My drive to Waterton Lakes National Park combines hazy skies, rain, and wind. Here and there, I get a sliver of the view of the landscape. By the time I enter the prairies, the wind is so strong that I need to keep both hands firm on my steering wheel. I stopped at Pincher Creek (a small town about fifty minutes before Waterton Lakes NP) to check availability for the night, but the campground is full. I open iOverlander (an app for free camping spots). It is only five thirty, and I have plenty of time to continue to Waterton Lakes NP and check their availability. Even though the website indicates the campground is full, I have learned that is only true occasionally. The worse case scenario is I save on Google Maps an iOverlander spot that is twenty minutes outside the National Park.
The drive to Waterton Lakes NP from Picher Creek is peaceful. Slowly, I lose the prairies and wind and enter the mountainous landscape.
My luck is still shining as I check into the only campground at the park, and they let me park at the overflow parking lot for $17. That is good enough for me! I set up my car for the night, cooked my dinner, and as I called to check on Sandra who is slowly recovering, in a matter of seconds, the wind picked up so quickly, heavy clouds covered the skies, and the temperature dropped to the mid-forties. I have never experienced such a quick change in weather. I am forced into my car much earlier than I wished to be. By two a.m., the temperature drops to thirty-six degrees and I am back to winter.
I forgot how cold and challenging camping in the winter can be. I am all bundled up as I make my breakfast trying to warm up my hand with one of my stove burners while the other burner is heating my water for coffee.
I didn't have a chance yesterday to get a feel for the park, so I started with a hike that will give me the best view of my surroundings - Bear's Hump. I fall in love with the landscape in front of me! I love when I lose words to describe what captures my heart. I am mesmerized by the picture that takes up all the space in me. It is the perfect composition of what I love, mountains and lakes.
Just across from the parking lot to Bears's Hump is the famous historical hotel Prince of Wales. I love the feel of historical hotels, they have a warm energy, and with some imagination, you can go back in time. Its location is pure perfection.
Watertown is quite remote. It is a small national park with three main roads; each ending at a dead end after almost twenty miles. There is a quaint village with shops and restaurants. I love it so much, that I ask how to apply for a job at the Prince of Wales Hotel. Maybe one day...
My next stop is to Backiston Falls. The drive exposed the results of the fire of 2017. With all the beauty of the monstrous mountains around me, I cannot shake the sadness that takes over me. Yes, I did pass a few times forest that was affected by fire, but this is the first time I am witnessing such a magnitude of loss. I chose to concentrate on the new life I see as I hike to the waterfall with many new trees starting their journey toward the skies and wildflowers covering the ash ground adding colors for a brighter future.
I returned to the village to see Cameron Falls. Wow, that is such a unique waterfall and absolutely one of a kind! I love the slide in this waterfall. I learned that in the early spring, the force of the waterfall hides its unique look, which shows that power isn't always beauty.
It is time to check into the campground. Even though it is Saturday, they let me take the handicapped spot since no one booked it. Now I have a picnic table, which makes life easier. My site is just a short walk from the lake shore, so after dinner, I go for a stroll and sit on a rock, relaxing my mind and soul. I notice driftwood next to me, and with a quick look, I see the potential for a great photo. I move it around until I am happy with its new position.
The sun is out, but again there is a haze in the air, silhouetting the distant mountains. I am hiking to Lake Bertha and Bertha Falls. The first section of the hike is along the view that stole my heart. With the sun gently glittering on the blue lake, it adds a sparkle to a new day. The hike is in the up direction, but with many switchbacks, the three-and-a-half mile is double. First, I reach the waterfall that cascades in veins on an angle to a narrow channel. Now I wonder how it looks at the beginning of the spring when all the snow starts to melt from the high mountains above, and I like it as it is!
After two hours, I got to the lake. I sit to rest and take in this beautiful picture of open sweeping views of mountains hugging the lake from above while the evergreen trees frame its shore, reflecting on the clear water. In the far distance, up in the mountain, a slim waterfall fills up the silence in the air, adding the perfect background music.
There is one more road to check out: the one that leads to Cameron Lake.
I take the trail along the lake toward the mountain that conquered this lake. It's an easy path to a stop sign, warning you to stop and not go further since the many avalanches created a rich meadow for the grizzlies. It's time to turn around.
Waterton Lakes National Park truly took me by surprise. Why, you ask? Because after so many months of travel, you will think I saw it all. Even though it has the same elements of nature, each place is unique and special on its own. Each area has its own vibe, each its own energy and feel. How lucky we are that the world can provide us with endless nature experiences. Waterton Lakes National Park is magical in my eyes.
It is my last night in Canada. Canada was my kingdom for seventy-two days, so I feel the right to leave as a princess. I am treating myself to dinner at the Prince of Wales historical hotel. So delicious!
Bye-Bye, Canada. You showed me your beautiful land for over 3,735 miles. You captured my heart and soul with your high mountains and stunning lakes. You revealed nature with bright colors and rugged textures. You told a story of kindness, love, and friendships. I feel l left part of me with you. I will return!