In the ‘other’ Rockies: snow and scones

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(published Jan. 20, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: I loved hearing about this trip to a place that’s been on my wish list for years. I am going to Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise next month, but I’d rather go in the summer, and attempt to cycle up Going-to-the-Sun Road! My favorite parts: Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse (I’ve heard raves for years), Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (because it’s fascinating and you can’t beat the name), the backwoods immigration border at Goat Haunt ranger station (amazing!), and the Prince of Wales Hotel (you gotta look at the photo). The other thing that is so cool is that finally newspapers, like my Boston Globe, will run a photo of a gay couple. This warms my heart!!

WHO: Ken Paulsen, 45, and David Valentine, 42, of Malden, Mass.

WHERE: Canada.

WHEN: 10 days in September.

WHY: “We’d both always wanted to go to the Canadian Rockies,” Paulsen said. “I love history. I’ve got a PhD in Canadian history, but my specialty is in Nova Scotia.”

the haystackMANY MILES: Although the couple doesn’t do a lot of hiking at home, they did plenty in Canada. “When I figured it all out, it was about 55 miles of hiking. I was surprised we didn’t feel more tired.” Paulsen mapped out the itinerary and made the reservations for five days in Banff National Park and two days at Waterton Lakes National Park, both in Alberta, followed by two days at Glacier National Park in Montana.

ROOM WITH A VIEW: They stayed at the historic Storm Mountain Lodge in Banff. “It’s an absolutely wonderful place, with 12 cabins from the 1920s and a wonderful restaurant,” Paulsen said. “All the food is organic, and the chef is absolutely fantastic. We were quite up high in a canyon, but overlooking it, between 5,000 and 6,000 feet up.”

HIKING HEAVEN: “We did a hike called the Johnston Canyon Trail, which turned out to be a classic hike, but I didn’t know that,” Paulsen said. Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House“You’re going up through a narrow gorge at the beginning and once you get out you’re in this absolutely beautiful mountain meadow with bubbling cold springs.” They also hiked to the famed Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. “We had tea and scones and homemade bread made that morning. It was a great little break before we reached the glacier, at about 6,500 feet.”

BUFFALO SOLDIERS: On the way to Waterton, they stopped at Kootenay National Park and for a soak at the spring-fed pool in Radium Hot Springs as well as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “They have a great interpretive center,” Paulsen said. “The First Nations, as they call Indians in Canada, would use that as a place to drive buffalo over the cliff. So there’s thousands of years worth of buffalo bones in the soil.”

BACKWOODS BORDER: In Waterton, part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, they stayed at the majestic Prince of Wales Hotel, dating from the 1920s. A 12-mile hike took the pair from Canada into the United States. “At the Goat Haunt ranger station, in the middle of the woods, we had to bring our passport. They can’t scan your passport; all they can do is look at it.” Most visitors to Goat Haunt arrive by ferry across Waterton Lake, which is how Paulsen and Valentine returned. They were always aware of bears. “There were campgrounds along the lake closed because of bears, and we saw fresh bear scat and clawed logs,” Paulsen said.

SUN TO SNOW: Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park impressed Paulsen. “You’re starting out at the lake about 3,200 feet [up] and in 10 miles you’re at the top at 6,500 feet. Once you get to the part where it’s steep, there are cliffs above you, and cliffs below you, and it’s very narrow.” One hiking trail they took looked down on the road, “and with mountains soaring a couple thousand feet above. We were there for the first snow of the year, so when we were hiking, there was an inch or two of snow on the ground.”

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