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 October, 2012

Are We Still Peglegger?

posted: October 27th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  We spent five days camped at Agua Caliente but have now returned to Springs of Borrego.  Our current campsite is back dropped by Coyote Mountain, a mountain which a small group of us managed to summit after two attempts.

Our first attempt began near Alcoholic Pass while our last and successful attempt began right from our doorstep at Pegleg Campground where we dry-camped last year for several months.  Sometimes as we sit here at The Springs and explain to other local campers that we climbed the mountain looming to our north, they seemed astounded.  But then, astonishingly, they ask, “Well, what kind of people camp at Pegleg?”

Airstream (1 of 1)

Airstream trailer backdropped by Coyote Mountain


I respond saying that all Pegleggers – every single one of them — climb mountains, ride bikes and sit around extemporizing on Dante’s Inferno and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  Then in my most supercilious manner I look down my nose and say, “Look!  Here’s my wife, just back from a 15 mile ride.” Then I ask them: “And what do you do?”

Though we have enjoyed months camped at Pegleg in fact we are also enjoying our time here at The Springs.  Both areas have their attractions and at Pegleg a highlight was sitting around campfires and marveling at the night sky, something folks at The Springs can’t do as all roads here are lighted so brilliantly.

But right now we’re appreciating a number of features offered only at the Springs.  We don’t golf but we like the other amenities and after one of our daily bike rides we’ll return, take a quick shower then sit in the hot tub, perhaps with a glass of wine.  On days that are particularly hot, we’ll swim.

Five other couples are camped here in their Airstreams and one of them was the former pilot of the huge Bathyscaphe known as the Trieste.  Some of his work took him into the Mariana Trench.  As I got to know the man a bit better my admiration grew, and I laughed and told him that he’d make a good Peglegger. He said the ideal appealed to him, and that he wanted to learn more about the use of solar panels.

Mostly however we keep to ourselves so that I can work on projects of my own. But we’re human and sometimes we do spend a bit of our time thinking about the perfect response to counter those “super sophisticates” whom we encounter no matter where we go, even (and please keep this a secret); those we find out at Pegleg.




*Harper’s Ferry



(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)


Read Comments | 6 Comments »

Compassionate Water Tanks — What’s Their Purpose?

posted: October 25th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  I wasn’t real happy with my posted image showing a water tank, essentially because I wanted the words AGUA and WATER to leap out. The unintentional exclusion of the last letter of each word diminishes the impact.

Blame it on the fact that I had ridden my bike almost 20 miles on a day that approached the 100 degree mark and my mind could have been a bit addled.  But the upside is that I now know something about heat, dramatized by the presence of the tanks.

MoonlightCanyon (10 of 1)

Compassionate water tank just north of Mexican border near Agua Caliente

The tank is referred to as a “compassionate water tank,” and it is one of a number of barrels located south of Agua Caliente, meaning that they are located just a few miles north of the Mexican border.   Each of the barrels contains jugs of water and virtually all will be consumed by undocumented immigrants, most of who are trying to find a better life for themselves in the US.

Ignoring the politics that engulf the issue of undocumented immigrants, groups who place the barrels here do so because they believe in human rights, and such compassion is significant.  In other words, these humanitarians are simply expressing the belief through their actions that people should not die of heat exhaustion and dehydration because they want a better way of life.

Several years ago over two dozen illegals died, and none in this group was a drug runner.  These people died horrible deaths in the desert, and might have survived had water been present.

In no way, however,  should this posting be construed as one endorsing the presence of undocumented immigrants.  The issues seem so complex and so nuanced that I have no real opinion, just simply trying to explain what is here.  I’ve reported a bit on this subject before and if you also click the associated links you’ll see that I do recognize the compassionate aspects – but also the downside of undocumented immigrants, particularly as it has been affecting one of our national parks — and when it includes illegal drugs!



*Airstream Camper Tips (From Organ Pipel)


(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)


Read Comments | 2 Comments »

Limiting Factors Check A Population’s Expansion – Be it a Grizzly Bear or a California Fuchsia

posted: October 23rd, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Why is it that the grizzly bear can inhabit the prairies while black bears must seek out lands that are wooded?  And why is it that the only place we’ve seen the California Fuchsia while in Anza Borrego Desert State Park is in shaded areas where there tends to be some moisture?

The answer to both these questions is simple.  Each species is governed by “limiting factors, ” conditions which retard or in some cases completely prevent a specific type of life from expanding, a fact that was driven home on a recent hike near Agua Caliente.

MoonlightCanyon (19 of 10)


In Moonlight Canyon, limiting factors were themselves “limited,” enabling these moisture-sensitive plants to extend their numbers to the point
where they now number in the hundreds — perhaps even thousands!

As Bill, a photographer friend, and I began our hike toward Moonlight Canyon several days ago, we were in the open – exposed and assaulted by harsh light.  What’s more the sandy soil on which we hiked contained no discernible moisture.  But then we entered Moonlight Canyon proper and immediately the walls narrowed creating welcome shade.  Suddenly, we saw butterflies and then, a few steps further, we found the most lavish growth of California Fuchsia I have ever seen.

Because the species is so brilliantly colored it is one you will always recognize.  Typically each petal is colored a brilliant red, a color you might want to call crimson red, scarlet red – or even blood red.  Taxonomically, its generic name is Epilopium, which includes fireweed, a showy plant that grows in Montana, my home state.  Fireweed is also colored a brilliant red.

MoonlightCanyon (11 of 10) MoonlightCanyon (18 of 10)


With its tubular appearance,  brilliant color, and showy reproductive structures, California Fuchsia is distinctive — perhaps even ostentatious!


As well as the ostentatious color, Fuschia exhibits bold reproductive structures.  Vastly elongated pistils and stamens extend from four long and slender sepals and four short and broad petals.  This is a species you will never forget and the fact that it is growing in Moonlight Canyon, which is still desert, seemed astounding.

But there it was, and like all other forms of life, it needs moisture and in the case of this plant, Moonlight Canyon with its shade and moisture, fulfills the plant’s needs; and does so in precisely the right proportions.  Here, the ground is not sucked dry by the sun’s intensity, and here shade lowers ambient temperatures.  And because moisture in this one area radiates, not only is there enough moisture for one plant but there is enough moisture for hundreds of plants, perhaps even thousands. And so in this beautiful water-carved canyon, Epilobium canum thrives.

MoonlightCanyon (10 of 10)

Almost immediately upon entering Moonlight Canyon, temperatures cooled and the sun's intensity diminished, serving to invite a broader variety of life. Later I was surprised to learn this was the venerable Monarch Butterfly! The two rows of tiny white dots in the outer portion of the wing provide confirmation.


And what about the bears of my first paragraph?

Because black bears evolved in the woods they learned to safeguard their young by sending them up a tree.  But not so with grizzly bears, which evolved in wide open areas.  To safeguard their young, sows turned vicious.  Black bears then are limited (confined, if you will) to forested areas, which controls population expansion almost as effectively as moisture controls the expansion of Fuchsias.

How lucky Bill and I were to find such an abundance of Fuchsia, reasonably free to expand because the plant’s limiting factors were, in fact, themselves —   limited.





*Fort Anne’s Popular Graveyard Stroll


*The Acadians and Their Tragic Deportation




(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)


Read Comments | 1 Comment »

The Politics of Preserving Time

posted: October 21st, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  Time is written in the features Janie and I have recently witnessed in both Bryce and in the Grand Canyon, and in slightly different ways those features  are expressing themselves here in Anza Borrego Desert State Park.    We’re  seeing them through the unobstructed rising of the brilliant red desert sun; the  flocks of Gambel’s Quail charging among the ocotillo — just leafed out following a down pour of rain; and in the monstrous ears of the desert cottontail that time has enlarged to dissipate heat which assaults it almost daily.

At the end of such observations I find that I start reading books with a natural history theme.  Our time here in Anza Borrego Desert State Park has produced no exceptions.

Aqua-Calienta (18 of 10)

Through time quail have established a niche in the California desrert


This past week while camped at Agua Caliente I completed a book entitled Red, which contains some of the nation’s most eloquent writing on behalf of wilderness and the creatures that make such wild places their home.  I like the writing of Terry Tempest  Williams  in part because her concerns about excessive population growth, unchecked construction, and the ravages of wild places are identical to mine.  But after those comparisons similarities cease, for she  voices her concerns in a way that must be classified as pure art.

Ms. Williams (a relative of Mitt Romney) makes her case through the telling of stories, believing, she says, that “Story… returns us to our highest and deepest selves, where we remember what it means to be human…” In her book she writes passionately about time, about wildlife and about people, and because much of her writing in the book pleads for the preservation of wilderness lands in Utah she asks specifically:

“What,” she queries, “do these places have to say to us as human beings at this point in time?  What do they have to say about life during the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic eras?  What do they say about the erosion and uplift of our souls and imaginations?”

Quail (6 of 1) Aqua-Calienta (16 of 10) Aqua-Calienta (13 of 10)

The sun rises through the time-adjusted branches of an ocotillo plant, which in turn attracts a variety of species of birds — ecological adjustments that are a product of the eons. 

Leaping ahead to another page she summarizes: “When one of us says, ‘Look, there’s nothing out there,’ what we’re really saying is, ‘I cannot see.’”

Those same thoughts can, of course, be applied to lands other than to just those in Utah, and those who have followed my blogs (perhaps even some of my magazine stories) over the years know that because the Arctic Refuge contains one of the world’s last self-regulating natural ecosystems I believe it should be preserved.  Those who can’t find beauty in a field of arctic flowers or in the annual migration of thousands of caribou simply can not  see!  Instead, they compensate for their lack of vision calling it “a wasteland that should be developed.”

Those, however, who have actually been there say it should be protected forever as wilderness, for its existence and evolved ecology is the product of the eons, and from this defacto wilderness area, magnificent stories about native adaptations have been recorded.

Once I thought that opening the refuge to development was the ultimate insult to time and intelligence  but sadly equivalents have emerged.  Expediency rather than wisdom might soon alter the health of our globe despite the existence of thoughtful alternatives. As well it might introduce an international pipeline, and deplete our aquifers.  And so it is with the assault on our land not only where I live in Montana, but also  in places contiguous with Arches National Monument – where  one recent president began exploratory drilling.

Aqua-Calienta (15 of 10)

Through time the desert cottontail has evolved enlarged ears to help it dissipate heat.


Consequently,  I began casting around for solutions and again find myself listening to Ms. Williams who says that if we listen to our politicians we must ask some serious question:  “Who,” she asked, “is speaking on the side of time?”

After reading Williams’s book and then photographing and enjoying magnificent aspects of this desert, I find myself thinking once again about our place in the universe, and then wondering what our world could look like under the wrong set of circumstances?





*Airstreams Over the Past Ten Years



(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)


Read Comments | 2 Comments »

Dramatizing Heat of The Desert Sun

posted: October 17th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Temperatures here at Agua Calienta in California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park continue to peak slightly above the 100 degree mark. For the desert photographer, the challenge is to illustrate the torrid conditions that result.

Knowing that telephoto lenses compress the scenery, this morning, just before sunrise, which here occurred at 6:56 a.m., I attached a 600mm lens to my Nikon D7000, then mounted the combination on a tripod.  As the sun began to rise I focused on a nearby ocotillo bush, then stopped the aperture to f-22 to maximize depth of field.

Aqua-Calienta (1 of 4)

Sun as photographed with a 600 mm lens at Agua Caliente


Quickly now the sun began to emerge from behind the distant mountains, creating as it rose a brilliant red glow.  The extreme length of the lens dramatized the power of the sun and hopefully suggested the challenge to which life in the Colorado Desert (a subdivision of the Sonoran Desert) is subjected in this torrid desert.

At the surface of the sun some 149.6 million kilometers away, scientists have calculated temperatures average about 6,000 degrees K, and later in the day, it seemed as though we could feel each and every one of those gradations.

Janie and I are camped at Agua Caliente with our Airstream friends Bill and Larry of San Diego, and I must report that the four of us also seek shade and the comfort of our very efficient air conditioners.  Nevertheless, Bill and I have made several early morning and late evening hikes.  Later, we shamelessly gather around the epicurean delights which Larry takes such pride in creating.

Believe it or not, dinner conversation revolves around the beauty and charm of the desert, which despite the torrid sun, has drawn us all.

NOTE:  Agua Caliente is a historic hot springs and offers no internet connections.  To post this blog I’ve had to drive about four miles to Vallecito, an old stage coach stop where I set up beneath a sheltered picnic bench.  There’s no electricity at the stage stop so I write the blog at our campground and then quickly make my connections at Vallecito.  I don’t linger as it seems my poor computer might bake – and me too.  For some strange reason there is absolutely no one else around.




*Shenandoah’s Mountain Folks



Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Desert Delights

posted: October 12th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: With the rising sun striking Indian Head Mountain and our Airstream parked amidst cactus, palms and lemon bushes, Janie and I have concluded that we’re certainly enjoying delights only associated with the desert.

SpringAtBorrego (10 of 1)

Desert Delights as provided by Springs at Borrego, a campground that has the good fortune of being engulfed by Anza Borrego Desert State Park, largest state park in U.S.


This morning it’s comfortably cool and the weather man has promised that the high will relax somewhere in the low 80s.  A good day to ride bikes and look around and see all we’ve enjoyed in the past:  hikes up Palm Canyon, climbs to the top of Coyote Peak.  Which reminds me:  my but did the coyotes howl last night.  Inside our Airstream their voices sounded like an enchanting song, and we’re happy once again to be back in the desert.

We’re in good health, surrounded by beauty, and consider ourselves very lucky to be where we are. Part of our day’s work load will be to sit outside and watch the clouds drift by.




*Milkweed and the Monarch Butterfly


Read Comments | 3 Comments »

No One At Pegleg? Not a Single Soul!

posted: October 11th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Here in California’s Borrego Springs, the day’s highs for the past few weeks have at times exceeded the 100 degree mark.  Little wonder so few people are now camped at either of our two favorite campgrounds: Pegleg and The Springs of Borrego.

But we’re here because of my interest in certain creatures, and the hot temperatures of October encourage male tarantulas to leave their lairs, hoping to find females with whom they can develop a friendship.  For those interested in these creatures, it’s the best time of the year to find them.

Campgrounds (1 of 1)

Springs at Borrego, sans golfers and other (well, at least not many) campers.

Nevertheless, we’re with the majority  – acknowledging that the temperatures are uncomfortable.  As a result we did not pull into Pegleg, the campground at which we’ve made our winter home these past few years.  To be comfortable in October at Pegleg one needs enough electricity to power one’s air conditioner, which our six solar panels can’t muster up.  Apparently other dedicated Pegleggers have also reached the same conclusion, for as we drove by this flat expanse of sand, we noticed that the campsite was totally and completely barren.  Mike wasn’t there, and neither were Don and Nancy; nor were Ted and Carol.

Pegleg (1 of 1)

Pegleg -- absolutely devoid of campers. Note our truck (a dot) in middle, which is the only sign of a prospective winter camper.


And so we pulled into the Springs of Borrego, a luxury RV resort at which we’ve also stayed in the past.  Here, although we’re not completely alone, the campground is not exactly overflowing.  No one is using the golf course but a few others are using the swimming pool.  As well, we’re taking early morning bike rides and are searching for what appear to be likely hang outs for  tarantulas and scorpions.  Though we’ve just gotten started, some say it might be just a trifle too early. And, so, when we get tired of our search, we return to our air conditioned Airstream where I work on assigned stories.

We’ve really got a pretty full schedule, but not so full that we can’t find a little time to swim laps in their full-size pool.  It’s nice to have all the facilities to ourselves, and have concluded this is really a pretty nice time of year to be here, though some aspects won’t last long.  Temperatures are supposed to moderate and when that happens, we suspect the facilities will be attracting its usual complement of Snowbirds.




*Bye, bye Shenandoah


(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)


Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Hope for the Endangered California Condor? Maybe

posted: October 9th, 2012 | by:Bert

Condors (2 of 2)

Naturalist Marty Martell describes concept of "imprinting" on Condors

©Bert Gildart: While standing at Mather Overlook, one of the most beautiful natural amphitheaters in the world, Ranger/Naturalist Marty Martell provided an informative lecture on the huge California Condor.  He described the vast populations that existed up until the late 1800s, enumerated the reasons for the gigantic bird’s sudden decline – and described the efforts various organizations have employed to save the species from extinction.

The lecture was an appropriate park presentation as the nearby Vermillion Cliffs serve as one of the release sites.  Often, then, the cliffs in and around Mather Overlook provide favorite roosting areas.


California condors have the distinction of being the nation’s largest bird, with a wing span that stretches about nine feet from tip to tip.  Sporting a squat, bald head, mumps-like cheeks, and a thick powerful beak, condors also have the distinction of being one of the ugliest of birds. Until recently they served the ecosystem by cleaning the landscape of dead carcasses, and did so until settlers began making their way across country in the mid 1800s.

Sometimes settlers shot the birds, but they also grabbed the huge egg that condors lay but once every several years.  Then, to compound matters, along came the use of DDT, introduced in the 1960s as a pesticide.  The substance worked its way into the ecosystem, weakening condor eggs to such an extent that by 1985, the nation tallied but 21 birds.

In an attempt to rescue them from extinction, California biologists began a captive breeding program.


Ranger Martell said that the program initially encountered problems because the birds would imprint on the person who was trying to raise them.  He said the problem was resolved by disguising the “parent” in such a way that he or she would look like a condor.  Researcher also had to condition young birds to avoid electrical power poles.  They did so by placing power poles loaded with uncomfortable charges in the huge pens where condors were developing.  “After landing on one a time or two you can bet they’d avoid them in the wild.”

Very slowly the program began to work, and though a population requires thousands before the species can be removed from the endangered list, today the nation’s population numbers 435 with about 70 of those birds residing in and around Arizona’s Grand Canyon.  Others reside in Baja California and in California’s spectacular Anza Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP).

Condors (1 of 2)

Subject of condors was of interest to many Grand Canyon visitors

Often visitors see condors while in the Grand Canyon, though we didn’t.  But good news looms.    We’re now in ABDSP, and have just read that on November 23, Dr. Mike Wallace will be providing a presentation on his work with condors at this state park’s annual desert lecture series.

RimWalk (1 of 1)

Remote cliffs of the Grand Canyon ideal for safety of California condors.


We’ll certainly be attending, hoping we can learn more about the bird that has so fascinated Grand Canyon naturalist Marty Martell.  Anza Borrego, incidentally, will be our home for the next few months.





*Shenandoah’s Loft Mountain Campground




(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)


Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Return to Hermit’s Rest

posted: October 5th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  Yesterday Janie and I bicycled to what has become my most favorite part of Grand Canyon: Hermit’s Rest.  Because Janie had not biked much recently we decided to try out the shuttle system, which we found surprisingly easy to use and the bus drivers more than helpful.

Tarantula (31 of 1)

Janie at "entrance" to Hermit's Rest

Because it was our first time loading bikes onto the bus, the driver showed us which levers to pull – and push – and within a matter of minutes we had our two bikes loaded onto the rack, which is outside and located on the very front of the bus.  About ten minutes later we unloaded our bikes near Hopi Point.  In that way we eliminated the most uphill portion of the Hermit’s Road Drive, which is open only to shuttle buses and to bikes.


Essentially, we were riding in a Pinyon/Juniper forest to the South all flanked to the north by the depths of the Grand Canyon.  As we rode we could see that the pinyon pine nuts were ripe, and we had learned from our week now of exploring this park that many Native families were gathering nuts, perfectly legal for all ethnic groups.  Several days early Janie had visited with an elderly Native lady who said this was the very best crop they’ve had in several years. “Next year,” she said, “there probably won’t be many nuts.”

Tarantula) PinyonPineNuts (1 of 2)

L to R: (Click to enjoy as larger images)  Tarantula along Hermit’s Rest, pinyon pine showing seeds inside cone and ready to burst free.


Nuts are best gathered on the ground as when in the cones on the trees they are exceedingly sticky.  Natives gather them in huge quantities, then bake the nuts and when properly prepared “taste better than peanut butter.”  We noticed the ground, beneath stands of pinyon pine trees, was thick with cones and that the cones extruded seeds.  We continued our ride, reaching Hermit’s Rest about an hour later.

Today, Hermit’s Rest is a small stone building that serves as a place for visitors to rest and stroll along the canyon rim.  It’s also the point at which the road runs out and where buses and bikers must turn around.


Several days ago while biking the area just west of The Rest, I found a tarantula, and in almost the same place Janie and I spotted yet another.  This one seemed larger, and by now I had learned a bit more about handling this huge arachnid – and hopefully (for your viewing pleasure) the making of better tarantula images.  (See previous post for comparison.)

HermitsRest (33 of 1)

Colorado River, which has been at work for over a million years.


We completed our ride – almost 18 miles – just as the sun neared the horizon.  It lite the canyon in dramatic ways – even after it had disappeared.  Below us we could see the famous Colorado River that had been at work for well over a million years.  It was a humbling experience and we rode on, returning to our Airstream near dark.  We were tired but invigorated.





*Shenandoah and the Monarch Butterfly







Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Creating Photo Art From Hopi Art Created at Desert View

posted: October 4th, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Though the work of Hopi artist Fred Kabotie is the art that is most completely described in a pamphlet that discusses the murals on the walls of the Watchtower at the Grand Canyon’s Desert View, it was the work on the second and third floors by Fred Geary that intrigued me the most.

Desert View

HDR image of art work created by Fred Geary


Because the tower is such a popular visitor destination, Janie and I made an early morning return so that I might use a tripod required for long time exposures and not impede visitor movement.  I also wanted to bracket my photographs so that I could merge them in a program that creates High Density Resolution images.

My plan worked and shown here is an HDR image that doesn’t exceed the limits of exposure inherent in my Nikon 7000.  This to me is the way the image of the hunter stalking the game appeared, and hopefully it preserves the grandeur Mr. Geary hoped to impart.  If I had not used this photo technique the “fire” from the pot would be way over exposed.

We’re enjoying the Grand Canyon so much we’ve decided to extend our visit by yet another three days.




*Shenandoah — A Walk in the Rain


Read Comments | 1 Comment »

The Road to Hermit’s Rest Kindles Unexpected Thoughts

posted: October 3rd, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  From the campground at which we’re staying near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, it is about nine miles to Hermit’s Rest. The Hermit Canyon Road, which is about 7 miles long,  is closed to all vehicular traffic except for the park’s shuttle buses.  But it is also open for bicycle riders.

Hermit'sRest (1 of 2)

Bert Gildart along bike route to Hermit's Rest


The road passes a number of overlooks with names that hint at the vistas that unfold, and they include Hopi Point, Mohave Point, The Abyss – and Powell Point, among others.

Powell Point recalls the Civil War soldier who was first to explore the Grand Canyon.  From the overlook one can peer one mile down and see the Colorado River winding through the canyon it has created.  Powell was venturing into the unknown and what makes his journey even more amazing is that he had lost one of his arms at the Battle of Shiloh.  He was  struck by a minie ball, and the raw nerve endings at the stubble  caused him pain for the rest of his life.

Nevertheless, he and his men explored the Grand Canyon  and though several of his men deserted, he remained undaunted. 

“We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore. What falls there are we know not; what rocks beset the channel we know not. To leave the exploration unfinished, to say that there is a part of the canyon which I cannot explore is more than I am willing to acknowledge and I determine to go on.”

Hermit'sRest (2 of 2)

View from bike route near Monument View Vista



“Its colors, though many and complex at any instant, change with the ascending and declining sun; lights and shadows appear and vanish with the passing clouds, and the changing seasons mark their passage in changing colors”. John Wesley Powell

Powell Point is one of the first overlooks one comes to along the ride, but the rest is equally as dramatic, and bike riding has to be  one of the most delightful — perhaps even profound — ways to experience the majesty of the area. If one does nothing but peddle (on a mountain bike)  it takes about an hour (each way), as the route is  a series of ups and downs, but  if you really want to enjoy the area, you need to take several hours and stop often.

Along the way I met a delightful German couple near Monument Creek Vista and they offered to take my picture.  I then took several pictures of the scenery that was a constant companion.  It was late in the day and I was delighted with the image (just above) that unfolded.


Tarantula near Hermit's Rest


On my return trip from Hermit’s Rest,  I found a tarantula, a creature I have been actively searching for.  In fact, one of the reasons we departed Montana early this year was with the hope of photographing these creature. Males are particularly active in the fall as they begin looking for a mate.

I hope to find more, but in the meantime, here is one of the several images I took of this amazing creature.  It was near the road, and fearing that a tour bus would run it over, I moved it with my gloved hand.  Those in the know say they are extraordinarily tolerant, but that they will bite if a person handles it roughly.

All totaled my ride took a little more than three hours, and I may do it again, for as Heraclitus, the great  Greek philosopher once said:  “No man ever steps in the same river twice,” meaning, of course, that another ride would at least provide subtle changes.  Or to be even more dramatic,  not only has the river flowed on, but we have also flowed on.

Perhaps Powell was a student of Heraclitus, easy to become here along the road to Hermit’s Rest, on the cusp of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.





*Rudyard Montana — So Who Is That Old Sorehead



(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)


Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Desert View, A Grand Canyon Highlight

posted: October 1st, 2012 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Desert View, located about 25 miles east of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center claims the park’s best view of the Colorado River.  Little wonder everyone wants to model in front of this powerful scene, and how lucky I was that an Oriental model agreed to pose for her mother and then to then stay a second or two longer so that I might also record the setting.

The young lady stood next to the 70 foot stone tower intended to look like an ancient Pueblo watch tower, and reminded us of one we’d visited often at Hovenweep National Monument.  But interpreters say this “Watch Tower” dwarfs any known Indian tower. Its draw is almost as magnetic as are views from the rim, and moments later “my” model headed for the circular tower.

Desert View (9 of 10)

Oriental model assumes pose at Desert View, next to the Watch Tower.


She was the first of several people who would add depth and presumably interest to the photos I took at Desert Views.


Like others I wanted to climb to the top, and learn a bit more about the existence of “The Watch Tower.”  It was designed by architect Mary Colter and completed in 1932.  It is a four-story structure and the top is reached by climbing about 80 steps up a narrow circular stair case.

Desert View (2 of 10) Desert View (4 of 10) Desert View (8 of 10)

At the top level, spotting scopes have been mounted at each of the windows that peer onto the Colorado River. Synching my strobe with the daylight exposure outside the tower I took several images.  Then I returned to levels two and three where an artist had created genuine works of art depicting various aspects of Native cultures, particularly the Hopi culture.


Shortly after the tower was completed Fred Kabotie, a Hopi Indian,  created panels of animals and of various spiritual figures.  He drew images of elk, of the sun, and of fertility. In his work he also duplicated some of the pictographs and petroglyphs found thoughout the Southwest to include Kokopelli, the mythological flute player.

Desert View (5 of 10) Desert View (7 of 10)

Kokopelli was the predominant figure in the religious landscape of the Southwest from 500 A.D. through 1325 A.D. Typically, Kokopelli was considered a god of fertility, and is still worshipped by many Native American tribes in the Southwest. Others consider him to be a trickster, musician, or a warrior — one with magical hunting skills.

But all of the images in the tower were haunting, enough so that the collective voice of the crowd had been subdued.

Desert View (1 of 10)

Janie and I spend almost an hour wandering the interior of the Watch Tower, then returned outside and noticed that the trail along this rim setting also offered a view of Navajo Mountain, which in the distance and through the haze backdropped the Colorado River.

So far we rank Desert View one of the highlights of our explorations – but there are more to come.





*Bison Kill Site




(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts. Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25. The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT 59911.)


Read Comments | Post a Comment »