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 February, 2012

Airstream “Modernization”

posted: February 28th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Several days ago I drove to Palm Springs to visit about the business of writing with friend and Editor Rich Luhr.  Rich, as some readers certainly know, is the publisher of Airstream Life, but as well he, with his business partner, Brett, is also a facilitator.

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L TO R  (Click to see much larger image.):  Decoliner; Decoliner with creator Randy Grubb; Rich Luhr, one of the rally’s facilitators.

That’s the reason Rich had traveled from his home in Tucson and Brett from his home in Florida.  The two had been asked to put together a small rally that would enable specific Airstream owners to demonstrate their vision of “modernization.”


The rally which consisted of about 20 trailers did indeed provide some offbeat looking units. It also attracted Timeless Trailers, the restoration company in Colorado that takes perfection to the ultimate.  Last winter I talked at length with several representative about some Airstream problem, which they most likely could have helped resolve, had restoration been my objective.  The problem, as some may recall, concerned filiform corrosion, created by magnesium chloride, a substance which states in the northwest liberally apply to winter roads.  (Never ever drive such roads if you can help it.)

Certainly the most extreme example of modernization was exemplified by the unit created by Randy Grubb.  Over the past 20 months Randy had created his Decoliner, which incorporated the chassis from a 1973 GMC motorhome and a 455 Olds engine.  Randy had driven the unit from Oregon and says you can also steer  it from the “Flying Bridge,” which was part of his design.

“Need it, or something like it,” asks Randy?  “Just see me.”

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L TO R:  So what’s a rally without a musician — who also creates and sells lotions.  Likewise, what’s an Airstream without flamingos.  “Modernized” Airstreams framed with Airstream awning.


Many other unique units were also present, and extracting from Rich Luhr’s blog, I see the proper names for other units that were also exhibited to include: a rare 1965 Dethleffs Bedouin, 1954 Hille Ranger Pop-Up, 1946 Curtis Wright, 1964 Traveleze, 1954 Silver Streak Clipper, and many others.

My problem, however, was time.

Essentially my purpose for leaving the security of Pegleg in Anza Borrego and then driving  through crowded places where people actually live was to review Airstream stories with Rich, and that took most of the afternoon.  Regretfully, my time at the rally was less than an hour, so what you see is but a fraction of the unique ideas presented.

But note the date of this posting and then next year you might want to attend.  If so, we may well see you there.  Think Modernization.





*Return to the Anhinga Trail (Everglades)




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Rattlesnake Mountain Provides Perspectives on Spring Flowers

posted: February 23rd, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: It’s been well over a week since last posting, but that should not imply a lack of activity on our part here in Anza Borrego State Park.  Fact of the matter I’ve been finalizing a manuscript due at my publisher March 1, so I’ve been under the gun, leaving little time for blog writing.

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CLICK TO VIEW AS LARGER IMAGE.  L to R:  Barrel cactus, Dry Clark Lake,  desert vegetation to include new agave stalk back dropped by Dry Clark Lake.

But we just mailed the manuscript, and although I now have magazine stories to complete, I assume I’ll be able to squeeze in several blocks of uninterrupted time.  With that hope in mind, I’m also going to take time to post few images of the activities we’ve been enjoying the last ten days.


About five days ago, friends and I made the short drive to a trail that ascends Rattlesnake Mountain. Our goal was not to climb the mountain, simply to ascend far enough to see what vegetation we might see in bloom, and to get a perspective of Dry Clark Lake.


Close up of barrel cactus as seen five days ago while climbing Rattlesnake Mountain. Many other of its kind also in bloom.


Dry Clark Lake is appropriately named for once the valley was full of water.  Since coming here it has provided me with photo opportunities, particularly following sustained rain, for then the fairy shrimp emerge, and by using specialized strobe techniques, I’ve been able to obtain frame-filling shots.  At any rate, several thousand years ago the valley’s geomorphology held water when the skies opened creating a lake.  But now it is dry.


In fact it is so dry that this year naturalists say it won’t be much of a flower year, and though that does seem to be the case, nevertheless many of the barrel cactus stands were in bloom. Combine that with the views our climb offered of the old dried up lake and I must say that our day on the Rattlesnake was most enjoyable.






*Desert Five Spot and the Function of Beauty



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Are Volunteers In Anza Borrego the Nation’s Most Talented?

posted: February 13th, 2012 | by:Bert

TonyFeather-4-1©Bert Gildart: Anza Borrego has the largest volunteer program in California, something that may not be too surprising when one realizes that it is the nation’s largest contiguous state park.  The key word is contiguous as Adirondacks State Park in New York contains more land, but the segments are scattered.

The point, however, is not size, but the number of people willing to volunteer their time to ensure quality.  Last count has the number at 100, and these good people clean campgrounds, learn about the area’s natural history, contribute to research, and then often share that knowledge as leaders of hikes and as auditorium speakers.

But what kind of people would contribute all their time and effort and get so little in return? From my random sampling of one, I’ve concluded all these people bring exceptional talent to the setting and do so for the sole reason that they want to help improve what is certainly one of the nation’s premier desert settings.  (Note, click here to see the power of music. Why it can even charm in kangaroo rats)


Several years ago, Janie and I had the good fortune to be camped next to Tony Feathers, a man who is fanatic about enhancing appreciation for this 600,000 acres park.

His talent is music and in a previous life he frequently sang his songs and strummed his guitar on Public Radio and at coffee houses in his home state of Tennessee.

Our invitation to him and to his wife Betty is a standing one, and we feel fortunate that the couple have found  enjoyment at our campfire. (You can link here to Tony’s music.)

Recently, Tony received a third place for his song writing at an Appalachian Song Writer Contest, and that’s significant as it was a national competition.  He shares this talent with visitors and with the school children of Borrego Springs.  The remarkable thing is that everything he contributes is offered as a volunteer.

As I say, if my random campfire sampling of one has even a modicum of validity then Anza Borrego is not just the nation’s largest state park, but may also be staffed by one of the nation’s best group of volunteers.


Tony Feathers provided a random sampling of one, suggesting all Anza Borrego volunteers are tops

They’re here because they love the park and believe in its benefits to the human race.





*Gray Whales and Super Dolphin Pods




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What Happened? This Brobdingnagian Landscape May Blow Your Mind

posted: February 8th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  If there is a boulder field in Joshua Tree or one of the other national parks that has a greater “wow” factor  than does this one,  I can’t recall it.

We saw this immense scattering or rocks while hiking in Anza Borrego Desert State Park’s Indian Hill country.  This field of rock stretched for half a mile, and if you look closely at the associated photograph, you’ll see some of the rocks are rounded while others assume a more elongated configuration.

What happened?

I am not a geologist but after seeing this pile of rocks, this “Brobdingnagian landscape” as one author called it — referring to Gulliver’s travels (by Jonathan Swift) through the land of giants – I had to buy several books and try to recall college courses.


Boulder field in Anza Borrego that may blow your mind.




Synthesizing information from a geology book authored by Park Ranger Paul Remeika, my understanding is that about 100 million years ago various forces pushed a molten mass to the earth’s surface and into the overlying sedimentary rock.  Depositions of these sediments preceded this molten mass by millions of years and were laid down from materials transported by inland seas.

As the granite connected with the pre-existing sedimentary rock it solidified and then crystalized, which tends to set up areas of weakness.  These areas take the form of “joints,” or horizontal and vertical fracture lines.  With time the process of erosion further weakens the joints and they fragment into huge granitic rock masses.  Wind, rain, freezing and thawing further modify their appearance whereupon elongated rocks become smaller and more rounded.

Similar processes have occurred in other areas of the park such as at Culp Valley.  Particularly impressive were the fields of boulders I saw several weeks ago off the trail and above Alcoholic Pass.

But nothing I’ve ever seen seems to match the Brobdingnagian landscape near Indian Hill, which simply blew my mind.



*Desert Five Spot


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Mysterious Rock Art of Anza Borrego

posted: February 6th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Anza Borrego contains some of the nation’s best preserved evidence that a group of people once led extremely productive lives by living entirely off the land.  They hunted sheep, made their own flower for bread, hauled water using pottery they created, and they revered the afterlife.

Over the years of visiting this park I have attended a number of naturalist walks, during which time I learned about the morteros Natives once used and about certain sites where the Kumeyaay left their rock art.

There is, however, one of these sites to which naturalist seem reluctant to take groups of people.


In very general terms naturalists will say that the Indian Hill area has served as the longest most singly occupied area in the park.  Early pre-historic Indians worked the area but were then followed by the Kumeyaay who remained for several thousand years, and it was members of this tribe that apparently created some of the park’s most dramatic rock art.

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L TO R:  Chuck, right, detailing long occupancy of the Kumeyaay in area.

Though they will provide general information to the site, they certainly will not provide maps or GPS readings to the site.  Though laws now protect these sensitive areas with large fines for defacing and touching the rock art, there remain some who either out of ignorance or out of spite care not for the concept of historic preservation.  In other words, there is no poetry in their lives.

Several days ago Don, Nancy, Janie and I accompanied Chuck, a man who has been visiting Anza Borrego for over 20 years.  In the course of his wanderings he found the site I have also searched for, but which has always ended unfulfilled.  Chuck was also hesitant to share the site’s location, but when he realized I wanted to celebrate the rock art and not herald their location, his enthusiasm for spending the day hiking with us increased.  “Yes,” he would show us the site – and now, after having been there I understand both his reticence but also his enthusiasm.


In very general terms our adventure took us up Mortero Wash, then along a 4-wheel drive to a parking lot, then on a roundtrip hike of about 7 miles.  Our adventure took us into one of the most remarkable boulder fields I have ever seen, and it was here, among the fields of huge granite boulders that the Kumeyaay dwelled for such a long period of time.

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Pictographs created in caves of Indian Hill made of pigments, as opposed to petroglyphs, which have been chipped into rock.

The evidence is there, for we found a few morteros (grinding pads) and an abundance of agave, the plant from which they made their bread. Then, finally, and after some casting around, Chuck finally re-found the several caves in which this group of Native Americans created their rock art.


Though no one can say for sure what the symbols represent or which members of the tribe created them, from other sites I know many experts believe the sun was a common motif and that a “Shaman,” or spiritual leader, might have created them.  Likely some of the pictographs here represented the sun.


Rock Art Panel

What, however, I can say with certainty, is that as we sat in this cave used by the ancients, allowing as we did the huge granite boulders to create a frame of the world, we felt an immense separation from all that was secular and mundane.  Here, the sun would shine forever, and all would remain bright and good.




*Death Valley, Where an Entire River Disappears





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Much Looking Required to Find Anza Borrego’s Spring Flowers

posted: February 4th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  Yesterday, Janie and I hiked to an incredible area in the southern part of Anza Borrego Desert State Park looking for pictographs, which after several years of searching we finally found.  Don’t expect a detailed map to the area, but I will report on this  incredible Native American art form in my next posting.  Sadly, so many antiquities have been destroyed that various laws have had to be enacted to protect them.  Fines help  — and they have ranged in the thousands — and that is good, but money can’t restore defaced rock art.

While on the trip it was encouraging to see a few flowers starting to rear their lovely heads.  There has been so very little rain this winter that some are saying there will be but  few flowers this spring. And it is true, the flowers I show here were confined to areas  where the little moisture that has accumulated tends to collect, such as  in boulder fields and in protected pockets of south facing slopes.

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To make these images I used various techniques, which one must employ to  dramatize their beauty and intensify their color.  For the purple penstemon, I used two strobes; for the fish hook cactus, I blocked the sun using a broad brimmed out – else the plants would have been filled with contrasty light.  And for the yellow agave flower I used back lightening, which always seems to work well for plants that are colored yellow.

Because these are some of the first flowers of spring, it does suggest that other species will soon follow.  However, the presence of only a few  also suggests  that some  looking will be required.




*Spring Flowers in Death Valley


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