Summer Vacation Recap: Waterton Lakes (Part 1)

Hellooooooo!!! I have so much to tell you guys about all the summer fun I’ve been enjoying. Where did we last leave off? Let’s rewind all the way back to the beginning of July when my fav hiking buddy Kris came to visit for an early-birthday adventure.

I thought it would be fun for the three of us to do the north summit of Mt. Baldy since it’s a scramble and we’re all in pretty good shape and not easily rattled by heights. That being said, I experienced a minor freakout descending a rock backwards and couldn’t see the ground beneath me. Nick had to come assist me with placing my feet into each hold because I was shaking so bad and frozen in fear.  As Kris was taking these pics, she called out, “I can see your legs shaking from here!” Hahaha

It was sketchiest part of the journey and it truly wasn’t that bad – I just have major trust issues when it comes to maneuvering myself backwards. And why I still can’t ride the toe edge on a snowboard.

I believe it took us 1.5 hour to reach the summit. We had lunch, then my hands turned white, tingly and numb from the slight fluctuation in temperature. I’m pretty sure I have Raynaud’s syndrome – my hands tend to seize up, then turn numb and painful as my body cools down after exercise – especially outdoors! I had to wrap myself in Kris’ fuzzy pink fleece to warm up.

If you decide to do Mt. Baldy, keep in mind it’s NOT a hike, but rather a scramble. You’ll need to be comfortable with plenty of hands-on maneuvering. Although it’s not technical,  I suggest going with someone who is comfortable and experienced with this type of terrain to show you the ropes! Three points of contact at all times is all you really need to remember. The rest is pretty intuitive. 😀 Have fun!

After our adventure, we hit up Tavern 1883 in Canmore for patio beers and an early dinner (I had their chicken burger + truffle fries!) then stopped by Rocky Mountain Soap so I could pick up a new bottle of lemongrass body wash. We said goodbye to Kris and drove home.  We needed to pack up the car in preparation for our road trip to Waterton the following morning.

I was so excited to get ‘home’ to my favorite place in the Rockies, I was wide awake at 4:30am and anxiously awaiting Nick to rise. We were on the road by 7am and strolling through the village by 10am. Leading up to the trip, I explained Waterton is both a place and a feeling. A magical, unique feeling that I’ve only experienced in two places: there and the Hawaiian islands. I wondered if Nick would pick up on the sensations or if I’d hyped it up way too much.

We didn’t book campsites or accommodations ahead of time, in preference of the freedom to stay as long as we chose in each area and set up camp wherever felt right. When it comes to travel, I’ve definitely let go of my prior ‘type a- must plan every little detail’ ways and embraced intuitive travel instead. It’s so much more fun and relaxing! Even though most campsites in the parks are now limited to a first-come, first-serve basis, I  knew we’d find something and didn’t stress about it.

Tip: you can book reservations at the townsite’s campground but if you want my honest opinion, it’s a worst-case-scenario/last option because it’s filled with RV’s, noise, no trees and zero privacy. They have bathrooms with showers, so at least there’s that.

As soon as we arrived, I planned a quick walking tour for us. We parked at the marina, walked through the main streets where I pointed out all the good foodie spots – Wieners of Waterton, The Big Scoop, Welch’s, Waffleton, Lakeside Chophouse and The Taco Bar then made our way  to Cameron Falls.

“Wow, this place really has it all” Nick remarked. “I’ve only been here and hour and I already see why you love it so much!” For the record, Nick isn’t easily impressed.  “Look! There’s actually kids outside playing by themselves – riding their bikes in the middle of the road without helmets. Rollerblading!” he pointed out.
When I was a kid, my parents used to let me run loose in Waterton and it’s nice to see things still haven’t changed. It hasn’t been tainted and overrun with tour buses and consumerism like Banff!

The next destination on our walking tour was the beach. We took a few minutes to relax and enjoy the lapping waves at the shore.

Mmm, it felt so good to be back – Waterton has always felt like home to me.

Around lunchtime, we drove up to Red Rock Canyon and on a whim, I decided to pull into Crandell Mountain campground to see if they had anything available. Despite being a long weekend, they had plenty of space available for us to choose from! Before committing to a site, we took a few laps around the campground and found a site that felt like our new ‘home away from home’. Parks Canada has recently installed food storage lockers into each site, so we ditched our cooler inside, grabbed a couple beers and walked to the creek behind our campsite to enjoy an afternoon vacation beverage.

(I drank so many beers and radlers on this trip!)

Moments after telling Nick I’ve frequently witnessed bears grazing along this creek in the past, we noticed one crossing a bridge and slowly making it’s way towards us. Just to be on the safe side, I pulled my bear spray from my pack and kept it in hand as we made our way back to the car. Waterton bears are used to co-existing with people and they don’t seem to notice (or care) that people are around. They generally mind their own business and I  wish people would do the same! Later on in evening, we witnessed at least a dozen cars surrounding a bear in a parking lot and people were getting out to take pictures and chase it. CAN YOU NOT. Ugh

At Red Rock Canyon, we were a little short on time and didn’t plan on hiking in very far (or getting our feet wet) but it was so hot out, we said screw it, ditched our shoes and began carefully wading through the creek. We made friends with a friendly guy visiting from Salt Lake City and we spent the next hour or so exploring the canyon together.

By the time we emerged from Red Rock, it was 3pm and we had plans to meet my Dad in town at 4. With a few adventure minutes to spare, I suggested we quickly hike over to Blakiston Falls  (it’s only 2km return). We made it back to town just as my Dad was arriving and we met for drinks at Thirsty Bear Saloon, followed by dinner at Wieners of Waterton. Can you believe I forgot to take pictures?! Ahh. Imagine a bison smokie with 2385 toppings and sweet potato fries.

Nick and I were exhausted from our day, but I told him we had one more *important* order of business before driving back to our campsite: Bear’s Hump! I invited my Dad to join us, but he laughed, said ‘hell no’ and dropped us off at the trailhead instead. I assured Nick the short 20 minute mini-hike was worth the view.

In typical Waterton fashion, it was windy up there (a hot wind, which was weird) so we didn’t stay long. Plus we needed to set up our tent and were craving rest. What a busy day!

We both stayed up reading until there was hardly light remaining and eventually fell asleep under a clear, cloudless sky illuminated with billions of stars.

Stay tuned for Waterton day two next week: hiking Crypt Lake + celebrating my birthday + reconnecting with an old friend! 🙂

Travel planning links:

Waterton campsites

Cameron Falls  

Red Rock Canyon  

Bear’s Hump 

Over to you:

Which places have you experienced that are both a place + a feeling?

4 thoughts on “Summer Vacation Recap: Waterton Lakes (Part 1)

  1. A lot of people say Waterton has that same magical feeling that Hawaii is. Some places just give off those vibes. Looks like you crammed a lot into one day! Can’t wait to hear more about your mountain adventure vacay!

    • Before I ever started hiking, YES… that’s why I never did it. But once you try and see what it’s actually like it’s not what our minds hype it up to be!

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