Wednesday, July 22
Off Day at Waterton Lakes
Weekends. Time to shift direction, concentrate on something besides work, the news, whatever. What is it for you? That occupies your week? That you seek to avoid on the weekends?
For the riders of the tour, today is an off day; no riding required, although the option is there. Since the little saddle is starting to fit just a bit too well and since my bike has been somewhat obstreperous, it seems a good day to shift my attention to pursuits other than pedaling.
OK, so this entire trip is a vacation. Time off from the "grind." I'm not (or maybe just barely) aware of so many things that occupy my thoughts during a normal week at home or on a business trip. Even things I don't realize I notice until a tour like this when I become completely oblivious to them, for a variety of reasons.
For example, on my first tour I slept in my tent every night, a pretty major change in routine. At the end of about the third day of the ride, I called Shirley. During the conversation, she asked me, "What time does it get dark where you are?" My reply? "I don't have a clue!" Sound asleep before sundown is the norm.
But the tours really do provide release from the normal norm. No laptop, no work brought along to catch up on, no newspapers. This year, being in hotels, I'll have to admit to having the TV on a few times - surfing for the Tour de France coverage which was never found. But it is near total disconnect. All you need to do is get up, eat breakfast, get ready to ride, ride, eat at the picnic stop, ride some more, find some mid -afternoon refreshment at at the end of the ride, unwind in town, eat dinner, sleep and repeat. It's great and I highly recommend it.
Waterton Lakes Village is in a beautiful location. Mountains surround the north end of the lake that extends down into Glacier Park in Montana. The location of the US/Canadian border is visible from a spot just above the visitor center which offers a grand view of the area. The weather continues to be near-perfect.
At Waterton Lakes
Our hotel is located in the village, not far from all it has to offer in the way of services
Our hotel in Waterton
NOT our hotel in Waterton
In the hotel yard (our hotel)
Hiking trails, boat rides and cycling options are available. We decide to take the hike up to Bertha Falls and then on farther to Bertha Lake. The trail is well maintained and winds around with a repeating pattern of sections lined with wildflowers followed by an opportunity to walk in the cool shade of the abundant evergreens before emerging at an opening offering panoramic view of the lake below. The walk to the falls is pleasant and not all that challenging.
On the way up to Bertha Falls
The falls are of the tumbling ilk, water rolling down over a rocky stair step, never really getting launched over the edge of anything. We take a few pictures and head on towards the lake.
Lower Bertha Falls
The trail immediately becomes steeper and not long after the falls we get up onto a ridge that, on approach, appears to want to carry us along the edge of a sharp precipice. That wasn't really the case, though and we were soon back into forest shaded hiking, winding our way up in what I would later determine to be 24 switchbacks.
It is quiet and we encounter no other hikers. A bit above the falls, we do meet a group of young men and women working for the park, repairing one of the switchbacks. Hard labor for them, but they are smiling and chatting as they go about the digging and scraping and hauling of rock. If you have to do this kind of work, it might as well be in a place like this!
Later we find that there is another waterfall, this one taller and more of the water-throwing-itself-down-the-mountain type. There is a bit of bad news in this discovery as the water is coming from a place well above where we are. That would be where we will find the lake we are going to see. We climb on and eventually reach the high point of the hike where we can look down on the surface of Bertha Lake.
Nothing much to see here. Just one of those picture post card perfect vistas of a turquoise lake surrounded by rocky peaks, their lower slopes painted a cool, dark shade of green by the trees that grow right down to the water's edge.
We walk down to the lake level, through a field of bear grass. This is the first time I have seen bear grass and it is showing off by sparkling brilliantly with reflected sunlight.
The only "improvement" is a rough log bridge across a small rill that feeds the falls we saw on the way up. There is a couple wading in the water in a clearing across from our location. And a single merganser swimming and diving, unconcerned with our presence.
A page from my journal with notes and my impression of Bertha Lake (left)
We sit on bleached trunks of fallen trees and eat lunch. As we finish, another of our group comes down the trail. It is getting awfully crowded so we take off for town. Once there, we settle down and do some serious consideration of local insects.
The tour has provided a chance to "get away from it all." And the day off at Waterton Lakes provides a chance to get away from the tour. What a grand day.
Today's Ride: Tour Totals:
00.0 miles 237.1 miles
0000 feet 9509 feet