Sunday, August 07, 2022

Comparing Waterton and Glacier national parks

At the Alderson-Carthew pass our group is beaten up by high winds

At the pass the Carthew Lakes play out below us

Alderson Lake tucked into a cirque

Lush vegetation resulting from the Kenow Fire envelops hikers

A Chinook Arch above Waterton Lake greeted us

Carcajou Lake below Chapman Peak in Glacier

Laurie Lintner above colorful rock on Piegan Pass hike near Morning 
Eagle Falls

A mountain goat greeted us near Feather Woman Falls

 For the second time this summer we did trips to Glacier National Park and its Canadian sister, Waterton giving us another chance to compare parks.

Both involved long, traditional hikes and amazing scenery.

The big difference between the parks seems to be crowd management.

Glacier has an overrun feeling.

Waterton, despite its proximity to Calgary and its 2 million people and nearby Lethbridge with its 105,000, has somehow figured out crowd and trail control.

No trail "jams" at Waterton like you get on the Iceberg/Ptarmigan Tunnel trails.

Parking is no problem in Canada as it is at all Glacier's popular trails.

The main drag in Waterton has been blocked to traffic and people stroll casually through the business district without having to dodge cars like you do in West Glacier or even St. Mary on the American side.

I ferried Katie and five of her friends to the Siyeh Bend trailhead where they began the 13 mile hike across Piegan Pass to Many Glacier Lodge.  I zipped back around from Going to the Sun Highway to Many Glacier and with some difficulty found parking at the lodge trailhead to Piegan despite it being only 9:30 a.m.  I was able to get some 7 miles up the trail, above Morning Eagle Falls, where I met Katie and the girls and we hiked back to the lodge together with a side trip to Grinnell Lake.  The day was roastingly hot, but I put in some 14 miles on my end of the hike.  

Two days later we went to Waterton Lakes National Park west of Cardston, Alberta for a two-night stay and a chance to do the 12-mile Alderson-Carthew walk-through.  I would describe this hike as Waterton's answer to Dawson-Pitamakan in Glacier's Two Medicine Valley.  Both are long hikes with lots of elevation gain and loss through mountain passes and past alpine lakes nestled in glacial cirques. 

What interested me most on Alderson-Carthew was how the forest is doing in the aftermath of the 2017 Kenow Fire that burned 40 percent of the park ---- 46,000 acres ---- closing the park's trails while crews cleared burned trees.  This would be my fourth time through this wonderful hike.

We found the trails beautiful because the fire had cleared the views.  The vegetation was particularly phenomenal growing above my shoulders in many spots.

What we weren't prepared for were the fierce winds --- up to 60 mph --- that hammered us after reaching the high pass and continuing to buffet us until we descended a couple of thousand feet into the dense forest.

The hikers along this trail were pretty well spread out.  The Tamarack outdoors store runs a bus from Waterton to the Cameron Lake trailhead twice each morning, 7:30 and 9:30 a.m.

My only complaint was with what appeared to be a family group that said they were from Lethbridge who ran down the trail from the pass to the lakes, some in birkenstock sandals (!) and at a relatively scary snowbank over a piece of the lake hogged the passage and two of the young men slid down the snow into the lake and got up and repeated it, making the snow super slippery for those of us who had to cross it and didn't want to go into the lake.  This was bad behavior and disrespectful to other hikers and the whole outdoor experience. 

Katie waits for her turn across the snowfield during bad behavior from Lethbridge hikers.  Look in water.

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