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 September, 2010

CCC Boys and Their Legacy at Shenandoah National Park

posted: September 27th, 2010 | by:Bert


Les Wawner, a CCC "Boy" who worked at Camp Fechner during the late 1930s.

©Bert Gildart: “I was living in the back of an old Model T that had all the windows broken out. I had to steal a blanket from a moving van to keep warm at night.”

That’s what Les Wawner told us this past Saturday, and his plight was probably typical of the men who sought relief from economic hardships by joining the CCC Camp here in Shenandoah National Park.

We met Les at Skyland Lodge (in Shenandoah about Mile 41) where interpreters at Shenandoah were holding a reunion for the old CCC Boys. Not many are left, but those who did show are representative of a generation who survived desperate times by virtue of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” The program began the year Roosevelt assumed presidency and was initiated in 1933 –  and was part of his New Deal. According to FDR the work  program was need as:  “A New Deal to rebuild a nation.”


The old CCC camp here in Shenandoah (Also see: Hoover Camp for more on the park) was called Camp Fechner, and it is located abut a mile from Big Meadows, where Adam and Sue Maffei, Janie and I are currently camped in our respective Airstreams. The old camp has served many purposes. In addition to being the setting for a large CCC camp, in 1933 it also provided the  location from which President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated this rugged section of the Blue Ridge Mountains as Shenandoah National Park.

We were all interested in the reunion and attended a part of the program, enough to visit with several of the “old boys,” most of who are now in their 90s.


CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGES. L to R: PATC Cabin; Mill Prong, which provides access to old Hoover Cabin; Adam Maffei hiking trail to Dark Hollow.

Soon, we’ll be able to explore more of the conditions under which they worked for the park service will be installing interpretive posts in Big Meadows and will be providing “virtual tours” of the camp.


The “Boys” worked hard and because of the program, those of us who love to hike and drive through beautiful country can do so easily in Shenandoah (and many other national parks as well!), for the boys built the trails over which we have recently hiked and the Skyline road over which we have driven often these past few weeks.


Adam Maffei along trail to Dark Hollow Falls


The park promises that the new interpretive post and their virtual program will fill gaps from this important component of Shenandoah’s history. In the meantime, pictures accompanying this blog are intended to show areas now accessible because of the work initially provided by men such as Les Wawner.




Airstream and First 100,000 Miles


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Old Rag Mountain Provides Timeless Views

posted: September 22nd, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: At 3,268 feet Old Rag is not the highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park (Hawksbill Summit, 4,015 feet, has that distinction), but it is without question the park’s most challenging and exciting mountain to climb.


Adam Maffei positiioning himself in manner that shows challenge of threading Old Rag


For one thing the rock is ancient almost beyond belief, meaning that although you can say “over a billion year’s old,” such time has almost no meaning. Naturalist try to add meaning by reducing such time frame to human longevity or human history. They say that if the Blue Ridge Mountains represented an event that occurred 12 hours ago then all the time that has elapsed since the birth of Christ would be less than a tenth of a second. By virtue of relativity perhaps that helps some, but since that probably does little it may just be easier to relate information that Adam and Susan Maffei, my frequent hiking companion, pooled as we climbed.


Click For Larger Images.  L to R:  Boulders near top of Old Rag, still immense, but much reduced through erosion; effects of erosion; suspended rock.


First, the rocks on Old Rag are among the world’s oldest, exposed only through the reduction of erosion. Using various techniques scientists say rocks atop Old Rag began their formation when the continents of North America, South America, India, Australia and Antarctica collided to form a super continent call Rodinia. These collisions, which occurred over a billion years ago created immense forces causing the massive plates on which these continents float to buckle. The story is complicated for we lay people because ultimately Rodinia separated into its initial components but formed again with a somewhat different configuration into another super continent known as Pangea. Billion-year-old Old Rag granite was formed during the existence of Rodinia, but its current resting place did not occur until the existence of Pangea, when the Appalachian Mountains were formed by the reoccurrence of tectonic plates being forced upward.


Old Rag granite, however, was not visible for yet millions of more years when erosion finally wore down the 20,000 foot high Appalachian Mountains to elevations of more contemporaneous times. Slowly, Old Rag Granite was exposed and we see it today as the huge boulders shown in these images. You can identification this rock by the appearance of the large white crystals geologists give to the mineral known as a feldspar.


And now along come Adam and Sue and yours truly, all of whom are knocked senseless by what we eventually discover.

From our starting point at elevation 1,068 feet there is little hint that we’ll be encountering rocks dating back to the earth’s earliest times following a few miles of hiking, but such is the case. Suddenly, our forest of maple, oak and hickory gives way to huge boulders, and somehow park trail managers have discovered a route that is challenging but certainly not beyond the capabilities of anyone in reasonable good shape. About here we found ourselves using three-point stances to struggle over boulders and thread our way through narrow defiles. At one place Adam facilitated Sue’s (who is a distance runner) perch so she could more easily grasp a natural hand hold in the rocks. It’s also worth noting that this is not a place for people with a fear of heights.


Adam and Sue follow route to Old Rag


We departed the trailhead at 9:30 and reached the summit about noon. From our vantage we had a complete 360 degree view. To the north and northwest we could see the route of the Skyline and the dozen of peaks which the route accesses.  To the west and southwest we could pick out the Old Rag overlook and the area known as Big Meadows, where we’re currently camped. As well, we could see a little of our return route, which would soon combine to make this 2200-foot climb into a circular hike of about nine miles. But more than anything, it was the timeless rocks at the base of our feet which attracted our attention.

Were we humbled? Possibly a little; but mostly by the beauty — and by man’s ability to comprehend and create plausible scenarios. But I must also say that I am thankful for the random gift of genetics that enable me to still climb a mountain that affords what may be one of the world’s greatest – and most timeless — vistas. But not to be too smug, I am grateful for younger friends who have helped me when outdoor events have challenged.


One more leap to summit of Old Rag


Adam and Sue will be with us another few days – hopefully longer – and at the time we’ll be hiking to a few of Shenandoah’s other grand settings. If we can find Internet hot spots, we’ll be providing more posts.




Chicken Alaska




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Old Rag Weather

posted: September 13th, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: See the fog a rollin’ down the Rag; hit’s a goin-a rain.

See the fog a rollin’ up the Rag, hit’s a-goin-a shine.


Fog rollin' down Old Rag and surroundings

Adam! Whar are Ye? And Adam! Whar be that charmin’ lady of ur-n? Don’t Ye be forgettin’ her.

Right now we be in Sheanandoah National Park whar we have done planted ourselves. And rite now the fog be a rollin’ up the Rag.  Adam! Sue! Best be for geetin’ urn-selves har quick, ‘cause no one nose how long the fog will be a rollin’ up.

Wall, ‘nuff oldtime weather forecastin’, but once that’s the way folks ‘round these parts predicted the weather. And it was pretty reliable, too.

Janie and I know ‘bout that as we gathered lots of information about 12 years ago as we were completing a major hiking guide for the park. Now we’re updating both our major hiking guide and our Best Easy Day Hiking Guide to Shenandoah. We’ll be adding color to the book, and because we purchased a Nikon GPS we’ll also be including coordinates – at least in some places.


Jane Gildart atop Old Rag 12 years ago.


We’re pleased to say the book, published by Falcon Press, has done right well for us. We’re looking forward to climbing Old Rag with Adam and Sue, something Janie and I have done several times in the past. We jest a hopin’ that the fog keeps right on a liftin’…



*Dawson City


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Where Have We Been? All Over New England

posted: September 11th, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: I started writing travel blogs almost five years ago, and don’t think I’ve missed a week. But now I see that I have missed almost a month and in short I just needed a vacation and some time to regroup from many distractions.

That said, there are also some extenuating factors, one being that our predominate location in the Adirondacks made it challenging to access the Internet. As well, I had some work conflicts and had to spend what time I had creating an outline for a book that I very much wanted to pursue this winter.


L to R: Bridge near Concord Massachusettes where first shots of Revolutionary War were fired; Don, Nancy, Janie sailing; Cassy Polga and interior of Thoreau’s cabin.


The book is about Glacier and I can now report that my time was better spent creating an outline than trying to write blogs – or make contribution to Facebook or Twitter, both of which I have concluded are a waste of time for me. My conclusion is based on the fact that I now have a contract, so now know that Janie and I will be spending much of the winter working on a book. Blogs, however, are beneficial to me as I often draw on them for article material. Also they provide an excellent accounting of our activities, making them fun to refer back to.

But still, there have been a number of highlights and with a bit of a vacation from blog writing want to return by reporting that the past month has provided time with friends and family which neither of us would have traded.

Starting from north to south, we spent a night in Vermont with Don and Nancy Dennison, who took us out for a day in their beautiful sailboat. We cruised Lake Champlain for several hours, and in the morning, the wind was perfect. But then it died and we had to power back with their auxiliary motor. Like us, Don and Nancy also travel in an Airstream and over the years, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time with them in various parts of the country.  Don is fighting a courageous battle with cancer and is a man to be respected and admired.


L to R: Exterior of Thoreau’s cabin; Dunker Church at Antietam; plaque near observation tower overlooking cornfield at Antietam, where 21,000 men killed or wounded in single day.

Working south, we spent a week with my sister and her family on Lake George. While there my daughter and granddaughter flew in and I believe the highlight for them was getting granddaughter Hallie up on water skis. Forrest, my brother-in-law is patient and a wonderful teacher.


My nephew and his wife Becca also flew in and introduced us to their 15-month son Eadan. Nephew Joel is a world-class kayaker (literally) and he finally helped me combine the right moves so that I was rolling my kayak consistently.

One of the most memorable Lake George outings was a kayak trip my sister and I made in pouring rain. We were attired in water-repellant kayak gear. We stayed dry despite the thousands of tiny rain drops which dappled the lake around us. There was no wind, just a thin fog and a warm rain.


In Massachusettes we spent time with Janie’s daughter and family. Karen and Alun have three lovely children and while there the family took us to several spots that commemorate some of our most memorably moments in history. Near Concord we hiked across the famous bridge where the first shots of the Revolutionary war were fired, “The shot heard round the world.”

As well, we toured a replica of Thoreau’s tiny cabin and walked around Walden Pond, which I thought was actually more of a lake. Posted near Thoreau’s cabin was a cost break down of materials used on the log structure and that came to about $30.

Departing Massachusettes, we returned to Janie’s other daughter, Katie, who lives in New Jersey. Her husband Keith consistently wins mountain biking contests and though I try and keep up with him, it is impossible and would have been even if I were 30 years younger. I joke and tell him he’s awesome, but it’s really true. But we have fun (I think I crashed just once), and so do Janie and I with Cory, Kelsey and Kyle. The family stresses athletics as does Janie’s son, Scott, who lives just fifteen minutes from daughter Katie. Katie lives along Shades of Death Road, Scott nearby in Hackettstown, with three super kids.


Two days ago we departed New Jersey and our travels now find us moving toward Shenandoah, where we’ll be updating an exploring book we wrote for the park a number of years ago. We should make it today, but two nights ago we stopped at Hagerstown KOA to enjoy nearby Antietam, one of our favorite Civil War sites. In previous posts I’ve written about the site. As well, I’ve also written a number of magazine stories about the area. Tragically, more men were killed in a single day than at any other Civil War battlefield.

Many years ago I co-authored a coffee table book about national parks with Jim Murfin, who was a director of publications for the National Park Service. Murfin died prematurely, but Antietam honors him by naming their auditorium for him.

We’ll be in Shenandoah for almost a month and if we have access to the Internet will be reporting frequently from that park.




*Alaska Still On Our Minds


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