Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Out of the way in Glacier-Waterton

On top Mount Alderson in Waterton Park
I’ve been visiting Glacier National Park for more than 30 years and it continues to surprise and delight me.
This past week’s trip reminded me of the great discoveries one can have by venturing into the less traveled parts of the park, and taking a side trip to Glacier’s sister park --- Waterton, just over the border in Alberta.
I traveled with a friend to the Lubec entrance in the park just east of Marias Pass on the southern boundary of Glacier to climb a couple of mountains in the Firebrand Pass area.
If you’re looking for the entrance go to mile marker 203 on Highway 2 and look across the railroad tracks to the National Park Service trail markers.
I was reminded of the unusually gorgeous scenery in the Firebrand area.  It is about 5 miles and 2,000 feet in elevation gain to the pass, affording an opportunity for great views of the wilderness end of the park and a chance to climb either Calf Robe or Red Crow mountains.
After climbing those relatively modest peaks we found a goat trail down from Red Crow to Lena Lake, set in a cirque at the foot of the mountain.
There is no charge for entering the park at such sites as Lubec, Cut Bank Creek, Lee Ridge (near Chief Mountain).  These are wild spots and have no services. You get Glacier, but you get wilderness, too.
Waterton is always nice if for no other reason than it is in Canada and the park is run a tad differently and there are great restaurants and the Prince of Wales Lodge to visit.
For years I had heard about this wonderful hike from Cameron Lake back to the town site. So, I took one of the park shuttles (in front of the Tamarack sporting good store) to the lake for $7. The 12-mile trail climbs from the lake through deep forest to an open summit ridge very reminiscent of our Continental Divide Trail country near Rogers Pass.  Below it are a series of Carthew Lakes and to each side of the trail, Carthew Peak on the north and Alderson peak on the south.  Both were relatively easy climbs affording great views into Glacier Park and the Canadian Rockies. I was joined on Alderson Peak by a Vancouver couple that was doing the hike into the lakes from Cameron and then returning.
The rest of the hike wound through high mountain lake country below the towering peaks and then descended through heavy forest into the town site where I showered and laid on the shores of Waterton Lake soaking in the scenery of the lake and Vimy, Crypt and Mount Cleveland peaks.
I highly recommend the Carthew-Alderson walk through.

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