Part IX – Chapter 1 – 2011

The Blakiston Trail

The growing season for this calypso orchid that BJ found in Waterton Park is usually mid-May to the first week or two of June, depending on when the snows melt. That means her orchid, on the 16th of June, was at the very end of its cycle. Another week, and it’d probably have already gone to seed.

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Charlie and BJ did their usual tour of Waterton when they first got to the park, and they found deer and Rocky Mountain bighorns everywhere.

They were grazing in the schoolyard between Vimy’s and the Community Center. And on people’s lawns. And even downtown.

The group below is just soaking up the sun.

Rocky Mountain Sheep

This is a close-up of a bighorn rack.

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn
This guy’s my gravatar.

Charlie told BJ that a rack like this can weight thirty pounds or more, more than the total of all the other bones in its body.

And if you take a three-hundred-pound buck that stands three feet at his shoulders, he thought to himself, and have him charge another buck at over forty miles an hour, it’s not much wonder you can hear the clash a mile away.

And it’s not much wonder that most bucks, like the one below, have chipped horns and a battle-scarred muzzle.

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn
It takes about eight years for those horns to curl around its face like that.

Once they got to Red Rock Canyon, Charlie commented, as usual, about the number of point-and-shooters on the bridge doing their best to immortalize the little waterfall and the red argillite rock.

And as usual, there were a number of people down along the creek enjoying the sun.

When Charlie and BJ were at Red Rock in June, there was still quite a bit of water going over that little waterfall. Two months later, in the photo below, the water flow was much reduced.

August 13

But the flow usually stayed about the same until well into the fall.

Red Rock Creek
October 21

On the hike into Blakiston Falls, the trail was mostly wet, and there was still some snow. But nothing like they were going to find on the Cameron Lake trail.

The color of the path below is from the red argillaceous rock in the area. You’ll notice that when the sun is on the path, it is more the color you see above.

And this is the calypso orchid that BJ discovered, which is also known as the Venus slipper or the fairy slipper. She was quite excited about her find when she found out later that they were rare and even classed as endangered in some places.

The Blakiston Trail

Blakiston Falls, itself, wasn’t all that interesting. Charlie’d seen it when it had a lot more water than in the shots below. Also, he’d said at the Red Rock bridge that he suspected there’d be no sun on the falls, and he was right. And being in the shade made the falls far less dramatic.

But at least it was hike number six off his list. Eleven to go.

When they got back to the Visitor Center, and Charlie asked about the Cameron Lake trail, they said that it was a way too early. No one had been able to hike it yet. Some had tried, but they couldn’t do it because the snow was still really deep and really rotten. Even with snowshoes, they’d just kept breaking through.

Outside in the parking lot, on their way to the car, BJ knew exactly why she was thinking about Jesus and his pearls-before-swine comment. And she knew exactly what Charlie was going to try next.

Hike number seven, of course, which would leave him with ten to go. But the elevation gain on some of the remaining hikes, up to a kilometer, and the distance, over twenty kilometers, and the scrambling, would make six of these first seven seem like a walk in the park, which, in fact, they were. And that was fine.

Charlie’s goal from the outset had been to hike all seventeen trails listed in the Hiking Map and Guide for the Waterton Lakes National Park the year he turned seventy, this year, and these seven were part of that package.

The first twenty minutes of the Cameron trail had footprints. But then they stopped.

In fairness to Charlie, however, he did tell BJ they could turn back at that point, if she wanted. And in fairness to BJ, she did agree to go with him as long as he did turn back if they started breaking through the surface of the snow.

They ended up breaking through a few times. Charlie broke through once with one leg almost up to his groin, and BJ broke through once with both legs all the way to her waist. And that led to a string of stories about other people’s encounter with hibernating bears when they broke through, until she suggested he save his stories for when they were back in the car. And safe.

With six feet of snow, for example, it would easily be possible to have a four-foot den with a two-foot-thick roof that was supported by broken coniferous boughs, and easily penetrable.

But despite the breakthroughs, BJ didn’t say anything. And they kept going all the way to the lookout by the grizzly bear habitat, which they almost missed because the snow was so deep.

If they had, Charlie thought, they would have ended up in the United States without passports, and maybe even have been taken to Gitmo for waterboarding. And other bad stuff. Or not.

The Footprints Have Stopped
You can see Charlie’s footprints and where he kicked the snow off the handrail.

At that point, they were looking south toward Montana’s Mount Custer, which is on the right behind the trees, and they were probably almost at the border, which runs through the lake just before the end.

So they had to turn around. Hikers are not allowed to enter the grizzly bear habitat. And besides, BJ’s ankle was getting sore.

By four thirty p.m. they were back at the Visitor Center, and Charlie proclaimed to one and all their first-of-the-year success on Cameron.

And after much ado about nothing, in the greater scheme of things, they were off to the Big Scoop to celebrate.

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Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

≈≈≈

(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part VIII – Chapter 10 – 2010

Daphne

This is one of Charlie’s favorite abstracts, and he often makes up stories to go with them. This story is about Daphne, a naiad associated with freshwater (remember the freshwater part), who was turned into a Laurel tree by her father Peneus at the last second to keep her from being ravished by Apollo.

(Another time, Charlie can tell us the whole story, including how this resulted in Laurel wreaths being used to crown champions.)

Yet here, centuries later, we see Daphne finally emerging from an Arbutus tree, which is a distant cousin of the Laurel. And hopefully, she’s just in time to help save our planet’s freshwater from being as mindlessly ravished as she nearly was.

“But I digress,” as a friend of mine in Moncton often said.

So it’s time now for a few of Charlie’s abstracts, which he talked about in the last chapter.

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Before the abstracts, however, let’s check out the one sign that really caught his attention big time when BJ read it to him.

Scorpions, Rattlesnakes, and Spiders

And a sign beside it said that the rattlesnakes, and black widow spiders, and scorpions were all along the Old Man River Valley, as well.

He knew about the rattlesnakes, but he had no idea there were black widow spiders and scorpions in the park, and he was especially disconcerted to learn they were also on the banks of the Old Man River in Lethbridge, most likely lurking alongside the very trails that he and BJ often walked.

Knowing all that, though, didn’t keep him from trying to come up with some interesting abstracts of the rock formations. He’d just have to be a tad more careful.

But later on, he found out that black widows were rare in Lethbridge and the scorpions were mostly wind scorpions and pseudoscorpions, which weren’t any more dangerous than bees and wasps, although he wasn’t a big fan of bees and wasps, either.

For Charlie, abstract photography meant zeroing in on the most interesting parts of a subject, rather than on the subject as a whole. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes people might not even be able to guess what the subject was.

He loved playing with shadows, textures, shapes, and lines, especially lines.

Here are some of his photos. But because these are photographs, most of them are, in fact, semi-abstract. It’s far easier to go fully abstract with a paint brush than with a camera.

But he did try to make some really abstract abstracts.

When he showed them to BJ, however, she hesitated for a moment, then said, “They’re interesting.” He knew about that hesitation, and he knew about her vague, noncommittal comments. And he knew neither was a good sign.

But he wasn’t really surprised. He wasn’t even sure he liked them, himself.

At least she didn’t roll her eyes this time. So maybe there was some hope.

He wondered if they would look better as black-and-whites. And since he was red-green color blind, he thought that might be worth a try. He’d have much better control.

He’d been told a number of times that he couldn’t see some colors or that he would confuse them. He couldn’t see magenta, for example, and he definitely confused darker colors. Sometimes even lighter ones.

He’d worn a light blue Harris Tweed sports jacket for a number of years, with color-matched accessories, until a secretary at work told him one day that the jacket was gray. So immediately, out with the old and in with the blue gray accessories.

But he had no idea how to convert color photos to black and white.

The answer to that? The usual, of course. YouTube. YouTube has the answer to every possible question.

And this is what he came up with on his first try.

He decided not to show them to BJ for a while. He wanted to learn more about the process of conversion.

So far, though, he was not convinced that the effort of going black-and-white was worth the hassle. Maybe b&w was an acquired taste. Or maybe b&w processed properly would be more exciting.

And then, bang on, he remembered that B&H in New York, where he often bought camera stuff, had a whole library of free, first-rate videos.

Yet, no matter how carefully he followed the suggestions in those videos, his new b&w’s didn’t look any better than the ones above, which he thought were iffy, and which reinforced his notion, of course, that converting to b&w might not be worth the hassle.

But this whole process of playing around with black-and-white reminded him of a discussion he and BJ’d had a couple weeks earlier. And that made him feel a lot better.

I’m having a conversation with myself. Right? he thought. And that’s all that really matters. I’m a verb. I’m becoming.

And he smiled.

They’d been on the patio out at the back having their morning coffee and watching a pair of Northern Flickers hunting for things in the grass.

“BJ, new idea. I’m going to stop using the word art. And the word artist, too. The way we use them today, they don’t mean anything. Everybody’s an artist. And everything’s art.

“I’m going to use the word conversation, instead. And I’m going to think in terms of verbs, not nouns.

“I’m going to think of a person, whether he’s photographing, sculpting, painting, composing, or writing, as having a conversation with himself.”

He looked over at her. She was still watching the Flickers.

“See? Verbs. That person is seeking to understand more about himself.

“But to make it simple for now, let’s just talk about someone who’s writing, and even more specifically, writing a novel.

“If he were a noun, a writer, he’d be off to a writing group, and to the library for each new speaker, and to conferences and retreats. And he’d be pandering to the media, and he’d become a writer-in-residence, or a mentor, or both.

“However, my dear, there’s a universe of difference, between I am a writer and I love writing.

“Simply put, if you want to write, stay in your room and write.

“Sit quietly and have a conversation with yourself.

“Seek to know, not to be known.

“Ask yourself: Who am I deep down? Why am I alive? What do I really value? What kinds of goals do I need to pursue if I’m going to have a good life?

“And as you ask those kinds of questions, you will slowly begin to understand more and more about Life, with a capital L.

“And you will slowly begin to realize that the answers are coming to you from within, from your own unconscious mind.

“And that the ideas for your novel are also coming to you from deep within.”

(But rather than repeat myself here, I’ve already talked about how I think this process works in Post 3b, How I Suspect My Writing Takes Care of Itself.)

“Charlie, are you saying that all novels are conversations? Pop and literary? And that they all come from deep within? If you are, I’m not sure I buy it. That would make everyone an artist. And you said you’re trying to avoid that.”

“I am, BJ. A literary novel is written only by someone who seeks to know and who writes down, in story form, the conversation he’s having with himself.

“A pop novel, on the other hand, is a commercial product designed to match marketplace demands and to make money. And it’s especially suited to doctors’ offices and airports. It’s light entertainment.

“But a literary novel is not light. It’s usually hard work. You, too, begin to ask yourself: Who am I deep down? Why am I alive? How can I create a life that is worth living?

“The examined life. Right? Socrates.”

He looked over, and she was fiddling her left earlobe. That meant he had her thinking.

“And what makes reading a literary novel even harder, BJ, is you have to understand the language the seeker-to-know is speaking. This is even more important when he is not a writer, but instead is a painter, or a composer, or a choreographer, or a sculptor, or an architect.

“If you don’t know the language, you have to learn it. And that takes effort. Otherwise, it would be a lot like listening to a lecture on quantum field theory by a Tibetan who is speaking in his mother tongue.

“You can only understand the insights in paintings by a Jackson Pollock or a Picasso, for example, if you know the language of abstract painting.

“And the same’s true of a Philip Glass, or a Twyla Tharp, or an August Rodin, or an I.M. Pei.

“Those people took years to master their language.

“And unless you, too, know that language, their stuff will just be gibberish.”

But for Charlie, this was not a simple case of dropping the words art and artist, and of realizing that he’d have to learn the language of black-and-white.

Over the next few years, he would decide that he was tired of photographing clichés such as sunrises, sunsets, creamy waterfalls, and double rainbows.

And he would no longer photograph people or their property and have to worry about model releases.

And he would even begin to wonder if he’d merely been using his camera as a photocopier. He’d see something, like it, and photocopy it. Simple. And mindless.

But if he stopped photocopying, and if he excluded all those clichéd subjects, what would be left?

And eventually, as he tumbled down this rabbit hole, he would even decide to sell all his lenses, and he had a number of them, including some world-class telephotos.

Instead, he’d only use a 55 mm prime lens, fully manual. He’d also have a 25 mm prime for the wide-angle stuff, again fully manual, but his main lens would be the 55.

Those decisions, of course, would take him into a whole new universe of conversations with himself about himself and about Life.

And in Charlie’s case, about his next Life, as well.

Schoolhouse Earth. Remember? You read about it earlier.

And finally, in 2014, three years after his last hike, Jillian would find him sitting quietly, Zen-like, on a metaphorical log beside a metaphorical pond in Walden, holding that 55.

And he’d be smiling. And she’d sit down beside him.

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Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

Usually I would say, To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

 But in this post, the group photos are cropped really tightly, and they hardly zoom in at all.

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(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part VIII – Chapter 9 – 2010

Ironstone

The photo above shows the layers of ironstone, sandstone, and mudstone, that are the key building blocks of Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Let’s look at those layers and also at how columns, like the ones along the bottom, can eventually metamorphose into the hoodoos that make the badlands so unique.

Actually, a couple have already made that transition.

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Not long after the snake sign, Charlie and BJ got their first glimpse of the badlands.

Approaching the Park

And the closer they got, the better it got.

Before heading out, however, they checked the welcome signs. They’d seen them before, but these signs looked new. New information? No. The signs were just a redo to impress visitors.

Their first stop would be the parking lot, P, on the left just after they started counter-clockwise around the loop.

But then Charlie noticed a sign he couldn’t remember seeing before, A World Record, which claimed that Dinosaur has produced more species of fossils than any other spot in the world.

He already knew that fossils from Dinosaur had been shipped to museums in Drumheller, Toronto, Ottawa, New York City, and beyond, but he didn’t remember this particular sign. Nor did BJ. And it didn’t look new.

Charlie, however, unlike BJ, didn’t usually read signs, so he could easily have missed it on previous trips.

A World Record
BJ talks about the Bearpaw Sea and other things mentioned in this sign in the chapter you just read.

The little parking lot across the road from the trailhead for the Badlands Trail is where BJ made Charlie sit on a bench with his egg salad sandwich and tea and listen to her talk about the origins of the park, using the notes she’d made from various websites on the Internet.

The Badlands Trail

She’d explained that the area had been semi-tropical, with rivers coming in from British Columbia laden with silt, which created the delta that the park sat on, and which covered the dead plant life and dinosaurs, and which eventually hardened into sandstone and mudstone formations. And on and on.

But that kind of stuff was BJ’s thing, not Charlie’s, yet he was fully aware that she’d read every sign to him out on the trails, while he’d be surreptitiously looking around for interesting light, and shapes, and textures, and only half listening. Not even half.

So let’s leave BJ for a second and look at some of the things Charlie saw.

As was said, Dinosaur Park mostly consists of three kinds of sedimentary rock: ironstone, sandstone, and mudstone. But the rock that gives these badlands their classic hoodoos is the ironstone.

Those ledges in the last shot above, especially along the top and at the bottom right, are ironstone. And that ironstone is what creates the Sleeping Giants.

Here’s how that works:

Ironstone keeps the sandstone and mudstone from eroding. It works like an umbrella. And that’s what makes possible those large hills and hoodoos.

You can see the darker, red ironstone layers in each of the photos below.

When the ironstone does begin to rust and break up, you get columns of sandstone and mudstone below the pieces of ironstone that are still intact.

And these columns, as the ironstone continues to disintegrate, gradually become hoodoos.

Eventually, though, you end up with nothing but ironstone debris.

Before we move to the next chapter and see Charlie’s notion of abstracts, it might be helpful to have a closer look at those layers, starting with mudstone at the bottom and moving up through sandstone, ironstone, and a bit of rust.

The Layers

OK, now it’s time for the next chapter, unless you want to check out a couple more signs below that BJ would love to read to you if she could, but she’s already busy reading them to Charlie.

And the payoff from all this for Alberta.

Alberta's Billion-Dollar Rock

One final tidbit: You may remember the technician, Dexter, from Part VII, Chapter 5, who came to service Charlie and BJ’s furnace and air-conditioner. Dexter told Charlie about photographing eagles, when he worked out at Dinosaur, that were feasting on the carcasses of deer that he’d had to shoot.

He said the deer were often on big chunks of ice that had gotten stuck on a little sandbar in the center of the river, and they weren’t able to swim to shore.

Charlie suspected he’d shot the deer to bring in the eagles, so he could photograph them. Deer can readily swim. There’s no way those deer were stuck on a sandbar.

That’s the Red Deer River below that Dexter was talking about, and that’s a typical sandbar between this shore and that little island.

The Sandbar
That’s the little sandbar just this side of the island on the right.

 

My guess is that Charlie was, indeed, justified in questioning Dexter’s claims. That sandbar’s not much more than a running jump from this shore.

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Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

≈≈≈

(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part VIII – Chapter 5 – 2010

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Charlie was really glad to see the hoodoos in Dinosaur Provincial Park when they finally got there. He liked those hoodoos even better than the ones at Writing-on-Stone and Drumheller. Dinosaur seemed to have a greater variety of shapes.

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Just after Charlie and BJ set out for Dinosaur, he noticed field after field of large hay bales. When he asked BJ how anyone could ever use that much hay, she pointed out that if the locals couldn’t use it Saskatchewan sure could. Many of those farmers over there were having to kill off their stock because they couldn’t feed them.

There always seemed to be a shortage of hay someplace, she said. A couple years earlier, Albertans were the ones who had to truck it in from Saskatchewan.

Note: All the photos in this post are from previous trips. Charlie was being careful. He was on photography probation, and he was saving his shooting time for Dinosaur.

For the last few months, up until just before Thanksgiving, he’d been leaving his camera stuff at home when he and BJ were out together. It seemed that photography and togetherness just didn’t mix. Hadn’t for years. But then BJ put him on a one-camera-body-one-lens-no-tripod probation.

You may remember that Charlie talked all about this probation stuff back in Part VI, Chapter 6, and then again in Part VII, Chapter 1.

They were running a bit late by the time they got to Brooks because they’d driven around Picture Butte to check it out, and they’d also gone into Turin to see if they could find Darla’s old house, if it was still standing, to see if anyone was living it.

And maybe take a photo of it to show her.

The first thing they saw when they turned in was that Turin had a traffic light. Charlie photographed it for Darla.

There were no street signs when she’d lived there in the 1970s, but she said someone had told her years ago that her house was on Second Street just north of Second Avenue.

But they couldn’t find it.

They could’ve asked someone about it, but Charlie wanted to get going. Dinosaur was still a couple hours away.

He really wanted to ask BJ, beg if necessary, if he could stop and photograph some of the fields with combines, and tractor-trailer units, and pickup trucks, and billowing dust – perfect prairie scenes – but he thought better of it. He didn’t want to push his luck.

Just before they got to Dinosaur, they drove around Patricia. They didn’t go into the pub, though, because they were going to get a burger there on the way home. They just wanted to have a quick look around in case it was dark when they got back.

One of Charlie’s all-time favorite signs was between Patricia and the park, although he’d never seen any rattlesnakes where they were supposed to be crossing.

Rattlesnake Sign
Because of signs like this, he usually wore snake guards when he was in grass and bushes photographing landscape stuff.

His very, very favourite was a “Duck Crossing” sign with a silhouette of a mom followed by four ducklings. The only place he’d ever seen that sign was just after you turn off Hwy. 2 into Cudworth, Saskatchewan, where Hwy. 777 crosses through a large pond.

He’d driven past the sign several times, but he’d never stopped to photograph it. Too busy.

No time to say, Hello, Goodbye! I’m l-a-t-e, late!

Now, of course, he wished he had.

He wished he’d photographed that duck sign, and lots of other things, as well.

Sins of omission tend to come back to haunt your Lightroom catalogue. (A metaphor? In spades! For Charlie, at least.)

≈≈≈

Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

≈≈≈

(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part VIII – Chapter 3 – 2010

Feature Photo

The feature photo above is a photo Charlie took of a painting Jillian made out in Waterton park when she and Roz came to Lethbridge to visit him and BJ for a few days.

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And below is a photo Charlie took of the painting Roz liked the most of the ones she did. She liked the stability of those triangles, although circles would have better, she’d said. Even more peaceful.

She preferred painting pacific scenes with just a hint of action, such as that lazy hawk floating on those gentle thermals and perhaps occasionally glancing at its mate down below to its right. That was action enough.

For her, the more tranquility, the better. She wasn’t a fan of tensions of any kind. And Randy had learned to live with that.

A Painting by Roz

Jillian’s paintings, however, often had a raw energy about them. She much preferred ruggedness and a sense of drama. She did paint a couple like Roz’s, but this was her favorite.

A Painting by Jillian

Charlie liked Jillian’s stuff better. A lot better. He liked nature in all its rawness.

When he and BJ moved from Saskatoon to the Arnscourt Villas in 2006, he was immediately taken with the fairly frequent high winds for which Lethbridge is known.

He really enjoyed watching branches and leaves lashing about with abandon in those savage, wilding winds, in the same way that he enjoyed watching the raw energy of white caps on rivers and lakes, or curling waves exploding onto an ocean’s rocky shoreline.

Nature, for him, was most alive at those times.

Those wonderfully warm and windless days of summer that other people seemed to crave were anathema to him.

If he wanted that kind of tranquility, he could always take a nap.

≈≈≈

Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

≈≈≈

(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part VII – Chapter 6 – 2010

Just Before the Rock Band

The photo above shows Charlie’s first good look at the rock band. He’d have to climb it. That was the only way he could get up to the south end of the ridge.

If he’d started at the north end of the ridge by Wall Lake, he’d have had to climb down the rock band once he got to it, and he saw his trying to do that as absolutely insane.

≈≈≈

In Post 3c, I posted some photos that I took from the top of the Akamina Ridge. If you want to see them, just click the hyperlink in the previous sentence.

Here are some other photos starting from the trailhead that might also interest you.

In the parking area that morning it was a bit foggy. And the fog continued for a while up the trail.

But before Charlie turned left at the junction by the Ranger Station where the climb up to Forum Lake begins, the fog had burned off.

You’re already aware, of course, that I know nothing about flowers or butterflies. I admitted that earlier. Now you’ll learn that I also know nothing about birds.

Initially, I thought this might be a rock ptarmigan below. It looked like one to me when I checked out photos on the Internet.

But then I realized I wasn’t at a high enough elevation. So now my guess is that this is a female spruce grouse with at least four chicks – one before, one beside, and two on the log.

Female Spruce Grouse

But I could easily change my mind about that within the hour.

When Charlie got close to the top, but before he’d found the rock band, he thought the trail might go to the right here. There was no signage, and the trail was difficult to see. So he went right.

Just Before the Rock Band

That’s the ridge up there straight ahead in the photo above. And that’s Wall Lake below where he’d end up.

But the so-called trail in the photo below, which soon became a wee ledge, in fact, kept getting narrower and narrower. When it got to about six inches wide, and was still narrowing, and the drop went straight down hundreds of feet, Charlie decided that couldn’t possibly be the way to the rock band.

Just Before the Rock Band

So he slowly inched backward, being careful not to let his backpack, or his hiking poles, or his camera, or his monopod, or the stuff on his belt, catch on anything that could cause him to lose his balance.

(An aside – but please don’t tell BJ. This was Charlie’s third-worst ledge. The worst one could easily have been his last one. And he couldn’t back up on that ledge like he did here. He had to keep going. Even today, it bothers him to look at the one photo he did manage to take.)

And even after all his other hikes, and after all he’d read, he was still completely unaware that he never, ever should have had the poles’ wrist straps around his wrists while climbing.

He hadn’t met his three Canmore Angels yet. But after he does meet them, and after they ask if he’d ever scrambled before, and after he says No, and after they ask him if he’d mind a little advice, and after he says No, one of them immediately tells him about the straps.

“Worst-case scenario,” she concludes, “catch a pole on a rock with the strap on and down you go. Better just to lose the pole.”

But now for that twenty-five-foot rock band, which is the last hurdle before reaching the plateau at the top, and which various websites warn newbies about.

Charlie mentioned back in Part IV, Chapter 5, when he was explaining his hiking project to BJ, that he was somewhat afraid of the rock band. He thought that maybe it was something a seventy-year-old novice shouldn’t even be trying.

And he couldn’t stop thinking about David in Earle Birney’s poem “David.” He kept imagining himself splayed on boulders on a ledge, like David, his broken body drying in the sun, his shriveled eyes staring up at the rock face he’d tried to climb.

But if he did fall like David did, and if a sharp rock pierced his spine, too, he’d have no Bob to show him mercy and push him off the ledge to the icy moraine far below.

From a distance, the rock band didn’t look all that daunting.

That’s it up ahead and to the left.

Just Before the Rock Band

As he got closer, though, it started to look a bit more challenging.

Just Before the Rock Band

That’s the Akamina Ridge on the skyline to the right and the left. You can go left once you get to the ridge, if you want, and look down on Forum Lake. But the main trail goes to the right and then descends all the way down to Wall Lake.

The Angels arrived just as Charlie had started up, but before he’d gotten to any of the really tough parts.

He stopped climbing to let them pass.

After talking to him for a bit, however, they suggested they could choose a route up, and he could follow them, if he’d like. And, of course, he’d immediately said he’d like.

Later on, he suspected that after talking with him, they’d decided to babysit him for the rest of the day. They’d go over a crest, and then futz around until they saw him. Then they’d go over the next one and do the same.

Finally, on a flat part at the end of the ridge, they waited until he could see them, and then one at a time they walked across to the northwest corner, so he’d know where the trail started down to Wall Lake. They knew the Akamina. They’d mentioned earlier that this was not the first time they’d hiked it.

The Akamina Ridge
Descending from the Akamina Ridge. That’s Wall Lake in the center.

And once he knew where to start, they left. The hike down to Wall and back to the trailhead was easily doable, even for a novice. Painful and tiring, but doable.

That’s the Akamina Ridge along the top of the last two photos, where he’d been shepherded along by his Angels.

And those Angels were the only people he saw all day.

Just before Charlie and Victoria left the beer garden on the stampede grounds in the chapter you just read, he told her about the ptarmigan he’d seen.

Later on, he told her he thought the ptarmigan were breeding white-tailed ptarmigan in summer colors.

But he also said he’d thought they were rock ptarmigan for quite a while from the pictures on the Internet.

The only thing he knew for sure was they weren’t robins.

(Perhaps someone who knows birds will solve Charlie’s problem for him by leaving a comment at the end of this post.)

At one point, he saw all four of her chicks. One was nestled in between his feet, another was on top of his right boot, and the other two were off to the side.

And when he left, he had to keep chasing the boot-top one back to its mom. It kept trying to hike along with him.

By the time Charlie got down to Wall Lake, he was starting to feel a lot safer. He knew the six kilometers from there to the trailhead was basically flat. He’d hiked into Wall before.

But he wasn’t nearly as safe as he thought.

He’d been sweating a lot all day because of the extra gear he’d brought, including two Nikon camera bodies, three prime lenses, and a monopod.

And he hadn’t refilled even one water bottle at Wall when he had the chance.

As a result, he was out of water for the last two hours on a hike that took him almost eleven hours.

He told Victoria he’d gotten to the point where he could barely walk. “Sometimes I just stood still in the middle of the path and wondered if I could make it out. And I was no longer afraid of bears. And I was no longer even afraid of dying. It didn’t seem to matter anymore one way or the other.”

He also told her that two days later at his annual checkup, Dr. Aulan told him he’d probably had a close call. He told him that without salt and water after he’d been hiking that long, his system might have been starting to shut down, and that at his age he easily could have died.

But he didn’t die. And he did get some photos he really liked.

And one final point, as an FYI, those clouds you saw in several of the photos worried Charlie. Any suggestion of lightning, and he’d have had to climb down off the ridge thirty or forty feet for the duration. Otherwise, he’d be a lightning rod up there just waiting for the inevitable.

≈≈≈

Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

≈≈≈

(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part VII – Chapter 1 – 2010

Welcome to Waterton

The little fella up there on the rock has been trained by Parks Canada to screech out, “Welcome to Waterton.” Most people don’t hear that, though. They’re too busy looking at the flowers.

And unfortunately, he has to leave at the end of August every year to go back to school. So lots of people never get to see him.

≈≈≈

Charlie and BJ stopped at a pull-off on the Red Rock Parkway, which is the beginning of the Bellevue Trail. The trail meanders along beside Bellevue Hill (2093 m), which backs onto the east side Mount Galwey (2377 m), and it goes all the way to the bison compound.

But Charlie mentioned in the chapter you just read that he didn’t want to go that far. He was in a thinky mood. He just wanted to poke along and look at things.

Most years, the meadows on the Red Rock Parkway look like this in the spring.

Here are some of the flowers that bloom along the parkway.

I’m going to start with the crocus. They’re my very favorite. Charlie’s, too. They’re often the first flower to appear in the spring. They’ll even push up through snow and start blooming. Pretty gutsy.

But I had no idea that my favorite crocus is not a crocus. And Charlie was no help. He knows even less about flowers than I do.

True crocuses, apparently, are in the Lily family. My crocus, the prairie crocus, is an anemone, which is in the Buttercup family, and is often called a pasqueflower. Oh, well. C’est la vie.

Flowers in the Park
Crocus. Pasqueflowers.

Charlie also really liked the glacier lily, which is another early bloomer. It appears almost immediately after the snows melt. And sometimes even before.

People who are into natural healing recommend this lily as an excellent source of nutrition, but they caution that its bulb and leaves should only be harvested in an emergency. The plant is quite rare in some places.

And, of course, Waterton has lots of the ubiquitous old man’s whiskers, which range from Canada down to California and across to New York.

And two final examples below of the many flowers in the meadows: the dotted blazingstar (purple) and the western Canada goldenrod (yellow). I admit, though, that I had to confirm the names of these flowers with Waterton’s Visitor Experience Manager.

Note: I’m guessing that the butterflies are Zerene fritillaries, which are a species of butterflies. And if I really wanted to push it, I might even suggest they are speyeria callippe comstockis. If that’s incorrect, though, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

However, the following photos are probably closer to what Charlie and BJ saw.

It’s too bad it was so windy the day I took these photos. I had to go with a much shallower depth of field than I wanted.

The other option, of course, was to go for maximum depth of field and a slower shutter speed and let the flowers sweep back and forth. Beautiful splashes of color. But I opted for as much definition as I could get.

At the end of the chapter, BJ promises Charlie a double mint chip waffle cone if he’ll stop talking about what the vandals did to the flowers in the meadow, and a Local Smokie if the story he’s about to tell her is a good one.

She knows his weak spots. And Charlie easily earns both the cone and the Smokie, especially the Smokie, with his recounting of his experiences at London Conference in 1967.

In the next chapter, BJ is actually quite surprised by his story, especially the parts about Jeremy Roda. She wished she could have met Roda and heard him preach at one of his Sunday evening services at Metropolitan United.

Roda’d certainly been a major influence on her ol’ sweetie.

≈≈≈

Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow.

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

≈≈≈

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Part VI – Chapter 13 – 2010

The 49th Parallel

In the featured photo above, we’re looking east along the 49th parallel. One step to the left is Canada. One to the right is the United States.

That cut in the trees across the lake, called The Slash, is just over six meters wide and runs for 3,500 kilometers.

≈≈≈

On Monday, Charlie’s shoulder was still a mess. That little trip into Lower Bertha on Saturday hadn’t helped a bit.

This was his second hike along the Lakeshore Trail, and this was his last practice run on it.

Next year, when he’d turn seventy, it’d be showtime for all seventeen hikes listed in the Hiking Map and Guide for the Waterton Lakes National Park.

I’ve come a long way, he thought, considering that I’d never really hiked until last year.

Last year had to be gentle, this year can be a tad more challenging, and then next year will be my biggy. The big 7-0.

And I’m definitely going to hike all of them alone, goldarnit. Unfortunately, that alone was becoming a problem.

But despite the little alone glitch, he thought, I just keep getting more and more excited with each new practice run. Apprehensive maybe, but excited. Very excited.

However, he often remembered the morning out on the patio last year when he told BJ about his plan. She hadn’t been quite as enthusiastic.

You’re out of your mind, Charlie. No one ever hikes alone. Not ever.

He’d told BJ all about the hikes, hoping that would help. There are seventeen of them, he’d said, and they range in distance from 0.6 to 21 kilometers. The hike with the most elevation gain is the Akamina Ridge at 975 meters, almost a kilometer. Straight up in places.

BJ was listening, but playing with her left earlobe. That was not a good sign.

The Akamina Ridge Trail, he continued, is 18.3 kilometers. The Lineham Ridge is similar at 17.2 with an elevation gain of 950 meters. And both ridges involve scrambling.

I’ve never scrambled before, BJ. And I still don’t know what it involves. It does sound a bit scary, I’ll admit, but if I can’t do it, or if it looks the least bit dangerous, I’ll just turn back.

Right, BJ thought. She couldn’t imagine him ever turning back from anything he’d set his mind to. She was still fiddling with her earlobe.

And they would come back to that particular discussion about his project a number of times, especially the alone part.

Anyhow, because of his shoulder, today’s practice run down to Goat Haunt had to be an easy, ultralight, 15.3 kilometer walk with just his bear spray, a fanny pack with his journal and a pen, and one pole in his right hand.

He bought his ticket for the boat ride back at the Waterton Lakes Cruise office. He also left his car in their parking lot. And the walk from there down to the Bertha Lake parking lot was really encouraging. Hardly any pain.

And just up from the Bertha parking lot, he found what he took to be another good sign, his secret patch of mountain lady’s-slippers still in full bloom.

And they’re even more beautiful than usual, he thought.

Despite his auspicious beginning, however, he was fully aware he was risking serious injury to his AC if he banged it up, though he remembered the trail as being mostly flat.

But his memory failed him. The trail was far from flat.

He also knew his favorite part of the hike was going to be the 49th parallel. His ritualistic high-point piss would not be on a high point today, but it would be very, very special.

No high-point piss could ever match pissing on the 49th parallel. Lots of high points, but only one 49th. Two countries at once. Just swing it back and forth across the border.

Then he thought of the little tailor whose belt said, “Seven at One Blow,” and he chuckled.

And when he got to the border, there was no one else around, so he was free to straddle it and hose it down in peace.

A sign just off the trail said it was only 7.2 kilometers to the Ranger Station where he’d get his passport stamped, “Port of Goat Haunt, MT, Glacier National Park,” and beside the official stamp a second one, a depiction of a big, burly goat.

The rest of the trail from the 49th down to the Ranger Station was mostly flat and quite picturesque.

Actually, Charlie had come to really dislike the Lakeshore Trail and the Crypt Lake Trail, though, because both hikes depended on catching a friggin boat back to the townsite.

But I’ll leave that particular tirade for the novel.

He noted in his journal that he got to the US Customs at 1:58. Was processed by 2:13. And the boat back would leave at 2:25. He saw having only twelve minutes to spare as cutting it a way too fine.

All that pressure because of the frigging boat. And the same with Crypt. Another friggin boat.

The International
The International is the 2:25 ride back to the townsite. Note the metal barge through the slats. [To see the barge more clearly, click on the picture, scroll down, click “View full size, and then click on the photo to zoom in.]
Charlie was really curious about the metal barge right next to the dock. In his twelve-minutes-to-spare, he asked one of the officers about it, but she said none of them knew anything, and they’d been told not to ask questions.

The barge would just show up unannounced, she said, with a half-dozen men and horses, and then they’d quietly saddle up and ride out into the trees toward Glacier. They weren’t very talkative.

Her only guess was that maybe some people might hike down from Waterton and keep going straight, instead of hanging a left for the short walk into the Ranger Station, because they were trying to enter the US illegally. Although, she said, it’s probably about something entirely different. She just didn’t know.

By 2:25, a storm was obviously coming in from the west, but the trip north still looked sunny.

Looking north toward the Waterton townsite.
The metal barge is on the right next to the shore. The mystery barge.

It’s been a good day, Charlie decided. I’ve made the whole 15.3 kilometers down to Goat Haunt with no stress whatsoever on my AC. I made it in time to catch the boat back. And, of course, the highlight was my undisturbed, leisurely pause at the 49th.

I just wish I’d been able to find a rock I liked that was dead center on the border, or even a second-best by the hanging bridge.

This is the bridge is where he’d hoped to find a second-best.

Charlie’s declaration about it being a good day, however, was before the muscles on the insides of his thighs started to cramp as soon as he sat down for the boat ride back.

And before he remembered that BJ wouldn’t be home to help him check for ticks.

A Note:

I had to hike the Lakeshore Trail with Charlie, as well as all his other hikes. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known what he’d done. Or more importantly, how he felt about what he’d done.

He did have a couple close calls that could have gone either way. And the irony is that those close calls didn’t happen on the dramatic hikes: the Akamina Ridge, the Lineham Ridge, the Carthew-Alderson.

They happened on two of the trails that were supposed to be safe, that is until he tried to do some things he shouldn’t have.

I could never have imagined what Charlie felt when he thought he might be about to die. That’s why I had to be up there with him.

And maybe our being together up there helped me come a wee bit closer to writing what Hemingway describes as true sentences about true experiences.

Made-up things always sound made up. Don’t they?

≈≈≈

Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow.

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

≈≈≈

(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part VI – Chapter 12 – 2010

Lower Bertha Falls

Lower Bertha Falls in the photo above is spectacular, but not nearly as spectacular as Upper Bertha Falls. Charlie enjoyed photographing both falls on his way up to Bertha Lake. And he enjoyed their sound, and their smell, and their occasion misty spray – as long as it didn’t get on his lens.

≈≈≈

The hike into Lower Bertha Falls is one of the park’s more popular hikes. A gentle, scenic 2-2.5 hours that most people, including families, can handle. It’s rated as an easy moderate.

The trail is 5.2 km return, but it only has an elevation gain of 175 m.

The part of the trail in the photo below is just after Charlie’s secret patch of mountain lady’s-slippers and just before the cutoff down to the Lakeshore Trail, which he plans to hike on Monday, two days hence.

At this point, we’re looking south down Upper Waterton Lake toward Goat Haunt. The Lakeshore Trail goes along the shoreline on the right.

These photos are from Charlie’s earlier hikes. Because of his shoulder, he couldn’t photograph on the rainy hike in the chapter you just read.

The Trail into Lower Bertha Falls

On this particular hike, the bear grass lined both sides of the trail and beyond. It was everywhere.

Apparently, bear grass peaks every ten years, or every eight years, or every five to seven years, or every three. And the people who argue for those particular numbers of peak years are usually quit adamant.

But others argue that all those numbers are wrong. A year of exceptional blooming depends solely on having ideal climatic conditions.

But rather than worry about that right now, let’s just look at some blossoms.

And this is what they looked like along the trail.

After hiking through all that splendor, the pressure was on Bertha Falls to be really spectacular. And it was. Bertha is a beautiful bridal veil waterfall, especially resplendent in the spring.

Charlie had hiked into Lower Bertha Falls several times, sometimes alone, sometimes with BJ, and once with Jillian early on when she and Roz were visiting.

Actually, Jillian would see Lower Bertha twice more when she and Charlie set out to hike up to Bertha Lake.

You may remember from the post Part I, Chapter 1 that Charlie insisted the novel should begin and end at Bertha Lake. Bertha Lake held some of his happiest memories, but it is also one of the two places where he almost died.

And he insisted that the novel should have thirteen parts beginning with Part XIII, Chapter 1 and ending with Part XIII, Chapter 1.

I finally agreed to the thirteen parts, but I thought it would be too confusing for most readers to start with Part XIII, Chapter 1, 2018 and then immediately move to Part I, Chapter 1, 1996. So I started with Part I, not XIII, although I still think he had a very interesting idea.

Fortunately, either he hasn’t noticed how I started the novel, or he’s just given up on me. I’m sure he thinks I was simply too afraid to try something different. And maybe he’s right. Could be.

≈≈≈

Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow.

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

≈≈≈

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Part VI – Chapter 11 – 2010

After the Kenow wildfire

This is what some of the mountains in Waterton Lakes National Park look like after being burned by the Kenow wildfire. The fire, which was started by lightning in British Columbia, was first detected on August 30, 2017. It entered Waterton Park on September 11 and was not finally under control until the beginning of October.

≈≈≈

The Bear’s Hump is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Up until last year, the trail began right behind the Visitors Center. But the Kenow wildfire burned both the Center and the trail. The trail is still closed and may be for some time.

I didn’t take any photos of the Bear’s Hump with snow on it right after the fire, but here is a nearby mountain. All those beautiful conifers have become black matchsticks.

After the Kenow wildfire
The snow highlights the black matchstick-conifers.

This is looking up at the Bear’s Hump from the townsite before the fire.

This is looking down on the Bear’s Hump from the Prince of Wales parking lot before the fire.

The Bear's Hump
At a 3:1 magnification, you can easily see four people on the top.

And almost a year later, in July 2018.

The Bear's Hump
The Bear’s Hump is showing some signs of regeneration.

As a further comparison of the fire damage, below is the mountain on the west side of the bison compound.

But the compound is fighting back.

Looking through the fence into the compound. If some of these flowers look out of focus, let’s agree to blame the wind, OK? To get f/5.6, and I really wanted f/6.3, I had to use 1/160 sec. Too slow, right?

The Hump is only 2.4 km return, but it has an elevation gain of 240 meters, which means it’s very steep. In places, it’s almost like climbing a staircase. That’s why it’s listed as “strenuous.”

I’ve had to use photos of the trail when it was dry. I was going to borrow some hail/rain photos from Charlie, but the day he hiked up in the chapter you just read, he couldn’t take his camera because of his shoulder.

So here are some photos from the bottom two-thirds of the dry trail.

Charlie probably hit some snow like this after the rain stopped and just before he got to the top.

The Bear's Hump trail
The trail was rated Good-Poor because of the snow on the top third. You can see the Prince of Wales through the trees on the left.

Two photos taken just before reaching the top.

And some vista shots from up there.

The winding road in the bottom right of the first photo goes into Cameron Lake and to most of the major hikes. But it is closed now and probably will be for a couple years.

After looking around for a while, and his high-point piss, and his choosing a souvenir rock, Charlie went back down.

And discovered the signs that were warning everyone about the cougars.

≈≈≈

Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow.

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

≈≈≈

(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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