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 July, 2010

Cuyahoga National Park – Up From the Ashes

posted: July 29th, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: On June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire sparking an environmental movement that continues to this day. Though this horribly polluted river had caught fire many times in previous years, because so many other national environmental problems existed in the late ‘60s, it was this particular disaster that sparked creation of Earth Day and the Clean Water Act.  Today, among some, the word “environment” foments anger in ways that almost defies common sense, and it seems we should recall that the desire for quality living once brought many together.

Certainly some of the beneficiaries of the solutions to problems of the ’60s were those people living south of Cleveland and north of Akron, for it also generated a local movement. Suddenly residents wanted to clean up the Cuyahoga River, not realizing that they might be creating something magnificent that they had not initially envisioned. What many forget today, is that in those days almost everyone was an “environmentalists.” And that it was popular to be one.


One of the many bridges that take cyclists along the park's 26 mile bicycle trail.


First, volunteers and professions cleaned the river. Then, later, national park planners capitalized on the historic Ohio and Erie Canal that paralleled the Cuyahoga, creating a national recreation area out of the river and out of the historic canal. Then, in the year 2000, managers went even further elevating the area to that of a national park. By doing so, not only have the lives of locals been enriched, but so have the lives of visitors — curious about what they might find in Ohio’s only national park. It’s a category into which Janie and I recently fit, and now we  too are Cuyahoga National Park enthusiasts.


For the past few days Janie and I have been exploring this national park, enjoying it by pursuing one of our passions and that is bicycling. We began our explorations parking our truck at the visitor center in Peninsular where we unloaded our bikes and struck out for Indian Mound Train Station, located about 12 miles away. The scenery was lovely and the history moving, but what interested us as much as anything was the enthusiasm so many strangers shared about Cuyahoga National Park.

One lady came over to us as we were enjoying an interpretive area labeled “Beaver Marsh,” and told us that once the area had been a Volkswagen junkyard. Then she said that one day, about 20 years ago, she drove by and saw huge cranes lifting rusting car bodies from the mud. “It made me happy,” she said. “Really happy.”


Deer and Great Blue Herons have returned to what was once an area too polluted for most any kind of life. Both photos taken on the same day from along the bike trail in this fascinating national park.


Later, a volunteer at the Hunt Visitor Center added to her thoughts. “The plan,” he said, “was to make the junkyard into a parking lot. But several beavers built a dam and that created a new plan.  Mangers thought the beaver had a better idea and today, we must have at least four lodges in and around the marsh. That makes for about 30 beaver.”


Today, a lengthy board walk now takes cyclists across this grand example of nature, one that combines with other aspects and which is deserving of national park status. In fact, the entire park with its history of the canal system and examples of nature prompted us to spend a number of days cycling the park from one end to the other. Because trains were also part of the history of the area, the park service has added train transportation that benefits visitors, and certainly cyclists. Between Wednesday and Sunday, you can park your car at any of about five different train stops, cycle to some distant place along the canal, flag down a train and then for $2.00 hop aboard and return to your vehicle.


Often weekends at Cuyahoga attract performers, in this case at the Peninsular Train stop


Cycling then is a great experience and along the way Janie and I saw great blue herons, beaver, wood ducks and various species of turtles. As well, the trail takes you to old farms, to small villages defined by the large quantities of fruit and vegetables for sale. And of course, it interprets the canal system that helped settle a nation.

But it does yet more: Cuyahoga National Park demonstrates the blight that too much industrialization can bring about. On an upbeat note it also demonstrates how resilient nature can be when concerned citizens band together and insist that, yes, there really is a better way of living life. Cuyahoga is literally up from the ashes.



*Alaska’s Chena Hot Springs




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A Park Celebrating TR, One We Never Bypass

posted: July 20th, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: It’s impossible for us to pass near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and not make the 50-mile detour south to camp there, even if it is only for a night. This year we particularly wanted to see these Badlands because everything seems so lush. We were not disappointed.

The park is divided into a North Unit and a South Unit, but this time around we only had time for only the North Unit, which is separated from the South Unit by about 30 miles. Over the years I’ve written about six stories for a variety of magazines and done so because this isolated area grows on you, celebrating as it does grasslands, buffalo, wild horses – and the rugged life of Theodore Roosevelt.


After settling into a campsite we drove the park road to the Little Missouri Overlook and I was reminded that once Roosevelt had marched two thieves to justice along this river, staying awake reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Later he remarked that Karenina was unprincipled.  He also said in later years that “If it had not been for my days in the Badlands of North Dakota I would never have been president of the United States.”


Little Missouri flowing through badlands lush with an abundance of vegetation not often seen.


Roosevelt also found solace here, having fled to these very same badlands shortly after his wife and mother died on the same exact day; and as I looked over the expanse of badlands I could see how one might simultaneously find physical challenge and peace. Before me the river flowed serenely and the expanse of lush vegetation that rolled over the Badlands on our July visit offered a sense of well being. But the Badlands that backdropped the Little Missouri could also offer hardship, something one is instantly aware of when the winds wail and when you struggle to climb a steep hill on a day temperatures approach the hundred degree mark.

On this brief stop, however, Janie and I saw only the most benevolent side. The river flowed clear and blue, bison starred back from shaded bluffs, and soft breezes caressed a multitude of flowers and grasses that bowed and dipped on this mild mid summer day.

And now, we’re back on the highway sufficiently rejuvenated to cope with another few days of highway travel.




*The Park That Made a President




In the spring, the Fort Peck hatchery relies on a group of volunteers (The Walleye Program) to extract eggs and milt from walleye. This year, 150 volunteers helped take eggs.

First, they set out nets, then they extracted the eggs. From this process over 58.2 million “green” walleye eggs were taken from wild walleye and brought into the new Fort Peck hatchery. Eggs are brought back to the hatchery in heavy fish bags.


After eggs are brought into the hatchery, they are subjected to a number of different procedures. Milt of the males is subjected to a sperm extender, something like sugary water. Because welleye eggs become sticky when fertilized, “we use diatomaceious earth to eliminate the stickiness. Without this procedure, the fertilized eggs would stick to the jars, into whihch they are then placed.


After eggs are placed into the jars, they are then water hardened, and this makes the eggs so they are so hard, they can be literally bounced off the floor, they’re that tough. Walleye are placed into a about 40 ponds and then are planted into the reservoir. At this time, B.J. says they are little more then “two eyeballs and a tail.”


Fertilized eggs remain in jars for about 10 days, then the fingerlings remain in jars for about 10 days. Sometime during this period, the fingerlings migrate to the top of the jars, then follow conduits to large holding tanks in which they remain until they are ready to be placed into one of the 40 outside holding tanks, or until they are ready to be placed into Fort Peck Reservoir. Ponds are prepared for the arrival of fingerlings about two weeks before they arrive. Technicians fill the tanks about two weeks before their arrival and this allows zooplankton to establish itself. Zooplankton includes the microscopic cocapods and the equally tiny amoeba.


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Serendiptitous Stops

posted: July 18th, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Back on our the road, heading east, but not until after we checked out a spot on the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge for burrowing owls. We did see one and it was in the very same area where I found one several years ago. Though I was unable to photograph it this time around, I did on my last trip, so I’m including it with this brief post. The image was made with a Nikon camera and a 600mm lens. I also used a blind, which I always carry. Sometime it obscures my presence, sometimes it doesn’t.


Burrowing owl, a common resident of the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge


Before departing Fort Peck I also made a ten mile bicycle trip from the campground, past the Visitor Center and then up a steep hill that then crosses the massive dam. Ten miles later, I completed a very enjoyable and informative round-trip ride.


Once this was the largest earth filled dam in the world, but that title was usurped several years ago when Russia constructed such a dam of their own. Nevertheless, the Corps proudly proclaims that Fort Peck remains the largest hydrologically-filled earth dam in the world.

Because the dam is earth filled I had to remind myself that I was in fact riding over a dam, but interpretive panels along the way remind you that the land is certainly altered. Lewis and Clark camped here in May of 1803 and when they did, one member of the party encountered a grizzly bear. As well, members saw their first moose in a place called Dry Fork, which I could easily see as I cycled across the dam.


Though most say the dam was needed at the time – and is still needed, all of which may be true – the dam was not without its tragedies, as the other image I’m posting with this blog so informs us.  In September of 1938, eight men perished one day in a massive slide. Two of the bodies were found, but six remain forever entombed in the mud and rock of Fort Peck.


Construction of Fort Peck included tragic moments and now memories


BACK ON ROAD:  Though we are now back on Highway Two camped for the night in Rugby, North Dakota, which city fathers here say is the geographical center of North America, we did make one overnight stop in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is one of my favorite parks and deserves some mention even though our stay was brief – which I’ll provide in my next post. Today, we’re scurrying around trying to get back on the road and make up for our serendipitous stops.



*Chena Hot Springs


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For Some, Fort Peck Has It All

posted: July 15th, 2010 | by:Bert


T. Rex at Fort Peck Visitor Center

©Bert Gildart: For those of you wondering about my delinquency in posting let me start by saying that we’ve been consumed with packing for an extended trip east, now underway. Compound that with our current location in  eastern Montana, and, here, the remote setting makes Internet connectivity sporadic. As well, we’ve been scurrying around — getting reacquainted with Fort Peck, one of  our favorite areas in the state.

Fort Peck is sandwiched between Wolf Point, Montana, and the eastern edge of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. To some that means you’re in the middle of a vast monochrome of desiccated grasslands, but if you settle in for awhile, the land grows on you.


For starters, Fort Peck is contiguous with the huge Fort Peck Lake, more properly designated a reservoir, but one that now features some of the state’s best fishing. Once the dam creating the reservoir was a WPA work project, part of FDR’s New Deal. It was intended to extricate a hungry nation from the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The men who worked here for a period of about seven years helped to create such a colorful chapter in America’s history that Fort Peck Dam served as the very first cover of Life Magazine. The photographer was Margaret Bourke White, and she was associated with others who have become some of my journalistic heroes and heroines.

Ms. White was married to Erskin Caldwell, who wrote God’s Little Acre and Tobacco Road. Her photos, which constituted a story “Saturday Night In Montana,” were accompanied by a story written by Ernie Pyle, subsequently famous as a war correspondent.

The dam was constructed between 1933 and September 22 of 1938, and if one were suddenly transported to some lofty position high overhead, the Fort Peck Dam work area must have looked like a mound crawling with ants. Ten thousand men worked here and with their families, the number rose to 50,000 people, living in places such as New Deal, Square Deal, McCone City, Roosevelt – and of course, Fort Peck.


Since those days other significant things have happened in the area, most notably the discovery that the eroding lands have been revealing past occupancy. Some years ago, a fossil of Tyrannosaurus rex was discovered about 20 miles southeast of the center, meaning that about 60 million years ago this was dinosaur country.


Click to see larger images. L to R:  Michele Fromdahl, Fort Peck Interpretive Center Director; J. R. Rasmusan, fishing guide extraordinaire; bison in nearby wildlife paddock.

Subsequent to the discovery paleontologists began exploring the much eroded landscape and soon learned that the area contains one of the world’s richest of fossil areas. With that discovery, and the fact that the area was loaded with human history and was adjacent to one of the largest national wildlife refuges in the lower 48 states, the Corps decided to construct an elaborate and immensely informative visitor center.

Today, the visitor center informs on both the area’s human history and its natural history. It explains the function of the dam. As well, the same lands administered by the Corps of Engineers provide what Janie and I have come to believe is the nation’s very best campground.


From the spacious campground, Janie and I have explored the adjacent Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, fished the reservoir, explored the “birding trail,” and traveled the Dinosaur Trail. For me, photography figures into this equation, and each time I come here I try and create new images, and have done exactly that this time around. With the exception of my fishing photograph of J.R. Rasmuson, all images posted here are from our current visit.

Put in other words, if you stop here you’ll see exhibits of dinosaurs; you’ll see bison roaming a huge bison paddock; and you’ll see the glimmer of night lights produced by the dam’s huge turbines that now help power five different states.


Click for larger images.  L to R: Night images of generator towers, which work to supply power for five states.


That’s only for starters, and in another day or so, we may post a few of my birding images, taken on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

Indeed, this is a Mecca for those with a yen for outdoor explorations.



*Art from World Eskimo Indian Olympics


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World Eskimo Indian Olympics — Story

posted: July 8th, 2010 | by:Bert


Image of Manny Curtis shot with extreme ISO setting

©Bert Gildart: This month’s issue of Native Peoples Magazine features a story of mine about the World Eskimo Indian Olympics (WEIO). The magazine is on the newsstand and is now reminding me of what an adventure Janie and I had last July in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the event is held annually.

The story was illustrated with my images and because I worked so hard obtaining the pictures thought I’d share some in this posting. With the exception of several of the pictures that focused on the arts from remote villages, all were action images and several were taken with natural light but at incredibly high ISOs.

ISO is the digital equivalent of ASA in film, and for those of you who can remember way back to the year 2000 when film was still in vogue, you’ll recall that when you used Ektachrome 400, grain started to appear and could be a real problem. Not so with digital images, which you can further enhance using Lightroom and PhotoShop.

The image of Manny Curtis was taken at an ISO of 2000 while the one of Clyde Brown was taken at an ISO of 800. In the magazine, there is no grain and the colors are intense.


Janie and I are departing in several days for the East Coast for a number of reasons. We’ll be visiting family in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Along the way we’ll be gathering material for a number of stories. After Labor Day, we’ll pull our Airstream to Shenandoah National Park and spend about a month updating a book published by Globe Pequot about hiking and exploring this beautiful park. The book is going into its fourth printing and we have sold over 24,000 copies, which is pretty good for an outdoor book.

Rich Luhr and family may join us in their Airstream in Shenandoah in September and if so, we plan to climb Old Rag, the park’s highest peak. Though not particularly difficult (at least, Rich, for a man 20-plus years your senior!), what makes the ascent so meaningful is the ancient rock. The rock reposes near the summit and dates back to the Precambrian.

As we make our journey back east we may stop for a night in Wisconsin and revisit a lovely couple whom we’ve gotten to know from the Airstream crowd. Ken and Petie Faber are also an extremely talented couple, and they’ve been here in Bigfork the past few days.

Clyde Brown

Clyde Brown dancing at openng ceremonies of World Eskimo Indian Olympics, Fairbanks, AK.

Ken is a retired insurance man and now devotes his time to refurbishing old Airstreams, creating what the industry calls “Vintage Airstreams.” Petey is a retired teacher and now an artist extraordinaire. Though they are a few years older than Janie and I, they are active cyclists, and think little of striking off on a 50-mile day-long trip.


There are some other good people we’d like to visit along our way, several of whom we rendezvoused with this past winter in Anza Borrego. And then, too, we have family in Minnesota, but we’ll just have to see how our serendipitous travels unfold. Several story assignments are pending and if they work out then our route may change, meaning that we’ll have to try and make stops on the way back.

Life, however, is about the present, but because it benefits from the past, I’m hoping my WEIO images stir some atavistic recollections, which is what the four-day event is intended, at least in part, to evoke.

The event has become one of our favorite memories not only because of the superb athletes, but also because we were able to revisit so many wonderful native peoples, whom we count as very good friends.

See you from along the road.



*World Eskimo Indian Olympics


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Birthday Reflections From Glacier’s Logan Pass

posted: July 2nd, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Seventy years ago today my mom made medical history at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, giving birth through cesarean section to a baby boy. It was a first at the old army hospital, and the baby, of course, was yours truly.

A year and a half later, on December 7, 1941, my dad, mom and I survived the Japanese invasion at Pearl Harbor. Other significant and sometimes traumatic events continued to mark my life and did so for my first 30 years, to include a harrowing rescue in the ocean just off Fort Monroe, Virginia.

At the time I was 14 and not the most devoted of high school students. One day I had decided to skip school, take my dad’s sailboat, and cross  the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, failing to note that storm-warning flags were flying.


Mount Reynolds reflecting in small pond above Logan Pass



About mid way across, violent winds kicked up and the sailboat went over, and the last thing my companion and I saw before fog enveloped us was a huge aircraft carrier bearing down. Fortunately the Coast Guard also saw us, marked our location and moved in to snatch us from the violent waves that were sweeping over us. Somehow the rescue efforts were picked up by a local radio station but they got their news wrong.

Reporters were told two teenage boys were lost in the violent storm despite an attempted Coast Guard rescue. Both my mom and dad heard the report and by this time knew I’d “borrowed” the sailboat. But I thanked my lucky stars that they initially believe me dead, for normally my transgression would have brought out the wrath of God in my dad. As it was, both my mom and dad were so glad to see me alive that my “crime” was initially overlooked.

Goat-1JohnRobert-2Bear Hat-1


Mountain goat shedding winter coat; Photographer John Roberts, a most impressive man whom I will be describing further in subsequent posts; Bearhat Mountain, reflecting in small pond near Hidden Lake Overlook.

Other such calamities seemed to plague me until the time I was about 30, prompting many of my friends and contemporaries to tell me that I would be lucky to make it to 50 – much to the Biblical allotment of three-score and ten. They contended there were reasons. They elaborated, and though I won’t divulge their thoughts here, will concede that I might have committed transgressions that prompted such delusions.

Nevertheless, I have survived and am now recalling individuals  who made such insensitive comments. Today,  I plan to laugh in their face, for not only am I alive and well, but I am accomplishing things that I feel very fortunate to still be able to do…


Yesterday, I departed home at 4:30 a.m., drove to Logan Pass and was there to greet the sun from this lofty and incredibly beautiful place in Glacier National Park. While there I photographed goats and the image of Bearhat Mountain reflecting in several small alpine ponds. It was an absolutely beautiful place to look back over my life, concluding like Willie Nelson, that, sure, I have made some mistakes, but that without some of those mistakes I wouldn’t be where I am now. “I’ve profited from my mistakes,” said the famous singer/songwriter in so many words, “giving me wisdom. Life is good.”

I concur, for I have a wonderful wife, crazy enough to embark on many “outlandish” adventures. I also have understanding children – and so does my wife. Moreover, her children have accepted me and that acceptance adds to my blessings.


Mountain goats near Hidden Lake overlook, above Logan Pass


Life, in fact, is good and I have many more goals which I believe I will be able to fulfill.  That is what I concluded yesterday following a fairly vigorous hike  to the Hidden Lake Overlook where I took the photographs included here.

Today, some of my best friends will be joining me to celebrate this day and there are several who will be attending whom I will remind of the predictions they made so long ago. I’ll laugh in their face and tell them that I plan to be laughing (but not too loudly) for at least another 20 years. Fate has been generous and I hope will continue, for I have many more mountains (both metaphorical and literal) that I fully intend (Chilkoot) to climb.



*Alaska Travels




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