WATERTON LAKE CANADA — Slathered with honey-based lotion and hair washed with honey-based shampoo provided by the hotel I paused at trailhead studying the recently posted warning that bears en masse were afoot along this secluded woods trail.
What could go wrong here? (Honey is bears’ favorite treat.)
In early fall black bears fattening themselves for winter hibernation are attracted to plentiful Saskatoon berries ripening along this lakeshore of Wateron-Glacier International Peace Park which borders both Montana and Alberta Province Canada. A store clerk in Waterton village demonstrating how to use bear repellent advised not to spray until 4 feet from the bear’s face. My goal was not to be 4 feet from a bear’s face.
Because life is short and the world vast I rarely visit any place twice. Historic stately 1927 Prince of Wales hotel perched majestically lakeside on a treeless promontory against a mountainedrop in the UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of few exceptions.
”Where is that? It is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen” exclaimed a well-traveled friend who saw a photo of the Swiss-like scenery. Sadly many of the area glaciers are disappearing.
On a second visit after a 13-year absence we lined up at the boat dock for the morning 4-hour round trip to remote Goat Haunt Mont. a camper drop-off and border crossing where at a card table in the flowery grass customs agents stamped our passports with the unique stamp.
We ate sandwiches on the return ferry watching raptors patrolling skyward in the rare sunshiny day then drove to the Crandell Lake trailhead. Twenty minutes into the hike as more and fresher feces appeared across our path — a classic warning sign that bears are nearby — we decided that discretion is the better part of valor. Increasing our pace back to our car we discussed a film the park ranger showed the prior night about stupid stuff hikers have done: leaving alone as it is getting dark no map or water etc. Cellphones often do not work in these remote areas.
We adjourned to formal afternoon high tea at Prince of Wales with live harpist music tiered plates of crustless cucumber and egg salad sandwiches scones with clotted cream and other goodies washed down with tea and coffee in front of the window wall overlooking Waterton Lake. Thus revived we drove to Red Rock Canyon trail a new hike for us; joining groups of Amish women in traditional attire. Afternoon was optimum coloration time as slanted light magnified stunning orange red maroon and green colors of the riverbed and canyon walls.
”I Survived Crypt Lake Trail” T-shirts dissuaded us from that infamous 11-mile trail which involves crawling through a rock tunnel and a ”cliff traverse.”
We settled for dinner and a window shopping stroll in funky Waterton village listening to camping and hiking stories swirling around us.
Janice Law is a columnist for The Daily News. Have a travel question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.