slope plunges into Burney Creek

Talus Slope plunges into Burney Creek

Because it was spring in this part of the country, the trail was also lined with various species of vegetation now in bloom, most notably the greenleaf Manzanita, which in Spanish interprets as “little apple.” The species is fire resistant, and grows back quickly after a fire. However, it burns hot when ignited.

Several other species also flank the trail to include Mountain Misery (other names are bear mat and bear clover), and this is the northern extension of this species. Other species include Ponderosa, and there is a wonderful display of growth rings near the end of the loop trail. The tree was cross-sectioned and then historic dates included. Dates ranged from about 1500 and ended with the inauguration of President Reagan.

Manzanita or Little Apple flank trail

Manzanita or "Little Apple" flank trail

Unfortunately, travel obligations restricted us from staying more than a day, but if we could make it through the snow, sleet and rain we’d heard awaited us on several Oregon Passes, we’d be with good friends Sue and Eric Hansen , who live in Corvallis, Oregon. They’re the couple we rendezvoused with in Death Valley.


Obviously, we made it, then parked in their drive. Sue had a wonderful dinner prepared and then, today, we drove the final 40 miles to Salem, Oregon, site this year of the Northwest Outdoor Writer’s Conference. I’ll be working hard the next day or so preparing for a “What the Heck is it Contest” Janie and I provide for the several hundred participants.

The contest is for the enjoyment of all NOWA members and is intended to test their knowledge about outdoor items-and sometimes our ability to pull the wool over their eyes. Some of the more challenging (but fun) items from the past have included the bacculum (sorry, but you’ll have to look this one up) from a walrus, wolf scat; and ticks preserved in a bottle of formaldehyde. As well, the contest includes the usual assortment, such as fishing lures, and cartridges of various calibers.

This year we believe we also have a good assortment (in part because of much help from Eric) and will share with you our presentation–but not until after it’s over. Sorry, but if you check back in I’ll share with you items which are now classified as Top Secret. In fact, I’ll even have photographs of a few of our more interesting selections.

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Unknown Marta Becket Created Audience, and a Work of Art

posted: April 20th, 2008 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: When Janie and I departed the Amargosa Opera House in late February I was happy with the photographic opportunities that had presented themselves. I’d met a group of Vietnam Veterans who had come to know Marta Becket well. One of the men introduced me to Ms. Becket, and she allowed me to photograph her. (Click to see that posting, and also close-ups of her work.)


When we left, my only disappointment was that I had not been able to take a picture of the immense art work Marta created in the early 1960s when she began her one-woman performance. Because she was unknown at the time, she wanted to pretend the auditorium was full, and so she began painting in an audience on the surrounding walls and on the ceiling. To create the work on the walls required four years; the work on the ceiling, two.

Unknown Becket Painted Her Audience

Unknown Becket Painted Her Audience

To dramatize the setting, I thought that if I could only get into the auditorium when it was empty (See, the auditorium often fills to capacity now!) I might duplicate the times, which was, of course, an auditorium filled primarily with the art work she had created.

Yesterday, luck was with me, for our route to Oregon passed adjacent to the Opera House, and so I called ahead; said I had an assignment (which I do), and asked if I might have a few moments in the auditorium. Permission was granted, and because it required some special techniques, I provide the following:

I took many photographs, all from a tripod and all were long time exposure, ranging from 3 to 12 seconds. I used a super-wide angle 12mm lens–and I bracketed my exposures.


Because digital images exposed for several seconds sometimes produces “noise,” or unwanted light points, I went to the camera’s shooting menu and choose “On” to eliminate such possibilities. (Caution if you use this technique, you must have fully charged batteries.)

Over the years, Marta’s work as an artist has been recognized internationally. Currently she spends winters giving her live stage performances and summers creating works of art. Recent clients include the movie actor Martin Sheen. Certainly, Ms. Becket is a talented woman, and I hope my images in this visually reduced format do justice to her immense talent.

Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Earth Mother

posted: April 18th, 2008 | by:Bert

Earth Mother

Earth Mother

©Bert Gildart: Today, we are departing the Sedona area, bound for Oregon, but with several intermediate stops along the way. But before departing, I want to share one of the most remarkable Petroglyph sites Janie and I have ever seen.

Let’s entitle the panel “Earth Mother,” and, also, let me say that some of the images are Paleolithic, dating back over 10,000 years. The panels are, according to archaeologists, some of the best preserved ruins and examples of Indian art in North America.

Earth Mother panel is set in the Sedona area and is managed by the Forest Service. The setting is referred to as the Palatki Red Cliffs Heritage Site and it contains not only the panels, but ruins–and a site referred to as the Agave Roasting Pit.

Unfortunately for us, the tour has become so popular that there were not enough interpreters/overseers to lead us to the roasting site.

In order to visit the area, prior reservations are necessary and the reason is apparent. According to Spence, one of the volunteer guides recently retired as a geologist, there’s not a day that goes by when someone has to be told not to touch the panels. Worse, if left unattended, small children duck under the restraining ropes and some have even tried to draw on the historic Petroglyphs.


“Just the other day,” said Spence, “I had two incidents. In one case I had to ask a ten-year old-in front of his parents-if he had $10,000 for the fine he would have to pay if he wrote on the panels. ‘That’s a whole lot of video games,’ I finally told him.’ Finally, his parents interceded.”

Animals born of Earth Mother

Animals born of Earth Mother

Spence said that the other case involved an elderly man who obviously didn’t want to be here kept leaning against the walls of the ruins. “Finally,” Spence said, “we asked him to leave.”


Interpretation of the one major panel begins with Spence pointing with a small beam light to the Earth Mother. “She’s giving birth to an animal, and many other types of animals are standing around.” (Earth Mother is in the upper right hand corner of the image just above.)

Spence continues, asking if we can recognize any of the species. He says that when he looks closely he sees deer or antelope, wolves, coyotes, and birds of various types.

VIPs provide informative talks

VIPs provide informative talks

From the Mother Earth panel, we moved on to a wall with pictographs, which are created from actual pigments. Petroglyphs, on the other hand are created by pecking.


The pictographs were significant because these were ancient, “perhaps 1,000 years old,” said Spence. The volunteer continued, saying the dates of pictographs can be more easily obtained using radio carbon dating techniques. In the year 2000, a black charcoal pigment yielded an age of 1080 from the Earth Panel.

Charlie Steger and Palatki Ruins

Charlie Steger and Palatki Ruins

But from yet another room known as the Grotto, aging techniques date some of the pictographs back to the Paleo Period, which goes back 11,000 years. Truly, images from these panels are a national treasure…


Right now I’m scrambling to complete this post. I need to have time to pack and depart Dead Horse Ranch State Park by the early morning deadline. We hope to be near Death Valley Junction by day’s end, which is not far from Las Vegas. We’re on our way to the Northwest Outdoor Writer’s Conference, this year to be held in Salem, Oregon. We have about five days prior to the conference, so we’re not pressed for time.

As always we’re looking forward to seeing old friends and learning what we can from the various speakers. The local chambers always have hosted trips so generally I get a story or two each year from these conventions.

Note: Here’s a posting from about this time last year. Let it demonstrate the improvement I’ve made this past year in laying out my posts–and also remind you that Earth Day is just around the corner. (Click here )

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

The V-Bar-V Heritage Site

posted: April 16th, 2008 | by:Bert

A Panel full of stories--and cranes

A Panel full of stories–and cranes

©Bert Gildart: Certainly one of the most remarkable petroglyph sites we’ve seen in years was the one we saw yesterday at the V-Bar-V Heritage Site.

Once a former ranch the site is located just south of Sedona and is managed (and protected) by the U.S. Forest Service. Adjacent to the site is a lovely campground located along Beaver Creek, and most assuredly the small river was used by the Sinagua, the same group who constructed Tuzigoot.

The site is unique not only because of the huge number of glyphs all contained in one area (a total of 1032 petroglyphs have been identified), but because of some of the figures. Heron-like figures adorn the main panel, but why they dominate is a mystery.

Yet another aspect we appreciated at the V-Bar-V is that there has been little vandalism, and perhaps that is because the ranch was privately owned and not accessible by the general public, a small segment of which has destroyed our antiquities so the majority can no longer enjoy them. As Janie and I have traveled the country we find that is more often the case than not. It’s part of the reason that the Antiquities Act of the early 1900s was necessary. The other reason was to stop the massive pot collecting, rampant at the time. But regardless of how this site came to retain its integrity, it is here now and its features can be studied.


Though many other unique features characterize these panels, one of the most interesting is the paired figures. Look at the

Unique paired figures, probably turtles

Unique paired figures, probably turtles

first image carefully, and you’ll see two humans and two large female figures. The panel also contains paired turtles, and I’ve included an example here.

Though all these features are interesting in themselves perhaps the most significant feature of the panel is the presence of symbols that appear to be the sun. Linked to those is a long line and some archaeologist believe the line represents a solar calendar. An entire interpretive booklet discusses the possibility and because light touches the line on the day of the summer solstice, the conclusion is accepted by most.


Fortifying the hypothesis is the further evidence that the Sinagua were an agricultural based society. It’s an easy step then to say that when the sun strikes the line on the third week it June, it was time to plant corn.

Both Janie and I thoroughly enjoy exploring ancient cultures, and as we’ve discovered, the Sedona area with all of its red rocks was apparently a haven for these land based cultures. Why they departed is the never ending question, but apparently by 1500 or so, they were all gone, absorbed perhaps by other tribes.

V-Bar-V is well preserved site

V-Bar-V is well preserved site

Though the V-Bar-V Heritage Site may contain the greatest concentration of petroglyphs in the Verde Valley, there’s yet another site called Palatki that also has interesting examples of Indian rock art, and that is our destination for today.


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 | Post a Comment »

Things Have Changed

posted: April 14th, 2008 | by:Bert

Tuzigoot Ruins

Tuzigoot Ruins

©Bert Gildart: Two days ago we checked into Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood (about 20 miles from Sedona) and have been catching up a little on all the work involved with writing stories while on the go. That includes filing digital photographs and then captioning them. Though it may seem as though we do little more than drift from one place to the other, such is not the case.

However, that is not to say that it’s all work either, and the past two days have also included short trips to some of the endless attractions this area offers that can be enjoyed as mini excursions. First on our list was the Indian ruins known as Tuzigoot.


Tuzigoot is one of the smaller National Monuments, but it preserves an important component of the Sinagua Indian culture. Once the pueblo consisted of 110 rooms, and in an eroded form the park preserves many of them. The rooms comprising the pueblo are perched high on a hill and gaze over the agricultural land the group once farmed. The group occupied the area from around A.D. 1000 to around 1400. Currently the site preserves 42 acres.

Our explorations of Tuzigoot were made two days ago, shortly after we arrived. Yesterday, Rich and Sadira took sympathy on our need to learn much quickly and rendezvoused with us at our campground then gave us another quick tour of the area they call home. If you know the route, the drive from Prescott to Sedona requires little more than an hour.

Striking on a red rock hike

Striking on a red rock hike

One of the activities the four of us share in common is the desire to explore local trails, and we drove first to Bell Rock located just on the outskirts of this very tourist-y town. Art galleries were everywhere and so were adventure exploring stores. One of the jeep touring stores actually had a Native American dressed in very traditional garb trying to lure folks in. He was the only Indian we saw.

We visited several of the stores to include the “Life is Good Store,” and “Rollies Camera” and a health food store.


I’ve been here before, but that was 20 years ago, and as we walked around I could not suppress my absolute horror at the way in which Sedona has grown. Gated communities and major housing developments are now creeping on the sides of the beautiful red rock canyons that initially lured these folks here. On the plus side is that most of the homes blend in with their surroundings, for they are all constructed of rock and that rock, of course, is from local sources. Though I’m not sure, I believe Sedona strictly governs the way in which people can build, and that, I think, is good. Sedona, for example, is the only place in the world where you’ll find a McDonald’s Hamburger demarcated by a small purple “M”. No golden arches here.

Oh, that were the way of things back in Montana’s Flathead Valley.

Bell Rock

Bell Rock

Fortunately, some of the land surrounding Sedona remains in public ownership, and that included Bell Rock and the trails that surround it. We hiked one 2-mile long trail that wound through the rocks. Many other people were also hiking (or biking) the trail, but the majority of folks were several miles away in Sedona, shopping. Though I’ll never understand the way in which some people place priorities, I’m glad that’s the way it apparently is.

Our companions were of a similar mind and we hope to see them again soon. As Rich has noted in one of his blogs, that could happen this summer in Bozeman, Montana, for that’s where the International Airstream Rally will be held.

Today, we’re off for a tour of Montezuma’s Castle.

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Focus Photography

posted: April 13th, 2008 | by:Bert

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

©Bert Gildart: Let’s call this posting “Focus Photography,” as that was the intention Rich and I had the other night when I joined him for one last climb to all those spectacular boulders located no more than ten minutes from Point of Rocks Campground. It’s the place where Rich Charpentier now hangs his hat.

It was irresistible: the evening was warm and the skies perfectly clear. Now all we had to do was find appropriate subjects. That was our focus.

I think we found them just as the sun was beginning to set. First we found a dove, and when Janie looked at the image she wondered if it had been banded around the neck, but that, in fact, was not the case. That’s the way the species comes.

I photographed the bird with a 400mm lens, hand holding it, relying on image stabilization to help prevent blur from camera shake. It’s a method I’ve been using for years, and it generally seems to work.

Because the lens was not quite long enough to fill the frame with the dove, I included a little of its habitat, which actually seemed to add to the image.


Finally, as we wandered around, we found rocks, and of course, more rocks, not surprising I suppose just above this particular campground. I made this image just a few minutes before the sun dipped below the horizon.

The lens was opened as wide as I could, but the light was so diminished that the shutter speed dropped to about 1/20 of a second. Because I didn’t have a tripod with me, I found a rock that served as support.

For me, the evening’s outing with photography as our focus was a delightful way to end a week in Prescott–and once again, I have to say that leaving when you still want to explore may, in fact, be a good time to leave. It means you have not worn out your welcome, and that you want to return, for you realize there is still so much more to see.

Endless Rocks

Endless Rocks


That’s the way it always seems to be–and we’ll certainly return to Prescott to enjoy the area and see Rich and Sadira.


This morning as I conclude this post, I’m doing so from Dead Horse State Park, located a few miles from Sedona. It’s also in the shadow of Jerome , and last night as we stepped out from our trailer we could see the night lights iminating from the old mining settlement.

The lights set a nice stage for more explorations of this beautiful section of Arizona, which will include the exploration of ancient Indian ruins, and the beautiful red rocks for which Sedona and the area in general is so well known. We’ll be here for about a week.

(Note: Last year about this time I was reliving one of the many trips we have made to Alaska. Read post .)

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

So How Do You Like It? Or, Cycling Prescott’s Peavine Trail

posted: April 12th, 2008 | by:Bert

Peavine Trail & columnar rocks

Peavine Trail & columnar rocks

©Bert Gildart: In this day of high gas prices, it is prudent to find a campground that provides various non-motorized forms of recreation. In part that is probably why our good friend Rich Charpentier decided to base himself at Point of Rocks Campground (a superb RV park that provides long-term camping).

About a year ago, Rich pulled his Airstream into this campground and has been here ever since. Yesterday, I found out yet another reason why he’s been so happy with his selection. For one thing, it is close to work for him, but perhaps as important, it provides ready access to some of Arizona’s best cycling.

Apparently he never gets tired of exploring one area in particular–by bike–and neither have I, for yesterday was the fourth time I’ve ridden the area in a week. I’ve discovered you can cycle the 12-mile-long Peavine Trail in about an hour if you push, but not so if photography is your objective. Yesterday, we explored for well over three hours, departing early for the best light. Obviously, photography was our objective.


Departing Point of Rocks on bikes, within a quarter of a mile (less than five minutes) of extremely wide-shoulder riding, we were cruising into Watson Lake State Park and the trailhead for the Peavine.

The trail passes around an arc of Watson Lake, crosses a bridge near the animal shelter, and then joins Peavine Trail proper. And here is where the geology and history get so fascinating. And here’s where Rich, who remains enamored with his huge backyard begins asking, “So how do you like it, Bert? How do you like it?”

Within a few more minutes the granite mountains–with its hills and spire-like formations that appear so impenetrable–begin to open up. Then, they gobble you up. They do so because stresses within the earth occurred here well over a billion years and eventually created conditions that would form the many jumbles of rocks now littering the landscape.

Rich Carpentier cycling Peavine Trail

Rich Charpentier: "So how do you like it?"

These jumbles are what the trail now passes through–and again, Rich couldn’t help himself:

“So how do you like it?”

As I looked around at the cluster of spires and the fields of boulders that seemed to fold one into another I could do little more than nod my approval.


Geologists use the term to describe the deeply buried molten rock that eventually became today’s landscape as a “batholith.” They explain that the batholith eventually solidified, then cracked–creating all the “joints” that weathering rendered as spires. That, of course, required millions of years.

Today, the effect on those who pass them by is at times profound, as expressed by an unknown author:

“Mighty nature’s whims sometimes produce such grotesque and ponderous jumbles of rock material
that in a place like this man stands in fascinated awe and respectful admiration.”


We continue our ride, and, Rich, whose enthusiasm continued unabated, explained that the Yavapai Indians once used the area, but that it was later used by miners who brought railroads into the area, and that most of the Peavine was once part of one of the old railroad beds. Adjacent to us as we rode was Watson Lake, and Rich pointed to the dam in the distance. Today, the “lake” provides habitat for a variety of waterfowl as well as a wonderful area on which kayakers can practice and explore hidden passages

Granite Mountain backdrops Watson Lake & kayaker

Granite Mountain backdrops Watson Lake & kayaker


But the Peavine opened passages for us, and Rich and I continue to explore the land-based ones with our cameras. Eventually we came to one set of spires and we stopped. Light was streaming in from the side and seemed to be illuminating each of the tall finger-like projections with light that almost appeared celestial. We looked at one another and then almost laughed–for simultaneously the question popped out.

“How do you like it; how do you like it.”

There then followed moments of silence in which we both gazed in admiration.

Note: Janie and I leave Prescott today with much regret, thankful for the time both Rich and Sadira have provided in acquainting us with this wonderful part of Arizona.

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

The Palace: “Arizona’s Oldest Frontier Bar”

posted: April 10th, 2008 | by:Bert

Brunswick Bar, saved from fire

Brunswick Bar, saved from fire

©Bert Gildart: The ambiance is clear the moment you walk into the Palace Bar in Prescott, Arizona. Along the walls, hang images of Tom Seleck, Willie Nelson, John Wayne and others. Along yet another wall hang images of Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp, Doc Holiday and Big Nose Kate.

This is a western bar–as yet other features attest.

The images and other features are not false advertising; the Palace makes the claim that it is “Arizona’s oldest frontier bar,” and that claim is apparently true, though there was an interruption to its tenure. In 1900 the Palace went up in flames in what is infamously known as the “Whiskey Row Fire.”


Though the bar burned to the ground, the massive and ornately carved Brunswick Bar shown here was carried across the street to the plaza by patrons. One year later, the Palace was back in business, the Brunswick Bar restored to its original position.

Because of its history, the Palace is certainly a place to reminisce about the Wild West. The Earps all frequented the bar and so did Doc Holiday, often accompanied by his lady friend, Big Nose Kate.

Historically busy--and still busy

Historically busy–and still busy

Holiday died in a sanitarium for tuberculous in Glennwood Springs, Coloraod,  but Kate died in Pioneer Home here in Prescott; and before departing this mile-high city, I hope to visit her site, for she was such a western character, as the picture on the bar wall seems to suggest.

Though the photographic angle down plays her famous nose, she certainly appears to be a woman who could take care of herself, something the movie “Tombstone” so graphically revealed.


Today, the Palace Bar has added dining to its stable of drinks, and after taking “intrusive” photographs in the bar (with the manager’s permission) we enjoyed a delightful meal. Janie ordered a bison burger while I opted for fish and chips. Granted, not a very “western” choice, but next time I’ll try and do better.

And now a note on the photography, which was more than simply grabbing snap shots. Because the premises were so huge, I selected a 12- to 24-mm lens and then used the widest focal length the lens offered.

Prescott Courthouse lawn, where ambiance begins.

Prescott Courthouse lawn, where "ambiance" begins.

Then, because the light was so dim, I mounted the camera on a tripod and took most all of the images for about ½ second. And, then, because movement could have detracted from the final image, I took about a dozen, selecting for my blog and for my “Prescott Folder” one in which motion contributed to the picture.

Generally, our time in the Palace was in a rather subdued environment, but Janie and I both wagered that on any given Saturday night, the Palace might well live up to the Wild West experienced by the Earps, Doc Holiday, and Big Nose Kate. That thought was reinforced by the Borglum (famous for the presidents at Mount Rushmore) bronze of the bronc rider found right outside in the court yard square–directly across the street from the Palace Bar.

Might the rider have been thinking about trying to ride his hoss’ into the Palace?

Read Comments | 3 Comments »

Prescott’s Promised Land

posted: April 9th, 2008 | by:Bert

Promised Land

Promised Land

©Bert Gildart: It’s hard to say which of the many experiences our group enjoyed was my favorite, but I guess it would be the opportunity to photograph Rich, Sadira (who writes a very interesting blog ), and Janie strung out along a canyon wall that embraces part of “The Promised Land.”

The Promised Land is one of the many canyons that surround Prescott, but it is one that Rich Charpentier particularly likes. Rich is a rock climber and photographer, and for him the area contains much promise. Look at his blog postings from this area, and you’ll see why.

Photography is also the reason I liked the area, and when Rich, Sadira and I looked down on the canyon below where Janie was waiting, the thought occurred to me that it would be particularly dramatic if my two companions would join Janie-after we explored the cave that had lured us to the overlook.

Rich had long ago noticed the cave we explored and as we entered it we all thought what a great place it would be for mountain lions, and Rich said that in the year he’d been exploring the Promised Land he’d seen much sign of their presence.


But today, there were no mountains lions, just hard blackened walls engrained from long years of past prehistoric use.

More than likely, this was a cave Native Americans had once used, and there was evidence, too, in the canyon below of their former presence. Throughout the long canyon, here and there we saw that a heavy patina covered the walls, providing a perfect surface for rock art.

Sure enough, as we wandered we found all sorts of strange images, some that could have represented the sun or the sinuous impression of reptiles. But more typically, we found the faded carvings of deer. In some instances we saw walls depicting entire herds of deer. What a promised land this must truly have been for past nomadic hunters.

Rich photographed the impressions, and because his images turned out so well, I refer you to them . I also refer you to Rich’s blog because I think he is a person to be much admired.

Dark cave with blackened Walls

Dark cave with blackened Walls

Certainly I admire him because we both share similar environmental concerns-and, of course, because we share a love of Airstream Trailer travel.


But in the past few years, Rich has made some major life transitions and emerged successfully, something not everyone seems to do. Until a few years ago, Rich was in charge of wireless communications for AT&T. But for a variety of reasons the life style of a high roller went contrary to his grain and he gave it up, electing instead to travel the country until he found Prescott-and a more simple style of life.

Today, he is extraordinarily contented man. He holds a less stressful job that allows him time to pursue his other passions. Those passions now include photography, rock climbing and scheduled magazine columns about electronic gadgets–and how they can simplify our lives.

A most contented man

A most contented man

From time to time he also voices his concerns for the future of our environment, thoughts we all shared as we hiked the Promised Land. Because the area provided such dramatic diversity, it certainly was a promised land, one that lived up to its name not only because of its fabulous features but because of the companions who had helped make it so interesting.

(Posting from last year about this time: Spring Awakening .)

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Jerome Preserves Arizona’s Wild, Wild West

posted: April 7th, 2008 | by:Bert

Jerome Arizona

Jerome, "ghost town" on National Historic Register

©Bert Gildart: Once again, we’ve been fortunate to have Prescott “Insiders ” taking a little time from their schedules to show us more of this part of Arizona.

Two days ago, Rich Charpentier and his friend Sadira, took us to Jerome, one of the oldest mining towns in North America. Located about 25 miles from Prescott, once, according to Rich, Jerome was considered to be the “wickedest town in the West.”

The town was built on Cleopatra Hill above a vast deposit of copper and today is part of a vast National Historic District. Because of this distinction, plaques everywhere help acquaint you with its past. Once, Americans, Mexicans, Croatians, Irish, Spaniards, Italians and Chinese made the mining camp a cosmopolitan mix that added to its rich life and filled its streets with excitement.

Today, the area is a photographer’s paradise. Gravity has performed its work on some of the buildings, but that adds to their charm for photographs.


Rich and I started out with a quick walk around the settlement of about 500 while our two ladies heading toward the pottery shop. The day was warm, somewhere in the mid ‘70s, and Rich and I both gravitated toward all the old signs and bits of nostalgia for which the town has become famous.

We found an old Ford, perfectly restored and images of that seemed to set the stage for further exploration.

Old Ford sets stage

Old Ford sets stage

The “Cribs District” also caught our attention as town’s folks capitalized on the period and used suggestive names for some of their business. For instance, the pizza parlor sports images of fancy ladies in various states of attire and then associated it with a banner reading, “The Best Piece in Town.” Rich liked the images and posted one on his blog .

Unfortunately Rich and Sadira had to leave early, so Janie and I found a series of terraced rock steps and engaged in a bit of people watching. A group of motorcyclists rode into town, and they generated interest. Then we watched two attractive young ladies hail down several nice looking young men. The young woman had cameras dangling around their necks, and they asked the fellows if they’d photograph them. Wow, now that’s quite a handkerchief to drop, but if I were single and lots younger that seems like a technique that might be worth exploring.


The girls left, and our attention was soon diverted, however, to the Hotel Connor just below us from which jazz music filtered out and up. The musicians, we soon learned, were part of an on-going jazz series entitled “Jazz Without Borders,” and their blues sounds lured us into the bar.

Expressive musician

Expressive musician

One man, who appeared to be a Native American, was particularly expressive as he played a huge bass fiddle. As he played I photographed him, and he didn’t seem to mind t all.

Jazz Without Borders

Jazz Without Borders

The town seems devoted to nostalgia and Janie and I walked to the theater shop. Much of the store was devoted to the recollection of old movies, and they’ve constructed an old time theater for projecting old films, one of which interpreted Jerome.


But scattered throughout were many wax images, one of Elvis, which attracted Janie.

Elvis and Janie

Elvis and Janie

But there were also images of Humphrey Bogart–and that classic image of Marilyn Monroe with her dress blowing up. The film, “The Seven Year Itch,” was released in 1955 and includes the scene in which Monroe stands over a grate, and the warm air from the grate whips up her dress. For movie aficionados the image has become a famous one, and helped further immortalize Monroe, who has also become symbolic of great beauty, but also, great tragedy, for she cut short her life in 1962 when she was only 36.

Marilyn Monroe, triumph and tragedy

Marilyn Monroe, triumph and tragedy

As we wandered the town, it seemed a number of men had long flowing beards, suggestive, perhaps, of a desire to revert to the past. They may also be attracted here because Jerome seems to be such a throw back in time.  One store owner with whom Janie struck up a conversation said that the town was laid back but wasn’t without a problem that seems insidious to small towns. “Everyone knows your business,” said Janie, recalling her conversation with one of the resident store owners. “And if that business raises eyebrows, you become the subject of much barroom talk.”

Well, we’re not looking for a place to relocate, just for places with much fascination. Jerome sure fits that bill and we left at the ideal time, which is that time when you still feel you want to know more–and stay longer.

Note: Here a posting from last year at this time: National Bison Range .

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Point of Rocks Campground

posted: April 5th, 2008 | by:Bert

Photographer Rich Charpentier

Photographer Rich Charpentier

©Bert Gildart: Here’s a quick quiz for all you political junkies and current event followers. At the moment Janie and I are in the same town in the Southwest that John McCain appeared today, April 5, 2008.

So, where in the world are Bert and Janie?

OK, you got it, we’re in Prescott, Arizona, and today, McCain will make a speech from the steps of the courthouse–not far from a bar in which Doc Holiday, Big Nose Kate and Wyatt Earp once hung out.

The courthouse steps are the same ones from which the Arizona senator announced his intention to run against George Bush in the Republican primary almost eight years ago. I’d enjoy hearing McCain, but I dislike huge crowds so this is one political gathering we will miss.


Instead, we will join Rich Charpentier and his friend, Sadira, on a 40 minute drive from Prescott to Jerome, once an old mining town, but now a touristy village that makes money interpreting its past. Rich is a photographer and a good one at that, and we’re delighted they’re taking a little time off to further explore this part of the country Rich has decided to call home.

If you like fairly large cities, Prescott is, in fact, a wonderful place to call home. We’re camped at the moment at Point of Rocks Campground, which is the same one in which Rich parks his Airstream.

From the campground, he can strike out on a short hike and within ten minutes be perched on a huge “point of rocks” overlooking Watson Lake. He often makes the hike about the time of sunset, enjoying the incredible panoramic view this spot provides. That’s what we did the night we arrived, and along the way, he pointed out a tree he said has become a focal point for many of his photographs.

Surrounded by beauty

Surrounded by beauty

Because I, too, thought it a nice subject, I was appreciative of all the experience Rich has acquired in the area, and delighted he’d take time and share that knowledge with me.


In the other direction sun was settling over the rocks which surround Watson Lake, and I had to remind myself that we were but a few minutes hike from our trailer.

On the way back from the overlook, we searched for a bobcat that Rich said he sees on a regular basis. The feline often sits on a huge rock scanning the woods that surround Rich’s trailer. Rich thinks it’s there because of a family of quail and says that when his path crosses that of the bobcat it simply sits and peers at him, “but only when I don’t have my camera with me,” he jokes.

Sunset over Watson Lake

Sunset over Watson Lake

That, we concluded was a good reason for making a few more hikes to Point of Rocks–but with our cameras.

Note: To carry on with the idea of posting a blog from this time last year, I offer the following: Spring Awakening .

Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Why An Armed Escort into Organ Pipe National Monument?

posted: April 3rd, 2008 | by:Bert

Armed Escort

Armed Escort

©Bert Gildart: Was the trip Janie and I took in Organ Pipe National Monument in a van flanked by an armed escort to a closed section of the park known as Quitobaquito dangerous?

Nothing on our trip would lead us to believe that it was. However, upon completion of the half-day adventure one of the park naturalists scurried up to Janie and me and asked us if the photographs we took of park rangers with their M-16’s might be used in a magazine?

“Please,” she said, “though we think it would be OK, not everyone appreciates all our rangers are trying to do. We don’t want to jeopardize their lives in any way. If you intend to use them, please mask their faces.”

Obviously, that’s what we’ve done for the sake of this blog–and will do for a story I will soon be writing for the Affinity Group, which produces many publications to include Trailer Life and Motorhome. Not only did I place “+’s” over their faces, but I blurred the images–and did not use the closeup images I’d taken. Nevertheless, you can almost feel, I believe, the level of protection they’re providing our group of about 10. As we walked around the springs surrounded by dense vegetation, the rangers preceded us, checking the trail for tracks and for the actual presence of illegals.

The question, of course, is why is all this necessary?


The park is launching a pilot project, trying to open portions of the park that have been closed since 2002, when Ranger Kris Eggle was savagely killed by a drug lord. “If one of our visitors were harmed,” said Superintendent Lee Baiza, who graciously gave me a few minutes of his time yesterday afternoon, ” it could ruin this park.”

Still Superintendent Baiza wants to reopen sections of this park that have been closed and he obviously thinks the time is right–that essentially it is safe. “It’s probably an overkill,” said Baiza, “but we just don’t want to leave anything open to chance.”



Quitobaquito is the right place to reopen first, and for Baiza there may even be a few personal reasons. Baiza recalls when he once worked along the border in the late 1990s. He’d found some downed barbed wire, and some kids from Mexico came over, then an old man. “We all talked and had a very relaxed time. Of course, times are different now, but wouldn’t it be nice to go back to those days?”


Baiza’s reasons, of course, go deeper than pleasant conversation. Bottom line, it has to do with the resource and with we visitors who are entitled by mandates to see those resources. Quitobaquito, then, was the perfect spot.

Historically, the springs provided a watering hole for Native Americans, for Spanish explorers and for the ranchers who later bought the land. Quitobaquito is also where an endangered species of pup fish has carved out a living for thousands of years. And, as we learned from our morning’s trip, it is simply a beautiful area where cotton wood trees grow large and where birds of all descriptions congregate.

30 mile-long fence helps

30 mile-long fence helps

It is an area that visitors should be able to see, something with which Mr. Baiza most emphatically agrees. In fact, Baiza, who transferred here last May from Petrified Forest National Park to assume the position of superintendent in Organ Park, so fervently believes that park visitors should see the area that he has pushed forward a trip that may be one of the most unique in North America.

Baiza refers to the original mandates of the national park service, noting they stipulate that the park’s resources must be protected and that they shall be made available to visitors. That is what Baiza is attempting to do, but the manner, of course, is certainly unique. In fact, it may be the only place in the United States where visitors see some of the park’s spectacles accompanied by an armed escort–all preceded by an area patrol.


Prior to our departure, the border patrol canvassed the same dirt road our group would later drive–and hike. After assuring the area contained no illegal immigrants, visitors then loaded into a van, and it was flanked by a border patrol and rangers in vehicles who were armed with M-16’s. These are heavy duty guns, used in Vietnam. But this is serious business, and what makes it particularly dramatic is that we weren’t exploring sections of some country that bears us ill will, rather we were exploring one of our own national parks.

“You’ve hit on the reasons,” said Baiza, “when I asked him what would happen if marijuana were legalized and if illegal immigrants were offered work passes. “That’s at the root of our problem, and we hope the fence we’ve just constructed will take care of part of the problem.”

Endangered pup fish

Endangered pup fish

The fence Baiza is referring to now runs along the southern border of Organ Pipe. It parallels Highway Two that also runs parallel to the Organ Pipe border but on the Mexican side. Previously, drug dealers could drive into the park in four-wheel drive vehicles and, then, because the park is so remote, they could easily drive on, thereby conducting their own illegal activities but also leaving tracks in the desert that will require centuries to heal. Baiza hopes the fence will solve part of that problem, and points out that the upright fence posts are sunk deep into the ground and are so close together that a vehicle can not enter. But that doesn’t stop foot traffic, and that’s a problem Baiza hopes will be controlled with increased surveillance. Presently, thousands of illegal use some part of this 30-mile long border each year to gain access into the United States.

Baiza says that he doesn’t know what the future holds, though he is doubtful if visitors will ever be able to make private trips to Quitobaquito as they could prior to 2002, the year drug pushers killed Chris Eggle.


But whatever the future holds, Quitobaquito is certainly worth a visit in whatever manner is deemed necessary. Not only does it contain the beautiful springs, but it also contains the Senita, a cousin to the organ pipe that has unique characteristics and grows nowhere else in the United States except in Organ Pipe.

Ocotillo added to day's beauty

Ocotillo added to day's beauty

The area also contains all the other beautiful examples of the Sonoran Desert, and when we visited, Ocotillo was blooming in profusion. Like all else at Quitobaquito it gladdened our day, and made us appreciative of all the National Park Service is doing to protect the resource and make available those resources to us visitors.

We recommend the trip and believe anyone who has faith in what is probably an overkill of protection, take in the half day adventure–and then write your representatives and let them know you support the park’s efforts. Tell them you hope they will continue to provide the funding necessary to help resolve this national disgrace. Tell them drug lords and illegal immigrants should not dictate visitor access to national treasures.

Read Comments | 2 Comments »