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.

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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.

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Note

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

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

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

≈≈≈

(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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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.

Streams

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

Streams

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.

Quickly.

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.

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Note

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

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

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

≈≈≈

(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Part VI – Chapter 12 – 2010

Lower Bertha Falls

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

≈≈≈

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

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

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

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

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

The Trail into Lower Bertha Falls

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

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

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

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

And this is what they looked like along the trail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

≈≈≈

Note

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

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

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

≈≈≈

(© 2018 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Charlie and Those Big Bighorn Rams

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn

He’s my avatar. As you’ll read below, Charlie thought he must have been one of those bighorns in a past lifetime. If there are past lifetimes. And he wasn’t sure if there are. But if there are, he, too, had a rack like that.

≈≈≈

Charlie, one of the two main characters in my novel, spends a lot of time in Waterton Lakes National Park, AB.  The drive out to the park from Lethbridge takes about an hour and a half, or at least it should. But he always stops to photograph anything that catches his eye. And a lot of things catch his eye.

He usually drives out through Fort Macleod, down to Glenwood, across to Hwy. 6, then down to Waterton.

Some days, when the light cooperates, it’s an absolutely magical drive that starts in the flatness of the prairies and ends in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. Even on a day with flat light, though, it is still a very enjoyable drive.

An overcast day simply means he has to photograph things that are close at hand and avoid including the sky. No sweeping panoramas. All he needs is a composition with one strong white and one strong black. And, of course, with the sliders in Lightroom 5, he can easily make those whites and blacks whiter and blacker.

He especially enjoys driving out to the park in the spring and fall because of the seeding and harvesting. Lots of action in the fields. And flocks of seagulls in the spring. And clouds of dust in the fall.

The prairies meet the mountains
Working right up to the edge of the mountains

St. Henry’s church, just past the Waterton Reservoir, always catches his eye. That’s a given. And he always has to stop for yet another photograph or two. And once he stops, he can’t help but notice other things, can he?

He also passes all kinds of hawks and eagles on the way out. For years, he’s been on the verge of getting out his bird books and really learning about the hawks, especially. But he hasn’t yet. So at this point, he’s just guessing that the hawk below is a light morph ferruginous (sed ‘non certus), at least that’s what the bird book seems to suggest.

If it is a ferruginous, a pair of them share somewhere around five hundred gophers a year with their young, as well as sharing all kinds of other rodents and even jackrabbits.

That’s probably why the gopher below is so alert and so close to its hole.

But all else pales the second he sees a bighorn ram. A large one, at over three hundred pounds and over three feet at the shoulders, with horns that can weigh thirty pounds, is beyond impressive. And most, like this one, have chipped horns and a battle-scarred muzzle.

Those horns can weigh more than the combined weight of all the other bones in its body. And it lunges at over forty miles an hour. No wonder you can hear them clash over a mile away.

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

Charlie closely identifies with those bighorns. He’s positive he must have been one in a past lifetime. But if so, he no longer accepts some of the things he must have accepted back then.

First, in this lifetime, he no longer likes the idea of mating being a seasonal thing. Rams only hang out with the ewes during the mating season. The rest of the year it’s stag and stagette, totally, with the ewes taking care of the young ones, of course. That’s a way too much downtime.

And second, he no longer likes the idea of doing nothing for that rest-of-the-year except head-butting with the boys. He has no desire to chip his horns or battle-scar his muzzle.

In fact, in this lifetime, he’s already moved into Part B of his two-part plan. He’s become a hermit, which means he does his best not to leave the house, except on Tuesdays when he usually goes out photographing, alone.

He and his partner, BJ, talked about this on the weekend when they were out on the patio having their usual morning coffee.

Remember Part A? Remember what I used to say? I carpe diem. I fully immerse myself in life. I gobble up as much of it as I can. I try one of everything. I walk the edge. I don’t worry about making mistakes. I don’t worry about failing again, and again, and again. I’m not afraid. Can’t be. I just absolutely go for gold. I giver ’er nuts.

And I said if I did die before I got to Part B, it would be because I’d flamed out. I wouldn’t rust out. I’d die exhausted, and battered, and bleeding. And I certainly wouldn’t die with my pockets filled with ideas and energies that I was afraid to spend because I was afraid to live.

BJ had nodded, and then she’d said. “Remind me about your Part B, sweetie. Obviously I know it, but remind me anyway. You may have changed some things you haven’t told me about.

Simple. I’ve already shut down. I’ve become a hermit. Right? I intend to contemplate. I intend to learn from all the things I’ve experienced and all the people I’ve known. Part B is where I put it all together and use what I’ve learned to evolve spiritually. It’s where I get ready for my next incarnation.

He recalls that conversation they’d had out on the patio and smiles as he turns up the road to the Prince of Wales Hotel.  He likes those morning coffees with BJ. Year round. Not seasonal. No downtime. And he much prefers talking to her rather than head-butting. Well, the odd head-butt, but not often.

He turns off the car in the parking lot at 1:30 p.m. About the same time as usual.

And a dozen Bighorns are basking in the sun on the grass to the left, waiting for him. Including that one up above.

He reaches for his camera and thinks, “You know, I’m really enjoying being a character in Glenn’s novel. I get to do a lot of interesting things. And I get to do those things whether or not he ever publishes it.

The publishing part is not important in my life at all. It may be in his. I don’t know about that. But it’s certainly not important in mine.

≈≈≈

Note

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

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

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

≈≈≈

(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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I’ve Changed My Mind for Now about the Free Novel

Eagle-eyed intensity

The eagle’s eye might represent what focusing on one thing looks like. Total eagle-eyed intensity.

≈≈≈

Upper Waterton Lake
A photo of Upper Waterton Lake that I took yesterday.

I finished the second reread of my novel on December 23. Then I set it aside for three months to distance myself from it, so I could come back to it with fresh eyes. The first reread took me three months. I made lots of changes. The second took a month.

Today is March 23. That three-month hiatus is over. Now I begin my last two rereads, which, I hope, will make my novel ready for copyrighting, an ISBN number, and publishing as an e-book, assuming I can find a reputable publisher.

For the last three months, my world has been turned totally upside down, just like that photo of Waterton Lake. But as of today, my world is going to right itself.

Today, I’m back to writing for three hours first thing before I do anything else. No checking on Trump. No emails. No phone calls. No answering knocks at the door. From the moment I get up until I’m done writing, I just stay in the zone with my one-thing-only-eagle-eye-intensity, waiting there for that little boy with the notes.

Once I’ve done my three to four hours of writing as well as the treadmill (yesterday was weights), however, I’m going to try to link my website to Goodreads, Instagram, Tumblr, and Reddit. I already have accounts with Instagram and Tumblr. And I’ve already linked my website to Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

All this social media stuff still makes me feel as if part of me is living in an alien land where I don’t even speak the language. I said in my “About” that as of January 23rd, I knew nothing about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+. I don’t even have a smart phone, as you may remember?

But it feels so good to be back in that overlap zone where I want to be, and where I need to be, and where I feel so comfortable and so at home.

I really was becoming concerned about Frankl’s existential vacuum. The possibility of sliding down into that vacuum is almost as terrifying for me as it would be to slide down the sandy slopes of the Great Pit of Carkoon alongside Luke Skywalker into the tentacled mouth of the Sarlacc and to be slowly digested over the next thousand years.

But now no existential vacuum and no Sarlaac. I’m back to writing.

And I’m so excited about being back that I might just celebrate tomorrow morning by topping up my steel-cut oats with a few bran buds. Or not. I certainly don’t want to overdo it.

≈≈≈

Note

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

≈≈≈

(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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