Tag: wildlife

Waterton Lakes National Park

We love Glacier National Park, but had never visited its Canadian side, known as Waterton Lakes National Park. We arrived at Waterton to find it had gotten snow too, just not as much as Banff and Jasper. Our first stop in the park was the Prince of Wales hotel. It resembles a massive Swiss chalet, built on a hill overlooking Upper Waterton Lake. Thick clouds added to the hilltop panorama.

Upper Waterton Lake
Upper Waterton Lake

Next we headed to the visitor center, where we asked a ranger about the best wildlife viewing spots. They said someone had spotted elk by Hay Barn Road that morning. We headed down that dirt road. The elk had moved on, but we did find this grouse munching on bright red berries.

Grouse
Grouse

Looking out into a grassy meadow, we spotted a coyote! Awesome! We watched until it trotted off.

Coyote
Coyote

We headed towards Red Rock Canyon next. On the way, we noticed a car with binoculars pointed up towards the hillside. We stopped and asked what they saw. A black bear! The bear ate constantly as it plodded along the snowy hillside. Mid-September in Waterton meant winter was closing in. The bear must have been filling its tummy before hibernating.

Jasper National Park

After a chilly night in camp, we headed into the town of Jasper seeking a hot breakfast. The forecast showed heavy cloud cover all day so we opted for a relaxed day in town. We rented a room in somebody’s house (Canadians call this a Home Stay). It worked out great. Internet and showers were a real perk. From the Home Stay we could easily stroll into the heart of Jasper. The town is cute and walkable with many unique shops. We did some grocery shopping to get food for tomorrow’s three day backpacking trip to Berg Lake. And we had two food firsts: we ate Tim Hortons donuts and a vegetarian version of poutine. Both were yum.

We had heard that star gazing at Maligne Lake was incredible, so we set out in the evening despite the continued clouds over head. You never know what will happen.

Our first surprise was seeing this herd of bighorn sheep walking down the road!

Bighorn sheep
Bighorn sheep

Then we saw a fascinating waterbody. It was a wide shallow lake with a brilliant turquoise river branching through it. It was really beautiful.

We learned that this lake was named Medicine Lake by aboriginal people because of its seemingly magical powers. The lake behaves unusually due to its unique drainage system — the water exits through sinkholes in the bottom, rather than a visible outlet. In the warm summer months, glaciers melt more quickly, increasing the flow of the Maligne River. The river fills the lake faster than water can leave the sinkholes. This gives Medicine Lake the appearance of a traditional alpine lake. In the colder months, incoming melt water slows and the lake begins to disappear through the sinkholes. The lake then becomes a mudflat with scattered pools. We were happy to witness Medicine Lake’s in-between stage.

Medicine Lake
Medicine Lake

We continued driving and reached an almost completely deserted Maligne Lake. Though the clouds remained and no stars could be seen, it was a lovely spot. We walked around the lake’s edge until it started raining harder.

Teton Crest Trail Day 2

Marion Lake to Death Canyon Shelf (5 miles)

On the second day of our Teton Crest Trail honeymoon hike, we slept in and had a leisurely morning. Breakfast by Marion Lake was tasty. Food always seems to be extra delicious in the backcountry. The scenery was hard to beat!

Marion Lake
Marion Lake

We weren’t the only ones enjoying a lakeside breakfast. As we ate, Chris spotted movement on the far shore. It was a mother and baby moose. As Mom ripped and munched on leafy shrubs, her youngster plopped down in the mud nearby. We’re guessing this was the same pair we had spotted from across the valley yesterday.

Moose by lake
Moose by Marion Lake

After breakfast, we packed up camp and started hiking north. A short but steep uphill got our blood flowing.

Teton Crest Trail Day 1

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you know a beach honeymoon isn’t our style. Instead we decided to hike the Teton Crest Trail and visit the Canadian Rockies. We made sure to keep things somewhat relaxed, though. One of our gifts to ourselves was to delay blogging until we got home. In the next few weeks we’ll be doing some blog catch up from the honeymoon, which took place from late August through mid-September.

On a cold rainy Monday morning in August, we waited for the Colter Bay Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park to open. At 8 AM sharp we eagerly handed our desired Teton Crest Trail itinerary to the backcountry ranger. We were in luck and snagged one of the few first-come first-serve permits! Our five-day Teton Crest Trail hike would begin the following day.

Day 1: Rendezvous Mountain to Marion Lake (6 miles)

Early Tuesday morning we drove to the String Lake trailhead, where we planned to finish the hike. A local taxi company shuttled us to our starting point, the tram in Teton Village. Everything went smoothly, except the weather wasn’t cooperating. Thick dense clouds clung to the mountains, making us realize that we might not get much visibility for the day.

We ate breakfast, got tickets, and rode the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, elevation 10,449 feet. This was another honeymoon treat — without the tram, we’d have been doing the 4,139 foot climb on foot, with five days of food on our backs.

Tram from Teton Village
Tram from Teton Village

Wonderfully, by the time we reached the top, the clouds had burned off. After exiting the tram we found a small sign that said “Top of the World”. It looked like it. After a few pictures, we were off, and feeling great!