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 May, 2012

Oregon Grape, Beautiful Spring Harbinger That Has Many Practical Uses

posted: May 22nd, 2012 | by:Bert

OregonGrape-2©Bert Gildart: Oregon grape is now growing in profusion in our back yard, just as it is in areas all over the northwest.  It’s a harbinger of spring but also one of my favorite plants, a judgement that began years ago.

In a college botany class each student was required to create a plant collection then select one species from the collection and describe everything about it that might make it interesting.  I selected Majonia repens (Oregon grape) because it was not only beautiful but functional as well.


As seen, the plant produces a cluster of small, bright yellow flowers, each of which contains six petals, nine sepals, six stamens.  Not too much prior to my college collection the plant was reclassified.

Previously the plant had been grouped with the genus Berberis, but because that genus also included 500 other plants botanists renamed Oregon grape and designated it Majonia.

Interestingly, come fall the plant produces a grape which is high in Vitamin C and was once used to treat scurvy. Many still collect the berry which is crushed and made into a jelly.  Indians crushed and dried the yellow roots to cure such maladies as heartburn, rheumatism, kidney problems, and some skin conditions.


With its yellow flowers the plant is a delight to photograph and to accentuate the vibrant yellow color I decided I wanted a black background.  As a result, I set my tripod mounted camera on manual, then set my two strobes to “slave.”  I went to the camera’s menu, found the appropriate window to designate my on-camera strobe to master, then chose an aperture of f32 to maximize depth of field.


Oregon grape, not only a harbinger of spring but one with an abundant number of uses.


Then, to completely overpower existing daylight, I set the shutter to 250th of a second. Because I had no photo assistant I set the camera for a 15 second delayed exposure so I could step away from the camera and hand hold the strobes.  Recently fallen rain increased the plant’s color saturation.

It’s a technique that works well for me.



*Arctic Grayling Now Spawning


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A Most Pleasant Day With Rattlesnakes

posted: May 18th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Almost the moment we departed our truck parked along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, Janie shouted that we should stop.  “Stop,” she said.  “It’s a rattlesnake.”

Actually, that is what we were trying to find, but the observation was much sooner then we expected.  Several years ago our good friends, David and his wife VV, told us about a rattlesnake den they’d found while hiking. David said that subsequent to that time they’d often returned, for in the spring they had seen literally dozens of snakes near the mouth of the den.


Western Prairie Rattlesnake



At this time of year, they were intertwined, still sharing the warmth of one another’s bodies.  But this year was different. Warm summer-like weather elevated temperatures and some snakes had apparently already left the den.  Still, we hoped some remained, and we continued our hike, passing a hole into which Janie’s snake had quickly disappeared.  “Snakes,” said David, “are generally defensive.  Given a chance, they’ll always scurry away.

Thirty minutes later we approached a rock-strewn slope.  It was located on the south side of a hill and so was warmed by the winter sun.  And, yes, we saw snakes, almost immediately.  They were the western prairie  rattlesnakes, and almost immediately they began to rattle.

Snake-45 Snake-46 DavidShea-46

L TO R: Rattlesnake country is beautiful country, highlighted by sedimentary rock often covered by colorful lichens; rattlesnake den in center of photo and at bottom; David surveying country from inside an eagle pit, once used by Native Americans for capturing eagles.

They were under rocks and in the crevasses of our sandstone hill.  But as we suspected, many had apparently departed, for last year at this time David had seen literally dozens of snake intertwined like so much spaghetti.

These snakes, however, were not happy about our presence. Simultaneously, one elevated its tail and head and we gave it a wide berth until it settled down.  Then with a long telephoto lens I approached it.  I wanted a close-up shot and because the close focusing distance of my lens was about eight feet I inserted an extension tube and was able to approach within about six feet.  David, who has made a study of snakes said they can’t strike more than about half their body length, and I was well beyond that distance.


Rattlesnakes are classified as pit vipers, and the close-up images shown here reveal these pits just below their eyes.  They serve as heat sensors and when hunting, the pits inform snakes where they should strike their prey.  These pits have an effective range of approximately one foot, but they provide the rattlesnake with a distinct advantage in hunting for warm-blooded creatures at night.

One of the snakes posed nicely beside a translucent sheath and I realized it was a discarded skin, though probably not a recent one.  As snakes grow they shed their skins, and apparently do so several times a year.  Later I found a baby rattlesnake and David said to be careful.  “Before they can rattle,” said David, “they must have two rattles.”  This one had but a “button,” a single rattle.  Though it could shake its tail, there was nothing for the one rattle (the button) to rattle against.

Snake-12 Snake-1 Snake-31

L TO R:  Click pictures one and two for larger image and to easily see “pits” of snake located just below eyes.  Though rattlesnakes are defensive, when approached too close, they will assume aggressive posture, showing head elevated, tongue out and tail up.

Rattlesnakes travel with their rattles held up to protect them from damage, but in spite of this precaution, their day-to-day activities in the wild still cause them to regularly break off end segments. As a result there is no correlation between age and the number of rattles.


Unlike many other snakes, rattlesnakes give birth to living young.  In other words, they are, according to an old college professor of mine, “viviperous.” Depending on size and age, females rattlesnakes produce from 10 to 20 young once every two to three years.  Most young don’t make it past their first year, and are preyed upon by a variety of different birds.

Rattlesnakes are also destroyed by people, and as we returned from our trip, a fellow drove up in a rundown truck and said he was out killing snakes.  “I’ve gotten two already,” said the fellow with a glazed look of one who had just stepped out of a bar. As snake defenders we said that without them the country would be overrun with rodents.  Realizing our opinions differed the man jammed his truck into gear and spun off in a cloud of dust and small rocks.

“So much for jerks,” we said, and recounted our day’s activities discussing the eagle pit (used by Native Americans to capture eagles) we’d seen and the beautiful country through which we hiked.  We were also fascinated by the incredible biology of snakes and concluded we’d had a most successful day.




*Organ Pipe Restrospective





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21 Years Ago Today We Honeymooned at the World Trade Center

posted: May 4th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Twenty-one years ago today (OTHER THAN A CHANGE OF DATE, THIS IS A REPEAT OF LAST YEAR’S POST ), Janie and I were married at my sister’s in Poughkeepsie, New York. Somehow Forrest, my brother-in-law, managed to obtain reservations for us at the World Trade Center where we stayed the night of May 4th, 1991. Janie and I both enjoy Broadway hits, so that night we took in CATS.  As well, we dined in the restaurant once located at the top of one of the Twin Towers.

Obviously we’re saddened that we can no longer return to the World Trade Center. But our sadness is obscured by the immense tragedy of lives lost subsequent to the bombing on 9/11 and the way in which the lives of so many others were forever altered.

We’re reminded of the World Trade Center for obvious reasons, and last year on a blog posting that was similar to this one I wrote: Now, if we could only bring Osama Bin Laden to justice, alive — or dead!

Because we use these blogs as logs of our travels, I want to note that on Monday, May 2nd, 2011, we were on our way to Dulles Airport and that Washington DC was alive with the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. About eight hours later we were landing at the airport in Kalispell, Montana.

And now I want to say that I am proud to have a friend who is a member (retired) of the Navy SEALS and a family member (also retired) who once served in the Army as a Ranger.


Since leaving the World Trade Center 20 years ago, our travels have been many, as links below suggest.


On a less newsworthy — but equally as memorable note for us — since departing New York and returning to Montana, our lives have been made incredibly rich with many travels, and for those interested in a sampling, simply click on links provided below.

A few highlights might include experiences in the Arctic (boating Adventure) and the travels throughout Canada (Kayaking Bay of Fundy) and the U.S. (Dry Tortugas) in our Airstream.





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