Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Waterton Lakes

On Sunday, June 30, we got up bright and early in the morning to drive to Waterton National Park in Canada. Waterton is the sister park to Glacier National Park. It sits just across the border from Glacier, and together the parks form an International Peace Park.

When we first planned our trip, we didn’t realize that this weekend was Canada Day weekend. We feared that would make getting a campsite in the park tough, so we got out of bed and started driving early. We were the first car across the border at 7 AM when the border opened, and we got to the Crandell Campground just before 8 AM.

There were a couple of people standing around the campground entrance station chatting, but the entrance wasn’t manned so we drove on in to the campground hoping to find a spot that someone had vacated early that morning. We did find a spot, and Brian started to set up camp while Sarah went back to register for the site. By this point, there was a campground attendant on duty who explained that there was a waitlist for available sites. However, since we were fourth on the waitlist and there were more than four groups checking out, he kindly let us remain in the site that we’d chosen. Whew – it would have been a bummer to get all set up in an empty site, only to find out later that campground registration works differently in Waterton than in the U.S.!

We spent a relaxing morning hanging out in camp, and Brian’s parents joined us about noon. From there, we drove to the end of the campground road to see Red Rock Canyon.

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It was over 90 degrees and many people were hanging out in the canyon, enjoying a cool reprieve from the heat.

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Sarah, Brian, and Steve decided to join them while Deb watched from the bridge over the canyon.

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The water was bone-chilling, even with just your toes in!

From there, we walked to Blakiston Falls.

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The water flow was impressive, as it has been for most waterfalls we’ve seen recently. The heavy snow year makes for spectacular waterfalls.

Here’s the view looking downstream from the falls:

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Brian and his parents enjoyed the falls:

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Along the trail, Deb stopped to admire the bear grass.

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After our hike, we drove to Waterton Townsite so Brian’s parents could check in to their hotel. Waterton Townsite is not very developed by Canadian national park standards (like Banff and Jasper) but is quite developed by American park standards. There are several small lodges and inns, a shopping strip, and a number of houses.

Waterton Townsite is also home to another great waterfall, Cameron Falls.

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Next we drove out to see the buffalo that are kept in a paddock on the northeast corner of the park. Along the way, we got a nice view of Lower Waterton Lake.

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The park can no longer support free-ranging buffalo, but a small herd is kept for their historical significance. They make quite a sight grazing with the mountains jutting up in the background.

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At this point, we’d all had a long day, so we retired to the campground for Indian food (yes, it’s amazing what you can make on a camp stove when it’s your only cooking option for a year…), a fire, and lots of s’mores.

The next morning, Sarah and Brian got up early for a quick four-mile roundtrip hike to Crandell Lake from their campsite. The trail was peaceful so early in the morning (well, except for the mosquitoes that were also up…) and we made good time. The lake was small but well framed by mountains. It was definitely worth the hike.

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After our hike, we met Brian’s parents for a boat trip down Waterton Lake to Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park. It was another hot, clear day.

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From the boat, we could see part of Waterton Townsite, including the huge RV campground.

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The further down the lake we went, the smoother the water became.

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After about an hour, Goat Haunt was in view.

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After we got off the boat, Deb found a place to paint while Brian, Steve, and Sarah checked in with the border guard (required for hiking since we were now back in the US) and headed off to Kootenai Lakes.

The hike was bug-ridden and not especially scenic, but the lake at the end was teeming with wildlife and great views.

First, there was a swan…

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…and a toad.

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Then we took some shots of the surrounding mountains and Porcupine Ridge.

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Then we turned around and realized that this guy was standing in the middle of the trail staring at us.

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He was just one of seven moose, mostly bull moose, that we eventually counted. They were hanging out in the willows across the pond.

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This one decided to swim to our side. It was a treat to watch him gingerly step into the water then dunk his antlers and shake them off.

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Eventually, we had to pull ourselves away from the moose watching to make it back in time for our return trip on the boat.

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Here’s the boat waiting for departure time.

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As the boat made its way back down the lake, we passed the international border again, marked by a cleared area (and a couple of people illegally camping).

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We also passed this pretty creek flowing into the lake.

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Deb enjoyed the scenery.

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Near the end of the lake, we could see the Prince of Wales hotel.

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This hotel was built during the era of constructing great lodges near the railroads. Though this area was never near a railroad, guests were bused from the (relatively) nearby Banff.

After the boat trip, on our way to see the inside of the hotel, we were treated to a great view of a mama black bear and cubs on the side of the road. The bears created quite the traffic jam, and many people were standing entirely too close. The cubs got scared and skittered up a tree.

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Eventually, the bears scrambled through a bunch of gawking tourists, across the road, and away into the forest.

The inside of the lodge was nicely furnished (and air conditioned!), so we sat awhile. Then we took some photos of the outside of the lodge and the view down the lake.

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Driving back through town, we saw yet more wildlife – this time it was a number of mule deer.

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This doe was nursing her fawn. Too cute (even if the photo is out of focus)!

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After dinner, we went to a bar so Brian and his dad could enjoy the ESPN baseball game of the week – the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. Brian’s a Cubs fan and his dad is a White Sox fan, so this was a particularly interesting game. Sadly, the Cubs lost.

When the game was finished, we went to get ice cream at this shop that had oodles of people hanging around eating ice cream outside. Sarah and Brian decided to share a cone since it was cheaper than getting two single cones. Then we decided that we might as well get a triple scoop while we were at it – and a waffle cone. We ended up with more than a pint of toffee, Rolo, and triple chocolate brownie ice cream piled into this cone. It was amazing!

To finish off the day, we did some scenic driving down the Cameron Lake road hoping to see some wildlife. We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, but we did see a great sunset at the lake.

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After a busy couple of days in Waterton, it was time to head back to Glacier.

1 comment:

Gus said...

Great photos and great story...really enjoyed it...I hope to make this same type of trip later this year...JP