Monday, August 20: Waterton
You call this a waterfall
This was one of the few times we used an alarm in the morning, as we had a schedule to keep. We were scheduled for the 10am boat to Goat Haunt. We didn’t want to get breakfast at the hotel, so we drove down to Waterton and went to the Subway. We got three breakfast sandwiches and three regular sandwiches for lunch. Then we walked to the boat dock.
That early in the morning, with the wind from the boat, it was a little chilly, but after that things warmed up. We got a bit of a tour as we made our way down the lake. The border between the US and Canada is marked with a couple of obelisks and a line cleared of trees going from the lake to the tops of the adjacent ridges, and perhaps beyond that.
Some people were just taking the boat to the end of the lake and back. Even though they disembarked for a short while on US territory, they didn’t need passports. Those of us who were planning to hike (and come back on a later boat) needed to show passports and sign in. However, I think I could have easily claimed to be returning, mingle with the group, and then head off on a hike. I think it was more of an honor systems.
We planned to hike to Rainbow Falls, but it seemed to us that the distances were off. According to the map, we should have gone 1/4 to a junction and then 3/4 mile to the falls. But it seemed to us a lot longer (maybe 3/4 mile?) before we reached the junction. It said that the falls were 0.7 miles up this trail, but we got to the falls much sooner than that (maybe 1/4 mile?). It was rather strange.
The falls themselves were very uninspiring. They were more like large cascades. You viewed them from the top, but due to the depth of the canyon, you couldn’t get a good view of them. In any event, they were in bright sun, so I wouldn’t have been able to get a good picture from them anyways.
At one point on the hike, Mike got angry and ran off down the trail. Later, while we were eating our lunch at the falls, I noticed that the filter on his camera was broken. Presumably he bashed it while running down the trail, but we’ll never know.
Overall, I thought that the hike was a waste of time. The falls weren’t worth it, and I definitely prefer sub-alpine meadows to forests. I could have done a similar forest hike back home any time I wanted.
On the way back from the falls, when we got to that junction (that was “0.7 miles” from the falls), we turned left onto the trail that runs around the lake. Fifty yards down that trail, we came to the bridge that crosses the stream (that had the “waterfall”). It was a wood and cable bridge. That is, there were two large cables with wooden planks running between them that you walked on. There were two more cables as hand-rails, and some small cables connecting the hand-rails to the planking.
So you walked on planks, but the whole thing could bob up and down and back-and-forth as you walked. The “weight limit” was “one hiker at a time”. We spent a fair amount of time walking back and forth on it, and just having fun with it. Michael liked to run across it, which set up some interesting vibrations.
After we came back from that hike, we had a little more than an hour before our return boat was boarding. So Amy and Mike hung out near the boat area, and I decided to try hiking to the Goat Haunt Overlook. It was only one mile away. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was also 800 feet higher up.
I climbed at essentially the fastest pace I could maintain. After the first couple of hundred yards, the trail just grinds straight up the side of the mountain with very little break. When I stopped to check my pulse (which I could feel and hear just standing there without feeling for it), I was up around 160-168. That is about the same as when I am running.
I figured that I would turn back in 30 minutes or when I got to Goat Haunt. It was tiring, but I wanted to give it all I had. I was of two minds about wildlife. On one hand, I wouldn’t mind it if I chanced upon something good after some turn of the trail. On the other hand, I didn’t want to turn a corner and come face to face with a bear. So periodically I would make some noise and hopefully let anything nearby know I was coming.
The trail continues past the overlook to who knows where, and I was almost worried that I missed the overlook and was going beyond it. Just about when I reached my turn-around time, the trail flattened out, there were some views of the lake, and there were a few benches. This I figured was the overlook, which I later found was correct.
I had a good view of the boat coming down the lake with a new load of tourists. I decided that it would be a good idea to take a few pictures and then head down with all reasonable speed.
Not surprisingly, going down was a lot easier and bit faster than going up. It wasn’t exactly sub-alpine meadows, but I did like the openness and partial views better than on the way to Rainbow Falls.
When I got down, the boat had already arrived and had discharged its passengers. I had maybe 10 minutes to spare before boarding of the new passengers (e.g. us). I took a quick look at the “hiking shelter” they had there. It was basically a large square building divided into four quarters. Each quarter was a three-sided box with roof. I guess you could set up a tent inside, or perhaps just a sleeping bag if the bugs weren’t bad, and you would be out of the wind and any rain.
The boat ride back was uneventful. Not surprisingly, at mid-afternoon it was much warmer than on the way out in the morning. The breeze was very welcome. By the time we got back to Waterton, we were rather hot and thirsty, despite refilling water bottles before we boarded the boat.
We got some ice creams again, then we went back to the hotel for more “ambiance”, in this case afternoon tea. I figured that it would a la carte, and I could get some tea and a small snack. However, it was fixed price and $30 per person. That was more than we wanted to spend, so we decided to skip it.
Mike was hiked out, so we left him at the hotel and Amy and I actually did the Bear’s Back hike. We went up at a pace that Amy could maintain. The upper portion in particular has lots of irregular “stairs” that were more annoying that helpful. The signs gave an average time of 45 minutes up and 45 down. I guess that we’re above average then, because we made it up in 45 and down in 25.
As advertised, it had good views of the town and lake. On the edge it featured some steep drop-offs that ended in cliffs, sort of par for the course out west. There was a ridge that went up the mountain, but that was a lot longer and steeper than what we had already done, and I’m not sure if there was a trail there or not.
On the way down the trail, we missed a bear by a few minutes. There were some hikers just ahead of us who apparently ran into a bear on the trail, but by the time we got to that spot, the bear was gone. We didn’t know about it until we reached the bottom and they asked us, “Did you see the bear?”
We then went back to the hotel, found Mike, took showers, and went to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. Once again, we were not impressed. The service was slow, and the food only so-so but expensive.
My overall summary of my experience there is that one should visit the hotel, but should stay at one of the places in Waterton and eat at one of the town’s restaurants.
We went to dinner at 7, but we didn’t finish until 8:30, and didn’t get to bed until 9.