First of all, I’m going to have to say that other than Pollett’s Cove (Cape Breton) and Gros Morne National Park (Newfoundland), Waterton Lakes National Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited (as you can tell in our photos). Last week, Sheena and I had a series of days off from work…and decided to take an early anniversary trip, seeing that we’ll both be working the week of June 5th. It was great actually, we said to each other on our first day off together, “Wanna go to Waterton?” and went. It was pretty spontaneous.
Waterton Lakes National Park is on the border with Montana, about 270 kilometres south of Calgary. The drive takes you through river valleys, prairie towns and rolling hills as you get further south. Along the way, you see that the land is farmed, with many interesting irrigation systems in action to feed the various crops. As you get closer to Pincher Creek, we began to see wind farms. These made me really excited actually, clean energy — and really, taking advantage of something that is happening all the time in the mountainous areas — wind power! I tried to snap a few photos of them, but some were far from the highway. There were a few times where there were so many wind-power generators that they were hard to count. Apparently, the southern Alberta wind farms were the first in Canada.
As we approached Waterton, the terrain began to look more and more like Cape Breton. Before seeing the mountains, the flat plains led to rolling grassy hills and plateaus in the distance. As we got closer though, it was clear that we were definately in the Rockies. We entered the park and picked up a campsite for the night. It was fairly cool out that evening, and there was still some snow on the ground from earlier in the day. Thinking that the weather would be warmer than in Calgary, we were a bit surprised, but continued on nonetheless. However, as the evening started — so did the freezing rain and snow. We decided that our anniversary trip might be better spent warm and comfortable than damp and cold. =) So, to a local inn we went.
The town of Waterton is a quaint little place, nestled within the National park. Far less commercial than Banff — and far less tourists — Waterton has a few neat features for newcomers. It’s practically all little inns and cottages, with a main strip that has more than it’s share of ice-cream shops. (And yes, we’d have to visit at least ONE of them before we left.) A tad bit expensive though for normal products, but…what the heck, we were there for only a couple days.
So, we used the inn for our homebase — and the next day decided to check out a few hiking areas within the park. Our first lead us to Big Bertha falls. The trail still laden with snow, we found three waterfalls along the way — and were strangely tempted to swim despite the snow. It was 19 degrees afterall. The return trip was a bit slushy…much of the snow melted fairly fast due to the warm weather. Later in the day (Monday), we decided to drive around the outskirts of Waterton — in search of a good place to cook supper. Along the way, we found a sunflower field, to Sheena’s delight and a ‘barn land’ road that was very scenic. We’d eventually find our suppertime spot and settled down with the guitars and supper for a good meal. It was alot of fun, as you can tell. We also had a chance to check out the Red Rock Canyon road. It reminded me of the roads in the rally races, well paved…lots of fun to drive.
For our last day, we scouted out some areas that we’re going to return to in the summertime or fall. Hopefully with friends, those hikes will be a blast. A couple take you into the States, as the map of the park shows…a few take you into BC and back. We found a few more waterfalls on our trip up the Akamina Parkway — another future destination.
I know Sheena will say the same, it was a great weekend… we can’t wait to go back. Waterton is a great destination to escape the crowds of other Rocky mountain parks, and not too far from Calgary as well.