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 January, 2009

Solar Panels — A Win-Win Situation in Death Valley

posted: January 28th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: With considerable pride, Xanterra, a concession in Death Valley, has posted brochures and pamphlets detailing what they have just recently completed for the betterment of the environment.


5,470 solar panels create a win-win sitution in Death Valley

At Furnace Creek, across the road from our Airstream parked at Sunset Campground, in 2008 Xanterra installed 5,470 huge solar panels. The solar panels are controlled in such a way that as the sun moves throughout the day, the face of the solar panels orients so that the face of each unit always absorbs the most solar energy. To obtain the image I borrowed a 12-foot ladder to position me above the protective fence and then with advice to climb carefully, carried it to a point where the panels were facing me.

Brochures say that over the next 30 years, their panels will eliminate the emissions of 284,000 tons of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, the primarily contributors of global warming, acid rain and smog. To properly complete the installation, Xanterra says they had to move over 144 palm trees, and that, their brochure says, is over “one mile of palm trees.”


The solar panels are just one of the features this environmentally concerned organization is changing. Noting that Death Valley is a park of extremes, where temperatures drop below freezing in the winter and soar to over 130 degree in the summer, Xanterra also says that it prides itself on the recent installation of Energy Star Air Conditioners, cathode light bulbs, and other features that safe them money in energy expenses and help the environment.

From all appearances, it seems this company has produced a win-win situation.


Massive erosion is a characteristic throughout Death Valley and is one of its greatest lures.

It is with much regret that we are departing Death Valley, but doing so with more wonderful memories. Two days ago, we made a roundtrip hike that started in Gower Gulch and concluded with a return down Golden Canyon for a total of over five miles. Once again, we were amazed at the effects of erosion and took time to capture its impact. Today, we are heading toward Anza Borrego and will arrive either late this evening or early tomorrow. It’s not an extremely long drive, but there is much to see along the way.



*Gators on My Mind


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Night Photography in Death Valley National Park

posted: January 25th, 2009 | by:Bert


Stars backdrop old wagon once part of 20 Mule Team train to Mojave

©Bert Gildart: Surely anyone over age 55 can remember seeing the old teams of 20 mules pulling their load of “20-Mule Team Borax” in the highly dramatized TV series Death Valley Days hosted by Ronald Reagan. In real life, the mules were pulling their loads from Harmony Works, located about two miles from where we’re now docked at Sunset Campground. From Harmony, the teams pulled loads 165 miles to the train depot in Mojave. The television series was shown in the 1950’s and 1960’s and romanticized the mineral, the period of time and the people who worked the claims, trying as they did to extract “white gold.”

Borax made some lucky people millionaires almost overnight. In the peak years of the late 1800s, several mines existed in the area. Ultimately, by the end of the borax era in the late 1920’s, some $30,000,000 of the “white gold” had been taken from the Death Valley area, although some borax was taken out until the 1970s. As well known as it is, Harmony Borax Works was only active for five years, from 1883 to 1888.


Today, not much exists but an old wagon, and if you are a photographer, your challenge is to evoke that nostalgic period, and my thought was to backdrop it against a night full of stars. That idea wouldn’t work just anywhere, but in Death Valley it does, as this largest of all parks outside of those in Alaska is one of the few remaining places in the country — perhaps the world — where light pollution remains almost non existent. To make this picture work, you must first have those conditions, but there’s still a challenge, and that is one of photographic technique. (Also see northern lights photography and digital night photography–Organ Pipe.)

Before leaving our Airstream, I made several test exposures of the night sky using different ISOs, different f stops and different lengths of time. Using that test information, ultimately, this image was taken with a very high ISO of 3600, but I also found that an ISO of 600 provided an excellent rendition of the myriad of stars as individual points of light.


By their very nature, wide angle lenses provide incredible depth of field, so that was my lens of choice, in this case a 12mm one. Obviously, I wanted the wagon in focus as well as the night sky.

Other exposure data is as follows: I opened the aperture to f4 and by setting my Nikon D300 to “B” was then able to hold open the shutter for about one full minute, using a cable release. As well, I programmed the camera from “Menu” to include “high noise reduction.” I used two Nikon SB800 strobes setting the on-camera strobe to Commander Mode, the other to the Remote Mode. I programmed the on-camera strobe to underexpose the front of the wagon one full f-stop. We’re camped adjacent to Don and Nancy Dennis (also Airstream enthusiasts), and Don joined me and volunteered to hold the auxiliary strobe. He held it high and positioned himself about half way along the length of the wagon train.

Night descends early in Death Valley at this time of year, so this was not a late night photo; instead, it was made around 7:30 pm. Prior to my evening excursion, I visited the area and evaluated the wagon for composition, something performed much more easily by light of day. At the time, I didn’t realize the Milky Way would be in just the right position or that a shooting star would streak across the night sky, adding just the right touch of the surreal.

Death Valley can challenge photographers in many ways, but for me, this photo of the old wagon backdropped by the night sky will probably be the most rewarding image of this particular trip.



*Borrego Badlands


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Passionate About Packrat Poop

posted: January 23rd, 2009 | by:Bert


Nancy Dennis examines packrat midden, contends of which can reveal many stories.

©Bert Gildart: Revolting as it may sound, much of the information about the character of Death Valley has been obtained from packrats and from the feces and urine they have deposited over the millennium.

“You’ll find packrat middens all over the park,” said Terry Baldino, Chief of Interpretation, in response to my question about their location. “But I’ll point you to one you can find quite easily.” (As an aside, Terry helped me with a story I wrote last year about global warming for the magazine produced by the Wilderness Society. As well, he helped with a book Janie and I wrote about Exploring Death Valley. You can, of course, order it from us or from Amazon.)

That’s what we spent much of yesterday doing, but certainly not the entire time since my last posting of several days ago. Since that time, we have taken a short break from Death Valley, making a two night stay in the nearby town of Pahrump. We wanted hookups and access to cable TV so that we might watch the historic inauguration. From Pahrump, we also said our goodbyes to Rich, Emma and Eleanor Luhr who had camped with us for several days at Furnace Creek. Our objectives complete, we returned to Death Valley and joined some other Airstream Trailer friends (Don and Nancy Dennis) whom we meet last summer in Glacier National Park. Don is retired from a dual career with the forest service and as a college professor. Nancy is retired from a career as an administrator with various companies,  and because of their obvious interests in the outdoors, they were an ideal couple with whom to search for packrat middens.


By definition, a midden is a refuse pile that has accumulated over the centuries, and that is what packrats have provided in this valley now known as Death Valley. Thousands of years ago, a pair of packrats found a location that seemed ideal as a home and then began building a nest, using whatever vegetation was available.


Nibblings of packrats suggest the capabilty to avoid thorns.

Not being the most hygienic of animals, they would poop and pee in their nests. And so would their offspring, and the offspring that followed them and all successive generations. Such excretions would calcify around the vegetation used to construct their nest and so preserve it. In that way scientists who came along thousands of years later could look and say, “Ah ha! Here are the needles of a sequoia… a pinion pine.”

In this way they had some fairly conclusive evidence testifying to the nature of the climate many years ago. Hopefully, before leaving here, I’ll be able to visit with one of the biologists Terry said would be available later in the week.


After about an hour’s search up a dry wash, we found our nest, and I was not disappointed in the response of my companions. “Bert, it looks as though we’ve found the mother load!”

In their voices was genuine enthusiasm, making this the very best crew with whom to be hiking!

Our midden was located high on the flanks of the wash at the base of a huge boulder. Because such washes can at times funnel large quantities of flood waters, it would seem these rats had selected well. Other than that I can’t report much other but can say that the midden was large and that it seemed quite varied in construction.

Tangentially, I can also report that the rats seemed immune to the cholla from which a part of this particular nest seemed to have been constructed. We also observed that nearby they’d been nibbling on beavertail cactus, and that packrats have apparently learned how to avoid the thorns. One more thing I can confirm is that the nest was laden with feces and that it had a pungent odor.

With curiosity now peeked, my enthusiasm about these findings remains high, and now I’m anxious to learn what some of these droppings have revealed to park scientists. (Just imagine, some of this poop may be thousands of years old!)

Of course, you’ll want to log in again to discover whether my passion about packrat poop has waxed or whether it has waned. In fact, you may want to look us up down here where we are camped way below sea level. You’re welcome then to join us as we search for yet more middens, so very rich with story-telling feces.


*Eyes of the Canyon


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What’s In A View?

posted: January 19th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Two days ago our crew joined a naturalist-conducted tour of the Furnace Creek Inn, learning about the far reaching benefits of a grand view. The view, of course, had always been a part of what is now Death Valley National Park, but shortly after one of the borax companies built a hotel located not far from Zabriske Point and from Furnace Creek, where we’re now camped, they realized that their grand effort would fail as a business if it could not preserve the incredible view. Imagine, they must have thought, what would happen if someone built a condo between the inn and the Panamint Mountains. Or imagine a clump of stores… or a mall!


Preserved initially as a commercial venture, the grand view from Furnace Creek Inn later inspired a nation to preserve an incomparable landscape.

They contacted Stephen Mather, Director of the National Park Service, and invited him to tour the area. Mather agreed: the area was worthy of National Park designation, but he believed he was the wrong person to push for establishment, for once he had been a spokesman for the borax company. But, still, he had a plan, and that was to invite writers with the WPA (this was the 1920s) to the area, and let them promote it. Well, promote it they did, and by the 1930s had convinced enough of the right political figures to insure designation of this vast expanse of land as Death Valley National Monument.


Soon, the area began attracting celebrities, and one of them was Marlon Brando, who directed and starred in the movie One Eyed Jack. Ironically, it’s a movie we carry with us, and it is certainly appropriate as many of the scenes were shot at Zabriske Point, one of the glorious badlands sections of this park. Brando, in fact, so loved Death Valley that he had arranged to have a portion of his ashes scattered in Death Valley after he died.

Today, the park, with its stunning scenery still serves as a magnet, particularly for those who love nature, and that certainly includes our group, which has now grown. We’ve been joined the past few days not only by the Luhrs, but by Don and Nancy Dennis, and in the past few days, have toured Ubehebe Crater and Scotty’s Castle.


PHOTOS L TO R: Exploring Golden Canyon; exploring Mosaic Canyon; Emma Luhr completing requirements for Junior Ranger Program backdropped by Scotty’s Castle. (Click on each image for larger view.)

Yesterday, we took our adventures together one step further and embarked on a hike, which started about five miles from our campground at Zabriske Point and terminated at the trailhead to Golden Canyon. The advantage of traveling with others is that we could spot vehicles at the beginning and end of the trail, which worked particularly well in our case, because our trail descended about a thousand feet. And being the smart people we all are, we naturally decided to hike down rather than up.


Golden Canyon is indeed remarkable, owing its beginning to the depositions of ancient seas. Because the Golden Canyon area is located along a fault, here, the land began to be uplifted. Subsequently, when the occasional torrents of rain fell, they began to flow, creating numerous alluvial fans we see here throughout Death Valley. But here at Golden Canyon the rains did more: they carved out several canyons and did so with spectacular results.


PHOTOS L TO R: Descending rugged slopes of Golden Canyon; descending marble crevasse in Mosaic Canyon; the raven, a constant companion in Mosaic Canyon. (Click on each image for larger view.)

One of those features is the beautiful Red Cathedral cliffs; another Manly Beacon. The Beacon is appropriately named and juts above the surrounding. Named for one of the original 49ers who helped bring assistance to his stranded group, Manly was a real hero, and deserves to be remembered in this land of grand views. But it also functions in the here and now, inspiring eight-year-old Emma Luhr to become a Junior Ranger in Death Valley.


To do so, she has had to learn to differentiate various tracks, such as those of s raven; she’s had to learn about Scotty’s Castle. And she’s had to learn about the stars, one of the few places yet remaining in the United States in which the stars shine to brilliantly.

All this is just another component of the grand view, which farsighted people worked hard to preserve. Some may have done it more for the sake of the pragmatic than for the soul, but did it they did, and today, we are the beneficiaries. And all that because of a grand view.



*Day’s Best From Zion National Park


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Death Valley Still Cures Cabin Fever

posted: January 15th, 2009 | by:Bert


Several days ago just outside of Salt Lake City we were in the dead of winter, and even the mallards seem to be huddled for warmth

©Bert Gildart: Death Valley is a photographer’s paradise, and that is one of the reasons we have rendezvoused in this largest of all national parks in the Lower 48 with Rich, Eleanor and Emma Luhr. Rich produces Airstream Life Magazine, and not, surprisingly, Rich and I are both drawn to this desert park here for its photographic opportunities. In fact, Janie and I have been drawn here for years, once producing a Falcon Exploring Guide to Death Valley. Over the years, I’ve produced about half a dozen stories for several magazines on this park, my first entitled “Death Valley Cures Cabin Fever.”

The story was a tongue in check piece describing my consternation about a particularly severe Montana winter, and how I sought relieve from it by hopping in my Volkswagen camper (can’t remember, folks, whether or not it was a “Hippie Van”), and driving south. Twenty-four hours later, I reported in Chevy Outdoors, that I was in Death Valley, and from the blessed warmth provided at Stove Pipe Wells, I walked barefooted over the nearby sand dunes. So began the restoration of my soul, and my deliverance that winter from Cabin Fever.

Now, many years later, I’m still finding that Death Valley can work magic, though my accommodations are a bit different. Now I travel with Janie, and we’re in an Airstream Travel Trailer with slideout, and it has all the amenities. The only drawback of being in this immense valley flanked by many ranges of mountains is that we have no cell phone reception. However, we do have access to the Internet courtesy of Death Valley Visitor Center. From our location at Sunset Campground, we’re less than a five-minute bicycle ride to the blessedness of connectivity, and that’s how I’m able to create this post.


It is the austerity of the park that makes this such a joy to photograph and that initially began attracting photographers. Ansel Adams was lured here as well as the Muench family, and they set some pretty high standards. Adams created an entire book of black and white photography on this park, and to a large degree, it was his work that lured me into photography, and that helped me to begin developing a philosophy on photography…


Manley Beacon: A beacon for past immigrants traveling through Death Valley, today this promient landmark lures photographers

Once I met a man here who said he thought Death Valley was the most interesting mass of nothingness he’d ever seen. I considered his thought, but believe that the point of photography is to find organization when others see confusion. And that’s what we started working on yesterday, beginning at Badwater, lowest place in the northern hemisphere.


One of the main attractions in Death Valley is Bad Water, created by the evaporation of the Amargosa River, which starts outside of Death Valley in what can at times be a raging torrent. But all that changes when the river turns north at the southern end of this valley (where the mountain ranges dip) and then begins to flow north into the park, but all the while dropping, dropping. When at last the river reaches Badwater the air is so dry that the river completely evaporates, leaving in its wake the area known as Badwater; and then, just a little further north, an area that is appreciatively called the Devil’s Golf Course.


Zabriske Point still helps cure me of Cabin Fever

Back dropping this scene is Telescope Peak, which soars to an elevation of 11, 049 feet above sea level. Add to that a negative elevation of 282 feet and that is the relief you experience as your eyes rise from Badwater to snow-capped Telescope Peak. Both areas are white, but both areas represent decidedly different types of environments. In one you could expire from frost, the other from desiccation. And some, of course, have.


Zabriske Point is another of those areas with rampant lines of erosion, but these represent erosion at their most eloquent. For whatever reason many are drawn to Zabriske Point and we watched a number of couples as they began hiking down a wash we knew would terminate several miles later near Golden Canyon. They, too, had to have been drawn here by the austerity of the land-and by its enchanting beauty.

We plan to be here for another few days, revisiting this place in which Janie and I have spent so much time that it seems like an old home. We’re fortunate to be joined by friends with whom we can pool knowledge and can help us transform good times into memorable times.

And, yes, I’m still finding that Death Valley can cure cabin fever.


Last Year About this Time we were in Death Valley

*Death Valley


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Monida, Still There, But Just Barely

posted: January 12th, 2009 | by:Bert


Monida Pass, passing last settlement in Montana before dropping into Idaho

©Bert Gildart: Monida, a tiny town that takes its name from the fact that it is on the line between Montana (Mon) and Idaho (Ida), is one we stop at every time we head toward the Southwest from our home in Northwestern Montana. Last year we stopped and this year is no exception.

It’s cold country, and yesterday as we passed through it was 17. Not surprising, it is also high country, measuring 6,820 feet, meaning it’s higher than Glacier National Park’s Logan Pass, which claims 6,646 feet.

Once, years ago, I provided the Parade section of the Great Falls Tribune with a story about the most remote mail route in the Lower 48. If the mail carrier is still around, we didn’t see him. In fact, the town looked deserted, but one man did come out from a cabin to wave a questioning arm that asked if we needed any help. I waved back and he returned to his home.


We also stop to evaluate the degree to which the old barn has deteriorated. Judging from the photos I took here last year, not much has happened.

After Monida, we scurried on, hoping to beat a winter storm that seems to be slowly working its way south. That took us past Salt Lake City to Provo where we’re parked in a snow bank partially plowed by the local KOA manager. No water, no sewage, just a place to park and an electrical hookup.


Blasted by wind, rain, snow and sleet, this Old Barn at Monida diminishes a little each year.

If we’re fortunate we’ll make it to Las Vegas today where we pick up the cut off to Death Valley. I have some work to do there, but mostly we’re there to met Airstream friends-and to get warm.






4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy

Big Sky Country is beautiful

Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

What makes Glacier, Glacier?

Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent

Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

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Window of Opportunity for Extended Airstream Travels

posted: January 8th, 2009 | by:Bert


Jim Andler and Bill Hutchinson ski through fairy land of white.

©Bert Gildart: From all indications, it appears as though the window of opportunity for departing Montana’s Flathead Valley may be on the horizon, and if the weatherman is correct, then we will mostly likely be departing for the Southwest this Saturday.

Our first extended stop will probably be Death Valley.

For awhile, I was having regrets about leaving what was beginning to shape up as being a winter wonderland, but today, just as the weatherman predicted, rain began to fall last night, and now the roads are sloppy with snow and dangerous to travel.

Most likely, however, the rain will enable cars to whip free all accumulated snow, so we’ll be on roads that are clear, and hopefully by Saturday, ice free.

But just look at what the winter we’ve been enjoying these last few weeks.


This past Sunday, Jim Andler, Bill Hutchinson and I made a short drive from our homes and drove toward Jewel Basin, looking for a recently groomed trail near Krause Basin.

Snow had fallen during the night and the trees, all draped in snow, made the setting look like a fairyland. Branches were laden with snow and so were the small berries of mountain ash.

Cross-country skiing is one of the best ways to enjoy such settings, and the trail we skied on coursed over meadow and stream for about six miles. Because the snow was cold and dry we literally zipped along, completing the entire course in about three hours.

We could have completed the trip in a much shorter period of time, but we took over an hour for photography.


Mountain ash and snow

In between our brief outings for skiing, we’ve been loading our Airstream for extended travels that may take us to the East Coast. We’ll be carrying kayaks for some stories I will be writing about Padre Island. And we’ll be attempting to improve our ability to connect our relatively new Hensley Hitch. Several others and I agree that once hitched, towing is a delight; the problem is getting hitched, but representatives tell us it’s just a matter of practice.


In the meantime, we’ll continue to look toward the mountains, where snow rather than rain continues to fall. It’s beautiful up there, but it’s also beautiful in the Southwest, and now… it’s back to some serious packing, before more storms blow in.




*Grumpy Old Men


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Montana Winters – Can You Both Love them AND Hate Them?

posted: January 5th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: The poem just below was sent to me by a fellow Airstreamer who seems to have a profound understanding of our current dilemma, which has been to depart the state as soon as there’s a break in the weather. But for several weeks, there just hasn’t been one, and yesterday, passes into the western part of Montana were all blocked.


Ah, the joys of a Montana winter as experienced during a ski trip through the heart of Glacier National Park.

Knowing this, Tom Palesch (who writes for Airstream Life magazine) passed along this poem, suggesting why people either love Montana winters – or hate them. (He in turn had received the poem from a friend in Shawmut, Montana, though we’re not sure who penned this little ditty.)

Sometimes we fall into the hate category, though generally it all depends on our circumstances, as you’ll see. But first, this ode to a Montana Winter, which describes our situation – precisely. Unfortunately, the poet is unknown.

Ode to a Montana Winter



It’s winter in MONTANA

And the gentle breezes blow

Seventy miles an hour

At twenty-five below

Oh, how I love MONTANA

When the snow’s up to your butt

You take a breath of winter

And your nose gets frozen shut

Yes, the weather here is wonderful

So I’ll guess I’ll hang around

I could never leave MONTANA

‘Cause I’m frozen to the ground

That’s been us these past few weeks, just hanging around – until I began recalling just how many good times I’ve had in the state, in winter, and particularly when I’ve been x-country skiing. And it started me to thinking – really thinking about some of the experience I’ve enjoyed.


One thing I’ve always appreciated is the ways in which wildlife seems to adapt. Take, for example, the white-tailed ptarmigan, a “Bird of the Snow,” as I once wrote in the magazine Highlights for Children. In winter this member of the grouse family turns completely white. What’s more it literally hunkers down in the snow, using the insulating qualities of snow for added warmth.


White-tailed ptarmigan is a bird of the snow, and one that has completely adapted to its rigors.

So deeply do they bury themselves and so completely camouflaged are they, that once while skiing in Glacier National Park, a group of about 12 held tight until I was almost upon them. Then, with a flurry of wings they startled me as they burst into the air.


Yet another time, I recall that Janie and I, anxious to see a different part of the state, had braved the winter roads and driven about 120 miles from our home near Bigfork to the trailhead of Garnet Ghost town, just south of Missoula.

Prior to departing, we’d made reservation for one of the two rental cabins and, following a six-mile ski, had a roaring fire in the wood stove. Then we explored one of the state’s best preserved ghost towns, so easily accessed in winter.


Skiing Montana's Garnet Ghost town, one of the state's premier winter experiences.

For three days, we skied the surrounding mountains and enjoyed one of the state’s most unique skiing opportunities, not concerned at all that we were nearly “frozen to the ground.”


Over the years, other trips have taken me through the heart of Glacier, and it is then, that I’ve enjoyed some of the world’s best and most remote skiing. It’s a world of powder snow, one whose isolation from humanity is absolute. That’s a condition certainly worthy of celebration, but right now we have obligations in the Southwest and this year have been looking forward to the area’s warmth .


Glacier Ski Trip: And the gentle breezes blow at "70-miles-per hour when it's 25-below." Now who could ask for more?

Which now reminds me of one of my mom’s favorite sayings, as it kinda’ applies to our current situation:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I Cannot change…

Courage to change the things I can

And Wisdom to know the difference…

Since there’s not a darn thing I can do about the weather, I guess what I need to do is acquire the wisdom to accept it. (Right now as I give this blog one last look-over before posting it’s 22 and snowing hard, adding now to the three feet of snow already on the level.)

And, so, we’ll bide our time, meaning that you can look forward to another posting or two about x-country skiing, which serves to keep me sane even during the very, very worst — or the very, very best! — of what this state can provide.

Though we are waiting for a window of opportunity to depart, still, I think Montana winters can offer the very, very best of what this state should really be all about!



Could it be “Tiny?”


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My Year’s Favorite Photos

posted: January 1st, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: With but one exception, all photographs shown here were taken these last 12 months. The exception is the grizzly bear, taken 13 months ago, just outside of Yellowstone National Park. All photos were taken for publication in various magazines, and will soon be running. My outlets range from the various RV magazines to magazines with a hardcore conservation theme.


In order for visitors to safely explore certain parts of Organ Pipe National Monument, you must be accompanied by armed rangers.

For a number of reasons, the large picture shown here is one of my favorites of the year. It was taken in Organ Pipe National Monument about 50 yards from the Mexican border at a place called Quitobaquito, which means beautiful spring. Since the tragic murder of Chris Eggle back in 2001, the area has been closed, but the superintendent (whom I interviewed for a story) said he was determined visitors would have the opportunity to visit the area, and last spring, he devised a way.

To make our excursions safe, the park required that we be accompanied by armed guards, adding a bit of intrigue to our hike. Obviously, the conditions say much about a crisis in our country that will hopefully find a satisfactory resolution. Park managers asked that I obscure the ranger’s faces, so I complied using a series of X’s.


I choose the other photos for various reasons. Wildlife is one of the subjects on which I concentrate, and the image of the elk bugling – and charging – represents an aggressive form of behavior that is hard to capture.


Over the years I’ve worked hard trying to find desert bighorn sheep in the wild, and finally, in Anza Borrego (Anza for the Spanish explorer and Borrego for “sheep”) this past February, we found a small group of males while hiking the Palm Canyon trail.


Other photos show a sunrise in Death Valley; Joe Whiting, a man who interprets the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota; the seed heads of Salsify backlite with a strobe that Janie positioned; a grizzly bear in Yellowstone; and, finally, sunset at Knife River National Monument in South Dakota. To see a larger version of the images simply click on the image.

Snow is our immediate forecast, but the weatherman has promised us a break within the week. When that happens, we’ll be heading down the drive. Several days thereafter, with any luck at all, we should find ourselves in the Southwest.




Last Year We Were Skiing The Winter Woods



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