Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 5: Waterton Lakes National Park

I woke up in the morning feeling great: it's amazing how nice you can feel after a shower after having camped out in primitive camp sites for 3 days. I drove out of Waterton Lakes to an area I had scouted out the day before while driving into the park: Maskinonge Lake. When I arrived, there was already another photographer there. I tried different positions, close to the water and further from the water, but with the wind, it was actually difficult to get good shots without the grasses moving and therefore blurring. Mike would deliberately set up the ISO rating on his camera to ISO 400, but as someone used to shooting Fuji Velvia 50 I always try exhaust all alternatives before dialing up the ISO.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

After the shoot, I drove back to Waterton Lakes, pausing to get in a shot of an Elk by the road side eating breakfast. I had plenty of time to make and eat breakfast at the campground before heading over to the village marina to purchase a ticket for the Crypt Lake hike.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

The hike was time constrained, since between the drop off at approximately 10:30am and the pick up at 5:30pm, we had to complete the hike, which was estimated at 6 hours. Since that was the case, I elected to leave the heavy equipment behind and just carry the point and shoot, hiking sticks, a couple of sandwiches, an apple, a hat, and first aid kit. The day had gotten only more windy, with spray coming off the bow of the ferry, "Miss Waterton", creating a nice rainbow for me to look at during the trip.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The pilot even missed the landing dock 3 times before nailing it, which cannot be usual for someone who did this trip every day. I would only get a good idea as to how much wind was in store for me that day later. After unloading everyone, "Miss Waterton" took off, and I went to look at the trail head while the majority of the hikers took off at speed.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

Just as I got going, a couple behind me asked how far the hike was, and I replied, "6 hours, but it can't possibly be that long, since if they under-estimate it folks would probably complain." And that was how I ended up hiking the Crypt Lake trail with Hanna Kubas and Greg.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

Both of them were swimmers with the University of Calgary, which is apparently a hot spot for Canadian swimming. Greg had graduated and was now training to go to the Olympics in 2012 (yes, I was hiking with a professional athlete!). Hanna was in her last year of school. I really enjoyed hiking with them, since the world of competitive swimming was never one I had ever encountered. The amount of training seemed to be intense, and the two of them enjoyed talking about how specialized swimmers were.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The walk rapidly took us through the forest on a gentle grade, and then steepened as we entered the exposed area. We got great views of waterfalls, negotiated a couple of stream crossings, and then finally way up high, saw the ladder and tunnel in front of us.


From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The ladder was fairly short (quite a bit shorter than the one found on the Steep Ravine trail, for instance), but it was also quite narrow. The tunnel was a bit of a pain. While I did not need to get on your hands and knees, it was short enough that stooping wasn't enough, so a sort of duck walk was necessary to keep my backpack from scraping.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

After emerging from the tunnel, we stepped down a bit and walked right into the cabled-section of the trail, where cables were provided so you could retain your footing while stepping on the narrow trail. Since it was dry the cables were not strictly necessary, but I could see how they would be very useful when the trail was wet.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

After that, a short trail led us to the Crypt Lake itself, where we sat for lunch. I was very amused that everyone else had brought along a subway sandwich. I was clearly not Canadian enough to know that subway sandwiches are the proper meal for the Crypt Lake hike.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

Sitting down made us very cold, and soon Hanna was complaining about how cold her hands were. Her dipping her hands into the lake to feel the water temperature probably had something to do with it. I loaned her my gloves, amused that I was lending clothing to a Canadian swimmer! To warm up we walked around the lake, which was a typical alpine tarn, with mostly scree and stones up the sides except for the area near the feeder stream, which was lush and green.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

We then went back to the trail junction and followed the other trail to the falls, which we had spied from far below. The falls were large, and the spray, coupled with the sound of the wind and the water falling felt quite refreshing.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The descent along the cables proved to be tougher than the climb, but the tunnel for whatever reason felt a lot easier this time. While hiking down this out and back trail, however, we saw an unusual phenomenon: the Chinook winds were so strong that one of the waterfalls was being blown up instead of down! I shot a video, wishing that I actually had had a S95 so I could get it in HD.


On the way down, we took a detour to explore the Hell Roaring Falls, which was a nice side trip. We ended the hike with half an hour to wait for the return shuttle, happy for the unique experience this hike had brought us.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

Once back on the mainland, I had decided that I wanted to go to Cardston to eat (and possibly stay) at the Cobblestone Manor, a restaurant with food so great that even though my family and I had already eaten a meal when we visited, we kept ordering food because it was so good! As I drove on the road to Cardston, however, I kept finding beautiful scenes to look at, which slowed me down quite a bit.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The kicker was the crepuscular beams right outside the town of Mountain View (yes, Mountain View Canada actually has a view of the rockies). I shot quite a few pictures there, congratulating myself for being lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time (with an ND grad. filter, of course).

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

Arriving at Cardston, however, I was disappointed to find that winter hours were in place: the restaurant was closed Sunday and Monday! The local hotels and restaurants were all quite expensive ($80/night), so I drove back to the Waterton Lakes park, watching the scenery around me with an eye to finding a different location to shoot the sunrise the next day. I didn't find any restaurants that looked good, but the Weiners of Waterton Lakes caught my eye, and I walked in to find myself chatting with the co-founder, Matt.

From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The place had been opened only this year, and it was apparently going gangbusters. "I could have gotten an office job, but being here in the park is far more appealing," said Matt. We had a nice chat, and I enjoyed both the dog and the sweet potato fries. I had a shower and went to bed, feeling that meeting Matt and chatting with him had made up for the disappointment of the Cobblestone Manor being closed.

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