A trip to Waterton Lakes National Park is easily one of my favorite vacations to take. The park lies in the south west corner of Alberta. From here you can literally hike into both British Columbia and Montana. This means that for me, getting there requires a scenic drive from Northern Alberta from the boreal forest across the plains, the badlands, and foothills, I am always accompanied by my girlfriend and some Alberta made classic western music. My most recent trip was taken in late summer of 2013, it was our second trip in two years to Waterton and I highly hope it becomes an annual tradition.
            We arrived late at night and set up camp quickly and as quietly as possible in the town campsite and went immediately to bed. No matter how much I enjoy the drive I still find I’m tired at the end of it. The second day we packed our things, we loaded the usual things; clothing, food, the tent, sleeping bags, etc. I however packed something a little extra, my often underused 5 weight fly rod and accompanying fishing equipment. We then went and had a chat with the wonderful folks at the visitor’s center who suggested a great hike and sold me a fishing license. It was early and the day was already looking up. We then set out from the busy trailhead onto our mainly uphill hike to the Twin Lakes camp site. The hike itself was an amazing display of the scenery the park has

I Always Snap A Photo of The Map In Case It Gets Wrecked Or Lost

to offer as well as afforded the opportunity to see something new, two baby grouse, and yes they are as cute as you imagine they would be. We arrived at our site, set up camp, and hung our food out of bear reach. It was at this time that I had noticed a family with a rather large tent set up in the communal eating area that also acted as the only access to the nearby lake. I guess even in the woods there’s a chance of running into a family of “those” kind people. I grabbed my fishing gear and headed off toward their “campsite” I was not about to let their intrusive behavior ruin my attempts at fly fishing. A few steps from my tent I looked up and saw a mule deer doe staring at me, less than 15 feet away. It was an amazing sight and feeling to be so close to such an amazing animal, of course I would never be able to get this close to a deer during hunting season. In this instance armed with only a fly rod I felt a little nervous in the knowledge that this deer could easily make me the doe, if you know what I mean. I did my best to keep my composure and take a quick video on my

“No hunting in the park, pbbbt!”

camera before it moved on into the trees. I walked passed an older couple camped near us and mentioned that there was a deer nearby and just generally extended a hello, what can I say? I’m just a friendly guy. The older gentleman immediately spotted my fly fishing gear. It’s hard not to spot a nine foot pole I guess (there’s a joke in there somewhere). We naturally struck up a conversation on the topic in which I mentioned that I was very new to the sport, to which he replied that he was a bit of an old pro and asked to see my flies. He began telling me the names and history of the various flies in my box, I do not know if he was telling me the truth or making it up but it sounded impressive and I couldn’t remember it anyway. He then explained that at this time of evening the fish will come up to eat insects off of the surface. After our lengthy conversation he introduced himself as Van, and then proceeded to point out that there was a beach far away down the shoreline that seemed to have a drop of a few feet out and suggested I try there. I was in no position to doubt or disagree, so Erin and I

Monster of the deep/ Sasquatch quality photo

headed down to the beach.

             It was a chilly evening but I still felt it was necessary to wade out, tender parts deep, into the glacial water. Shockingly Erin declined the offer to join me in the water and chose to remain on the shore as a spectator. I quickly learned that, despite not practicing, my fly casting had not much improved. That being said I was still able to land my fly just far enough out for fish to take it. There was a small ripple where my fly was followed by a sudden, short and rapid wriggling of my rod back and forth with an abrupt downward pull. It was a strange fighting sensation I had never felt from a fish before. As I stripped the line the trout flailed and skidded across the surface. He was a monster, the biggest brook trout I had ever caught nearly five inches across… ok so the bar is set rather low when it comes to my fly fishing adventures but on the plus side that just means I get excited easier. This amazing catch was followed by nearly ten more and all it cost me was two flies lost to a log on my back cast, good thing my girlfriend wasn’t there to see me screw up… wait… dang. However all in all I would say it was a great evening of fishing and certainly good practice for my casting skills and running into someone like Van proved to be extremely helpful and may have saved the trip as I would have been a pretty unhappy camper had I not caught anything. That evening my sleep was hindered by the fact that I was soaked to the bone in ice cold water from the waist down.

This photo captures why I was willing to stand waist deep in glacier water

            Eventually the third day of our trip came into existence. We decided to walk to the nearby Goat Lake and back. I again loaded my fishing gear into my bag and we headed uphill. Our trail to the lake led us

Just Before Climbing To The Ridge

above the tree line over Avion Ridge with an elevation of just over 2400M. I myself am not a fan of heights and today was no exception. We gained elevation slowly through thin scattered trees and eventually broke above the tree line onto a narrow goat path which comprised of smooth hard rocks with loose shale overtop, I was nervous to say the least. Erin opted to take the longer higher path across the top of the ridge while I tried to stick to the lower looking path. Unfortunately shortly after separating, the path I was on got narrower and higher. I’m not sure entirely what happened next but I recall breathing rapidly and shakily taking a drink from my metal water bottle and forcing myself to keep walking. Eventually I made my way to where my path met with Erin’s. She walked causally along in front of my while I sweated and crawled on all fours along the path behind her, I’m sure it was a sight to see.

Just “relaxing” on the hillside

              We eventually made it to the end of the ridge and found that we now had to descend a bit of a boulder covered cliff. We eventually meandered our way down to the lake at which point, and it pains me to say this… I was too tired to fish. Instead we opted to have a bit of a nap on a boulder… ever been so tired you slept on a rock? I have. After our nap we headed downhill to make a full loop back to twin lakes. Once we go to the bottom of the largest hill, we realized we had forgotten my sweater at the top. “Someone” had used it as a pillow and forgot to grab it when we left. We had decided that we had traveled too far and were starting to run too low on water to turn back uphill to go get it. I asked a couple passing us on the trail if they could grab it and leave it at the information center in town. Sadly I never did see that shirt again. I hope it has a new home and is doing well. We made the long walk back to camp, if I recall it was about a 12km round trip, and I was relieved to see that the invasive family had left. I assume they moved on to annoy another campsite, they were however kind enough to leave a tangled mess of fishing line on the shore by where they camped. By the time we had arrived back at camp we were nearly out of water so I began boiling water and pouring it into our water bottles, this chore has convinced me to stop being cheap and just buy a water filter for hiking. I then wandered back to my fishing spot for a bit, the ice cold water felt good on my sore feet and knees. Again Erin declined to join me in the glacial pond, women are so strange. I fished and caught more reasonably sized, to me, trout. I fished until I felt the early stages of hypothermia kick in, at which point I came to shore zipped my wet shorts into half wet pants and immediately regretted not going back for my sweater. Erin and I boiled water and added it to dehydrated beef stir fry, which as best I can recall was about the longest 15 minutes of my life. The food was delicious and we headed back to the tent to try and warm up, at about this time the beef stir fry started to upset my fragile stomach, our tent was now cold and rather foul smelling. Somehow we survived the night without Erin kicking me out of the tent for health and safety reasons.

            As expected the third day did arrive. I was up early and snuck out of the tent as quietly as I could, needless to say I awoke Erin but she declined to join me for morning fishing. I walked back and waded in to the cold morning waters and began fishing. There was little to no action on the water until the sun started to rise. I then caught two small fish bang…bang, one after the other. Sadly as the sun came up it heated the mountain tops causing air to rise and cold air to pull off the lake and blow past me. This made casting impossible for someone of my limited skill level and it also magnified the cold. By the time I brought in my second small fish my hands were so cold it was a real challenge to dislodge the small fly from its mouth. I decided it would be safest and smartest to head back. I shivered all the way back to the tent and grabbed the stove to start making something warm to eat for breakfast. The stoves sparked seemed to have quit working at a most inopportune time, luckily I brought matches, and unluckily I was so cold that I couldn’t use them. I swear I have read a story about a man freezing to death in the arctic because he was too cold to light matches. Either way I was in a t-shirt and wet shorts with a cold wind in the shade, I had never been this cold in my life. Living in Alberta you experience -40 Celsius at least once a year, it’s a temperature so cold that if you touch metal with your bare skin it gives a searing pain like a burn, and I have still never been as cold as I was that morning. Just cold and wet down to my bones, I was sure I would never be warm again. I was starting to tell Erin I was dying and wanted to be cremated. She was kind enough to light the stove for me. I then put on dry shorts, she also gave me her base layer shirt to warm me up, so I squeezed into a shirt designed to be skin tight on my girlfriend. I am not a small man. I will spare you the details but if I were not so cold it would have been very funny to see me in a skin tight shirt that was far too small. Eventually we ate and packed up and I started shivering my way down the trail with Erin back toward the tail head. The trail out was narrow and tree lined and it seemed that some ambitious spiders had hoped of catching some hikers, I try to be chivalrous so naturally I offered to let Erin walk in front of me, she didn’t go for it. Naturally given my opinion of spiders I opted to walk slowly and use my knife to cut the webs out of the way, it just seemed easier than touching them. Eventually we made it to the trail head and let’s just say that after that three day hike I was just happy to see my truck. 

Bonus wallpaper picture courtesy of Miss Erin


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