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.

Ever.

≈≈≈

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.

≈≈≈

(© 2019 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.”

Thanks for visiting my website.

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.

≈≈≈

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.)

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.”

Thanks for visiting my website.

Part VI – Chapter 1 – 2010

The Akamina Ridge

The featured image above shows the beginning of the descent from the northwest end of the Akamina Ridge. A little to the left of center, almost a kilometer down, is Wall Lake. The path starts immediately at the bottom of this photo. It might not look like a path, but it is. And it is exceedingly rugged.

By the time you get down to Wall, your knees and thighs probably won’t be on speaking terms with you.

The same goes for the Goat Lake trail, which has a nineteen-percent grade at times.

Goat Lake
Heading down to the trailhead from Goat Lake

There’s a special way to tie your boots, so you won’t blacken your toenails. But sometimes even that doesn’t help.

This, however, is what the Crandell Lake Trail looks like in the wintertime. Much more gentle.

Compare Crandell with Lineham below, which Charlie hiked alone a couple months earlier and almost died.

Try to imagine hiking on the trail in the second and third photos during a blizzard, with zero visibility at times, and the trail completely buried under blowing snow. One small step off that trail, and you’d lose your balance, and you’d drop into soft powder snow. Deep soft powder.

And then you add in the postholing that Charlie had to negotiate, and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.

Charlie had intended to go beyond the “Trails End” sign to get closer to the falls for some sun-on-ice shots. But obviously, because of the blizzard, that didn’t happen.

And as you saw at the end of the chapter, Charlie’s attempting to photograph Lineham Falls in the wintertime would never happen again. Ever.

This attempt had almost killed him. It should have. And they might not have found his body, what was left of it, until spring.

“He was still shaking when he got home. He kept crying and choking up as he told BJ what had happened. She just sat quietly, white-faced, saying nothing.

“In the end, he’d promised her, and himself, that he would never, ever go out alone on a winter hike like that again.”

≈≈≈

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.)

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.”

Thanks for visiting my website.