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 December, 2009

Hellhole Canyon — Or, What’s In A Name?

posted: December 31st, 2009 | by:Bert

Hike In Hellhole Canyon

Hellhole Canyon trail leads to a palm oasis

©Bert Gildart: The last few days have seen the arrival of a number of our Airstream friends from various parts of the country. The last couple to show up were Don and Nancy of Vermont, who arrived late yesterday afternoon in a howling wind storm. Just prior to their arrival were Bill and Larry of San Diego; Alex and Charon, who pretty much full time in their 1966 Airstream; and finally, Rich, Eleanor and Emma. You’ve heard me speak often of Rich Luhr, who publishes Airstream Life Magazine.

All of us have descended on Anza Borrego Desert State Park for the obvious reason that it is warm, and because there are so many activities in which to engage in the winter.

And, so, it was only logical that those of us who could spare the time would strike out for a long hike along one of the park’s more spectacular trails, in this case Hellhole Canyon.

Mountain lions had been reported but that didn’t motivate us, rather it was the notion of seeing palm trees and perhaps even the blossoming of some of the desert’s very first flowers.  The hike didn’t disappoint.


Then, too, we wanted to recall a bit about this canyon, which has an interesting history, both from the human perspective and perhaps, too, from the perspective of etymology.

As we all know, words evolve, and that is perhaps the reason this canyon goes by the name Hellhole, rather than as two words. Originally, you imagine some cowboy saying, “That canyon is sure one ‘hell’ of a ‘hole.’”

That could be what happened here. Years ago ranchers used the canyon as a reprieve from roaring winds that whipped off the surrounding mountains. The mountains also provided a respite from the heat and all went well until they had to retrieve their cattle from amidst the cholla, ocotillo, fishhook cactus, and beavertail cactus. No doubt, their impression deteriorated–and can’t you just hear an hear an old cowboy saying, “Man, that hole is sure hell on me and my hoss’.”


With time someone would recall again the potential conditions and say, “Got to go to Hell-hole today, the cattle are still there.” Eventually, the hyphen was dropped until the concept became a single thought as in, “Drive the cattle into Hellhole for the spring. We’ll hope they stay in that God-forsaken canyon and don’t wander down into Mexico.”


Palm Oasis means water, even if just a trickle. That's Charon on the far right.


Last night we appreciated a bit of what they were saying as winds gusted up to 40 miles per hour.  Our hike, however, was ideal, leaving me an image of a kinder and much more gentle canyon. Along the way we saw several of the huge-eared desert hares as well as the sign of coyotes, and probably a bobcat.

And then there was the oasis of palms and maidenhair fern, with the stream that flowed quietly through them, and we all concluded that on a hot summer day, this could be anything but a hellhole.


As well, we found several ocotillo bushes and one was producing flowers that were in full bloom. Ocotillo is an interesting species, one that produces leaves only following rain. If subsequent rains don’t follow the first, the leaves curl and become dormant. However, if more rains follow, the plant produces flowers, such as the ones we stopped to admire yesterday.


Two strobe lights work best for closeup details of flowers. Ocotillo blossoms suggest a recent rain storm.


To dramatize the flowers I needed two strobes, which I always carry. I then set the  camera to manual mode, enabling me to overpower the light from the sun. To do that I set the shutter speed to 250th of a second and the aperture to f-22 or less.  Look through the view finder of your camera and you’ll see the dial (at least on the Nikon D300) shows an under exposure of about three stops. Without the strobes your picture would be mighty black, but the strobes are set correctly, and they illuminate the subject. However, you’ll need an additional set of hands to hold one of the strobes, which Bill volunteered to provide. The results from this technique never fall to impress me.



*Hey, It’s a Gator




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More on Lightroom2

posted: December 28th, 2009 | by:Bert


Before modification with Lightroom2

©Bert Gildart: Have been reading Scott Kelby’s book on Lightroom2 and then trying to put into practice what I’ve been reading. The most dramatic example of what I can do at this stage of understanding is to post another image of Sean Vasquez, a Native American who may be on the verge of an acting career.

Regardless, as you can see from my posts of several weeks ago, Sean is extremely helpful when it comes to modeling. However, I wasn’t at all satisfied with the rendition shown to the left, so Lightroom to the rescue.

In order to make this photo with the washed out frame stand out I first had to darken the frame, difficult to do (at least for me) in PhotoShop, but not in Lightroom. First I used the exposure slider and reduced exposure by a factor of about 1. Then, using the Adjustment Brush, I selectively darkened just the window frame. That took care of that problem.

Because I hoped to impart an artistic quality to the image, I followed Kelby’s instructions and upped the Recovery, Fill, Contrast, Clarity and Vibrance sliders as far as they would go.

This tends to create a supersaturated look, so, again, in accordance to Kelby, I then dragged the Saturate slider all the way to the left thereby desaturating the image, but in a different way. The intention was to impart  a gritty, artistic look, and to evaluate my efforts you’ll have to scroll down.


Rich Charpentier, one of my friends who has been studying Kelby’s books for about a year, has mastered the elements of Lightroom and HDR (High Density Resolution). On his blog Rich posts thoughts on situations he’s encountered that might help those interesting in learning more about these two techniques. I think Rich is one of the country’s emerging photographers and will soon be recognized as one of the very best.


Results after using a variety of techniques suggested in Scott Kelby's book on Lightroom2.

Rich is also a good business man (even in a down economy) and co-owns a print gallery in Prescott. Much of his best work hangs on the gallery’s walls, but as well, he also posts a blog with photographs. You can see some of his recent work by logging onto his website, the link I just provided above. Scroll down here and you can also see an image of Rich, surrounded by some of his work.


We’re still camped at Peg Leg in Anza Borrego State Park, soaking up the sunshine. Camping here is free, but does require some maintenance work and a routine. Considering the savings of $30 to $45 each night — depending on where we might camp commercially — we don’t mind at all. Can’t believe it, but we’ve been here almost two weeks, meaning a savings of over $400.


Rich Charpentier in his Prescott Gallery and commercial print shop surrounded by a few of his superb prints.



Each morning we rise, remove the solar panel from the back of the pickup, set it up so it faces the sun, and then wait for the miracle to happen. Within a few minutes we watch the gauge (which indicates that the use of heat and lights has dropped the charge of our batteries to about 65 percent) rise from its overnight low. The gauge does so as Solar Panel 1 begins to absorb amp hours of energy. Then as the sun rises even more and its rays begin to strike Solar Panes 2 and 3, both permanently mounted on top of our Airstream, yet more amp hours are added. By 9 a.m. we’re back to 100 percent battery charge, even though I may be using my inverter to power my laptop.

Probably we’ve also turned up the heat as overnight lows in the desert dip to the upper 30s, so our solar panels really do a job. Of course we also have to haul water occasionally, which is free from the park, and dump our grey and black water. We pay a fee of about $5 to dump though we only have to do so once every three weeks.

If the old gold miner Peg Leg could see us he’d probably exclaim, “Wow.” As it is, we say it often enough – and loud enough so that we suspect he still hears us, despite the fact he passed away back in 1866.




*Pero, The Luckiest Mouse Alive




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Merry Christmas From the Road

posted: December 24th, 2009 | by:Bert


Many of our friends have experienced great difficulties this past year, suggesting that we must make each new day count for something, and enjoy it to the fullest. Those to whom I’m referring know who they are, and Janie and I wish them only the very best.


Christmas as seen from the Courthouse in Prescott, Arizona


Fortunately, all the children in our extended family seem to be doing well, and are toughing out these difficult economic times. Finding or sustaining jobs has at times been challenging, and one of our children spent months in a remote Alaskan settlement making excellent wages as a lead carpenter. Another has taken on a job as bus drivers while the others have continued on in such fields as teaching, counseling, Real Estate sales or in the various trades. Janie and I are equally proud of them all and hope their luck continues and then flourishes.

Much of our year has been spent on the road and it began with a departure on a snowy winter day from our home near Bigfork, Montana, then a series of prolonged stops, the first of which was Death Valley. Other prolonged camps included ones in Padre Island, and Chiricahua.

Christmas Tree

A harmony of colors and implied suggestion of Peace and Good Will

From the Southwest we towed our Airstream to the Natchez Trace and spent time with my good friend Ed Anderson and his delightful family — where we cooked up a Plumb Southern cuisine. From the Natchez Trace we made a long drive to the Northeast and visited Janie’s children and grandchildren. Certainly, that was a most powerful highlight for us both. We visited with my sister, Nancy, and my brother-in-law, Forrest. They’ve just been blessed with a grandchildren. Good job Joel and Becca!

We then scurried back home in May and spent several months preparing for our trip to Alaska, where I had a number of assignments, one to cover the World Eskimo Indian Olympics. While there we also  managed to see old friends, mostly those who live in far flung Native villages. We particularly enjoyed seeing Trimble Gilbert and Kenneth and Caroline Frank, all of Arctic Village. We enjoyed seeing Ernie Peter of Old Crow and remember the many kindnesses all showed us when we worked in their various villages.

Whie in Fairbanks, we enjoyed a boat trip with Karen of the Fairbanks Department of Tourism and her husband Willie, and then a trip over the Top of the World Highway with a memorable stop  in Chicken, Alaska. Top of the World concludes in the historic mining town of Dawson City, where we learned more about one of my heros, Robert Service, who wrote Cremation of Sam Sam McGee. From Dawson we drove to Skagway, learned about powers of Yukon Jack with Adam and Sue. We met Buckwheat and enjoyed his professional renditions of Robert Service poetry.

And now we’re back at Peg Leg, having  just recently spent time with photographer friend Rich Charpentier  in Prescott, Arizona, which is where I photographed the Court House building, all decorated with brilliantly colored lights. What was particularly moving about this historic old town is that a lavishly Christmas Tree stood all decked out in garlands of color — and the combination of the decorated tree and the Courthouse  reminded us we are all part of the family of man and that most in this family prefer to interact with cheer and feelings of well being toward one another.

We hope this year has been a good one for you and would like to take this small space to wish all a very Merry Christmas.

Bert and Janie Gildart




*Merry Christmas From Tampa, Florida


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Janie’s Lead Photo and Borrego Rainbows

posted: December 22nd, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: My wife has the lead photo in the current issue of MotorHome Magazine, a publication produced by the Affinity Group. The image reminds the two of us what a wonderful time we had about 10 months ago in Padre Island, located in south Texas.


Kakaying Pacifc waters of Padre Island, lead photo in MotorHome by Jane Gildart


In the winter, the park host hundreds of species of wintering birds, making it an ideal spot to vacation for those who enjoy watching birds. It is also, as Janie’s photo suggests, an ideal place to test – or to develop your skills as kayakers. The waters are warm, so if you dump, there’s little damage to anything other than your pride.

At the moment, as our last blog informs, we’re camped at Peg Leg, an area that offers free camping in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. We’re surrounded on three sides by mountains and this morning, a storm blowing in from the Pacific produced a series of rainbows. Janie peered out the window and pointed it out. Since I was up and dressed I was the one who grabbed a camera and ran out, setting up just as the rainbow appeared to be at its most intense.


Rainbow early this morning as seen from just outside our Airstream, Anza Borrego Desert State Park


Of course rainbows, though beautiful, are often harbingers of foul weather, and that is what it appears we’re about to get.

A good day to remain inside our Airstream and work on various indoor projects.



*Family Fun In Glacier’s Winter Wonderland



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Fighting Sloth and Indolence At Anza Borrego Desert State Park

posted: December 21st, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Unless you have high Christian vales that look askance at sloth and indolence I believe many might appreciate our current situation. At the moment we are camped (free) in our Airstream in the BLM section of California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park, using our solar panels to absorb all that energy from the sun that so characterizes the desert. We’re at the base of a mountain, which this image doesn’t show.


Free camping at Peg Leg in Anza Borrego State Park. All you need are a few solar panels and access to water, which the park provides. Our Airstream is second from the very rear on the left.


On our portable outdoor cooker we are preparing lots of fatty foods, immersing our feet in the warm sands — extracting them mostly to rise and replenish my gin and tonic — Janie’s glass of wine. Otherwise we rise only when guilt sets in and then we try and write a Christmas card, keep up with various assigned magazine stories — or write my travel blogs. Temperatures in the day are in the mid 70s.

Aside from the indolence, which is extremely hard to overcome, we’re actually camped in Peg Leg and really trying to accomplish great things. I need about a month, maybe six weeks to catch up. At least that’s the goal. But Peg Leg is a delightful place to simply hang out, and the surrounding country provides lots of activities, when you can muster up the energy. Before long, I’m sure the prospective thrill of seeing incredible sights will spur us on, for in previous years, we’ve so enjoyed  the activities that characterize Anza Borrego Desert State Park.


Anza Borrego is one of the nation’s largest of all state parks, known for its populations of desert bighorn, incredible geology, its Native American artifacts, and for Marshall and Tanya South, a couple who attempted to live off the land in this park while struggling to turn out magazine stories and books.

Though successful as artists, the couple could not make their Spartan life style work and, ultimately, it ended in failure, with the couple separating after a 15 year attempt. But it could not have all been bad, as their three children emerged to create conventional lifestyles for themselves that were, by most accounts, very successful.

After we settle in a bit, and after our energy levels return, I expect we will strike out for the many areas in this beautiful park that we have not yet explored. Until then, we are content to continue our lazy lives, waiting for a sign that it is time to rise. Right now, the gin and tonic is helping me bridge that chasm.

Nature Notes: Several weeks ago I photographed Fajada Butte in Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The butte is famous for its solstice markers, which were recognized as such in 1982.

Fajada Butte

Known for its solstice markers, Fajada Butte in Chaco Culture Historic Park acquires a spiritual appearance at night, which is appropriate -- as it served as a paragon of astronomical indicators. Night photo taken at BELOW ZERO F temperatures, so I didn't linger for the much preferred longer time exposure.


Though visitation to the markers was subsequently restricted, today high-powered spotting scopes, permanently positioned, help visitors appreciate the marker’s presence. So, too, do night-time viewing activities, which as a photograph, tends to impart spiritual qualities to the massive edifice.



*Christmas On The Road


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Photographers Photographing Photographers

posted: December 15th, 2009 | by:Bert

We photographers, models and photo assistants gathered in Vulture Ghost Town, but spent much of our time photographing one another.

©Bert Gildart:  Sadly Janie and I have just departed the Prescott area  –  and the friends we’ve made through another friend we met a number of years ago associated with our love of Airstream travel and photography.

Rich Charpentier was the catalyst that brought us together and he did so at a most interesting place, Vulture Ghost Town. Our group included Rich, Robert, Igor, Chris, Jen, Sean, and Michael.

Rich and Robert are the photographers whose work I’ve been describing in recent posts, while the others formed a part of Robert’s crew. Igor is from Russia, had a wonderful sense of humor and also functioned as a part of Robert’s lighting crew.


Sean and Jen served as models extraordinaire. Michael and Chris were two of Robert’s children and also served as models. You can see them all on Robert’s web site. Click and then go to “A Bit Of Everything.” That’s us!

As well, you can also see images of both Janie and me on Robert’s site which are highly stylized. You can  see images of me (but more significantly of our visit to Vulture Ghost Town) on Rich’s site. His work from the area forms the basis for an informative discussions on photo techniques, specifically, his use of Topaz. It’s well worth your time logging onto his blog.

Both Robert and Rich are way ahead of me when it comes to image manipulation, but I’ve picked up a little from our four night stay in Prescott at Point of Rocks RV Park where Rich has been living now for the past two years.

As well, I’ve been reading Scott Kelby’s book, which is the Bible when it comes to digital photography. He’s produced a number of books, and the one I’m currently glued to is his one on Lightroom2.

Some of these images I’ve manipulated, others I have not. The two images or Sean, the Native American, dramatize how an image can be greatly improved using Lightroom2.

Photographer Robert Jamason who is now creating a body of highly stylized work. I’ve posted a link to his website and it is well worth visiting.



The image of Robert just above shows how a single light can be positioned well off camera and used to dramatize the characteristics of a man who is a great photographer. The technique is one I’ve used often and Nikon’s system of wireless lighting makes the technique relatively easy.


SeanOriginalSean (1 of 1)-2

Two Images of Sean Vasquez  illustrating the degree to which Photoshop and Lightroom can transform a good image into a much, much better one.



Finally, the image of the ghost town (shown first, above) has also been manipulated using Lightroom2. Because the boards in the foreground were so light I darkened them  using a technique I just learned from Lightroom2. Though I could also use the burn tool in Photoshop it doesn’t’ work anywhere near as well as do tools from Lightroom.

I’m writing this blog from Quartzite, Arizona, but will be posting more about our travels from Chaco and from our stay with Rich in Prescott when we settle in at Anza Borrego. We expect to be there for almost a month. This huge California state park is one of our favorites and while there I have a number of assignment.


IMG_8611 (1)

Highly stylized image of me taken by Robert Jamason, later converted using PhotoShop to impart a gritty and perhaps even surrealistic appearance.


As well, I’ll be producing a cover for a travel magazine, so though it may sound like a vacation, we’ll be very busy. I’m also hoping to devote time to learning more about creating the stylized work such as that produced by Robert and Rich. Though I’m certainly  not abandoning conventional photography, I believe these relatively new programs provide tools that can  be used to better convey the feeling of a place.




Kayaking Old Tampa Bay



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Transforming Photography Into Art

posted: December 11th, 2009 | by:Bert


Image before modification with Lightroom2

©Bert Gildart: With the advent of digital photography, Photo Shop and now Lightroom, it is possible to transform good photography into Photo Art. Obviously I think I am a good photographer, but recently I have been inspired by the work of friends and acquaintances who seem to be on the verge of mastering techniques that elevate photography from a documentary expression to something that is revolutionary.

To put it mildly, I’m in awe of this new Photo Art, particularly after Rich Charpentier took time to help me with work on several of my images, one of which I’m showing here.

Most who read my blog know I’ve been a student (or admirer) of the great photographers, such as Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter. They also know I have no compunctions against experimentation and that I have published both here and in magazines examples that have resulted from these experimentations. (Eagle, Grave yard Walk) Now, it seems as though a new world has opened and I want to master what I can.

I’ve long been aware of the potentials of some of these programs, but really got an introduction several months ago when Todd Campbell and Jack Floegel of Boise Idaho provided me with first-hand introduction to Lightroom2. Both Todd and I had driven our RVs to the Many Glacier Valley of Glacier National Park. During the evening, we’d sit inside one of our two campers and attempt to improve images we’d shot that day.

I used PhotoShop while Todd and Jack used a combination of the two — and I was blown away by their images. Jack and Todd, however, were appreciative of the fact that I had shown them an aspect of Glacier (grizzly bears) they’d never seen before and in addition to personalized help expressed their gratitude in others ways. Todd has been a constant source of support in my efforts to learn new techniques and Jack sent me a copy of Scott Kilby’s expensive book on Lightroom. I hope I can do more for them sometime.

But it wasn’t until last night here in Prescott, Arizona, that I’ve actually waded into Lightroom and that was because Rich Charpentier sat down with me and walked me through some photo enhancement techniques, using Lightroom. Rich has been at it now for over a year. So, too, have Jack and Todd.


We began with what I believe was a good image, one I took this summer of Clyde Brown in the opening ceremonies of the World Eskimo Indian Olympics in Fairbanks, which I covered for several publications. Rich showed me how to selectively darken the background, thereby drawing more attention to the dancer, rather than sharing it with those in the background. We then enhanced the color and slightly softened Clyde’s face. I think the results are phenomenal.

Clyde Brown

Results from using Lightroom2

Yet another person here in Prescott who has mastered the various techniques associated with PhotoShop and Lightroom is Robert Jamason. Rich knows Jamason and is displaying some of the man’s work in his art gallery. If anyone wants to view photo art, check out Jamason’s website and that of Rich Charpentier.

Clyde Brown

Black and white conversion quickly made with Lightroom

But be forewarned,  some of Jamason’s work is for a mature audience. Rich’s work is more traditional but shows the ways in which a good photograph can, in fact, be transformed into a work that is highly stylized. Tomorrow I hope to meet Jamason.

Regarding my work shown here, I believe it shows the ways in which PhotoShop and Lightroom2 can transform a good photograph into photo art. But with the quick transformation to black and white, it also shows a way in which I might be able to create a book I’ve long wanted to create, but couldn’t because publishers said the cost of a color book would be prohibitive. Now we’ll see what happens.




*Tampa, Florida, By Jane Gildart



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Nicest People in the World — And Do Porcupines Hibernate?

posted: December 8th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Here in Grants, New Mexico, we’re discovering that at Blue Spruce Campground we’re meeting the salt of the earth, and learning that, as usual, virtually all are the nicest people in the world.  (Also read: Farmer’s Advice) In this case Janie met a “drifting rodeo cowboy,” and later related the story to me of her most  “intimate relationship,” which developed immediately.


NATURE NOTES: Scientist say porcupines don't hibernate, but you couldn't prove it by me. Tapping on the tree's trunk, this guy (which I photographed last week) didn't even lift his head.

Janie was washing clothes in the campground’s laundry when she overhead the conversation between the owner and the cowboy. The cowboy, whose name we later learned was James, was asking about campground rates, saying he was from Tennessee but would be returning in several months for an extended tour at the hospital and would be driving an RV.

“I’ve been doing a lot of stitching,” said the cowboy, to which the owner responded after sizing him up, “Oh, you mean on clothing?”

“No, responded,” Cowboy James. “In the ER.”

That’s when Janie piped in. “Are you a doctor?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “I’m a nurse… See,” he laughed, “I’ve got my knife right here.” He then asked why she wanted to know?

Janie then  told him about some recent surgery on her arm and how she needed to have the stitches removed. “You could do it yourself,” he said, and when Janie said “No way,” he said, “Well, I could do it.”

Next thing I knew Janie opened the door to our Airstream and introduced me to Cowboy James, who was attired in a bandanna, tall black hat, blue jeans, denim shirt, and down-at-the-heel boots.

“He’s going to take my stitches out,” exclaimed Janie. The cowboy then asked Janie if she had any rubbing alcohol, which we didn’t, so he said, “Mouth wash will work just fine.” Then he set out to work with a pair of  scissors from our kitchen drawer, informing Janie that if she fainted he’d give mouth to mouth resuscitation, but would first  have to take out his false teeth (lost in a rodeo) and his chaw of snuff.

“Can’t do that,” he said.

“Oh my god, “ said Janie, “I won’t faint.”

Cowboy James stayed around after removing the stitches and as our visit with him progressed we learned he tuned into some of the very same sources of entertainment that we did. He loved Baxter Black, whose humorous commentaries about western life can be heard each Saturday morning on Public Radio. James said he’d like to be Baxter Black. We exchanged cards and told him we hoped we’d see him again.

As I say, we meet the nicest people in trailer parks and my only regret is that I didn’t take a photo of him “at work.” With his long handle-bar mustache, Stetson hat and Tony Lama Boots he made quite a figure.  Most importantly,  he kept the residuals of snooce in his mouth the entire time he was in our Airstream.




*Snowy Owls are Ghost of the North

*Plus — Global Warming and an animal that does hibernate, the marmot


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Remembering Pearl Harbor

posted: December 7th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Sixty-eight years ago to the day, I was at Pearl Harbor and though I was only a year old and obviously have no memory of the events that unfolded that horrible day in Hawaii, I have heard the story from my parents who certainly do remember the horrors. It was a Sunday, and my dad and mom had placed me outside in a baby carriage, when they heard what sounded like thunder. It was, of course, the Japanese, and they were attacking America, “A day of infamy,” as President Franklin Roosevelt would soon say. At the time my dad was a captain, four years out of West Point, and after securing my mom and me, he quickly reported to his post at Schofield Barracks.

The rest of what happened that day is recalled by many, but here is a very personalized account told by one of my mother’s friends, Mrs. Rosalie Folda. If she is still alive, she is probably 95 and I have been unable to contact her. Because she sent her write-up of that horrible day to friends I believe she intended for it to be shared, and with that hope in mind, have extracted paragraphs from her wonderful narration. It is very similar to the stories my parents — and all their friends — have shared with us over the many years since that day exactly 68 years ago.



… About 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, we were awakened by sounds of low-flying airplanes. Jerry [that was her husband, Capt. Folda] and I assumed that there must be an air force exercise in progress at nearby Wheeler Field. As Jerry walked down the hall toward the rear of our house, he heard a plane flying so low that he stepped to the door of the patio to look. At the moment he could grasp that our house was being strafed by enemy aircraft, bullets began ricocheting off the flagstones of the patio floor. The island was under attack!

Jerry dressed quickly in combat gear and prepared to leave for his headquarters. I still recall that before he left, he asked me to kneel in prayer with him to ask God for our safety…

…Some women [my mother with me] drove into the fields surrounding Schofield Barracks and sought refuge among the high sugar cane plants…

The hours passed quietly, but we all felt restless and tense. Late in the evening six buses arrived in convoy and we were boarded. Was another attack at hand? Where were we going? The drivers smashed the headlights of the buses’ and as midnight approached we started out in pitch darkness. We rode a short distance when suddenly our bus swerved off the road and into a ditch. A soldier ordered us to get on the floor of the bus and to protect our small children.

“Out of the blackness a horrid scene lit up the night… The harbor was grimly illuminated by flames, and great columns of smoke from burning ships choked the sky… Soon we were to know that over 1,100 men on the Battleship Arizona alone had gone to their death that morning….

We lived quietly sharing a house with a close friend and her baby… Truly we were at war. My husband had become a combat soldier… he belonged to his country now, not his family…

The women and children lived in blackout conditions… food rationing and guard escort everywhere… Finally, on February 28, 1942 we boarded the Honolulu Clipper … for San Francisco…

[My mom and I remained for a year more in Pearl Harbor.]

My Jerry returned home to Maryland three and one-half years later… He carried grave scars of the spirit from years of war that the ensuing years of peace never really healed.”


Note: The experiences of my mom and dad were similar to those of the Foldas, except my mom and I remained in Hawaii for yet another year, my mom taking a job as a secretary. Later, the Foldas and my family were stationed at many of the same posts. My dad served 30 years and retired as a general. Sadly he died five years ago, and I hope that the service he provided throughout his distinguished career is not forgotten. And, so, too, I hope that the service provided by today’s men and woman in uniform remains appreciated.


*Valley Forge

*Memorial Day


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Though Brutally Cold, The “Chaco Phenomena” Still Fascinated Us

posted: December 6th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Cold! That’s what much of this past week has been about, though we have nevertheless hiked through one of the nation’s best preserved series of ancient ruins, which are located at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.


Various mansonery styles at Pueblo Bonito


Almost one week ago now to the day, we pulled our Airstream along a road that might best be described as one containing about 20 miles of continuous speed bumps. Some drivers departing Chaco choose to go “hell bent for leather,” but we value our tag-along-domicile, so put our Dodge in four-wheel-drive low, selected first gear and then crept the entire distance, taking almost two hours to navigate the road. It was worth the effort!

When we arrived our good friends, Sue and Eric Hansen, had already set up their camp. It was almost dark, but a full moon was rising, and it was illuminating our campground and an ancient pueblo, which formed part of our camping  atmosphere.  Soon a coyote began to howl. Certainly, this is a remote setting, and for the many people who’ve been trying to reach us, there is no communication here: no cell phone and no internet. Adding to the sense of remoteness has been the intense cold, which several days ago dipped to ten degrees below zero! Though the campground can accommodate dozens, we saw only one other couple – and they were tent campers!  But like us, we later learned, they, too, were anxious to explore this incredible park – and learn all they could despite the cold.


At Chaco Culture National Historical Park, located south of Farmington, New Mexico, North America’s most spectacular grouping of ruins rise from the landscape. From the many visits Janie and I have made here previously, we know that these incredible ruins have come to be known as the Chaco phenomena. Here at Chaco, a remarkable culture reached its zenith. But it didn’t happen overnight. Like other Hisatsinom (the term that has replaced the word Anasazi), Chacoans began their immense journey across the Four Corners living first in caves. With time, they learned they could shape the abundant stone and rock to their needs.


Click on above to see enlarged version and for extended captions

Initially, their structures were rudimentary. But beginning about 850 AD, these primordial people began to transform their moderate-sized structures into grand houses. Over the next 250 years, these ancients built dozens of great houses in and around Chaco Canyon. Some were so extraordinary that when the Spanish first saw them in the 1500’s, they endowed them with appellations such as Casa Grande and Pueblo Bonito—that “most elaborate of all ruins.”


Possibly the best way to appreciate the sophistication of the Chacoan culture is to hike one of the park’s many trails. A many-storied trek departs from the parking lot near Kin Kletso ruin, and that is what Janie, Sue, Eric and I did. Among other things, the trail passes along an ancient road honed by Chacoans. Along the way the trail overlooks the Jackson Staircase, named for the famous photographer who documented the steps in the late 1800’s.

Once the steps provided Chacoans with access from the valley floor to the bench land overhead. Some of these roads were 30-feet wide and they led to many outliers spaced about a day’s walk apart. Incredibly, sections of these roads still exist, and their edges remain lined with rocks that Chacoans piled here 800 years ago—still telling their story!


The trail also leads to an overlook that peers down onto Pueblo Bonito, meaning “house beautiful.” About 1200 A.D. Pueblo Bonito was the largest and grandest of them all, rising four or five stories and was honeycombed with more than 650 rooms and approximately 35 kivas.

What a sight it must have been to watch the day-to-day activities of the ancients applying their considerable masonry skills to the growing walls and family rooms. Each household, we’re told, consisted of a family of five to ten people, including children, parents and grandparents. Typically, room features incorporated a shallow fire pit, stone-lined hearths, pot rests, mealing bins, wall niches and elevated vents.

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Janie descending from bench land and down onto canyon floor

Still, the most impressive feature of Pueblo Bonito remains the great kiva—a huge circular depression sunk in the ground and fortified by hand-hewn bricks.  As the sun descended and the oblique light intensified, glorifying the kiva, it was impossible not to appreciate Hisatsinom spirituality.


Why, then, did the ancients leave?

There are many theories, and one suggests the resources had been overused. Yet another theory suggests that there was evidence of eliticism, for some rooms within these ruins preserve only the remains of great chiefs (for lack of a better term), and some of the rocks suggest they secured this eternal rest forcefully. Perhaps with time we’ll learn more. Still, I like this theory as there is relevancy to today’s society, which I think is deteriorating. Perhaps their society had produced too many Bernie Madoffs and too many Kenneth Lays.

Again, this is a theory, but then history does tend to repeat itself. Regardless, for some reason, the culture began to decline.  And so, about 1300 A.D. Chacoans drifted toward Mesa Verde, where another Hisatsinom culture had evolved. But the migration of Chacoans there was followed by a period of severe and wide-spread drought, and so the Hisatsinom culture as a whole began to erode. Once again, The People wandered, returning to their beginnings as a cave-dwelling people. Yet others may have been absorbed by groups now calling themselves the Hopi,  Navajo and the Pueblo dwellers. With time, we may know more, for archaeologists are developing new investigative techniques.

In fact, interpreters may already know more, but because the cold has persisted we had to leave. Night before, the continuous cold diminished the capacity of our batteries, and we had run out of gas for our generator, never anticipating we’d have to use it so much. Our batteries were in fact so depleted that at three in the morning, Janie and I woke up learning that it was below zero and that we had no heat. That night some water in our lines froze and we could not even use the electric trailer jack to raise the tongue onto the truck.


We declared an emergency and one park ranger (previously another ranger denied our request) very graciously gave us a gallon of gas to run our generator. I left a $5.00 donation, returned to the campground and started the generator, which powered up our system and enabled us to thaw everything out and then hook up. Apparently we caught things soon enough as there does not appear to be any damage.

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Click on Above to see enlarged version and to read extended caption

Soon we were on our way and are now camped in a commercial establishment in Grants/Cibola, New Mexico.  We have electricity and are toasty warm. We intend to remain here for several days and catch up, meaning I’ll be writing a few more stories about Chaco – and some other things we learned. We’ve also sold lots of photographs mailed from home to magazines prior to departing so I must also send out invoices.




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