Sunday, August 19: Waterton
A room is how much???
As usual, we had breakfast, packed up, and headed out. To our surprise, we needed our passports to enter Canada. We had thought that we would only need them to re-enter the US.
We drove to Waterton and got our first view of the Prince of Wales Hotel. From the pictures I’ve seen in the past, I thought it was nestled in the mountains. Rather, it is like the Neuschwanstein castle. It is at the edge of the mountains, with plains to the other side.
They had two rooms available. One was the suite. It was $800 per night, but the general manager cut us a deal and offered it to us for only $600. We declined. They also had a small room on the 5th floor with one bed. They could squeeze a cot in, however, so we took it.
The hotel has the original 1927 elevator in it. It need to be operated by the bellman, as you have to manually open and close the doors, and you have to manually stop the elevator so that it was even with the floors. I’m sure he has had lots of practice, but I was amazed at how easily he could stop the elevator such that it came to a stop even with the floor.
One thing that is very different in the Canadian park, as compared to the US parks, is that inside the Canadian park there is an entire town! It had everything a small town would have: several hotels, many restaurants and bars, a Laundromat, grocery store, etc. We could have gotten a room in town that would have been cheaper and more convenient, but we wanted the “experience” of staying in the Prince of Wales.
Interestingly, the hotel is on a small plateau above the lake and town. The plateau is a good place to view the lake and mountains. But for all that, the plateau’s vegetation is junk; there isn’t even a hint of a maintained lawn. Also, you can’t go from the hotel to the plateau, you have to go out the front and then walk around the hotel to the back side. Maybe the clients were supposed to enjoy the views from the inside through the windows?
Our room was essentially ready, except for the cot, but we figured we would give them time to get the cot in. So we had lunch at the restaurant there, then we drove to the end of one of the two roads in the park, to Cameron Lake. On the way, we were stopped by a bear-jam, in this case two black bears, one black and one cinnamon, but we didn’t get any pictures.
At the lake, we found a small marina, a boat rental, and a small swimming area. At first Michael wanted to go wading in the swimming area, but then he decided that he would rather rent a boat. Amy didn’t want to, so she just sat there reading while Mike and I went boating again.
The kayak hadn’t worked that well at Lake McDonald, so I decided to try the canoe this time. I think that was a mistake. There was a bit of a gusty breeze blowing towards the boat rental, which meant that outgoing I was heading into the wind. I found it very hard keeping the canoe going forward into the wind when I was paddling alone, and I had particular difficulty keeping it from veering to one side. Michael would paddle occasionally, but he had no stamina and would soon stop.
There was a large block of snow at the far end of the lake, and that was my goal. The lake straddles the US-Canada border, so the snow field was in the US. It probably took us 45 minutes or so to get there. When we did so, I found that there was a small island just off the coast from the snowfield, so we paddled around that. We heard what sounded to us like a loon off to our left, so we paddled across the far side of the lake, where we found a bird which might have been a loon. It was a diving bird, and at one point it disappeared beneath the surface, staying down for a fairly long time, before coming up rather some distance away.
I then paddled back. I had been looking forward to the boost of a tail-wind on the way back, but just to be perverse, the wind sort of died while we were out there, so I had to provide almost all of the muscle for the return leg. By the end, my hands and arms were getting rather sore and tired.
Upon our return, we found that Amy had had her own adventure. There was a family having a picnic lunch on the beach not that far from Amy. They were “attacked” by a bear. That is, a bear wandered over to their picnic, they fled, and the bear proceeded to enjoy their lunch.
To Amy’s horror, this attracted a large number of people, who essentially formed a circle around the bear, only about 10-20 feet away from it--much too close. Incredibly, there were no park rangers nearby. Someone called for one, but he took maybe 40-45 minutes to arrive. The bear hung out for 20-30 minutes before people shouting at it caused the bear to mosey off. Amy got a few pictures, but she didn’t want to get as close as the mob, so she didn’t have so much opportunity.
After Mike and I returned, we drove back to Waterton and found an ice-cream place. Then we walked to the pier and made reservations for the boat for tomorrow. While there, I found out about a neat hike that we couldn’t do. It was to Crypt Lake. They ferry you across the lake, then you hike several miles up the valley. At the top, you climb a 10-foot ladder, then walk through an 80 foot cave/tunnel. You emerge into a bowl containing the lake. The trail continues along the cliff face with some exposure to reach the lake. It sounds really neat, but it is about 5-miles one way. I don’t think Mike (or Amy) were up to a hike of that length. If we were going to be there for a longer time, I might have considered it for myself, but we were only there for a few days.
Amy and I wanted to hike up to the Bear’s Back, a promontory looking over the town and lake, but Mike was hiked out. He wanted to just hang out on the rocky beach and throw rocks into the lake. The hike was a short one, so we left him there and drove to the visitor’s center which was also the trail head. But we found that the “short hike” was expected to take an hour and a half. It was already 6:30, and we didn’t want to leave Michael alone that long. So we drove to a waterfall in Waterton itself, and I took pictures while Amy drove back to the beach and got Michael.
We had planned to eat a cheap meal at Subways, but we ended up eating next door at Weiners of Waterton. We wandered around the town a little, then went up to the hotel to check in. We only took the essentials up to the room, as it was fairly cramped. Of course, the elevator only goes to the 4th floor, so we had to carry our luggage up one floor. Normally, the bellman would help with the luggage, but that didn’t feel natural to us, so we did it ourselves.
There was no cot in the room, but there was one down the hallway, so appropriated it (which made the small room even more cramped). There were no sheets for it, so I hiked down and asked at the front desk for some to be sent up. Then I ran outside and grabbed my tripod to get some dusk pictures.
It had been warm all day, and it had just started to cool off while we were having dinner, so the room was a bit warm. There was a fan there, and two windows, so we set the fan up in one of them to get some cool air in. We went to bed around 9:30.