Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Archive for January, 2012

Climbing Anza Borrego’s Coyote Peak

posted: January 30th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Coyote Mountain in Anza Borrego Desert State Park rises abruptly from a flat desert plain of about 700 feet and terminates in a gently rounded peak at 3,192 feet above sea level. While the base seems dominated by borrow brush, mesquite, creosote and the occasional stand of palms, the crown is dominated by agave and various types of cholla.


Early morning image of 3,192 foot high Coyote Mountain, from near Borrego Springs. Base is about 700 feet.


In between are about 2,500 vertical feet of elevation, but the relief along the route we chose is deceiving as it drops five to seven hundred feet on several different occasions adding to the challenge but also to the interest.


Last week a group of us attempted a climb but had to turn around because of injury to a member of our party.  We had started from the trail head for Alcoholic Pass, but this time we started from our campsite at Pegleg.  I’m pleased to report that this time we made it, signed the log contained in a bottle and then spent some time gazing around enjoying the scenery.

CoyoteSummit-1 CoyoteSummit-7 CoyoteSummit-3

L to R:  Bob, Don, Nancy, Christie ascending base of Coyote; summit of Coyote, Don about to ascend last 100 yards of climb to Coyote

All members of the group were good friends, and included Don, a retired forest service economist; Nancy, who worked in the sales of outdoor products; Bob, retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and his friend Christie, a retired school teacher.


From the top of Coyote we could see Toro Peak to the north while to the east the Salton Sea was a huge splash of muted white, barely visible because of all the haze. To the south we could see Whale Peak.

No question, we had a commanding view, which made the climb worth the effort.

Because we almost completed the climb last week I can also say that the route from Alcoholic Pass is probably the easier of the two. Still, yesterday, our climb to the top required but three and one half hours.


Climbing Coyote Peak – Successfully


We spent an hour on top and then began our descent, which required about the same as our ascent.  For me, going up was easier, essentially because it is easier on the knees.  But trekking poles took off some of the pressure.

Either route provides for an outing that offers insights into desert vegetation and chances to take in some stunning vistas.  All five us recommend the climb.




*Zion’s Ancient Rock Art



Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Biking Fanatic at Borrego Springs

posted: January 26th, 2012 | by:Bert


No decimal points here.

©Bert Gildart: There are no decimal points in the picture of numbers on my bike’s odometer, and please don’t interpret the posting as one of simple vanity, for there’s information associated with the mileage numbers that might be of value to readers.

Simply said, biking can lower blood pressure. I know.  Just a few months ago mine was approaching dangerously high levels. That’s something I’ve never had to worry about before, and the doctor’s advice was to find something I enjoyed and then do it at least four to five times a week.

“Keep on with the ‘heroic’ weekend activities,” said my doctor, “but make exercise a daily component of your life.” Adding, “It’s more important as you get older.”

And so, about three months ago I bought a state of the art road bike (I’ve also enjoyed mountain biking here), and with it have been following the doctor’s advice down here in Anza Borrego State Park. But, now, because this is intended to be a posting about biking, let me give you some specifics.


First, biking, the kind  that retains enthusiasm, is not cheap.  I bought my road bike from Bikes Direct, an on-line store recommended to me by a friend who flirts with cycling professionalism. Some say I lucked out, that one needs to be properly sized. But I disagree, and do so because I followed the on-line instructions carefully, and because I had a good friend who knew his stuff.

I paid close to $1,600 for my Motobecane, but was told that I was almost doubling my value by ordering on-line.

My LeChampion Motobecane road bike is carbon fiber and it weighs 15.5 pounds.  It’s not an entry level bike but neither is it a Lance Armstrong bike, which probably costs over $5,000.  But it is a bike intended to sustain enthusiasm, because you can “Just cruise along.”  When I first started I was averaging about 13 mph, but now average about 19.


Of course, once you make the initial investment, you’ll then need a good helmet (better to look like a mushroom than wind up like one), good padded gloves, various types of clothing (Spandex?  Yes, I’ve got a pair), padded shorts, color coordinated socks – and a good pair of cleated riding shoes.


Motobecane bike ordered from Bikes Direct. Logos clearly visible by enlarging image.

Cleated shoes snap into the pedals and enable you to power on the upstroke as well as on the down stroke.

Of course you’ll need a bit of practice learning to break free from the pedals, and the advice given me was to find a nice soft field of grass, and practice there, as you’ll most like take a few falls before learning the technique.  I did!

Complementary gear will most likely cost another $300, but what’s your health worth?

Next, of course, you need to find a bike-friendly area, and my home near Bigfork comes close, though it is not perfect.  Ninety five percent of the drivers back home go out of their way to accommodate cyclist, but the other 5% drive with fire in their eyes and a determination to run bikers off the road.


Not so in Borrego Springs, where it seems as though there are as many bike riders as there are motorists.  Here, there are riding clubs of various types, to include a tandem bike club.  There are long-distance riding clubs.

And, so, Janie and I have found a haven for the winter activities we enjoy, and the bottom line for me is that my blood pressure is now like that of someone 30 years my junior, making my investment seem to have been a wise on.

One thousand miles?  Sure many down here double and even triple that, but I’ve reached my objectives, and suspect some would say I’ve become a fanatic.

I don’t mind.




*My Years Favorite Photos




Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Summitting (Almost) Coyote Peak

posted: January 23rd, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Coyote Peak, in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, though not a formidable mountain, is challenging nevertheless, and several days ago, four of us attempted a summit. The group was a good one, and we almost made it, but Jim pulled a muscle in his leg and felt he had to return.  It can happen to anyone and it was smart to call it quits rather than find at some yet more distant point that it would then be extremely difficult to make it back. The rule, of course, is that the party stays together, and in the past, I’ve been the beneficiary, so no complaints from me.


Summit of Coyote Peak, our goal

Nevertheless, Don, Nancy and I were disappointed, but still, we can say that we were almost  to the top, and we will try again!  What we did see of the landscape as we climbed only whetted our desire to see more of the world from the very tipi-top of Coyote.


Coyote Mountain separates lower Coyote Canyon and Clark Valley, and it rises 3,192 feet above sea level.  That may not seem like a lot but the elevation here at Peg Leg is about 500 feet, meaning the relief was about 2,700.  When we turned around we’d climbed within several hundred feet of the top and could see a whole range of peaks.

CoyoteMountain-8 CoyoteMountain-5 CoyoteMountain-2

Using our topo map we could find the Santa Rosa and San Ysidro Mountain range as well as specific peaks such as Indianhead and El Toro.  We could see the vast citrus farmlands to the west and the Borrego Badlands to the southeast.  We could also see Coyote Canyon and could trace the route made famous by de Anza, when he first explored the area back in 1775.


Though there are various ways one can climb Coyote Peak we decided to make the short drive from Peg Leg to the trailhead for Alcoholic Pass.  (Other routes start from Peg Leg and from near the Rockhouse Canyon road.)

From our map the Alcoholic Pass route seemed the most direct.  What’s more, it seemed to offer a particularly interesting route.


Mountains engulf us throughout our climb


As we climbed boulder fields stretched before us and the geology seemed fascinating.  We concluded the landscape was the result of the encroachment of both ancient seas and from more recent volcanic activity.  Sheep tracks and dropping were everywhere, and Nancy found an old sheep horn.


The route was a good one, and though we now know the route, Don, Nancy and I believe we will simply start from Peg Leg next time we attempt to climb Coyote.  It’s really not a difficult peak to climb (Rainier was!) and it was simply bad luck that foiled us.

We hope to climb the peak in about a week or so.  Though not the highest mountain around, it offers wonderful views and interesting features.  Some also report the presence of a sheep herd near the top of the mountain, and we hope to find them as well.

More later…




*Skagway, Alaska



Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Anza Borrego’s Palm Canyon Trail — Always Compelling

posted: January 18th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Just minutes after starting our hike up Palm Canyon, Bill directed our attention to a cliff wall, high overhead.

“Bighorns,” he said. “Two of them.”


Colorful desert patina help create habitat for bighorn sheep


The sheep were at some distance, but it was my thought that if I could make the sheep seem at home in this  beautiful canyon then my picture could be an interesting one.  Telephotos would stay in my camera bag.


That it could be interesting was in part due to the rich colors created by a buildup of microscopic bacterial colonies.  Over a period of thousands of years these colonies have absorbed iron and manganese, so imparting the rich browns. It is this richness of color  that intrigued me and that further enhances the habitat for  the endangered Peninsular Desert Bighorn, which found a home in this rugged land so very long ago.

The sighting of sheep always helps to make my day, but so do good companions, and this time Janie and I were accompanied by Bill — and yet another Airstream friend, Theresa.  (I was delighted when her husband, a veterinarian, said he has followed my blog for years.)

Our goal was a stand of palms, and is a hike Janie and I have made before on many occasions.  Because of the many features along the trail we never tire of the adventure.


Palm Oasis


A park brochure points out various cacti such as the catclaw and the honey mesquite.  It explains that Native peoples once made their home in the canyon, finding relief from summer sun in the coolness offered by the palm tree shade.


We made the one-and-a-half-mile hike in short order soon arriving at the palm oasis, which consists of a cluster of California fan palms, the only palm native to California.  Perhaps 50 such trees grow in this small area and their verdure breaks the greyness of the desert rock.  The brochure, available to hikers, asks that visitors respect the oasis, not defiling it with trash or tearing out the frond.

Fronds skirt the base of the tree and help to protect the bark form water loss and insect predation.  In the past some hikers have started fires and the trees have lost their skirts.


Is this Desert Galleta


Though it was too early for desert flowers, on our return hike we all noticed a beautiful grass that we think may be a Galleta Grass, though none of us knew for sure.  It appeared particularly lovely against the light-colored rock and pictures of it rounded out our day, adding another aspect that makes the hike so unique, regardless of the number of times we may venture up this remarkable canyon.









Read Comments | 2 Comments »

Extra, Extra: Stunning Rainbow over Anaza Borrego’s San Ysidro Mountains

posted: January 17th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: “Look quick,” said Janie.  “The rainbow!”

Without a doubt Janie is the first to notice the incredible displays of lighting that are so frequent over the desert mountains.  This morning, the first light of the rising sun warmed the San Ysidro Mountains, of Anza Borrego Desert State Park, creating a picture that was absolutely stunning.  Though we have enjoyed such dramatic lighting displays in other parts of the country, it does seem they occur with a greater degree of frequency out here in the desert.


Yesterday's rainbow over San Ysidro Mountains, Anza Borrego Desert State Park

These scenes, of course, are fleeting, and one must be prepared, something I’ve learned to do now from experience.  I now keep a camera bag on hand with a short telephoto affixed to my Nikon D7000, which typically works best for scenics out here at Peg Leg.

Of course it helps to have an early morning watch dog, and Janie certainly fills that function, for she is generally the first to  raise the blinds here in our Airstream  — and  to then see the rising sun and what it has done to the mountains.

Invariably it is dramatic, but sometimes it is stunning, as it was this morning.





*Night Photography in Death Valley



Read Comments | 3 Comments »

Year of the Dragon

posted: January 14th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Bill and Larry are devotees to Anza Borrego, and during the winter, make as many trips from their home in San Diego to camp and to explore this premier desert state park as their schedule will permit.

A-BorregoDragon-9 A-BorregoDragon-2 A-BorregoDragon-8

Images of Larry and Bill flank cyclists, part of the many attracted by the dragon and by our elaborate  photo shoot.

Originally, we met them by virtue of a mutual interest in our Airstreams, which is always a constructive start, but of itself probably insufficient for long-term friendships unless there are yet other interests. In this case there were, for Bill is a photographer/blog writer/historian, while Larry is a historian/gourmet cook/ stimulating conversationalist.


This weekend the focus of our shared outing pertained to Larry’s Chinese American heritage. More specifically, Larry was interested in features flanking a small portion  of Anza Borrego that tied in with the Year of the Dragon, exhibited near Borrego Springs.

Sculptures-25 A-BorregoDragon-25-2 Padre-25

A few of the 150-plus metal sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda.


About five years ago, multimillionaire Dennis Avery (as in “Avery” office supplies) commissioned Ricardo Breceda to create a series of sculptures. The response was impressive.  In desert areas surrounding Borrego Springs, Breceda began to position dozens of  metal sculptures.  Examples now include dinosaurs, saber-toothed cats, sloths, birds of prey, wild horses, elephants, llamas, camels, and various people. But germane to our day, Breceda created a huge dragon, which has been attracting the curious.


The immense head of the creature appears vicious and in life such a reptile must have been a powerful predator.  Standing beneath the head of the beast, we could see that the body then coursed east across a portion of the desert, disappeared beneath the rural road, and finally – some 350 feet later — then concluded on the east side of the road with a massive tail.

And, now, here is where Larry makes his debut.

In historic times, the Chinese began celebrating the Year of the Dragon, imparting various values to the creature.  Larry says the dragon of their mythology is a benevolent, peaceful dragon, “kind of like Puff the Magic Dragon from the Peter Paul and Mary song.”  Larry said the Dragon is the mightiest of the signs and that it symbolizes such character traits as dominance and ambition.


To commemorate his Chinese heritage and bring attention to the dragon Larry had dressed this day in the attire of a late 1800s Chinese man who was respectful of the Emperor.

Appropriately, Larry’s head was partially shaved but to represent tradition he wore a cap to which was attached a realistic appearing Queque (a long braided  ponytail).  A red bow was attached to the several foot long length of hair.  The Manchu hairstyle was significant because it was a symbol of Ming Chinese submission to Qing rule. The queque also aided the Manchus  in identifying those Chinese who refused to accept Qing dynasty domination.

Larry also wore a changshan (long robe)  and he carried a huge ball intended to appear like a lantern, which it did.

Both Bill and I had thoughts about positioning Larry in ways that would dramatize the dragon, and before long our “shoot” began to attract an audience. Cyclists pulled off the road, and virtually every car stopped to see if we were producing images for a movie or for a magazine.


Dressed in traditional garb, Larry helps commemorate "The Year of the Dragon."


We left the question unanswered believing it bad luck to share one’s hopes.

The day was a productive one and later we all returned to our Airstream where Janie and I then prepared a steak dinner, trying to reciprocate in some small way for all the time both Bill and Larry had invested to make the upcoming Year of the Dragon just as symbolic as possible.



*Endangered Penninsular Bighorn Sheep

4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

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

$18.95 + Autographed Copy

Big Sky Country is beautiful

Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

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

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

What makes Glacier, Glacier?

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

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

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

Read Comments | 2 Comments »

Moon Descending Over Anza Borrego

posted: January 10th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Last few nights, the moon has been ascending and descending over the mountains surrounding Anza Borrego Desert State Park in a most satisfying manner.


Moon descending into San Ysidro Mountains, Anza Borrego Desert State Park


The image shown here was taken about 6:45 a.m. of the moon setting into the San Ysidro Mountains to our west, about 10 minutes before the sun rises in the east.

For the image I used an 840mm lens, which creates the larger than life impression.




Airstream Travels Three Years Ago:

*Favorite Photos from 2009

Ads From Amazon and Google Augment Our Travels:


Read Comments | 2 Comments »

Glacier Icons — Guaranteed to be A Winner

posted: January 9th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Here at Pegleg the New Year was ushered in with barely a peep, but shortly thereafter all sorts of good news begin filtering in.  Based on news from the first week of 2012 this could be a pretty good year for Janie and me.


First, I’ve just received an advanced copy of my new book, Glacier Icons, and I think (obviously)  it represents high-quality  work.  Though the book consists of about a hundred  images, essentially the book takes 50 large photographs (such as the one above and four  below) and complements them with an essay.  Smaller images round out the stories.


Typically essays are relatively short, but each packs in much information. Here are a few introductory excerpts:

*Throughout North America, many species of wildlife engage in ritualistic contests to determine male order of dominance.  In the animal world, few contests are more vigorous or the ritual more complex than among mountain sheep…

*When one compares the various traits of the grizzly with those of the black, there is one distinct feature that immediately separates the two species. That, of course, is temperament…   There is reason for this behavior which is linked with environmental features that existed long ago…

GNP-11908 w-t-ptarmigan G-bear 52167

* Hard, wind-blown snow comes early to the park’s high peaks.  It drives the elk down into the low country; it covers the boulder-strewn home of the mouse-like pika; and it sends the powerful grizzly bear scurrying to its den for a long winter’s nap.  In fact, the rugged alpine country forces just about every type of creature to leave or hide.  But there always remains a beautiful little one-pound animal, a bird called the ptarmigan…


In several weeks we’ll have a shipment here at Pegleg of Glacier Icons.  The book will sell for $16.85, and certainly we’re hoping that anyone going to Glacier might  purchase a copy. Of course, you’ll be able to get it in Glacier or from Globe Pequot, but get it from us, and I’ll autograph and provide a personalized note.

There is yet more news.  I am flattered that Bill, a fellow blog writer, singled out some of my photography and made it the focus of one of his postings.  One day I’ll have to reciprocate, as I believe Bill is not only an excellent writer, but a top-notch photographer as well.


Ascending Old Rag


The other good news is that Globe Pequot has just shared with me the cover of a book about Shenandoah that Janie and I spent last summer updating.  This, our fourth edition of Hiking Shenandoah, is much expanded and includes more on natural history.  Additionally, all images are in color. The cover depicts Adam Maffei standing near Dark Hollow Falls.  But the book’s interior  also includes one of him climbing Old Rag, shown here.

There’s more yet to report, but I’ll save that for another posting.  In this posting, more than anything else, I hope you’ll  think, Glacier Icons.

NOTE: From Chris (Where The Bear Walks), I have just learned of the sad passing of Roy Ducat, companion of Julie Helgeson’s in Night of the Grizzly.


Airstream Travels Three Years Ago:

*The Compulsion of Borrego Badlands

Ads From Amazon and Google Augment our Travels:

Read Comments | 3 Comments »