Vacation Challenge I — The Bear’s Hump

 I think it’s fun when a vacation presents some kind of challenge.  Maybe it’s trying something you haven’t done before, or eating something you haven’t eaten before — but a challenge can be a good way to totally break away from your normal, standard, at-home, at-work world.

Hence, the Bear’s Hump.

The Bear’s Hump is a prominent rock outcropping the juts out of Mount Crandall in the Watertown Lakes National Park in Alberta.  The guide on our boat cruise on Upper Watertown Lake pointed out the Bear’s Hump and said it offered a tremendous view of the surrounding area — but that the trail was steep.


“Steep” really  doesn’t begin to describe it.  According to the sign, the trail takes you up 787 feet over a distance of about one kilometer.  There are 18 switchbacks — but who’s counting?  Basically, you head straight up the mountain, dealing with the altitude change as you go.  At some points, the trail is so vertical that outsized wooden steps have been helpfully built into the mountainside, and some of the trees beside the trail have been worn smooth by the hands of hikers giving themselves a boost.

And you’re in the wilderness, too, so you can’t just focus on the trail as you gasp for breath.  I saw a black bear cub nosing through the underbrush right next to the trail as I descended, which provided a nice additional adrenalin jolt.  No sign of mama bear in the vicinity, thankfully.

But the guide was right — when you finally reach the top, huffing and puffing and heart pumping, you can’t beat the view.  When I reached the top of the Hump, I encountered 50 mph winds that threatened to blow me over the side of the bare outcropping, but a vista so sweeping it was awe-inspiring.  I felt like I was on top of the world — and was actually glad that my tired body needed to sit for a while so I could take it all in.  The photos accompanying this post give you a sense of the views in each direction, but of course photos can’t fully capture the magnificence of the scene.

To give you a sense of just how far up I was, you can see the familiar outline of the Prince of Wales hotel, looking like a doll’s house, in the lower right corner of the photo below.

The Bear’s Hump challenge was worth it.

The Views From Our Balcony

IMG_20160703_081813We’re spending a few days at the Prince of Wales hotel in Watertown Lakes Park.  It’s the park on the Canadian side of the border, across from Glacier National Park on the U.S. side.  Together, the two parks make one of the largest contiguous wilderness preserves in the world.  Bears and elk and other critters don’t pay much attention to national boundaries.

The Prince of Wales is an old Canadian railroad hotel — which means, by definition, that it’s a fabulous, almost whimsical structure.  More on that later, but the setting is even more fabulous than the hotel structure itself.

The Prince of Wales is found on the side of the deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies, with the towering peaks of the mountains just across the lake.  It’s got to be one of the most beautiful settings in the world.  And since our hotel room has a balcony located at just the right spot, I got to revel in these views when I woke up this morning.  It’s not a bad way to wake up.