What started at an annual Rotary meeting between clubs in Montana and Alberta quickly blossomed into an international spirit of cooperation, a convergence of like values, celebrating the peace and goodwill between two nations with the longest globally undefended border.
In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park joined together as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first of its kind. The joint efforts of both the U.S. and Canada are reflected in their wildlife and vegetation management, search and rescue programs, and joint interpretive programs. In 1995 Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was designated a World Heritage Site.
In the 80+ years since, 138 international peace parks and similar protected transboundary areas have sprung up on five continents, some in the most combative corners of the globe.
While still in Glacier National Park I enrolled us for the International Peace Park Hike, an 8-mile hike along Upper Waterton Lake, which included a boat shuttle trip back from Goat Haunt. Jointly led by a Glacier Park Ranger and Waterton Park Interpreter, this seemed the perfect way to begin our Canadian adventure.
Bright and early on a gray, cloudy day we headed for Waterton Lakes National Park, giving ourselves plenty of time, or so we thought, to purchase tickets at the marina and meet our guides at the trailhead. Not aware of the road construction between Glacier and Waterton Lakes, the delays prevented us from arriving on time. To placate my disappointment, Terry convinced me that a rainy, foggy day wasn’t the best time for a hike or a boat ride. I reluctantly agreed.
We waited a couple of hours until the fog burnt off then proceeded to the same trailhead we missed earlier and hiked the Bertha Lake Trail, a 6.5-mile hike to an alpine lake. The switchbacks seemed to never end, and at one point I remarked to Terry, “there had better be a damn fine lake and waterfall at the end of this trail”…and there was.
After a pizza/microbrew meal and a stroll around town, we decided, weather permitting, that a hike to Crypt Lake should be on the agenda for the next day. It is rated by National Geographic as “one of the world’s most thrilling trails”. Sadly it was a wash-out as the rains moved in and stayed for the day. Nonetheless, we found Waterton Lakes to be a lovely little town, and vowed to return to finish the two hikes we had on the agenda.
“Shaped by wind, fire, and water, Waterton remains for all time a place of spectacular beauty, a Canadian legacy of mountains, lakes, prairies, forests, alpine meadows, and wildlife.” Our visit to Canada may have gotten off to a soggy start, but an anticipated visit to friends put the sun right back into our days.
Next up: Cochrane