Intended Destination: Waterton National Park (Alberta)
Actual Destination: Waterton Springs Campground
Another early morning for us in Two Jack campground. As we were getting ready, we saw a park staff who let us know there was a bear in the area. We thought maybe we’d heard something, and we also told her about the terrible squirrels that were so loud – and she threw her head back and made the exact noise the squirrels make, only like 4 times as loud. Christine and I both gaped at her because it was so wild and so accurate and so very loud. We wanted to laugh but it was so perfect, we were in shock. She was obviously pleased with her impression and went on her way, leaving us in stitches.
We decided to go to the Banff Upper Hot Springs. It seemed important to get the full Banff experience, and because it was a weekday, we were hoping it wouldn’t be too busy. I think it was about $16 per person… for basically a hot swimming pool that’s too shallow to swim in, full of complete strangers. It wasn’t ideal, neither of us really enjoyed it, but it was worth it for the experience, and plus, a shower two days in a row! We were both looking forward to moving on from the touristiness of Banff, although we anticipated Waterton National Park, our next destination, would be almost as bad. Maybe even more so because it’s so close to the US border (and below it on the US side is their version of Glacier National Park, something that offered confusion here and there because we have our own Glacier National Park!).
On our way out of the park, we stopped at a lovely picnic area and had lunch. As was our tradition, Christine would drive in and out of cities, and I would drive long stretches, so when we got back on the road, I took over. It was a four-hour drive and the first time I remember ever actually feeling tired behind the wheel. I think it was the sun coming through the open sunroof as well as not having eaten or slept that great. It was really odd, and I felt bad having to ask Christine to take over, but she happily did. We were both a little pooched that day.
And it didn’t help that when we finally got to Waterton Lakes National Park, they were completely booked. We could risk driving interior a significant amount to see if more remote sites were available, but it was far from guaranteed and would add hours to our day. We pulled over to the side of the road to figure out what to do. I think we were both a little cranky. The park had given us a list of campgrounds in the area, and we called a couple – most were full or too far backtracking.
We were nowhere near a wal-mart or info centre or anywhere we could set up the car and also use a bathroom, and it was too early to just crash but too late to go into Waterton and start a hike. We decided to go with Waterton Springs because it was close and would save us time in the morning when we went into the park for our hikes. Waterton Springs cost $35 for a non-electric tent site, which is absolutely ridiculous. There were no amenities and the bathrooms were a nightmare.
However, we were hungry and hot, so we set up and pretty much ate junk food for dinner: chips and cheese and mini chocolate eggs. I went for a long walk around the property on an interpretation trail, which was essentially a tractor-mowed outline of the campground property. After about ¾ of the trail, I lay down on a bench while on the phone with a friend. It was odd to hear about what was happening back home, to be so far away, experiencing such a different way of being. In Muskoka, the season had been rainy and cool, not what you want for a summer at all. We’d had the opposite experience. Except for a couple rains here and there, we’d been enjoying long hot days, and that day was no different. I remained on the bench until it began to get a little cool and I found my way back to site.
As I walked, I tried to sort out what I want to do with my life. I feel I have so much potential and so little direction. I am passionate about so many things, but invested in few. It’s like I’m scattered, drawn to whatever brings the most gratification or joy in the moment with no strategy. Do I need a strategy? This experience has been so completely life-altering already. I want to write and travel and help women. That much I know. I need time in nature, I need to see and experience beautiful things. I need to be challenged and I need to be alone. And I need to feel like I’m making the world a better place in my own way, and my way has always been so focused on women. I didn’t come up with any answers that night, not exactly. But I’ve been working more toward what I want and away from what I don’t want. I’m confident that even if I don’t know where I’m going, I’m moving wholeheartedly toward something good.
Once back at the campsite, my sister and I plotted the next days. We have on our horizon a big hike, a small hike, and a six+ hour drive. We are making our way back across Canada and the next day, if all went according to plan, would see us back in Saskatchewan for another border crossing.
There were some rambunctious teenagers, mostly boys, a few sites down. I shouted at them to keep it down because I was so exhausted, and a woman at the site next to use chastised me and told me to go tell them to their faces – I wasn’t comfortable with that because I could tell drinking was happening, but I think her male partner went over because I heard a man’s voice and then the kids quieted down at last. $35! Get real.