dandelion

Waterton Lakes National Park

We woke up when we wanted to wake up, on June 28th, as there wasn't really anything we had to get to, and after the last two early mornings, it was nice to laze in and sleep.

But I did get up eventually, and we'd done a little research the night before about the various breakfast places in town. One seemed a little too posh, relying on "Best Breakfast in Radium" advertising along with lots of types of Eggs Benedict and fancier dishes. There was one that was just around the corner from our hotel, so we went there, instead, and were very glad of our decision.


Oops
We went to Riko's Radium Family Restaurant, and the food was soooo good that I totally forgot to take a picture before I devoured it. It had also been a really long time since we'd sat down to a full diner breakfast, relying mostly on bakeries and coffee in various places. So it was really nice to sit down to a plate of bacon, eggs, Canadian Tater Tots, and toast. The Tots turned out to be homemade, with bits of onion in nice, big potato patties, almost like mini-potato pancakes! The toast was good, thick, well buttered, and perfectly toasted. The bacon was perfectly cooked, crisp, and not too greasy, and my medium over eggs were cooked to a creamy consistency, with the whites completely solid. It was all pretty much perfect.

So much so that I don't even really know what John got. *laughs* I was concentrating so much on my breakfast. I think it might have been the same thing, actually.

We also took a minute to browse through the local grocery store's shelves, just to see if there were Canadian things that we wanted to get while we were still up here, and we happened upon a Schwep's Amber Ginger Ale, that was darker than their usual stuff. We bought a 12 pack, and when we opened a can later during the day, it was delicious. Sadly, we can't seem to find it in the US.

Canadian Tire indeed
We checked out of the hotel, and when John came back to the car, he laughed and said that the guy checking him out had said, "Well, guess you're off like a bride's pajamas!"

And we were! Zoom... and along the way we stopped at a grocery store just to browse again and I got a Fruit and Nut Cadbury bar. We got this shot of a Canadian Tire with proper Canadian mountains behind it. It was just such a gorgeous shot.

We went from 93 to 95, and back onto the 93. We stopped at a remote rest stop where some guy who was the maintenance guy had just washed out the bathrooms with a hose, lots of soap, and that was pretty much it. The entire interior of the women's bathroom was dripping and sudsy. *laughs* It was really clean! But... so wet. I managed to dry off the seat and was happy to have the rest of it be sparkling.

We drove through Canal Flats, the reported Source of the Columbia and then we got to the Waterton Lakes National Park.

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Waterton was different than the other parks. Being further south, it was warmer, greener, and also flatter and more rolling. There were lots of wild flowers and open meadows, along with some of these red rock formations and canyons that weren't so evident at the other parks.

There were also a lot of enormous lakes, and we stopped by the biggest in the center of town and stopped to have our lunch by the water and to just walk up and down the main street. After that we hit the information center in order to update our national parks pass, as we had to pay for one more night's stay while we were there. The lady there pointed out the Red Rocks Canyon and various places where there were wild flowers, along with what she said was a super sweet smelling tall white orchid that grew among the trees. So we decided that we were going to go looking for that.

I wasn't up to much adventure, as I was pretty sore from the tea house hike the day before; but I was willing to do a little walking and at least step out of the car to look at things. A lot of the places to stay were also full up, so we got a hotel room in town, pretty quickly, and then headed out on our small adventure. John started by going the furthest we had to go.

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Red Rock Canyon seemed kind of dull at first. There was a path that went around the edge of the little canyon. Water ran through it, and there was one other couple with us, but we could hear all kinds of people down in the canyon, giggling, splashing, and generally having a good time. And the lady of the other couple said that there was an easy way down in there, and you basically could walk up the canyon.

The walkway along the side of the canyon was pretty well maintained, but the bridge that crossed the far end so that we could walk the whole loop was closed. That was sad. And from above, it was mostly just like this... brush and a bit of dirt. some of the meadows around it above; and you really couldn't see far into the canyon, just could look down on the stream a bit and see people down there.

Red Rock Canyon
But the same couple that was up there with us said that there was an official way down into the canyon and that you could wade up it as far as you wanted. So we made our way back to the beginning and there were honest to gosh steps cut and poured into the side of the canyon to make it easy to get down in there and access the water.

Dozens of young families had gone down into the shade and water, to cool off on the very hot day, and they were all over the flat rocks at the opening of the canyon. Fewer people had waded down further into the ravine. I'd put my relatively waterproof sandals on in order to go wading. John had put his boots on and he followed from rock to rock and wading in the shallower parts of the water to keep up with me.

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The water felt amazing on my still sore feet. It was good and cold and super clear. I really enjoyed it, along with all candy striping of the rocks around me. The colors were brilliant and bright, and amid the red were green and yellow rocks as well. I happily waded up the canyon, just a bit at a time, and John hopped rocks behind me and took my picture. It was a fun little adventure, and I'd never been to the bottom of one of these valleys.

Much deeper in it was like this, narrow and deeper, and you can see all the colors of the stones. I loved the clarity of the water, and the cold just felt so good.

I sat down for a little while not that much further than this, and just breathed for a while. It was cooler down here than out on the meadows and in the sunshine, and the water brought a breeze, as they often do. The water bed is sloped with the water flow so that cooler air can flow with it. I was tired enough by that point to just rest and relax into it all.

Field of Flowers
So Waterton is best known for its meadows, filled with wild flowers. And this is pretty representative of the gentle, rolling hills covered with grass and speckles of color.

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They were all tiny flowers, in all these brilliant colors. I didn't know exactly what any of them were, but they were fun to find amid the grasses. The only problem was that there were a lot of biting insects amid the flowers, too. So we were swatting as we walked and hunted the flowers. But we got a lot of great pictures while we wandered.

Eventually thunderheads threatened, so we packed up, got back into the car to head to where the orchids were supposed to be; but on the road back, there were suddenly dozens of cars parked by the side of the road, some of the even blocking the way. So we decided to make the best of it, got out, and took a look around...

Mama Bear and Two Cubs
We got to see our first bears here in these parks. There had been all kinds of signs, all the garbage cans were made to dissuade bears, and here we finally got to see some for ourselves! It was a mama bear with her two cubs. The round ears would show above the grasses for a while, and then one would tackle the other, or they'd roll around in the bushes, and then go scampering after their mama.

I was glad to see that people were smart, stayed well out of their way, and weren't doing things to call attention to themselves. But there were dozens of people out there peering at them, and all with our cameras. *laughs* that was pretty fun. But we were really happy we got to see some bears while we were out here.

The orchids turned out to be quite different than we'd thought they were, big disks with thousands of tiny white flowers on them, all out in the shade of the trees, and they certainly smelled strongly. But it was a scent that was on the verge of being too strong, and hinted along the curve of that the yucca flower takes, which isn't always pleasant. But we got to see them, and then we headed back into town.

Prince of Wales Motel
One of the landmarks of the park was this, the Prince of Wales Hotel, on the edge of Waterton Lake. The lake is cradled in the midst of all the mountains. Built in the 1920's, the hotel is a throwback to that era, and serves an afternoon tea in a tea room that overlooks the lake view.

We didn't even park in the regular parking lot, instead taking a temporary spot in the bus parking in order to walk out onto the lawn and take a picture of the famous view. We were joined by nearly a dozen other cars in pretty short order, people just speeding by to see what there was to see and move on again. I half regret not taking advantage of that, but I was pretty tired.

The View
The view was worth the walk, and I just stood there, soaking it in while John used his huge camera to get as much of it as he could. As it was, he had to stitch together a few shots to make this. It was impressively huge.

From there, we headed to our room, got all our laundry and took it to a laundro-mat within walking distance of our room. It was in the the late afternoon sunshine, so I sat, drowsed, read, and listened to the washing machines and dryers turn.

I was reading Scott Westerfield's Uglies, Pretties, and Specials series. I'd bought them a long time ago on the recommendation of Amberley, and then Jet said that they were really good. So I finally actually took them along to read them, and they were quite good. Though... it was interesting thinking about them in the context of a man writing teenage girls. I still remember being impressed that Scalzi had a number of women review and critique his handling of Zoe, and I'd always loved her. Westerfield's girls were... good, believable, and with the right balance of intellectual, emotional, and physical that I remember being. I enjoyed them and some of the key choices were really solid.

Parking Lot Visitor
There was wildlife all over town. This lady deer was just in our parking lot, just outside our room door. As we were first pulling in, there were five mountain goats sauntering down the middle of the road, and a man ran by going, "Dad! Dad! Get out here, there's mountain goats!"

That made me laugh. With the bear earlier, it was pretty obvious that the wildlife was comfortable with the small enclave of people in the midst of their areas.

We got back to the room with our clean clothing. There was supposed to be in town wi-fi, but it was really weak in the hotel and it wasn't any better at the laundromat. We sat down on the curb by the road, though, and got better reception, which was pretty funny. Next door to the laundromat was a waffle place that looked good enough that I decided that I wanted to go there for breakfast the next day.

Zumi's
While we were wandering around town during our initial take of the place, we saw this sign, which is an unusual sign to see in Canada. *laughs* I have to admit that I think of Fried Chicken as a Southern dish, and to see it here was a little bit bemusing; but we remembered it! It was for Zumi's in Waterton, and we decided to go there for dinner. Since we were going after laundry, we were there pretty late, but they still had chicken.

They also had schnitzel, a pork schnitzel with gravy and mashed potatoes. I had to get that. John got the chicken. And we were both so happy with what we got I completely forgot to take pictures of the food before it was all eaten. *laughs* The potatoes were smashed, so that they had lovely texture and plenty of garlic and butter. The schnitzel was crisp and perfect. John's chicken was crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and he had the same luxurious potatoes and veg. The salads that came to start were fresh and various and wonderful.

The Pie
And the Wild Berry Pie was absolutely marvelous. *laughs*

It wasn't exactly wild berries, the strawberries were typical Californian monsters, huge and solid. But they were really good with the raspberries, blueberries, and even a few blackberries. And the whole mess was warm and wonderful on a short crust that was tender and flaky and lovely.

After dinner, we wandered through Zumi's backstore, too, just looking at all the stuff, and in the very back, they had a racks of gorgeous custom sweaters. There were a lot of solid ones, but there was one series that had a Gortex liner and a shell made from Icelandic wool. On the sweaters were these beautifully simple designs depicting various animals: an eagle, moose, bear, wolves, buffalo, and others. Each of the designs pretty much fit the actual item of clothing.

One of them just called to me, a gray sweater with black liner and a high, turned up collar and the spitting image of the black bear we'd seen earlier during the day; but I could tell just from feeling it that it was really expensive. A moose caught John's eye, but it wasn't quite right, as it was on a pullover and the moose covered the whole front of the garment.

New Sweater
A young man came in to see if we needed any help, and we got to talking, and he turned out to be a trombone player, like John and Jet. He was interested in Jet's trip to Europe, and John and he got into a good conversation.

He also managed to dig up another sweater with the moose on it that fastened in front, instead of being a pullover, and John asked him if he could do a deal for two sweaters instead of just the one. The young man had to bring his uncle in to do that, and we talked with them pleasantly for a while; and he gave us a pretty good deal. It turns out that these were both designed by Graham Howard, a Canadian clothing designer who had died recently. So these were being slowly discontinued, but also since they were designer sweaters, they were expensive enough that he wasn't selling them very quickly. They were also solidly made, especially for Canada's weather, so they were going to last forever; and the Icelandic wool would shed water like an oilskin.

The funny thing was that as we finished buying them, it started just howling outside. The wind picked up, rain was falling, and the sweaters were perfect for the weather. *laughs* They were thick enough, and the lining made them entirely wind proof, and as we went out into the howling gale, the owner shook his head and said, "You two look thoroughly Waterton, now."

And we were. We were the only two out walking in that weather, and enjoying it thoroughly. We went all the way down to the lake, and walked along the shore before heading back to our room.

It was pretty much the perfect ending to a very very good day.
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