Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



In stark contrast to yesterday’s blue skies, we woke this morning to grey, overcast conditions with low clouds obscuring the tops of all the surrounding mountains.  The forecast for the day was not hopeful – 80% chance of thunderstorms, with rain and large hail stones.  It was clearly not a good day to repeat yesterday’s hike across the snow fields!  The solution?  Take a short drive to Canada, of course.

Glacier National Park is really two parks in one (or one park divided into two, depending upon your perspective).

The park straddles the US-Canadian border.  The southern (and larger) part of the park is in the United States, and it is known as Glacier National Park.  The smaller northern part in Canada is known as Waterton National Park, and together, they are often referred to as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.  In its entirety, Waterton-Glacier was designated a World Heritage Site in 1995.

The drive north from Rising Sun to the Canadian border took less than an hour through very picturesque scenery that would have been stunning under a blue sky.  The border crossing into Canada was impressively quick and efficient; we just had to show our passports and we were welcomed with no forms to fill in or stamps in our passports.

About ten miles north of the border, we stopped to admire a beautiful overview of the Waterton Valley.  Although the tops of the mountains were covered by clouds and the lake separating us from the mountains was in the shadow of dark clouds, the panorama of mountains in the distance was an impressive spectacle.  The large road cutting beside us which displayed a classical thin layer of dark mountain soil overlying a deep layer of coarse grey glacial till was probably the best example I have ever seen.

We descended the long escarpment down to the Waterton Valley, where our first stop was the Prince of Wales Hotel – not for a drink but for the view.  The Prince of Wales Hotel is a massive, intricately decorated wooden structure that seems to have been transplanted from the edge of a Scottish loch during the Victorian era, an image affirmed by the hotel staff who wear tartan kilts.  Located atop a medium sized hillock, the hotel commands an impressive view of Upper Waterton Lake, and even on this grey, overcast day, the view was splendid.

Having taken in the classical view of Waterton, we had intended to take a drive south-west along the Akamina Parkway to Cameron Lake.  Unfortunately, the entire road was closed for repairs, so after a quick drive around Waterton village, we headed west-north-west along Red Rock Parkway to Red Rock Canyon.

The narrow road passed through the beautiful rolling scenery of the prairies, made all the more scenic by some of the most impressive fields of wildflowers we have seen on this trip, including the subtle beauty of the province of Alberta’s own flower, the pink Alberta Rose.  About half way to Red Rock Canyon, we noticed a small group of cars stopped on the road, which was a sure sign that there must be some interesting wildlife nearby.  And there was!  To our delight, we were able to watch a young black bear in the wild on the hill to our right.  Although he was a fair way away, he was clearly visible (I assume it was a ‘him’ – as I said, we weren’t THAT close!).  We even saw him stand upright on his hind legs on a couple of occasions.

Red Rock Canyon is very much a junior cousin of the Grand Canyon – it has many, many, many millions of years of erosion ahead of it before it can lay claim to the scale of its larger cousin.  Small though it was, Red Rock Canyon was very beautiful indeed, being composed of bright pink-red sandstone with several interleaved layers of white rock (that I did not get close enough to identify).  The beauty was enhanced by the strongly contrasting, rounded grey river boulders in the bed of the canyon that had been washed downstream from different geological formations in the nearby mountains.

We took the short loop hike around the canyon from the Lower Bridge, upwards along one side of the canyon, across the Upper Bridge, and back down along the opposite side.  It was evident that the canyon had created its own microclimate, with moss-covered tree branches and spray-covered exotic plants growing on the steep sides of the slopes of the upper part of the gorge.

The sounds of thunder emanating from the surrounding hills – all of them – suggested that the forecast thunderstorms were approaching.  We drove back to Warterton, and as we left the town the skies suddenly darkened, the torrential rain (with some small hail) began, and the chain lightning began a spectacular display.  It was clearly time to stop sightseeing and start heading back.

We climbed the escarpment road towards the US-Canadian border slowly with headlights on and windscreen wipers working at double pace.  The border entry back into the US was markedly less efficient and less hospitable than the Canadian experience that morning.  We had about 20 minutes in the style of “open the truck and don’t get out of the car, (raise the voice)… I said DON’T open the door, (then through gritted teeth) …… sir”, we were on our way with a fresh set of paperwork, new stamps in our passports and a short lecture on the subtleties of I-94 forms.

With the inclement weather, our sightseeing ended a little earlier than we had hoped today, and we arrived back at the Red Sun Inn at about 4 pm.  However, given the highly changeable nature of the weather in the mountains, we felt that we had managed our time extremely well, with the hike across the snowfields in yesterday’s bright sunshine, and completing the excursion to Waterton before the skies darkened and the torrential rain began.

Day 3 - Waterton National Park


8 July 2013