…to be concluded
Our visit to Glacier National Park was short-lived and not because we wanted it to be. There were signs posted that a mother bear had been seen with cubs and people would be cited if not in groups of four or more while on trails – any and all trails, easy or hard. Each hike offers its own difficulties, animals, and views. It was going to be a tough decision, but one was made for us. This is when a child rental shop would come in handy or rich friends that can fly their jet plane to meet at whim as dogs don’t count – we tried.
The park has decided that four people look bigger, and scarier, than two. I thought it was so that a fast couple could bring a slow one and have a better chance of survival or bring dogs as bait like we do; others carry bear mace. But I am more than willing to give bears their space. I’m grateful to have rangers doing their jobs efficiently to keep wildlife wild and people safe – though I was still willing, at the moment, to risk my leg to see one in its natural environment.
British Columbia takes extra care to ensure a safe road for its drivers. If you don’t get eaten by a bear on a trail then beware the possible unexploded shells the province employees use to induce an avalanche when there is no traffic in the way. One might think they need a better quality assurance program, but Canada spends ten million a year to clean up leftover explosives, including those left from training sites stretching back over 40 years ago and their death toll has not exceeded that of France, Belgium, and Germany.
This province has gorgeous on repeat – mountain icefields, thick forests, blooming flowers, and the flowing green water of the Columbia River. We see a sign for range, lodge, and restaurant and turn in the driveway. We park at the end and are impressed with the landscape. We’re excited to see what food they offer. Inside, the lady behind the desk lets us know that this new business hasn’t gotten that far yet, but we are free to look around.
We quickly pass the wrapped hoofed leg ornament hanging in the wine cellar to enjoy the more lively view outside. There are rocks around a pond and chairs around a fire pit facing the mountains. There is a picnic table with individual seats on the ends – how cute. And my favorite is the cask-looking sauna set with trees at the rear and tall grasses and rocks on the sides. I would love to get in and try out its relaxing qualities, but I’m sure it’s for guest use only. I wonder if the space in the ceiling was intentional for ventilation as we walk back to the car.
Further east on Hwy 1 and we enter the town of Golden. We find a parking spot amongst the heavy traffic next to Legendz Diner. Pink walls covered in pictures of Elvis, pink booths with gray seats, silver tables and chairs with red seats, and black and white tile floors. We order a Traditional Ale made by Big Rock Brewery in Calgary while we decide to get a pizza with spinach and olives. We asked for it to-go when we realized we’d been in here over 30 minutes and we had dogs to tend to and places to see.
We stopped at the gas station nearby in hopes of getting some more of that beer to have with leftover pizza for dinner. We got chocolate and caffeine instead when we learned that we would have to buy alcohol from a brewery or store that specializes in beer or liquor and some that sell both separate from the restaurant, hotel, or casino they are located in. Neither of us consider ‘getting our drink on’ to be that important to use our valuable time searching for booze. We will wait for the next opportunity and we can also go without.
Canada is the second largest country in area, but due to their excellent winter conditions in the north it’s estimated that 75% of their 35 million residents live within 200 miles of the United States border. This means that cities, national parks, and highways are more concentrated in the south, but it remains one of the most sparsely populated countries and one of the most prosperous with 11% as many people as the States with over 300 million residents. This means that their park systems are close which makes it easy to visit more than one in a day, unless we would’ve found a group to hike with in Glacier.
It could take 2.5 hours to drive by Revelstoke and through Glacier and Yoho National Parks if it wasn’t for the change to Mountain Time in Yoho that extends south into Montana and east into Alberta. This park is known for its waterfalls, rambunctious river, Canadian Pacific Railway, and the discovery of Burgess Shale fossils in 1909 that offer a glimpse into history that happened over 500 million years ago when these almost two-mile high peaks were covered in water.
So we are on our way to this great park when we pass a caution sign for bighorn sheep and standing directly behind that sign is exactly that. It was so hard to believe that Caleb thought it was a fake (in case the silhouette on the sign didn’t give you an idea what to look out for the stuffed version would). Well, I knew it was real and I pulled over as much as I could so that he could get a picture of the sheep before it disappeared over the cliff side. We would see plenty more. We were driving with a sloped mountain going up on my left and that same mountain going down on the right.
Into the park and immediately we see a sign for Wapta Falls; we love waterfalls. The sign next to the trailhead tells us it’s an easy 2.4km walk to the other end of the trail. Some quick math in my head tells me that’s a mile and a half and through the woods should take us 30-45 minutes one way. It starts out easy enough with dirt and then becomes a root-filled path and there are a couple of close edges where erosion is becoming more obvious. I saw a family banging sticks together and was hoping to see a bear (from a very safe distance), but there would be no such sighting on this hike.
Near the falls is a chain-link fence that follows the slope down some for a better view. Or you can continue further down the trail like we did, possibly take a shortcut or just a steep path further down and come to another viewpoint. We noticed the umbrella and the bag before we noticed the man they belonged to. From where we were standing you have the option of continuing even further down and perhaps if brave, or dumb, enough going for a swim in a turbulent whirlpool. We chose instead to focus on the different types of barks on the trees we found along the way.
We prefer to get our information at the beginning of the park that way we know where to concentrate our efforts for the time we have allotted. The plus in Canada is that we find brochures and park stamps at booths located within the park and along the road or information centers that have space set aside for that purpose as well. We are lucky enough to make it into the visitor center exactly one minute before they closed – enough time to get a stamp to add to the growing collection and a brochure of the park.
Within those folded pages we find a place to camp for the night and see that we may have passed up an opportunity, but we have enough daylight to enjoy another. I slow down for the toddler playing soccer with a volleyball on the Monarch Campground road and find us an empty spot at site 17 that will cost us $17.60 for the night – and we don’t have change. We take this opportunity to drive up to Takakkaw Falls; I couldn’t resist the name.
An unplanned stop would be a view into the most difficult, and rewarding, engineering feat for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1909. The company had tried the cheaper, steeper route, but that proved too dangerous. Now there are two spiral tunnels – one in Cathedral Mountain and one in Mount Ogden that help the train traverse its steep tracks. It’s the only one of its kind in Canada. The village of Field was made to support the railway with extra locomotives to help the passengers and freight reach their destination. Those extra engines are still in use today for the 25-30 trains that travel on these rail lines daily.
Had it not been for fear of avalanche, the railway would have had no problem building tracks around the mountain and in the wrong valleys. They had to have stronger steam engines built, two 2-8-0s, to help get the job done in 1884. The track location was chosen, not for the rugged Rocky Mountain terrain, but for its proximity to the States and closeness to the Pacific Ocean. Adding the spiral tunnels would cost 1.5 million dollars, but would be such a significant choice in Canadian history that Kicking Horse Pass was designated a National Historic Site in 1971.
Another first is seen as we make our way up the road to Takakkaw Falls. There is a sign for trucks over 7 meters or more on how to use the switchback. They are to drive forward to the first turn, reverse up to the second turn, and then continue north. The corners are quite blind and can even make me nervous being in a compact SUV, but if you can get past that the view and the feel of the mist are worth it.
We see a bunch of cars parked on the road across from a stream. We park in the lot and walk down to the river. There is a trail that leads to the falls from here, but I want to go see what inspired the other cars to park where they are. This place has us in such good spirits. We are all smiles as we skip and jump towards the momentous water that happens to be the second-highest falls in Canada that are fed by the Daly Glacier that feeds off the Waputik Icefield and into our minds and hearts.
A fall either needs a long drop or tons of water to create such a mist. This is a paradise moment, one of those perfect days, and something I never want to forget. We take pictures, as usual, and we both want to get closer – like inspect the water droplets and microscopic life forms closer, but we have a campsite to pay for and dogs in a car to tend to, so it’s back down the magic trail for us.
We pull into Kicking Horse Campground like we are staying the night and I don’t know if it was that we looked too cheap and dirty to stay there or if the place was full, but we got a weird look from the ranger. Perhaps she was wondering what could make two people so happy. She gave us our change and off we went. The coinage thing for $1 and $2 is great for buses and laundry, but can be a pain in an envelope along with cents when trying to shove it in a thin slot.
We sit on the picnic table provided as we watch two people set up different tents in a camp across from us. Caleb laughs at the guy as he struggles and is impressed with the girl’s skills. I’ve never gone camping with someone or a group of people and slept in a different tent. Then we watch the train go by with its brakes set to screech and attempt to count the 160 or so boxcars that roll through the tunnel with an extra engine car in the middle of the load. That’s a long train and the day has been too and both are sufficient.
We got the tent set up with the rainfly on. We let the air mattresses self-inflate before Caleb finished filling them. We blew up the camp pillows and unrolled the sleeping bags only to remember the hole that was put in mine by a burrowing dog trying to make their bed more comfy during the night. Fortunately for us, our $469 (bought on sale) bags are easily fixed with a cloth Band-Aid to keep the feathers from coming out – at least until we finish the trip. As for now, I’m going to sleep.