Canada. Like America, but with bigger beers.
25.08.2014 - 25.08.2014
Day Three: Canada. Like America, but with bigger beers.
It was breakfast in the car because we had an ambitious day planned. First, we had to make an hour drive from St. Mary to Waterton Park in Canada. Then, we needed to stop at the visitors’ center to pick up our backcountry camping permit for that night. Finally, we had to make a 30 minute drive to Cameron Lake where John and Teresa would drop us off at the Carthew Alderson trailhead before heading back to Waterton Village to do their own hike at Bertha Lake.
The rain and gray skies had cleared out and we were treated to a bright blue sky day.
Matt and I had tried to hike Carthew Alderson 4 years earlier, but had actually been snowed out. SNOWED OUT. IN AUGUST. We had a perfect day to do the hike this time. The mirror-like views from Cameron Lake were outstanding. I knew we were in for a fantastic day.
Carthew Alderson is a one way hike, stretching 12 miles from Cameron Lake and ending in Waterton Village. Gaining just over 2000 vertical feet in the first 5 miles, I knew the first half of this hike would have my gluteus maximi screaming with rage.
The first mile took us through a deep, quiet forest. It was early morning and the dew was still thick on the leaves. As we went up, up, and up the endless switchbacks, there was no sound except the soft padding of our feet on the trail.
That, and my heaving breath.
Matt leapt up the mountain like a gazelle.
At just over a mile, we reached Summit Lake, an absolutely stunning spot to stop for some water and beef jerky.
And an oxygen break for those of us who hadn’t just leapt up the mountain like a gazelle.
Gazelle, my ass. I was breathing like a 3 legged elephant in labor.
When Matt asked me why in God’s name I was wearing blue pants, I responded that I was going for a “cute outdoorsy lumberjack” look. He said I had achieved a “deranged elf” look.
From the lake, the trail turned steeply uphill, climbing the exposed face of Mount Carthew. As the trail broke free of the trees, I saw the thin zig-zagging line that showed me where I was headed.
Dear Lord. Why do I do these things to myself?
At this point I was hoping my tights were Superman tights and would give me superhuman powers. Like the power to keep walking uphill until I died. And then keep walking.
We climbed for what seemed like DAYS when we reached a loose scree slope. One wrong move and I would slide down that mountain. Forever. I’d end up in Mexico.
Eventually, we reached the windy summit. It was simply magnificent.
THIS is why I do these things to myself.
We spun in a circle, taking in the very enormity of it.
The views stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see.
When I started getting dizzy from all that spinning (very Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music like), Matt decided we needed to head down the other side before I ended up falling and sliding to Mexico. At least they would be able to find the body thanks to my superblue pants.
As we descended toward the Carthew Lakes, the views simply got more surreal. It was hard to take in so much beauty.
It was just so BIG.
We stopped between the lakes for a trail lunch of a turkey club wrap, fig bars, and baby carrots with hummus. With a view of the lake below us and a waterfall above us, it was simply awesome.
We continued our way down, down, down, past lakes, past waterfalls, through the valley…and then it was all over. Despite the grunt factor, the hike had been amazing. It’s hard to put into words how I feel when I am out there, staring up at that enormous sky, surrounded by towering mountains, looking ahead for miles and not seeing another soul.
When John and Teresa dropped us off, none of us had any idea what time we would finish. We were all meeting at Cameron Falls in Waterton Village, where our trail ended. Taking a wild guess, I had suggested they meet us there at 4:00. Guess what time we walked out at Cameron Falls?
(It was the Superman tights. I told you they had super powers).
We rewarded ourselves with ice-cream and set off for another hike.
No. I am not kidding.
Sure, my legs felt like spaghetti noodles made out of jello, but that was no reason not to throw on a 25 lb. pack and hike back to a campsite, now was it?
Dear Lord. Why do I do these things to myself?
I managed to do the hike back to Crandall Lake campground by doing it with a giant 16 oz can of Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider. We all need a little help sometimes.
The trail to Crandall Lake had more uphill than I remembered, but the hike was still relatively short and easy. It would have been easier if I hadn’t been belching up apple flavored beer.
Crandall Lake is an idyllic spot. The small lake is surrounded by mountains. The tent sites are nestled on one end of the lake in the woods.
The best part? You can have a fire.
Most backcountry campsites don’t allow fires, but I made it a point on this trip to find those that did. There is nothing like sitting by a crackling fire after a long day of hiking. Sure, it makes you go to bed smelling like a hobo, but camping doesn’t exactly make you smell like a rose anyway.
I made dinner while the guys got us a fire going: Rice topped with chicken and a spicy chipotle sauce, green beans and roasted potatoes, and herbed cheese rolls from the Polebridge Mercantile. While we ate, I had a surprise hidden in the fire: orange fudge cakes (hollowed out oranges filled with devil’s food cake batter, wrapped in foil, and left in the fire to cook to a delightfully gooey consistency).
We enjoyed the warmth of the crackling fire until it started to get dark, then it was time to head to the tents for a good night’s sleep.