Some Photos from The Companion Book for The Parking Ticket

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn

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A Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram


Here are the photos I mentioned in Update #2.

If you would like to know more about one of them, you can simply go to its particular chapter.



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

Click on the first photo in groups of chapter 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.


Part I, Chapter 1

Part I, Chapter 3

Part II, Chapter 5 – Cameron Creek

Part IV, Chapter 5

Part V, Chapter 1

Part VI, Chapter 2

Part VI, Chapter 11 – Kenow Wildfire 2017

Part VII, Chapter 6 – The Akamina Ridge

Part VIII, Chapter 9

Part VIII, Chapter 10


Part IX, Chapter 8

Part IX, Chapter 16 – Goat Lake Hike

Part X, Chapter 9 – Crypt Lake Trail

Part XIII, Chapter 13

(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part XIII – Chapter 17 – 2018

Bertha Lake

Here we are with the same feature photo above that was used for Part I, Chapter 1.

I explained in that chapter that Charlie had insisted the novel should both start and end at Bertha Lake. And I’ve done as he wished.

Bertha is his favorite hike.

That hike holds both his happiest and his most horrific memories.

This photo is from the south end of the lake looking north.


You may remember, though probably not, that Charlie also insisted the novel be divided into thirteen parts, starting with Part XIII, Chapter 1, and ending with Part XIII, Chapter 1. His reason for insisting on the number thirteen is explained in Post 11b.

Initially, I didn’t really see a problem with that, so I said Yes. I’d already said No to him about a number of other things.

But then I changed my mind. I’m still ending with Part XIII. I’m fine with that. However, I started with Part I.

And I’m not sure he ever noticed. If he did, he didn’t say anything.

In the chapter you just read, Charlie and Jillian were sitting on a flat rock taking a break before starting down to the parking lot. They were munching on some of their nibbles. And they’d even made themselves eat the last of their hot, gooey, salty, peanut butter sandwiches.

They’d just finished hiking all the way around the lake, which added an additional 4.6 kilometers, and which would make the hike a total of fifteen kilometers return.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the flat rock they were sitting on is at the base of the rock outcropping that separates those two chutes to the left of center in the photo below.

Bertha Lake

Across the lake, in a little bay, a fly fisher in chest waders was methodically working his dry fly along the deep end of a reed bed. He was in the shadow of Bertha Peak, but on his backcasts his white fly line sparkled in the sun.

However, in the next photo, which is looking south from the north end of the lake, you can’t see the bay. It’s just around that point in the top right.

Bertha Lake

Charlie and Jillian were both watching him, although they weren’t really seeing him.

They were reminiscing. Revisiting things they’d talked about before during their many evenings in front of the fireplace, either at Jillian’s in Saskatoon or at Charlie’s in Lethbridge.

About how chance happenings had shaped their lives. About the Divine Within. About Charlie’s rather unique understanding of reincarnation. About how we are able to recreate our Self, if we so choose, right down to the subatomic level, right down to quantum field theory’s zero-point energy field.

And about what Aristotle says we must do to work toward what he calls true happiness.

Then, they both went quiet, lost in their own thoughts. The warmth of the late afternoon sun and the warmth of the rock they were sitting on were quite relaxing.

As you just read, however, after a while Jillian put her hand on Charlie’s knee to get his attention, and then she told him that she’d been wondering about some of the comments he’d made in passing over the last few months. Comments that he hadn’t elaborate on.

She said she’d love to know, for example, what he meant last Christmas when he suggested that maybe they should merge their journeys.

When she’d tried to guess what he’d meant by that, three possibilities had come to mind.

She shared those possibilities with him, but she immediately added that he could easily have meant something altogether different. And she knew she’d be fine with that, too.

She assured him that she wasn’t asking for any changes in their relationship.

She’d just like some clarification, whenever he was ready. Although, maybe there was nothing to clarify. And that, in itself, would be clarification.

You already know, of course, that Charlie didn’t respond. He didn’t even look at her. He was watching six pelicans that had just glided in and were settling in the sun by the far shore.

Six pelicans.

He thought about the number six.

And he smiled.


And that, folks, brings us to the end of The Companion Book to The Parking Ticket. It is finally completely published here on my website:

I hope to publish The Parking Ticket on Kindle Select in a month or so, although it might take a bit longer than that. I’ve already started committing half my writing time to my next novel.

When it does end up on Kindle Select, look for:




I have recently added the following information to the theme page:

The Parking Ticket is now published as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle Select, the paperback version will be there right beside it very soon, and I have finally completed the last chapter in The Companion Book for The Parking Ticket.


In my Blog section, immediately following Part XIII – Chapter 17 – 2018, I’ve grouped a few of the photos I used in the thirty-two chapters of The Companion Book for The Parking Ticket into one post.

I’m assuming some of you might enjoy looking through them without having to read the commentaries.

If, of course, you are curious about one of the photos and would like to know more about it, you could go to its particular chapter in The Companion Book.



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


(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part XIII – Chapter 13 – 2018

Crosswalk sign in Maple Creek, SK

I just love this crosswalk sign in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.


Maple Creek is where Wayne was born and went to high school, and where his father managed the elevator.

It’s also where Charlie told BJ in 1996, on a Camera Club’s field trip, that his divorce from Mary would be finalized the very next morning, July 1 (Part I, Chapter 2). That, of course, accounted for the number of Labatt 50s he was drinking.

And on that very next morning, BJ, at his request, ended up telling him far more about herself than she had ever done before.

Randy was raised in Fox Valley, forty-five minutes north of Maple Creek on Hwy. 21, right beside the big dunes where they would spread his and Roz’s ashes years later.

But shortly after Randy graduated from high school and went to the University of Saskatchewan, his parents moved to Leader, about a half hour north.

Now, if you thought the area around Maple Creek was flat, check this out.

Hwy. 21, between Maple Creek and Fox Valley
Straight. A typical, prairie highway.
A Texas Gate
A Texas gate. Farm machinery can easily rumble across these gates, but livestock won’t cross them because of the gaps between the poles. Deer and other wildlife, however, simply jump across them.

It’s important to remember that Fox Valley is where Lisle was raised, and where she returned after university to teach in the elementary school.

She had been Randy’s sweetheart all the way from grade eight to just before Christmas of grade twelve, when Randy broke up with her.

And because Randy had told Roz about Lisle, and about Lisle’s belief that she and Randy were soulmates and would reunite someday, Roz had a major aversion to Fox Valley.

As an aside, in 2016 Fox Valley’s population was 249. In 2001 it was 326. And in 1996, the year Charlie told BJ about his divorce, the population was 359.

Its population seems to be dropping about ten percent every five years.

Maple Creek, on the other hand, is quite a bit larger. Population 2,084 in 2016, 2,307 in 2001, and 2,334 in 1996.

Roz had an aversion to Fox Valley, as I just said, but it was nothing compared with her aversion to Leader, a half hour north, where Randy’s father, Jake, had lived and was buried.

Jake had teased Roz every chance he got about Lisle living nearby. He kept pointing out that Lisle had never married, that she was probably just waiting for the right guy.

When good ol’ Jake finally died, Roz had felt a great relief. Sorry that he’d died, of course, but relieved all the same.

Even years later, Roz would still get upset whenever she thought about Randy’s dad. She’d never forgiven him. She’d never even tried.

So in 2008, when they took Randy’s ashes down to the Great Sandhills to throw them from the top of one of the highest dunes on as windy a day as possible, as Randy had requested, Roz asked Jillian to go down Hwy. 4 through Rosetown, then across 1 to Maple Creek, and up 21 past that blasted Fox Valley.

It would take a bit longer to go that way, but at least they would bypass Leader. After all those Lisle-teases, Leader was still a town of very, very bad memories.

This is the Leader cemetery, Jake’s final abode.

Jake's Final Abode
The one place on the planet that Roz hoped never to see again.

The Great Sandhills, just to west of Fox Valley, is where they’d spread Randy’s ashes in 2008, and then Roz’s in the same spot in 2017.

She had wanted to be with Randy.

(A couple months ago, in April 2019, when I tried to take some photos of the dunes, I couldn’t get to the big ones where they’d spread Randy and Roz’s ashes. The main road in was passable, but the trails into the bigger dunes were much too muddy to use.)

After spreading Roz’s ashes, Charlie and Jillian drove into Fox Valley to check it out. They wanted to see if they could spot Lisle. They did see four or five elderly women, probably in their late sixties or early seventies, and they tried to decide whether one of them might be Lisle.

Both ended up choosing the one with a Tilley hat as a possibility. In fact, they decided that it had to be Lisle, but they didn’t want to ask her and ruin their fantasy.

And then they headed for Montana’s back in Saskatoon for the Rib and Wings Combo with the side order of beans. They’d had that Combo, Randy’s favorite, after spreading his ashes, and now they were doing the same in honor of Roz.

But at Montana’s, Charlie suddenly realized that someday he might be spreading Jillian’s ashes in the dunes. He still planned to live to at least a hundred twenty-five, and he was pretty sure she wouldn’t.

And that’s when he thought of Herrick. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, before it’s too late. And Robin William. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Seize every, every friggin day.

And when he said to Jillian, “We must make much of time, my dear,” and took her hands in his, they both teared up. And sat silently looking at each other.

Of the original six, they were the only two left.



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.


(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part X – Chapter 9 – 2011

The Tunnel

These people, including the one taking the photos, are just about to go through the tunnel on the Crypt Lake hike. It looks easy. Right? But, no. It’s not.

Charlie didn’t enjoy it at all. And you’ll see why in a minute.


Below is the smaller of the two shuttles that ferry hikers to and from the Crypt Lake landing. They used the larger one the morning Charlie hiked Crypt. (Since this photo is a bit out of focus, I’d like to think that Charlie took it, not me. I just like to take credit for the good ones.)

The Crypt Lake Shuttle
Crypt Landing

Charlie knew that soon after they docked the crowd would begin to thin out. So he waited a tad because he knew he’d be slower than most, and he didn’t want to have to keep stepping aside to let them pass.

Just before he left Burnt Rock Falls, a couple asked him to take a picture of them with their camera. He did, and he also took one with his own camera for himself.

Burnt Rock Falls
Burnt Rock Falls

Many of these visitors carry plush toys, especially toys from Disney Land.

Crypt Lake Trail

Why the plush toys? Well, Mabel Kwong, an Asian woman who has lived in a number of different countries and is currently living in Australia, states in a post that cute has always been a big part of Asian culture. And that’s why it’s not unheard of for Asians to fly to Australia, for example, to buy what she describes as “lavender-stuffed fluffy purple teddy bears.”

Her favorite toys are stuffed monkeys, especially her Mr. Wobbles.

At the end of her post, she asks if the reader has a favorite stuffed toy. Do you? I don’t. And Charlie doesn’t either. He likes small rocks. Especially small, black, smooth, volcanic rocks.

The first two photos below are what you see for a while after you leave the shade of the trees on your way up to the lake. But that scenery soon segues into a hot, tedious climb through what Charlie called, Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Then boulders. And that’s it.

And those rocks are neither small nor black.

And there’s no protection whatsoever from the sun, as there is on most other hikes, and the sun even reflects off all the light-colored rocks around you.

At the bottom left of the third photo, you can see two hikers who are just about at the turn in the switchback that Charlie’d just finished.

You can see the switchbacks clearly in the fourth photo, and in the fifth one you can see a group that is just about to turn left, then climb higher, then turn right, then climb higher, and so it goes. Ad infinitum, it seems, through rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

The sixth photo is what that group will see once they’re at the top.

And finally, the tunnel and the assist cable, which are supposed to be the highlights of the trip. And they were the first time, although Charlie was really concerned about the tunnel back then because of his claustrophobia.

The approach.

The Tunnel

You climb up to the tunnel on that eight-rung, steel ladder you see at the end of the path.

A closer look at the ladder.

The Tunnel

Now go back to the approach photo and see where you might end up if your backpack and other paraphernalia caused you to lose your balance as you moved from the top rung of the ladder across to the tunnel itself.

If you did fall at that point, you might even make it the whole 300 meters all the way down to the bottom.

Maybe a photo with some people in it would help with perspective. (Be sure to click the photo, so you can see the details.)

The Tunnel

OK, now we enter the tunnel. Keep in mind as you look across those thirty meters that Charlie is quite claustrophobic.

The Tunnel

Except for a couple meters at each end of the tunnel, you are in total darkness. Total. Darkness. And you have to almost squat and inch your way along. (Or squat and centimeter your way along if you’re from any other country than the United States. A neologism?)

That’s why Charlie couldn’t see the straps from his backpack that were dragging behind it as he pushed it ahead of him. And that’s why he kept stepping on the straps. And that’s why he couldn’t tell which foot was on which strap. Total. Darkness.

And he was sweating profusely. And frustrated. And angry at the bastards behind who kept bumping into him.

He’d asked them to go ahead, but they’d waved him on. He was pretty sure they didn’t understand what he wanted them to do because he was pretty sure they didn’t speak English.

And his Nikon D700 kept bumping against rock outcroppings that he couldn’t see. And he broke off his lens hood.

And this hike was supposed to be better than Goat. Goat had been a disaster, but this was turning out to be even worse, especially because of those ten girls and their two counselors who’d got to the ladder just ahead of him.

He’d assumed they were from the Reinhart Church Camp down by the Red Rock Parkway.

But finally, some light at the end of the tunnel. (I know. Cliché. Right?)

The Tunnel

At least, when he got to the assist cable, he’d be able to see.

The Assist Cable

That cable is loose inside the eyes of the bolts that are drilled into the rock. If you pull on it, it moves toward you. But if someone else pulls on it, it moves away from you, or sideways, which is even worse. Sideways always feels as if it’s come undone.

And those friggin girls, who’d gotten ahead of him, and who’d been slow on the ladder, and who’d been slow in the tunnel, now had basically come to a standstill.

Every time the cable moved, a couple of them would scream. And two of the older girls kept looking down at the 300-meter drop. Each time they did that, of course, they froze. Too terrified to scream. Too terrified to move.

And they’d have to be talked through it by the closest counselor.

Charlie fantasized about elbowing all of them off the ledge. He was running out of time. And he needed to get moving.

But by the next morning, though, he was really sorry that he’d had those thoughts. Some of the girls shouldn’t even have been up there. It wasn’t their fault.

Below we see a hiker inching along the cable. You may notice in all three photos of the cable that the ledge is very narrow in places. If your foot slipped off the ledge, and if that slipping jerked your hands off the cable, you’d be airborne for 300 meters. You might bounce off a rock or two on the way down, but essentially, you’d be airborne.

And yet, Charlie’d never heard of anyone falling. But then, he knew of other serious accidents that had been kept quiet. A fall like that, however, would surely have made the news. Wouldn’t it? A definite conundrum.

Later on, though, down by the dock, he decided he’d arbitrarily opt for no falls. Simpler that way.

Here’s the hiker. In the second photo, she’s in the center in the shadows. (She’s easier to see if you scroll down to View full size and then click on the shadow.)

And as a reward for enduring the hot, tedious climb up, and for braving the tunnel, and the cable, and the girls, Charlie finally made it to Crypt Lake.

Crypt Lake

He would, however, only have a second or two to enjoy the view. He didn’t have time to luxuriate on that rock and have lunch as she was doing. By now, he’d become totally obsessed with the possibly missing the 5:30 shuttle.

He decided the girl on the rock was probably German. Those German kids were so damned fit. And she’d probably come over on the 10:30 a.m. shuttle and would be taking the 4:30 p.m. back to Waterton. He, on the other hand, had had to take the 9:30 and the 5:30. He needed the extra two hours.

Actually, seeing her sitting there like that really annoyed him. Everything, in fact, was annoying him. He absolutely ached to be at home, out on the patio, in the shade of their big elm tree, reading Beyond Good and Evil.

Needless to say, the trip back over the cable section, and the tunnel, and the damage he was doing to his toes, even after changing into his running shoes so he could go faster, was pure agony and out-of-control angst.

He wasn’t able to relax until he got close enough to the dock to see Upper Waterton Lake.

Back at Upper Waterton Lake

And he got there with a half hour to spare.

He sat on a log beside one of the counselors and waited. She was reading a book and didn’t try to make small talk. Lucky for her.

Then he happened to notice tinges of red on the toes of his running shoes. He tipped them up for a better look. Blood. She, too, noticed. She looked at him, but didn’t say anything.

This was her lucky day. He was in no mood to explain. All he wanted to do was slap her for dragging those friggin girls all the way up to see that lake.

But he didn’t slap her. He was too sore. All over. Not just his feet.

And he was really, really thankful that he’d survived that goldarn nightmare.

And that he’d made the shuttle with time to spare.

And he knew for sure, this time, that he’d never ever do a hike like that again.




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.


(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part X – Chapter 5 – 2010

Manyberries Arch

For the time being, since I can’t find out anything about this cloud formation, I’m going to call it a Manyberries arch. You’ll see why toward the end of this post.


When you dine on steak and lobster at Ric’s Water Tower Bar and Grill, you’re a 102 feet above the ground. Needless to say, it’s a great 360 view.

Ric's Water Tower Bar and Grill

Ric’s is where Charlie and Bobby Jo took Roz and Jillian for dinner, and because they were sitting on the west side so they could see the mountains, they were able to enjoy a spectacular view of Chief Mountain, as well as one of the most amazing Chinook arches Charlie’d ever seen.

Chinooks are warm, wet winds that come in from the Pacific Ocean. They lose their moisture as they rise up over the Continental Divide, and when they drop down on the lee side of the Divide, they are dry and even warmer.

Our local winds come through the Crowsnest Pass, which is the warmest and windiest spot in Alberta, and then they continue east through Pincher Creek, and Lethbridge, and a bit beyond.

Lethbridge, which gets over thirty of these winds every year, claims it’s the Chinook capital of North America because the Chinooks become fewer and less-powerful the further north and south of Lethbridge you go.

The wind gusts often exceed hurricane force, which is 119 km/h (74 mph). In 1962, for example, gusts in Lethbridge exceeded 171 km/h (106 mph).

Today (181213), as I work on this post, we have a Chinook. The strongest wind gusts, which are out at Waterton Lakes National Park, are 167 km/h (104 mph). And Lundbreck, northeast of Waterton, has gusts of 154 km/h (96 mph).

Meanwhile, all through southwestern Alberta, gusts of at least 130 km/h (81 mph) are wreaking havoc. They’re blowing small cars off the road, and blowing vehicles into each other, and toppling empty tractor-trailer units.

But often these units aren’t empty, and it’s especially sad when the trailers that are toppled are loaded with livestock, although that doesn’t seem to have happened so far today.

As well, after multiple accidents, the RCMP have closed Hwy. 22. They’ve also closed a few other roads.

And around Fort Macleod the winds are knocking down trees and power lines. Needless to say, the whole area is sustaining significant property damage.

As a result of all this, an AB EmergencyAlert has been issued.

In the past, those winds have even derailed trains out by Pincer Creek.

Chinooks can also cause really dramatic temperature changes.

Temperatures often rise by 30 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit) in a few hours.

However, here are some of the most extreme changes.

In Spearfish, South Dakota, in 1943, the temperature rose by 27 degrees Celsius (49 degrees Fahrenheit) in two minutes (that’s TWO minutes). And a short while later, in just twenty-seven minutes, the temperature dropped back to where it started out. That is still a world record.

The greatest rise in temperature within a twenty-four-hour period was 57 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit) in 1972 in Loma, Montana: -48°C (-54°F) to 9.5°C (49°F).

And in Pincher Creek, Alberta, in 1962, the temperature rose by 41 degrees Celsius (74 degrees Fahrenheit) in one hour. I repeat, in one hour. From -19°C (-2°F) to 22°C (71.6°F). Apparently that, too, is still a record.

So obviously, the claim that Chinooks can make all the ground snow disappear within twenty-four hours is totally credible. Chinook is actually an indigenous word that means snow-eater.

And accompanying these winds is usually a Chinook arch, a solid band of stratus cloud that seems to touch the ground at the north and south ends and that arches up in the middle.

At Ric’s, while the four of them were dining and visiting, they got to enjoy what Charlie described as a near-perfect arch. The one below is certainly not perfect, but it does give an idea of what an arch over Chief Mountain might look like.

Notice the sleeping chief. Going from left to right at the bottom of the photo, you have the chief’s feet, his body, his head, and his headdress. But more about him in a minute or two.

This next shot is the north end of a Chinook arch. Unfortunately, Charlie only had his 50 mm lens with him. It would have been great to get the whole arch. But that would have required an ultra-wide-angle lens, perhaps a 9 mm, or even wider.

Chinook Arch

Here’s an arch I photographed last spring. These three photos were shot with a 14 mm lens, but even with a lens that wide, it was still impossible to capture the whole arch in one shot.

And I saw the Chinook arch below last week just west of Lethbridge.

The next arch was east of Lethbridge on the very same day as the one above, December 11, 2018, and at the very same time, midafternoon. But apparently it doesn’t have a name. And I’m not sure what to call it. Manyberries arch?

You have a Chinook and a Chinook arch. And you have a Manyberries Chinook. So why not a Manyberries arch?

But I can’t find Manyberries arch anywhere on the Internet, and the locals I talked with have never heard it called that. Actually, none of the locals were even aware that there can be arches both to the east and to the west of Lethbridge at the same time.

So for now, let’s call it a Manyberries arch until someone corrects us.

By the way, that CPR train bridge over the Old Man River to the left of the first Manyberries arch photo took two years to build, starting in 1907, and it cost $1.3 million. It is 1.6 kilometers long and 96 meters high, which makes it the longest and the highest trestle bridge in the world. (Remember to scroll down to View full size to see the details.)

And finally, a closer look at Chief Mountain before we go on to Henderson Lake where Charlie and Jillian went for a walk and discussed the similarities between Plato’s “The Cave” and the Wachowskis’ Matrix trilogy.

In the second and third photos, you begin to see that the chief’s body is quite separate from his head. His body is, in fact, a different mountain.

The photo below clearly shows that separation because it’s shot from a different angle than the ones above.

Chief Mountain

You saw lots of photos of Henderson Lake in Part V, Chapter 1, but here are a couple as a quick reminder.

Doesn’t this look like a wonderful place to discuss “The Cave” and the Matrix trilogy, especially after a stop at the clubhouse for a Labatt 50, and a Hennessy Privilege VSOP, and a bowl of peanuts, which Jillian, as usual, just nibbled at?



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.


(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

Return to the Post Index

But before returning to the Post Index, why not scroll down and leave a comment or a question? And you might also want to check the boxes for “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” and “Notify me of new posts by email.”

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Part IX – Chapter 16 – 2011

Hoary marmot

This is the hoary marmot that Charlie mistakes for a wolverine. When he sees it moving toward him, he instantly freezes. He assumes it’s about to attack.

But it doesn’t, as you’ll see below.


The first thing Charlie notices when he leaves the Red Rock parking lot is Bear Activity Warning signs everywhere. And he’s been told that fresh bear scat with hair in it means, unequivocally, Get-Out-Of-This-Area-Right-Now!

But the first two piles he sees are obviously not that scary. Bears that are eating seeds and berries should be safe. Or at least safer.

But then he starts coming across piles like the one below. He thinks these might have hair in them. But since he’s not a scatologist, or even a poopologist, he’s just guessing. And he hopes he’s wrong.

Scat, Snowshoe Trail

Below is the flat part on the Snowshoe Trail that Charlie dislikes so much. Going in, 4.6 kilometers. Coming out, 4.6 kilometers. Together, 9.2 kilometers of excruciating flatness.

This time, though, because of the bear warning signs and all the scat, it isn’t quite as boring.

The Ugly Flatness

Finally, the trailhead. Still a bit flat, but he knows what’s coming. And, of course, he’s aware that there are probably hundreds of bears lurking in those bushes on each side of the trail sizing him up as a possible meal.

OK. Now the fun begins.

OK. Starting to Climb

The next two photos are pretty typical of the trail between the trees Charlie has just left and the trees up by Goat Lake. Note the mountain stream down below. We’ll soon see where it starts.

Just before he gets to the top, he notices that animal in the photo below. It seems to be moving toward him. He freezes. He’s afraid it might be a wolverine, and he’s heard many, many stories about their viciousness and their proneness to attack, sometimes just for the fun of it.

Hoary marmot

But it doesn’t attack. It just watches him sneaking up the path, sideways, so he can keep an eye on it.

Wolverines are stocky, and very, very muscular, and carnivorous. Charlie’s afraid they might even eat terrified hikers. Big wolverines can be up to three-and-a-half feet long and almost eighty pounds.

He has heard about their reputation for being fierce, and tenacious, and easily able to kill a prey that is much larger than they are. They sometimes even kill and eat adult black bears.

And they’re quite evil, as well. There are stories of them breaking into a trapper’s cabin and biting holes in every can of food, but taking no time to eat anything. Apparently, they just want to destroy the trapper’s food cache.

So it’s not much wonder that Charlie’s terrified.

But no, thank goodness! The animal in the photo is a hoary marmot. A big marmot can be almost three feet long and can sometimes weight up to thirty pounds, although they’re usually closer to twenty.

And they’re herbivorous. They don’t eat terrified hikers.

Once he gets past the marmot, and finally stops checking over his shoulder, he comes to this little waterfall, which is the beginning of the mountain stream you saw earlier.

Below is the stream that flows out of Goat Lake, and goes over that waterfall, and drops down into the valley, and joins Bauerman Creek, which flows into Red Rock Creek, which, in turn, flows into Lower Waterton Lake.

Quite a Journey.

On the way into the lake, he sees the water from Goat flowing over another little waterfall. There are several of these little falls.

Finally arriving at Goat Lake

The trail into Goat is really snowy and really wet.

Finally arriving at Goat Lake

But it’s well worth every squishy, splashy step, Charlie thinks, when he finally gets to the lake. There’s a stunning 180 vista. And lots of trout lazing in the sun along the shoreline. And total silence. And the smell of fresh water and pine.

That’s Newman Peak, elevation 2488 meters, on the other side of the lake.

And there are also a number of campsites and fire pits. Goat’s obviously a beautiful spot to spend a few days. Fresh trout. The soothing sounds of nature. And a great lake for ice-cold swims.

The Goat Lake Trail actually continues up to the top of Newman Peak, swings left along Avion Ridge, and drops back down past Lost Lake.

At that point, you have two options.

You can go left for four kilometers back to your car.

Or you can take the seven-kilometer hike past the Twin Lakes to another junction where you have three more options.

You can turn around and go back to your car.

Or you can go west along the seventeen-kilometer Lone Creek Trail to Blakiston Falls, which is close to your car.

Or you can take the thirty-kilometer loop around Lone Mountain, Mount Hawkins, and Mount Lineham to the Rowe Lake trailhead.

Or you can do what Charlie does. He visits with a warden for a while who is having her lunch at Goat Lake, and then he waves goodbye as she leaves Goat and heads up to the Avion Ridge.

She offers to take him with her and be his guide.

But he thanks her. And waves goodbye, as I said. Then he watches the Cutthroat Trout lazing in the shallows. Takes some photos. And heads back to his car, which has a Thermos cooler with ice-packs, and snacks, and water, and comfortable seats with backs, and air conditioning.

Lots of switchbacks, though, as he starts down.

Heading Back Down

But after a bit, thing get a little less crazy. The nineteen percent grade, however, does not let up. And he’s about to do some seriously damage to his toes.

Heading Back Down

And finally, four photos that tie in with the nightmare Charlie has at the end of the chapter, which happened two days after the Goat Lake hike.

You have to imagine that the first one is the mystical wonderland, much like a watercolour by Turner or Degas, that he’s floating along just above the path.

He decides this has to be the most profound mystical experience he’s ever had.

He can’t feel his boots, or the weight of the backpack, or even the pain in his left shoulder.

And as you read earlier, everything is fringed with lucent haloes. The leaves. The flowers. The weeds. Even the rocks glow with a wet-on-wet warmth.

But then, he gradually becomes aware of the red mountain bike up ahead, in the bushes on the right, that’s whispering to him, and warning him. He can only feel its terror, though. He can’t make out what it’s trying to say.

And those marks on the path might very well be the drying blood that Charlie sees. Or the fresher blood that leads down the trail and into that conflagration of terror and pain, which is exploding from the bushes on the left.

A veritable, Dantesque inferno.

The Nightmare

Again, you have to image that the photo below is typical of the vegetation alongside the Snowshoe Trail where, in his nightmare, he first sees the white running shoe, and the white sock, and the woman’s leg partly buried under leaves and weeds.

And then he sees the claw marks. And the bite marks. And the white bone. And the blood everywhere.

The Nightmare

And lastly, two of the trail just before Charlie gets to the parking lot, still carrying the woman.

But she’s growing heavier and heavier. And it’s becoming quite dark, even though it’s midafternoon. And the path is wet and slippery now. And he’s tripping over rocks and roots, which he can’t see.

You can see the parking lot in these photos. But Charlie can’t.

And once he does get to the parking lot, as you just read, all he can see is headlights. And SUV’s with the doors locked. And people peering out the windows and taking close-up photos of the woman’s half-eaten head and shoulder.

But no one will unlock their doors and let him in.

And then, he hears the claws on the asphalt. The claws of the sow and the two yearlings that he first noticed coming up behind just as he got to the bridge.

He turns toward the sound. And drops the woman.

The sow gets to him first.



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 IX – Chapter 8 – 2011

Snow Chute

The photo above is looking northeast toward the snow chute where Charlie almost died. Should have died. Should have lost his footing and slid into the freezing water.

But that is a 2010 photo.

This year, 2011, that chute is much, much larger because Charlie is hiking earlier in the year and because the winter snowfall has been over twice the annual average.

Charlie says he’s looking up at a steep, wet, probably unstable, ten-meter climb to the crest. Unstable and wet, of course, because it’s been raining heavily for the past two to three hours.

(You’re looking at this side of that chute and the crest. If you look closely at the tip, you get just a hint of the other side, which drops back down to the water.)


Below is Upper Bertha Falls. That water drops hundreds of feet from Bertha Lake and ends up down at Lower Bertha Falls where it quickly segues into Bertha Creek and finally empties into Upper Waterton Lake.

Upper Bertha Falls

Charlie talks about Lower Bertha Falls at the beginning of the chapter you just read. You’ve seen photos of the falls before in Part VI, Chapter 12, but maybe a reminder of what the falls looks like would be useful.

And a reminder about the bear grass, which isn’t in flower yet up at Bertha Lake.

(Once again, since it’s raining on Charlie’s hike around Bertha Lake this time, he’s using photos from previous trips.)

This is what the chutes along the east side of the lake looked like in 2010.

Snow Chutes

That last chute on the left is the one that nearly did him in.

Just before Charlie gets to what the two guys at the Visitor Center described as an almost straight-up wall of snow, he looks toward the north end of the lake and sees the campsites.

Below is a view from those campsites looking southward across that point on the right toward the far end of the lake.

Snow Chutes

Imagine that whole east side on the left and the far end, which the sun can’t get at for most of the day, being almost totally covered with snow. And imagine all those snow chutes being absolutely huge.

This is the west side of Bertha Lake, which has no snow in most places because the sun is able to get at it. It’s not blocked by the mountains.

This year, it’s overcast, though, and it has already started to drizzle by the time Charlie gets to the part of the path in the photo on the right.

Several times, Charlie stops and scans the avalanche chutes across the lake. But he can’t see them very well. It’s just too socked in.

And as he nears the southern end, he begins to notice more and more streams running down the wall of the cirque and into the lake.

You see this big mountain stream when you first arrive at Bertha Lake. It drops down from the snows on top of Bertha Peak, which has an elevation of 2298 meters.


But there are many more streams like the one below all along the bases of Mount Alderson and Mount Richards.


Notice how the stream runs under the avalanche snow. It hollows out a path, and in so doing, it creates a snow bridge. And that’s what Charlie is really concerned about. How thick is the snow that’s left above the steam bed?

And with the added weight of the rain, which began to worsen when he was about halfway down the west side, how much weaker would those bridges be by now?

Even branches in the snow from the avalanche debris would weaken them.

Charlie’s left leg does break though on the very first snow bridge, although, with the help of his poles, he’s able to keep his balance.

Nonetheless, he barely breaths as he eases across the rest of the bridges.

But when he finally reaches the southeast corner of the lake and looks north, he’s immediately faced with an even more ominous “major-mother stretch of snow,” to use his phrase.

And he knows that all the chutes from here up to the north end will slope really steeply toward the lake. All of them.

And unfortunately, during the day the surface of those major-mothers softens and then refreezes at night, gradually forming a hard crust.

One misstep on that crust today, and, worst-case scenario, he could easily slide down into the lake. And with his extra layers of clothes, his heaviest hiking boots, his biggest backpack, and the lake water just above freezing, he’d almost certainly drown.

Below is the very spot where he irritated a tendon on the outside of his right leg last year from kicking into that crusty snow to get solid a foothold.

But again, you’ll have to imagine a lot more snow than what you see here. Several feet more. The shoreline to the left is covered, as well as many of those trees. The snow slopes right into the lake. And that’s exactly where Charlie will end up if he loses his footing.

The Return to the North End

Another view, which might help. You have to use your imagination, though, to raise the snow several feet to cover the shoreline and trees on the left and to cover that rock ledge just under the water. None of those things are showing this year.

And that’s why Charlie sees nothing but a “major-mother stretch of snow,” and is beginning to wish he were at home on the patio with BJ.

The Return to the North End

The photo below is an hour later. But remember – much more snow and no rocks along the shoreline.

The Return to the North End

And that’s how Charlie spends his time going up the east side of the lake toward that final snow chute at the north end.

And don’t forget, he’s hiking in a heavy rainfall, and he’s really afraid that the added weight of the rain is making the snow even more unstable.

So by the time he reaches that last chute, he’s fully aware that he can’t go back. It would be over four kilometers of snow bridges and snow chutes that are much wetter and much heavier and much more likely to give way.

And that’s why, when he looks around that final rock point, which is only a couple feet from the open water of the lake, and he sees that almost straight-up, ten-meter wall of snow, he feels a scream begin to well up from deep within.

And for the first time, he becomes clearly aware of the distinct possibility, even probability, that he might be about to die.

And that’s why, when he finally reaches the crest and looks down on the other side, he come close to letting go, and just sliding into the lake, and having it over with.


He has no energy left. No will to fight.

However, as you just saw, he does get himself under control, and he does cross over the crest, and he does make it down to the flat ground on the other side.

But on his way back to the parking lot, he decides he’d better not tell BJ about this chute, or even about the snow bridges, because of the way she reacted when he told her about his almost dying on Lineham.

Some things, he thinks to himself yet again, are far better left unsaid.



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 IX – Chapter 4 – 2011

Small Waterfall

There are all kinds of little waterfalls like this in Waterton Lakes National Park. This particular one is at the beginning of the Lineham Creek Trail.

Charlie likes these smaller falls far more than the so-called spectacular horsetail waterfall at the end of the trail.


He’d found out at the Visitor Center that there were no problems with bears or cougars on Lineham. So he was good to go.

But he was told once again that Upper Rowe, Goat, and Crypt were still out of the question. Still snowed in.

Snow, for him, meant the Goat Lake Trail was definitely out. Several places on that trail, even when dry, scared the bejesus out of him.

Below is one of those places. Imagine stepping onto snow or ice on that little six-inch space to the left of that shrub in the center, right beside the trail. If you slipped, you’d bounce once and then you’d be airborne all the way down to the creek hundreds of feet below.

Goat Lake Trail

And Crypt was also out. In the parking lot, after talking with the people in the Visitor Center, Charlie saw a warden doing paperwork in her truck. He asked her about Crypt, and she said that you couldn’t go any further than Burnt Rock Falls.

She said someone had tried to go higher the day before and had had a problem, but she wouldn’t elaborate. He found out later, however, that the problem was well beyond horrific. (I’ll be talking about this in Part IX, Chapter 8.)

This is Burnt Rock Falls in the summertime. It’s two-thirds of the way to the top, and you come to it just after you leave the forest and begin the rocky (and excruciatingly boring) part or the climb.

Burnt Falls

By the time Charlie got to the Lineham Creek Trail, there were black clouds coming in from the west, despite Environment Canada’s promise that it would be clear and dry.

As usual, The Weather Network was more accurate. A thirty percent chance of rain. And there it was.

The storm was actually quite beautiful. Black clouds, lightning, and wet vegetation. But he took no photos. The wind was picking up. And he didn’t want to get his camera and lens wet, despite their being weather sealed.

Even without the storm, though, he wouldn’t have taken any photos of the valley. The vista to the west was a way too cliché. At least, it was for him.

But he always had a camera with him just in case.

Lineham Creek Trail

(Charlie took the photos of Lineham in this post on earlier trips when it wasn’t raining.)

Below is the upness that Charlie complained about in the chapter you just read. The first half hour of Lineham is nothing but up, up, up, and then up some more. No fun at all. He just wanted to get this hike done and get it off his list.

Lineham Creek Trail
Nonstop ups at the start
Lineham Creek Trail
Still going up, but almost there

This, for Charlie, was the toughest section. And the least interesting. It’s pretty hard to look around and enjoy the scenery, as a seventy-year-old, when your thighs are begging you to go back to the car and stop all this nonsense.

He did enjoy the flatness of the trail along the west side of Mount Blakiston, though. But there wasn’t enough joy in that to offset the up, up, up, part.

However, he’d already decided this was the last year for Lineham.

And the same for Lakeshore and Crypt. Finito. Auf wiedersehen. Adieu.

And especially Goat. The Snowshoe Trail from the parking lot at Red Rock to the Goat Lake trailhead was excruciatingly flat. Absolute flatness for 4.6 kilometers each way. Each way, folks. That’s 9.2 kilometers of unbearable flatness. And possible ticks.

Goat Lake Trail

From the trailhead itself up to Goat Lake was only 4.8 return, but it had the most challenging and the most painful grade of all the hikes. A nineteen percent grade. Straight up. Straight down.

But it was actually the flatness of Snowshoe that put him off, and not the grade.

The Lineham Creek Valley rises from the trailhead beside the Akamina Parkway up to the west-northwest between Mount Blakiston and Mount Lineham.

The creek itself descends almost seventeen hundred feet from the four Lineham Lakes, which are nestled between Mount Hawkins, Mount Blakiston, and the Lineham Ridge.

And the highlight of this hike is supposed to be the spectacular horsetail waterfall at the end of the trail, which drops over three hundred feet from the Lineham lakes up in the hanging valley.

But Charlie enjoyed the little waterfalls on the lower half of the Lineham Creek trail far more. Maybe not as dramatic, in his mind, but far more beautiful.

And beautiful little waterfalls like this one are all over the park.

However, he usually had to push his way through grasses, and weeds, and shrubs, to get to them. And that, for Charlie, was a deal-breaker during tick season, which he believed ran right through to the beginning of September. 

He much preferred bears, and cougars, and wolves, to ticks, as you no doubt remember him saying over and over.

So, immediately after he finished his seventeen-trail project in 2011, he began hiking and photographing only in the fall and winter, which, of course, got rid of all those eight-leggèd creepies. 

And he liked that much better. Four legs good, he thought, eight legs bad. Really, really bad.



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 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.


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.



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 VIII – Chapter 10 – 2010


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.


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.



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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