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 May, 2008

By Their Beaks Shall Ye Know Them, Chapter Two

posted: May 31st, 2008 | by:Bert

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

©Bert Gildart: Here are two new species of birds that have recently started showing up at our feeder in Creston, Montana. They provide a continuation of the posting I made last year, entitled “By Their Beaks Shall You Know Them .” That posting was made from Florida’s Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and is the same kind of information I use when bird watching here in Montana, and in particular, during our many outings to Glacier National Park.

The first species shown here is a Red Crossbill, and if you look closely, you will see that the lower mandible passes beneath the upper mandible, enabling the species to pry out seeds from unopened pine cones.

True to form the species is gregarious and is just one of the many Crossbills now seeking sustenance from our feeder.


According to Tom Ulrich in his book Birds of the Northern Rockies, the species carries with it a legend that traces back to the crucifixion. As the story goes, a small bird alighted on the cross and attempted to pull the nails from Jesus’s hands and feet. The bird tried so hard that its bill became badly twisted and its plumage covered with blood. As a result, we have a bird with an orange-tinged breast and mandibles that are crossed.

The second species appearing this week at our feeder is the Evening Grosbeak, where it assumes the role of a “King of the Hill.” Constantly bickering for position, the bird moves into the largest pile of seeds, relegating the chickadees, siskins and the brown creepers to the back of the feeder where seeds are fewer in number.

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak

The bird is a colorful individual and we easily determine gender by the yellow band across its forehead above the eyes. The species has a massive set of mandibles enabling it to perform with brute strength what the Crossbill does with finesse.


With the return of these two species our feeder is now attracting a goodly number of species, suggesting to us that Sam Keen was correct when he spoke of an “Avian Esperanto” in his book Sightings.

Though our feeder was neglected for almost four months while Janie and I were traveling, somehow about 20 different species now know we’re back and that there is an easily obtainable source of food available at the Gildart’s. If that’s not some form of universal communication then please tell me what to call it.

The birds are here, of course, because of their beaks, which enable them make use of the food source–seeds–which we supply in abundance.

Our Pileated Woodpeckers are also back, and that’s because we supply the suet they can poke at with their long pointed beaks. On the other hand, though we see Robins all around, we never see them at our feeder, and that’s, of course, because we don’t supply the bugs and worms that their beaks can accommodate. In those ways, then, Ye Shall know Them.


If you’re interested in exploring the Flathead Valley and Glacier National park, here are two books produced by Falcon Press, one part of their Exploring Series, the other one of a new series of “Pocket Guides.” Janie and I, of course, are the authors and you can obtain both from us, or directly from Falcon. Look for them, too, in bookstores and in Glacier.

Exploring Guide

Exploring Guide

Glacier Pocket book

Glacier Pocket book

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Fifty-Million Year Old Birds

posted: May 29th, 2008 | by:Bert

Return of the cranes

Return of the cranes

©Bert Gildart: When Janie comes running into the house yelling for me to grab my camera bag, I know she’s seen something unusual, so I don’t question her until we’re in the car. But I should have known what was causing all the excitement.

Each year at this time, a pair of sandhill cranes begins making its ratcheting call. Once again, they’ve returned to a lonely section along what I call “The Last Country Road (our road),” located in Montana’s Flathead Valley.

“It’s in a small field,” she said, “and maybe the car won’t frighten it away.” That’s a technique we’ve used before, for often birds will ignore a vehicle. But just don’t open the door.

That was just a few days ago, and our technique worked. At least for a few minutes. Rolling down the window the crane stood still, and examined us. Then something startled it, perhaps a glint of light on my lens, or simply the idea that we were something foreign and that we’d over stayed our welcome. Nevertheless, I got one shot with a 600mm lens, and here it is.


I like cranes and have photographed them in different parts of the country, perhaps most notably at Bosque del Apache. As a group, they are the world’s oldest birds, older than robins, eagles, pelicans or storks. In fact, cranes are over 50-million years old and in 1979, scientists found a fossilized wing along Nebraska’s Platte River that was over nine-million years old. It belonged to a sand hill crane, so sand hills have been in North America at least that long.

We don’t get many cranes here in the Flathead, and I hope, of course, that nothing disturbs them and changes their mind about nesting along one of the creeks that flows through one of our neighbor’s farms. Though we seldom see these magnificent birds, we often hear them, so it was easy for me to understand Janie’s enthusiasm and share it with her…

Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache

May cranes last another 50 million years.

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Memorial Day–On a Personal Note

posted: May 25th, 2008 | by:Bert

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial

©Bert Gildart: Memorial Day Weekend, and Arlington National Cemetery is much on my mind as we honor our war heroes. I think about Washington D.C. and Arlington because it is where several of my relatives are now buried.

Such memories become more significant as I get a little older and history takes on a new meaning; hence two years ago I attempted to locate (again) the grave of a family member buried in Arlington. At the time I was on a business trip, intending to learn more about our nation’s Capital Parks, and Arlington was one of them.


As a group the war memorials in D.C. celebrate the valor of our American soldiers. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served in one of America’s most divisive wars. Inscribed on the Wall are the names of 58,000 men and woman who were killed or remain missing.

The newest of the memorials is the World War II Memorial, which honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., and the 400,000-plus who died in that war. It is the only 20th Century event commemorated on the “central axis” of the National Mall, and President Clinton dedicated the memorial site on Veterans Day 1995.


Night is a particularly good time to visit the WW II Memorial, for night lights and refracting ponds create an aura of eternal vigilance. Take a tripod if you want night photos, but you’ll need more if you want to walk within range of the Capitol building. Because heightened security since 9/11 looks askance at long pointed objects, you’ll need a special permit, but if you ask a park policeman he or she will tell you how and where to obtain one.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

You can, however, tote a tripod to the Lincoln Memorial and this is one that photographs particularly well at night. Lincoln, of course, was President during the Civil War and he is backdropped by the Gettysburg Address. Certain aspects of the Korean War Memorial also photograph well at night-such as the haunted looks in the eyes of the soldiers–above.

Women In War

Women In War

Arlington must be visited during the day and finding my grandfather’s grave amidst the 290,000 servicemen (7,000 new graves each year) could have been a daunting task had it not been for the easily accessible computerized records. To locate a relative, all that’s required is a stop at the desk immediately to your right as you enter the Visitor Center. Then, they’ll want a little information.


They’ll want to know your relative’s legal name and his or her date of death. Such information also entitles you to a special pass with a “numbered” address that will allow you to drive to your relative’s grave.

Though my grandfather’s site was more than a mile away I chose to walk, passing as I did by the grave of John F. Kennedy with its massive memorial and its eternal flame. I passed, too, the grave of Audie Murphy, our most decorated WWII soldier, and a man who later became a movie icon of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

I also stopped by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the changing of the guard was in progress. The precision of their moves spoke of strength, coordination and infinite practice.


Two hours later, I arrived at my grandfather’s grave, who died in France shortly after Germany surrendered. He had survived the war only to die in 1919 from the pandemic flu, leaving behind two sons, age four and one. Though they were young, his death so impacted them that both chose military careers. In turn their lives affected me, and though I never followed my dad’s path , I remain in tune with much that is military.

Changing Of the Guard, Arlington Cemetery

Changing Of the Guard, Arlington Cemetery

You and I may or may not agree with the policies of our administration, but that has little to do with the appreciation we should demonstrate for the sacrifices our brave soldiers made in the past and are making today. On a very personal note, my father was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed and he later fought at Guadal Canal. Little wonder, I suppose, Military Parks hold such fascination for me, and little wonder I suppose that I respect all Memorial Day has come to represent. My father and mother are buried at West Point, and so are Janie’s.

Today, if I were in D.C., I’d make another pilgrimage to Arlington Cemetery and lay flowers on my grandfather’s grave. But since I’m not, Janie and I will do as we do most Memorial Days: we’ll post a small flag and allow it to remind us of the 2,757,196 men and woman who have given their lives for America.

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Bison Range Celebrates One-hundred Years

posted: May 23rd, 2008 | by:Bert

Bison, Crow Reservation

Bison, Crow Reservation

©Bert Gildart: Prior to the settlement of the West in the 1800s, an estimated 60 million bison roamed North America, but by 1902 only about 700 remained. Of that total, 23 were in Yellowstone National Park; the others were mostly in private herds.

One-hundred years ago, about the time bison numbers hit rock bottom, the National Bison Range was created, and that is an event that is being celebrated TODAY, May 5, 2008, at headquarters near Moiese, Montana.

Truly there is much to celebrate, as the herd at the range now numbers about 350 animals, large enough to cull animals annually and make them available to other wildlife management agencies, such as the Crow Reservation near Hardin Montana. The photo shown here is, in fact, of the Crow Indian roundup, conducted each year, and which I once covered.


Animals from the National Bison Range have also been shipped to an area Janie and I once drove past in Alaska. Now called the Delta Junction Bison Range, managers believe the shipment provides anecdotal information about the status of the Montana herd.

Because the population of bison was once so low, genetic diversity was greatly reduced, and the result is that when animals were shipped to Alaska, the gene for albinism was apparently removed from the Montana herd. As a result, the National Bison Range’s most famous bison, an albino buffalo known as Big Medicine, has never since been replicated at Moiese. Big Medicine was born in 1923 and lived for 23 years.


Today, though there is much to celebrate, there is an ongoing controversy at the range, and at the heart of the heated debate is who is best suited to manage the refuge: tribal members from the contiguous Salish Kootenai Tribe or professionals from the National Bison Range?

Exploring Guide

Exploring Guide

Natives say they have a spiritual association with bison while managers say they have been educated in the science of wildlife management and that success should speak for itself. Just how this battle will play out is anyone’s guess, but some say this several-year-old fight (and it has been a fight!) may be resolved in the next few months.

Over the years I’ve written much for various travel publications about the refuge and posted several blogs about it. More background about the contentious problems is provided as well as some information with many photos on just what you may expect to discover from a visit.

The bison range is open seven days a week and includes an incredible drive that not only provides the opportunity to see bison, but to see deer, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep.

You can also learn more about the Bison Range from our book on Exploring Glacier and the Flathead Valley, shown here to left. The book can be purchased by e-mailing us, or by contacting Falcon Press.

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They Were “Honeyed Up;” Reflections from my Days As a Back-country Ranger

posted: May 21st, 2008 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Though I worked in Glacier National Park for 13 summers (and a number of falls), three of the best seasons were spent in the 1980s as a back-country ranger at the Cutbank Ranger Station.

The station was historic and had all the right vibes for me to write a weekly column about my work there for the local weekly back in Bigfork (the Bigfork Eagle). Come fall I’d return home and resume my work as an outdoor writer, producing a tabloid that won many awards from the Montana Press Association.


Cut Bank Ranger Station, where I served for three summers.


The trip Janie and I made this past week recalled a few of the wonderful memories from those years. To reach the old station this past Saturday, we drove four miles to a locked gate and then rode one mile by bike to the ranger station.

My memories were made even more vivid when, lo, whom should we find de-winterizing the station but our neighbor Bill Hutchison, still an employee in Glacier. He let us in, and we poked around a bit. Then we wandered back outside again and looked at the old familiar setting.

The station is set in the shadows of Kapukamint Mountain to the north and by Mad Wolf Mountain to the south. To the east once ran the old and historic North Trail, providing another lure for anyone with outdoor interests. Later, when we walked down to the old barn, memories flooded in.

The best way to provide some picture of what my life was like at the old cabin is to reprint one of my old columns. This summer, we hope to do even better and visit with the current ranger at Cut Bank. And then, too, there are several more columns I’ll soon be running here. But first, a column about the trails radiating from my station, and all that one can learn when one stays alert. Sometimes it’s much more than one might expect.

From the Bigfork Eagle, June 1981: Trails from Cut Bank Ranger Station lead (eventually) in four different directions. As a back-country ranger it is my job to patrol each of these areas and, in the jargon of the park service, “to stay alert and be prepared for the unexpected.” In the course of an average day that means I am supposed to remain in such a state for almost 20 miles or approximately eight or nine hours.

The mode of transportation used most often for these patrols is horse. During the course of a single summer, “John” (the horse) and I traveled hundreds of miles.


Trailhead into Cut Bank Valley


Typically, a day’s outing along trails to the south include a patrol to Medicine Grizzly Lake (approximately five miles one way) followed by a trip to Morning Star Lake (another five miles).

The return route then is about seven miles for a grand total of about 17 miles. Occasionally, I may extend these trips and proceed toward the east, terminating my trip at Triple Divide or, taking anther fork, terminating my trip near Pitamakin Pass. Both areas offer unique geological and historical features.


The trail over Triple Divide eventually takes me to Red Eagle Lake and then, five miles further, to St. Mary Ranger Station for a grand total of 24 miles. Once, in an unusual spurt of masochism, I hiked the entire length in a single day.

The fork to the southwest proceeds toward Pitamakin Pass. Here, if one were to continue, there would be several options: one, proceed back to the north and drop down toward Old Man Lake. Then, continuing, complete your trip arriving eventually at Two Medicine Campground.

As still another option, hikers may proceed from Pitamakin Pass taking what once was an old Indian Trail into the Nyack Wilderness area. This part of GNP offers hikers the opportunity to camp in undesignated areas. No other area of Glacier provides this opportunity.

And what if hikers camp in unauthorized areas? Part of my job is to insure that this doesn’t happen, but occasionally it does, and if the Cut Bank Ranger catches offenders, why he can issue them a ticket. Like one day two weeks ago.


Word had drifted back via hikers that a party of four was camped just below Pitamakin Pass at Lake of the Seven Winds. To make sure they would not get away, I arose at four in the morning and was at the above-mentioned lake just as the sun was peering over the frosty peaks. There they were, right in the middle of bear country–ground dug up all around them. In fact they were not far from the very area we had closed last year to prevent further bear/people confrontations. To top it off they had a fire blazing. Four healthy-looking men, with an illegal fire. Not a female among them to alter my disposition. So I done my duty, recalling, of course, that the dispensation of a ticket should be an educational tool, and moreover (according to park philosophy) that it should be administered with such tact and finesse that a violator might even want to send me a Christmas card.


If I were to ride in the other direction looking from my ranger station, I would soon be on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. A few of the Indians here have leased their land to whites, who in turn, graze their sheep and cattle. Occasionally, these animals find a break in the boundary fence and slip through onto park land. In an effort to maintain good public relations with ranchers who really do work at controlling these beasts, I have ridden out to each of these spreads meeting as many of the hands as possible. It was in this manner that the Cut Bank Ranger was able to solve the case of a missing person for the tribal police.


Mad Wolf Mountain, which can be accessed directly from the ranger station.


Only last week one of the hands working out of a seldom-visited line-camp decided to drop by my ranger station with an exceedingly charming lady. By their actions, I judged them to be very good friends. Several nights later, the tribal police stopped by and asked me if I had seen the gentleman in question; that he had been missing for several weeks. Of course, I was glad to help and responded that, “Yes, they had been by the ranger station and, furthermore, that there had been no problems–that he was traveling with a most charming and certainly well-meaning young lady.” Continuing, I even said that I hoped he was in no trouble with the law.

Glancing at one another, the two tribal policemen advised me that he was in no trouble with the law but that he might be with his wife. The best they could do, they said, would be to advise the wife that the cowboy in question was in satisfactory condition. For their own records, however, they would have to note that man was “Honeyed up.”

My, but I do learn a lot by riding the trails and staying alert.

PREVIOUS POST ON RANGER STATION: “Pero, the Luckiest Mouse Alive”

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Springtime in Glacier National Park

posted: May 19th, 2008 | by:Bert

Airstream backdropped by Divide Peak

Airstream backdropped by Divide Peak

©Bert Gildart: For the past three days Janie and I have been exploring spring in Glacier National Park. It hasn’t been particularly easy as campgrounds on the east side of the park are all closed, though expected to be open in about a week on a very primitive basis.

However, the KOA Campground at St. Mary is open, but then it is much lower in elevation and, therefore, is now snow clear. Not so, however, the park, where some of the more exciting and more lofty campgrounds are still filled with snow.

So, too, are some of the roads. Nevertheless, for the person with some spirit of adventure, there’s much to do.


We found we could drive the road from near East Glacier toward Two Medicine and then park (Airstream and all) at the Running Eagle parking lot. Past this point, the road is snow free, but the road remains closed. Flooding is anticipated and some portions of the road could be difficult drive.

But you can bicycle the road, and that’s what I did, pedaling about two miles uphill to the Two Medicine Lodge, still closed and completely engulfed with snow.


Interesting, I also found Two Medicine Lake to be partially frozen, but what a photo opportunity the lake provided all backdropped by Sinopah Mountain. Though the campground here will be open in about a week, at the moment, most campsites are banked with old spring snow.

Road to Two Medicine Chalet

Road to Two Medicine Chalet

From Two Medicine, we pulled the Airstream over Looking Glass Hill, descending to Kiowa Junction, then about 10 miles further, past the turn off to my old ranger station located along Cut Bank Creek. Later, we returned and did visit the ranger station, and this time both Janie and I bicycled the mile long section of this dirt road that wasn’t yet open either to vehicular traffic. Later this week, we’ll be providing some reflections on my days at Cut Bank.


From Cut Bank, it is about another 15 miles to St. Mary, passing first over Divide Peak and then descending the northern flank that passes by one of the park’s most tragic burns. Just two years ago, the St. Mary Fire almost devoured the small settlement, and I’ll be posting here in yet a few more days photos of the devastation, and what might now be expected. As well, Janie and I also hiked the area, and we’ll be posting photos of our four mile hike that passed through some of the most incredible flower displays the park provides.

Sinopah Mountain

Sinopah Mountain

Our three days in the park in early spring was a trip we’ve been wanting to make for some time, and we are delighted we could squeeze out the time. Drop back throughout the week and we’ll be posting more Glacier photographs and providing a few reflections of the 13 years I spent in this incredible park.

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Homecoming for Hummers–Hummingbirds that is

posted: May 15th, 2008 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Back home now in Montana and one of our first tasks was to refill bird feeders that have remained barren now for over four months. For us, that meant adding sugar water to the hummingbird feeder, suet to the cage-like container that attracts woodpeckers, and what appears to be several gallons of seed to the traditional feeder that in the past has attracted over a 30 different species of song birds.

Phenomenal wing beats

Phenomenal wing beats

As we filled the feeders we questioned how long it would be before our first “guests” began to appear? We also wondered how they would know this source of food was once again available?

Feeders help with avian homecomings

Feeders help with avian homecomings

The answer to the first question was: IMMEDIATELY! At least that was true at the hummingbird feeder. In fact, even before Janie climbed down from the short ladder several different species were buzzing around her head. Then, before the day was out a few of the song birds began to show. It was Homecoming time for us all.


Just how these birds knew these feeders–empty for so long–were full once again was a mystery to me, though not to Sam Keen, who implied in his wonderful book entitled Sightings that we don’t give our feathered friends enough credit for intelligence. He says that birds in general may possess “…a smattering of a universal language, a kind of avian Esperanto, that gives them minimal access to the communications of other species.”

Four days later, and with our feeder now serving as an attractant for chickadees, finches, doves, and this morning, several crossbills, I’m inclined to believe him.


The group, however, that has really grabbed our attention and that I want to focus on here are the hummingbirds–the ones I’ve devoted the past several days to photographing. Right now we have at least six different individuals battling one another for their turn at the feeder, specifically, the Rufous and the Calliope. Ornithologist say these two species typically nest in the Northwest, then migrate over 2000 miles to Mexico–or, as they are increasingly doing now–to some of our eastern states, such as Florida. Come spring, they turn around and return to the Northwest, clearly an epic journey, a Hegira!

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Though a quick search did not turn up any local banding studies, it would seem as though the hummingbirds that nested here last summer are among those that have returned this year to our backyard, else why did they seem to be waiting? If that’s the case, what skills enabled them to return to this precise location?


Once again I turn to Sam Keen: “A number of ornithologists,” writes Keen, “say birds have a kind of primitive Global Positioning System that matches the contours of the earth with a sort of map in their brains, an avian equivalent of Internet driving instructions.”

In this philosophical chapter on “Bird Brains,” Keen provides eloquent examples that birds posses their own type of intelligence that parallels the intelligence of mammals. He quotes several professors who say birds have neurological clusters that are functionally equivalent to the mammalian neocortex.

Ephemeral gold of Calliope Hummingbird

Ephemeral gold of Calliope Hummingbird

His explanation satisfies me and so I believe that I am seeing some of the same birds that graced our deck about this time last year. Now they’re back; they’re home! And once again, they’re providing us with an immense amount of pleasure-and once again forcing us to dig out our books on bird behavior and turn to those pages that inform on hummingbirds. In so doing we’re reminded that hummingbirds in captivity may live as long as 17 years, meaning that these birds may truly be some of our old friends. And now our hummingbirds are home.


We’re also reminded that these tiny dynamos now flitting around our feeder have the highest metabolism of all animals. Put in other words, it means that to support the energy output of wings rotating 70 times a second, hearts must elevate–and they do so registering up to 1,260 beats per minute. Typically, when human hearts are under exertion they register at 140 to 160 beats per minute.

Of course all this requires food and they must consume more than their own weight in nectar each day. To do so they need access to hundreds of flowers each day–or to an admirer’s bird feeder.

Night, however, creates a different scenario; then they conserve energy by entering a hibernation-like state known as torpor at which time heart rates drop to 50-180 beats per minute, depending on the species.

With that refresher on hummingbirds, I felt I was almost up to snuff on avian biology. All that remained was some confirmation of a species I see all too little. To help, I called on Bob Muth, a teacher friend who has distinguished himself with awards in his field and who also has a passion for aves.

Why, I asked Bob, the gold streak on the back of this bird. Is it really a Calliope Hummingbird?


Bob confirmed my I.D., adding that the wonderful gold was probably just light refraction from my strobes. Then he added a Robert Frost poem that not only defined the photographic moment, but also the tenure of the species at our feeder, for we know that all too soon, they’ll be gone, chicks hatched and raised–and then off. But we’ll enjoy the moment, relishing all the pleasure our feeders provide, particularly now when we’re all coming home.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Note: Here are some other posts I’ve made on the pleasure derived from bird feeders:



*Male or Female Pileated?

*Even Raccoons

*Thanksgiving Pardon

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Is Glacier About to Flood?

posted: May 14th, 2008 | by:Bert

Snow lingers in Glacier

Snow lingers in Glacier

©Bert Gildart: Snow pack in Montana’s Glacier National Park is more than we’ve seen in years, as an afternoon drive to Lake McDonald several days ago confirmed.

Nevertheless, Apgar Campground, which is always the first to open, is now manned with a campground host.

Though everyone seems startled with the quantity of snow, for us old timers it doesn’t seem so unusual. In the early 60s, several years after graduating from high school, I remember boarding a Greyhound Bus in Washington D.C., and then about two days later seeing the Rockies for the first time.

It was late May, and as the bus ascended a hill out of Great Falls, I could see the Rockies and recall that the snow which mantled the peaks also extended down the slopes to touch the prairie sweep.

I was awed–and I stayed, eventually graduating from Montana State University then working in the park as a ranger.

Apgar host

Apgar host

If you’re approaching Glacier from the east, that’s about the way it is right now. And as I recall, that was the way it was for a number of summers, though weather patterns have recently changed.


But, now, for the first time in a number of years, snow is again substantial. Weathermen, in fact, say snow pack is 110 percent of normal and they keep mentioning the possibility of flooding. Today, that doesn’t seem likely, as the weather is cool.

But tomorrow all that is supposed to change and temperatures, weather reporters say will be about 20 degrees above normal. That will trigger run off and the streams that are now way down could suddenly rise. If all that is followed by warm rain, as it was in 1964, we could have considerably flooding.

Exploring Guide

Exploring Guide

Still, the mountains remain spectacular and though Logan Pass may not be open until late June, there is much to do and see.

Already folks are cycling along the Going-to-the-Sun Road while others are venturing into the Many Glacier area, the latter of which offers real possibilities of seeing grizzlies.


To help with plans you may have for visiting the park now–and any time of the year in fact–Janie and I have published several books on the park. Globe Pequot published two of them and they can be purchased either from us or from them.

Much of the material distills from the years I spent working in Glacier as a ranger and then subsequently from photographing the park with Janie and writing about it for magazines and newspapers.

Glacier Pocket book

Glacier Pocket book

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New Falcon Book Release: Glacier National Park Pocket Guide

posted: May 9th, 2008 | by:Bert

Bird Woman Falls

Bird Woman Falls

©Bert Gildart: Falcon Guides, produced by Globe Pequot Publishers, has just released the first in a new series called “Pocket Guides,” in this case a Glacier National Park Pocket Guide.

Though the books are small, measuring about 5 ½ by 4 inches, they pack a great deal into the 91 pages-and I am pleased to say that Janie and I are not only the authors but also the photographers, having provided all but three of the book’s forty-plus photographs.

Because of their size, the books are not intended to be comprehensive, rather they are intended to provide a snapshot of the park’s history and natural history. To give you an example, we’re providing here a few paragraphs from the book, beginning with an overview. We’re also providing a few paragraphs about bears and about one of our favorite areas in Glacier National Park, specifically, Kintla Lake. In the Pocket Guide we detail all the fun you and your family can have there by launching a kayak.


One of the crown jewels of America’s national park system, Glacier can be described with many superlatives: Inspiring. Breathtaking. Vast. Some 230 years ago, when the mountain range containing Glacier National Park was first seen by Europeans, adventurers were prompted to call this the “Land of Shining Mountains.”

Yet another applicable catch phrase could be the “Land of Glorious Adversity,” for contemporary scientists tell us that the park was born of fire, quenched by torrential rains, inundated by vast seas, forced upward by internal pressures, and then gouged by great continental ice sheets that came and went on at least four occasions. From this heritage, mountains were molded that reach up to touch the sky and cradle more than 200 lakes…


If you should surprise a grizzly bear, stay quiet and back away slowly, avoiding direct eye contact. Try to get off the bear’s trail. Never run or yell. Stop if your movements are upsetting the animal. Signs of bear agitation include swaying of the head, clacking the teeth, lowering the head, and laying back the ears. Keep your pack on in case of an attack, and then drop to the ground. Protect your stomach by assuming a fetal position, and cover the back of your neck with your hands. Don’t move until you’re sure the bear has left…

Startling a grizzly

Startling a grizzly


Kintla Lake, located in the most extreme northwestern portion of Glacier National Park, is probably the park’s most remote lake that can still be accessed by a vehicle, and its isolation and tranquility make it an ideal place for kayaking. At one time the park permitted power boats on the lake, but that’s not the case anymore, so the setting’s peace and quiet will never be marred by the sounds of motors.

What’s more, on some mornings the reflections of Starvation Ridge, Starvation Peak (in Canada), and Long Knife Peak in Kintla Lake are so perfect, you can almost invert any resulting photo images you might take and not tell the difference…

Of course, each of these sections describes more about the park’s history, bears and activities. At $9.95 (plus a $2.00 handling charge), these glossy booklets would make ideal gifts or serve as an excellent introduction to the person who is passing through and wants a quick introduction to the park’s fascinating features. There are also sections on where to stay both inside and outside the park-and much, much more on Glacier’s natural history.

Kayaking Kintla Lake

Kayaking Kintla Lake

Though this new Falcon Guide book can be ordered from Globe Pequot, you can also order it from us. As well, you can order another Falcon book from us–or from them–about the Flathead Valley, which they published last year about this time.

Glacier is a National Park we know well for I once worked here on a trail crew and as a park ranger. In upcoming blogs I’ll be describing a few of its other natural history and historic aspects, specifically the 75th Anniversary of Going-to-the-Sun Road.


Last Year about this time, I made two postings: One was about Boating in Alaska , the other about the spectacular profusion of Arrowleaf Balsam Root, which promises to be abundant once again.

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Soiled Doves, Lingering Winter and the Charm of The Nugget Campground

posted: May 2nd, 2008 | by:Bert

Airstream and Snow-Packed Lookout Pass

Airstream and Snow-Packed Lookout Pass

©Bert Gildart: Yesterday, as Janie and I crossed Lookout Pass (separating Montana from Idaho), we discovered a new substance.

Natives call it snow (rhymes with glow) and in places it was so deep that it towered over our Airstream. We quickly discovered the substance is wet, very cold–and that at this time of year the banks are dark with thousands of pine needles and certainly don’t glow. Then, last night, we actually discovered how this stuff is made, for tiny hard flakes starting falling from the sky. To compound matters, this morning we awoke in a campground in St. Regis (just over the border and in Montana) to discover our water hose was stiff as a rod, which means it F-R-O-Z-E.

After four months in the desert, these phenomena are foreign to us, but it appears as though winter has not released her fierce grip yet on Montana and that we’ll learn more about these features before the month of May is over. That, at any rate, is what our neighbors from Bigfork told us–who joined us for the last leg home. They’re new to RV camping and wanted to rendezvous with us somewhere along the way. Originally, we’d mentioned Oregon, but Oregon was so rainy we all agreed that Montana (cold as it can be in late April/early May) might be better. So here we are now in St. Regis, all bundled up, rain free, but surrounded by banks of lingering snow. Apparently so much of the stuff remains that the words “June flooding” are now on the lips of weathermen.


Most campgrounds are still closed but not “The Nugget,” one of the nicest campgrounds we’ve discovered in a long time. First, it’s ideally located, offering biking, fishing and hiking–all in a short radius. Equally as important, Jim and Shirley Shotwell, the relatively new owners, have created a personality for their grounds, imparting an old mining atmosphere.

Brothel and Soiled Doves

Brothel and Soiled Doves

Near the entrance they’ve brought in old mining structures, and then added ambiance. “Soiled doves” were always a part of the mining atmosphere and the nearby town of Wallace, Idaho, is famous as a town that has preserved all aspects of its mining history. The town’s “Bordello Tour” and its summer playhouse performance (”There Ain’t No Sin In Wallace”) is well known in the Northwest.

Above is our contribution to that theme, obviously posted in a joking way. However, to the lonely men who lived here during those times women were scarce and bordellos probably did much to reduce violence, always on the cusp. Elsewhere throughout “The Nugget,” Jim and Shirley have artfully placed old farm implements and mining paraphernalia. The campground has the Good Sam stamp of approval and, as one would expect, is immaculate. We’re talking about a multi-family get together and agree the Nugget would be ideal.

Later today, Janie and I will return to Bigfork. We’ll de-winterize the house, WINTERIZE the Airstream and begin preparations for other upcoming travels. Despite rising gas prices, they will be many.

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