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14-Jun-10 – GNP – Day 3

As predicted, the second night’s sleep was much better than the first. After our hike of yesterday, we were both a bit wiped out and didn’t want to over exert ourselves today. That made today prime time for a road trip. The Prince of Wales Lodge in Waterton Lakes was our destination. After an oatmeal & fruit breakfast we headed north to Canada.

The drive was a short 42 miles. We knew this thanks to Brian’s precision measuring string (a 10″ string marked every 5 miles as noted on the legend of our map). We had both brought our passports as we had anticipated this trip to Waterton. The crossing into Canada went smoothly. The border agent was a bit cool but efficient. No searches, nor were we carrying any contraband (that we knew of at the time…)

GNP borders on Canada and Waterton Lakes is the continuation of the logical (based upon terrain and geology) park land into Canada. It is a Canadian national park with one large lake and many smaller ones amongst many peaks. Included within the park is the Prince of Wales Hotel (PoWH). This hotel is renowned for its view as it sits on a hill at one end of a lake that is surrounded by mountains. Waterton Lakes motto is “Where mountain meets prairie.” This seems to be the case as the landscape to the north of the park appears subdued in contrast.

The PoWH was very attractive inside. All of the lodges on the US side are of similar vintage and architecture. Some highlights:

  • US Lodges in GNP (St Mary’s, East Glacier, Lake McDonall, Many Glacier):
    • Large logs (typically with bark still on) as vertical supports
    • Railings and banisters of natural (not straight and smooth) branches and tree parts
    • Massive fireplaces – many large enough to walk into
    • Animal heads and hides adorn the walls and staircases
    • Country style furnishings
    • Rustic and primitive atmosphere meant to make patrons feel close to nature
  • Prince of Wales Hotel
    • Smooth, dark stained wood railings and banisters
    • Regal touches
    • Formal appearance
    • Modern tables and chairs
    • Overall an obvious attempt to give the impression of ‘class’

We wandered into the lobby and quickly discovered a bar off to the right. As it was almost noon, we were of course obligated to sit and have a drink or two with Jezelyn, the bartender. She and her counterpart Scott were good company while we watched some World Cup and tried two local beers. From Jezelyn we learned that there was more to Waterton Lakes than just a lodge, boat trips and hikes; there is a whole village in the park as well. We got her take on the best place for lunch and headed into town.

The village was remarkably similar to Seward, Alaska. So much so that I think I mentioned it a half a dozen times while we were there. A small town with a short commercial strip, housing and a waterfall within three blocks of the town center. The similarities to Seward (for those that know it):

  • One road into town – from the north
  • Entire east side or town on water
  • Town shaped, sized and laid out similarly

The biggest difference is that Waterton is strictly a tourist town whereas Seward is also a port. We had sandwiches at a locally owned restaurant then went shopping for ‘goodies’ to bring back to those we left at home. Another stop at the PoWH on the way out for souvenirs, another beer and some pictures and we were off to come back to the US.

The US border crossing did not go as smoothly as the Canadian one did. While I will stop short of calling the Border Patrol Agents harsh, I will say that they could have been a little lighter. Instead of a single person in a booth asking a series of standard questions like the Canadian gentleman, these guys work as a team and they had their routine down. One officer checks passports and asks questions (“How do you two know each other?”) while the other starts sifting through the vehicle. They did decide pretty quickly that we weren’t smuggling arms of drugs into the States, but not before coming to the conclusion that the acorn squash that we had purchased at a grocery store in Montana was not legal to bring into the US because it was grown in Mexico. Since when have we had an embargo on Mexican produce? NAFTA anyone? Only in hindsight did we realize that we should have offered them a stick of our butter so they could enjoy it properly.

Back at the campground we a light meal and were once again joined by Nina and Jelina from across the street. This time they stayed for 3 or 4 hours and we played hopscotch, Jelina drew a lot of artwork for us, we chatted and worked at solving some the world’s problems. This went down as a great evening in my book.

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