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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The trail into Goat is really snowy and really wet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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