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, 2010

Top Secret Winter Activity in Montana’s Flathead Valley

posted: December 29th, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Somewhere in Montana’s Flathead Valley (it’s a top secret), there is a perfect spot for small numbers of family groups to gather on a snowy winter day, to build a campfire, lower the tailgates of their pickups, eat hot chilly –  and for children,  both young and old, to climb the nearby hills, push off  on sleds  for a delightful 50-yard descent to the warm fire around which many of the adults have gathered, essentially because they’re drinking hot chocolate. (Well some of them are.)


View from above of the sled encampment


Families assembled know one another  from years of association in the Flathead, though they represent an eclectic  group. Among them is a fellow who commutes to Russia as a timber consultant, a mason, an electrician, a social worker, a teacher, a forest ranger,  and several Realtors; and though their professions are diverse, they’re all drawn here by their shared interest of family fun and by the general exhilaration of sledding.


Sleds are certainly different from the American Flier I used as a boy. Those who can remember back that far will recall the metal runners which elevated you several inches above the surface of the snow.

Sledding-4 Sledding-5 Sledding-6

L to R: (Group photo) Zane, Molly, granddaughter Halle, Raney; (middle photo) Raney  (note Molly and Raney are identical twins); (right photo) Molly followed by Halle. 

Though I occasionally see these old-style sleighs, more popular today are sleds that have more of a toboggan look to them. The result is that you are separated by just fractions of an inch from the surface over which you glide.


Because I was the “elder” in the group, many wanted me to join in the sledding, which I did. And here I must point out that some of those who encouraged me the most were among the few adults who did not actually join their children. Words of encouragement took the form of: “Hey, you need to run [at the top of the slope] before you take off. That way you’ll generate more speed.

“Watch the kids!”


Teepee fire, surrounded by winter tailgaters and sledders, young and old.


Next time, I’m hoping for a more participatory audience; some adult who will show rather than tell.  And I’m also hoping that those who discovered the joy of winter sledding will keep it a top secret.

P.S.  Of course you can enhance your enjoyment of Montana’s Flathead Valley by purchasing our book (below), Exploring Glacier and Montana’s Flathead Valley.  Money will help us feed our grandkids and put shoes on their feet.




*Anza Borrego Desert State Park



Read Comments | 2 Comments »

Happy Winter Solstice

posted: December 21st, 2010 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Happy Winter Solstice, and this year as so many probably know, it was an especially eventful one. For the first time in about 2,000 years winter solstice coincided with a total lunar eclipse.

Most living in my neck of the woods, meaning Montana’s Flathead Valley, probably didn’t get too excited about the phenomena  as the skies here are so often overcast. Last night, December 20th, was no exception. The next time such events will be in sync will about 80 years down the line, meaning my grandchildren might well experience the two events simultaneously.


Northern lights, Arctic Village Alaska


The fact that I couldn’t see it, however, doesn’t mean I don’t get excited about solar events, as this image of northern lights takes several years ago in the Arctic might suggest. In Arctic Village, Alaska, located about 270 miles north of Fairbanks I made this image about 6 in the evening. By that time there is almost 24 hours of complete darkness, which isn’t surprising when you realize that this tiny village is about 150 miles above the Arctic Circle.

But I’m straying far afield. Actually all I set out to do was to wish everyone a Happy Winter Solstice. From this point on, the days will start getting longer, the main reason people originally began celebrating this day.


For the photographer the image was made on a Nikon D-300, which withstood -30 temperatures. Exposure was about 30 seconds with an aperture of  f-8. ISO was 200.




*Digital Night Photography


Read Comments | Post a Comment »

After A Good Year of Travel — We Wish You a Merry Christmas

posted: December 19th, 2010 | by:Bert


And — Dear Family and Friends



"How high's the water Momma?"

©Bert Gildart:  “How high’s the water momma?”

That was one of the questions I hummed out to Janie this year while camped last winter in California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Though the park is indeed a desert,  rains fall nevertheless, and during the winter of 2010 that huge, sprawling park saw more than its fair share of precipitation.

We celebrated New Year here gathered around a campfire listening to music by Tony Feathers, whose songs, we joked, had the power to lure in the high-jumping Kangaroo Rats.

In case anyone is in doubt, Janie and I thoroughly enjoy our life on the road, and again we’ve managed to wander extensively.

Travel enables us to keep up with most of our friends (sadly not our good friends in Alaska such as Kenneth and Caroline), though we may try and remedy that next year.

As well, travel provides the materials I need to write the several dozen stories I still produce each year. My best story of the year was about the Eskimo/Indian Olympics, which included the “One Foot High Jump.”

In this event (see pictures below), each contestant leaps high into the air on say the right foot, kicks the ball with the same foot, and then lands – on the same foot. It is an amazing feat of athletic prowess, as are all the other events.

Campfire B-bear g-bear2009

L TO R: Campfire at Peg Leg in Anza Borrego; black bear heeding sow’s warning to climb tree; grizzly bear (2009)  in Glacier National Park about ready to hibernate. All Images copy righted


I also sell pictures each year to book companies and magazines and have included here a few examples. Sometimes companies make substantial selections and 30 were used for the May 2010 Public TV presentation “Night of the Grizzlies.” In 1967 two girls were fatally mauled in the course of a single night in two different areas, representing the first fatal maulings in the history of Glacier National Park.

Kenneth 91039 Clyde Brown

L TO R: Kenneth Frank at Old John Lake on a day that was 30 below, extracting fish from one of 12 holes we had augered out; Elijah Cabinboy demonstrating athletic prowess in World Eskimo Indian Olympics; dancer in opening of 2009 games as seen in my magazine story. Images copyrighted


Many were involved in the recovery and in the shooting of the bears, and the program producers did a wonderful job collecting interviews from all involved, which included me. The program can be purchased on-line from Montana Public TV.

About mid July we departed from our “other home” (permanently hitched to Montana), then traveled to the East Coast where we saw family and friends. We see them all too little and wish they were closer. Fortunately other children live in Montana, and obviously we see them more often. On both coasts, all are doing well, and we hope this spate of good luck continues.

AdamAscendingOldRag C-Island B-Gildart1967

L TO R: Adam Maffei ascending Old Rag, September 2010, in  Shenandoah; Janie and Bert kayaking to Cumberland Islands Nat. Seashore, October 2010; Bert Gildart with killer bear, 1967. Images copyrighted

Other significant portions of the year were spent in Shenandoah updating a book we wrote years ago about this premier national park. As well, we took in the history at Bull Run, hiked in Zion, kayaked to Cumberland Island National Seashore, and visited Andersonville, the infamous Civil War prison camp. We stopped briefly in Alabama to visit my old college roommate.



Northern Lights: All Photographs shown here are copyrighted and continue to appear (often with stories) in periodicals such as Christian Science Monitor, National Wildlife, Highlights for Children, Native Peoples Magazine, and dozens more.  This particular image depicts cabin Janie and I lived in one winter while gathering stories on the Gwich’in Indians, who continue to depend on the Porcupine Caribou Herd for subsistence.

THE DOWNSIDE to the year was the passing of my 97-year old godmother. She provided me with life-long moral support, and her memories included barge trips as little girl along the C&O Canal. She is the last of family from the generation that preceded me and her passing means that those of my generation are now the “elders.” Presumably with age one acquires a certain wisdom, but I’m not sure I’m yet prepared for such designation — or  the responsibilities — particularly in the wake of someone who did so well.

We remain in good health and hope the same holds true for all our friends, many of whom we see all too seldom.




PREVIOUS POST: (Night of the Grizzlies) This post of three years ago continues to attract those wishing to leave comments, as it just did two nights ago from an individual who was attacked by a grizzly bear, but obviously survived.




Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Pipe Spring National Monument

posted: December 6th, 2010 | by:Bert


Evan Cram, whose great, great Mormon uncle born in bedroom of "Winsor Castle," here explaining cheese making.

©Bert Gildart: Evan Cram is a towering young ranger of Mormon descent. As the great, great nephew of a man born in one of the bedrooms of the old ranch that now sit adjacent to the perpetual water source known as Pipe Spring National Monument, he is the perfect person to interpret the area to people such as Janie and me.

Arizona’s Pipe Spring derives its name from the perpetual water that flows from the Vermilion Cliffs. During periods of rain and snow, water seeps down to a hard shale layer, which then directs it laterally to such places as Pipe Spring. Here, water is still further directed, but now by pipes, where it continues to flow throughout the ranch and eventually to several ponds.


Over the past 12,000 years many have known of the springs. Paiute Indians used the area extensively, but the Mormons developed it, bringing Evan’s ancestors here, responding to a call from Brigham Young. As Evan explained, Young needed a “tithing ranch” to take care of the “tithing herd.” Mormons, he said were (and are) encouraged to give 10 percent of their earnings to the church — and in those days, they gave cattle to satisfy their obligation. A herd soon developed and Young realized local Mormons needed a ranch, a place such as Pipe Spring, which had a steady supply of water.

Pipe Springs’ isolation served yet another Mormon practice, that of polygamy. The spring is located along the “Arizona Strip” in a secluded area between the Grand Canyon and Zion, providing a wonderful place for polygamist husbands to hide their additional wives from Federal eyes.

PipeSprings-23 PipeSprings-16 PipeSprings-24

L TO R: Pipe Spring showing “Winsor Castle” and two of the “ponds” used for collecting water; out building; old wagon used for work on ranch.


For awhile, all went well, but in the 1880s, polygamy came to national consciousness and Federal marshals descended on Utah to apprehend polygamists.


Ever watchful, Pipe Spring residents erected an observation tower that commanded a sweeping view of their surroundings. If marshals appeared on the skyline, wives and children would slip out of the compound and hide themselves in the nearby cliffs.

Today, a half mile-long trail leads toward the Vermilon Cliffs, which Janie and I followed. Though there was no mention of polygamy, signs interpreted the coming of the telegraph. As well, it detailed the area’s natural history, much through the eyes of the Paiute Indians.

PipeSprings-22 PipeSprings-18 PipeSprings-13

L  TO R: Long horned cattle wander portions of the national monument; half-mile-long trail ascends to wonderful vantage points atop Vermilion Cliffs, simultaneously interpreting areas history and Native American use of plants; watch tower atop Winsor Castle, used to search surrounding sweep for federal marshalls who were intent on bringing cessation to polygamy.

Eventually, private ranchers purchased the spring, but with time – and overgrazing — the ranch soon floundered, prompting the owners to consider selling. About this time, one of my heroes, Steven Mather, first director of the National Park Service and a man who traveled widely to determine an area’s suitability for status as a national park, came to believe Pipe Spring would make a fascinating stopover for those traveling between Grand Canyon and Zion national parks.


Trough conveying water from springs then throughout ranch and finally to the large nearby ponds.

He suggested its addition to the National Park System and on May 31, 1923, Warren Harding signed the proclamation declaring the complex a national monument.


Because the Southern Kaibab Paiute Reservation surrounds the spring, and because of so much historic Native American usage of the area, today, Pipe Spring is cooperatively managed by the tribe and by the National Park Service. Hike the park trail and you will discover just how well this works, for both agencies provide interpretive information.

Explore a bit more and you’ll see long-horn cattle, and in season, you’ll see demonstrations on ranching, sandstone masonry, cheese making, and blacksmithing.

And tomorrow tonight, if you were there, you’d see a once a year Christmas presentation. The celebration will feature music played on an old organ, and many of the antique furnishing will be festively decorated.

Unfortunately, we’ll miss the celebration as we are trying to move north – to be back home in Montana for Christmas. At the moment we’re at a campground near just south of Pocatello, Idaho, watching a new storm drop more snow.

Seems like a replay of last spring, when we were also trying to get home.

Will be keeping family, friends and readers appraised.




*Pero, The Luckiest Mouse Alive





Read Comments | Post a Comment »