Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The South End of North: Arriving at Waterton

About 9 days ago, it occurred to me that if we were going to go camping the second week of July, I had best find a campground for us. We had toyed with going to Waterton-Glacier, two national parks that straddle the Alberta/Montana border, but finding a site suitable for tenting that also has a plug in (to accommodate my CPAP machine) can be really challenging.

Luckily, such a site was available, and after viewing it on the Parks Canada reservation site and seeing that it was available Mon-Fri, I booked it.

Firmly believing that 'be prepared is the Boy Scout marching song', we tend to travel fairly heavy, often packing spare clothes for inclement weather, various types of footwear, and additional food that all too often accompanies us home. In a Ford Taurus wagon, filled to the gunwales, and with a soft-sided car top carrier filled to capacity attached to the roof, and the camp chairs some tarps and possibly the tent bungied alongside of that, you actually have the luxury of not needing to choose.

This is our first time camping with the Flex, and although the cargo area is significantly more spacious, it lacks the roof rails necessary for deploying the Thule carrier, so everything has to fit inside, including the 4 of us and the dog.

If anyone should happen to ask, you can let them know that, with the exception of two camp chairs that Glory kept on the floor under her feet on the way down, the Flex's rear compartment can accommodate three large Rubbermaid bins containing our mess supplies, dry goods and food as well as two large duffle bags (with all our clothes), 4 sleeping bags and pillows, 4 self-inflating air mattresses, a camp stove with two bottles of propane, a portable propane barbecue, 2 camp chairs, a collapsible table, a reusable grocery bag containing our hoodies and an assortment of jerkies, a large cooler and a 5-person tent with vestibule.

Glory and I arranged everything in the back the night before leaving, and when we realized we had enough room to get everything in, we high-fived each other in the garage and played Powerglove's rendition of "Tetris Themes B and C" over the stereo, to our delight and some chagrin from Audrey.

The next morning, we loaded the cooler into the back, slammed the lift gate into place and headed off down the QEII to Calgary, in time for lunch at Peter's Drive-In.

Eating our tasty burgers on the road, we pulled into Fort Macleod long enough to gas up, then across to Pincher Creek. We marvelled at the slowly turning turbines of the wind farms, and before too long, it was time to turn south, and the winding, rising road into Waterton Park proper.

We stopped briefly at the bison paddock to see a handful of the enormous animals (including a gigantic bull) and some calves languishing in the dust on the side of the hill, but not at a range that makes for a good iPad picture, unfortunately.

It is a short drive from the paddock to the park gate and the Waterton townsite itself, which, to be sure is full of all the commercial trappings that such tourist destinations are obliged to have, but in that disarmingly charming way that makes it much easier to take. And it is also gorgeous, sitting on the shore of a lake and surrounded by towering mountains.

For being a townsite campground, Waterton is very nice, with a decent amount of trees, access to the lake and creek, and clean washrooms. We got the camp situated fairly quickly (after finally relenting and heading to the outdoor store to purchase a tent peg mallet), toured the townsite for a bit, discovered the free wi fi hotspot, and headed back to grill up some smokies.

Tomorrow we hope to head south of the border to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

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