Friday, July 06, 2018

After the Kenow fire: checking out Waterton

A black bear gets ready to get into some trouble

Fireweed, fire and Mount Vimy

The trail to Bertha Lake was hit pretty hard by fire

Bertha Lake's shallow end is underlain with bright red arguillite.

The head of Bertha Lake is an ampitheater of mountains

The view toward Mount Cleveland and the U.S.

Lupine light up the field beneath Mount Vimy
Waterton National Park has been on my mind since last fall when the Kenow Fire tore its way through the park, burning some 50,000 acres --- 80 percent of the park ---- before the Fall storms exstinguished it.
I had been anxious to see the aftermath.
I knew that the townsite had barely been saved.
But, I didn't expect its quick rebirth.
Yes, most of the park is still closed.  You can't drive to Red Rocks or Cameron Lake and hike the trails in those areas, like Akamina or the Carthew Alderson point to point. I hear that one stretch of one-mile of backcountry trail had some 1,700 burned trees across it.
From any vantage point, but particularly from the Prince of Wales Hotel, you can see how the fire burned to the edge of the town and got everything else.  The Visitor's Center was burned to the ground and a new one opened in the old post office downtown.  The Prince of Wales was lucky to survive.
What we saw this past weekend was one of the most glorious blooms of wildflowers I had ever seen.  Grass is back and offering a vibrant counterpoint to the gutted out burn areas.
The blue/purple lupine and magenta colored fireweed are particularly colorful.
The Bertha Lake Trail and Boundary Trail are open.  You can walk up the Red Rocks Road and access side trails, like Belleview and the Crandall Lake Loop.  The Crypt Lake hike is still going since the south side of Waterton Lake wasn't burned by Kenow.
Black bears are everywhere.  We saw 11 in the two days we were there, nine on one day including a Mama bear and three darling cubs.  Many were cinnamon colored.
On day 2 we did the 3.6 miles walk up to Bertha Lake above the north shore of Waterton Lake, passing two gorgeous waterfalls.  Once there, in a giant cathedral, framed by high, colorful peaks and waterfalls, we traversed the lake, adding another 2.5 miles to our hike.  People congregated at the falls, a few more at Bertha Lake, and we were the only hikers who went around the lake, enjoying the debris of two avalanche chutes, more falls and solitude in an alpine cathedral.  There were copious signs that grizzlies had just been in the area ---- fresh piles of steaming scat.
The shopkeepers in Waterton told us they had been adversely affected by the fire;  that tourists have stayed away.
In early morning the Waterton Main Street was literally abandoned, something I had never seen before.  By afternoon, things picked up, but nothing like the bustle I was accustomed to there.  The campground seemed to have plenty of tents and campers, though.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Mountain View, about 15 miles east of Waterton and one evening went to summer theater in Cardston and thoroughly enjoyed its presentation of the musical, "Newsies," the 1895 New York City newsboys' strike.
Waterton is one of my favorite outdoor venues.  We'll be back.

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