Bordering on beautiful

You don’t need a passport to cross the border when you are travelling by boat on Upper Waterton Lake.

When you line up the two monuments with each other on the cutline

When you line up the two monuments with each other on the cutline

You don’t need a passport to cross the border when you are travelling by boat on Upper Waterton Lake. Even the captain of the Miss Wateron, operated by the Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co., admitted it is the easiest border crossing you can ever experience.

To prove it, as we neared the Canada-U.S.A. border, he slowed the boat so we could see the cutline through the trees and the cement monuments that mark the border line.

After a few moments for photo ops, he sped back up and took the craft to the dock near Goat Haunt ranger station in Glacier National Park, where he let passengers off to stretch their legs in Montana’s Big Sky Country.

It was as simple as that — no interview, no passport and no stress.

This easy border crossing is due to the fact that in 1932, Canada and the United States came together at the urging of Rotary International members in both countries to establish the world’s first International Peace Park, the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, as a symbol of the peace and goodwill shared by both nations.

Early pioneers of this concept observed that nature knows no boundaries and felt it would be improper to divide this beautiful natural area just to satisfy the desire to delineate a manmade border. Since that time, the two countries have worked together to protect the water, plants and animals that are found inside the park and this example has helped to inspire the creation of at least 100 other peace parks worldwide.

As I stepped off the boat at the Goat Haunt Ranger Station, I congratulated myself on being wise enough to know that I did not need a passport to make this journey. Moments later, when I spoke to the Glacier National Park staff at the Goat Haunt Ranger Station, my smug feeling was completely gone and I was wishing that I had brought my passport along after all.

Although you can visit Ghost Haunt ranger station without a passport, you need one if you want to hike any of the backcountry trails near the station.

Before making the journey, I hadn’t realized that I might want to hike any of these trails. As one of the rangers eagerly described her favourite hike to Kootenai Lake, I had second thoughts. The nine-km return hike takes about two hours and can easily be completed in time to catch the next boat back to the Waterton townsite.

What makes it special is the fact that the area surrounding the lake is ideal moose habitat. The ranger said that she has seen as many as seven moose on one hike.

With a tinge of regret at an opportunity missed, I followed the little paved trail around the end of the lake and read the interpretive signs that explain what a Peace Park is.

As I sat on a wooden bench not far from the boat dock and took in the glorious scenery around me, I was impressed by the solitude and tranquility of this International Peace Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Whether you are hiking a backcountry trail or simply sitting on the edge of the shore, the beauty of nature makes a powerful setting for personal reflections on peace.

Top five things to do in Waterton Lakes National Park

• Cruise from Canada to the United States — A two-hour scenic cruise with the Waterton International Shoreline Cruise Co. is a relaxing way to learn about the peace park and get a closer look at some of the beautiful scenery.

The vessel has indoor and outdoor seating and features an interesting historical commentary of the park.

A 30-minute stop at Goat Haunt Ranger Station in Glacier National Park, U.S.A., is included.

Even though you don’t need passports to make the border crossing, you may wish to bring them so they can be stamped with the special Goat Haunt border stamp.

You will need passports to hike any of the backcountry trails in the area.

The cruise costs $38 for adults, $18 for youth and $12 for children. For information or reservations, call 403-859-2362 or visit www.watertoncruise.com.

• Scenic driving — There are several scenic drives in Waterton Lakes National Park, but two of the most popular drives are Red Rock Canyon and Cameron Lake.

The 16-km drive to Red Rock Canyon leads past fields of wildflowers, alpine meadows and stunning mountain peaks and it is common to spot wildlife along the route. The canyon itself is a beautiful site with layers of red and green coloured minerals.

The drive to Cameron Lake is 16-km from the Waterton townsite and includes great views of mountain scenery.

It is common to see bears and other wildlife along the way. Cameron Lake is a sub-alpine lake that is a great place to rent a canoe or to just enjoy a leisurely lakeside walk. Grizzlies are often spotted on the alpine slopes at the far end of the lake.

• Take a hike — With more than 200 km of hiking trails, Waterton is a premiere hiking destination.

It is a great spot to introduce children to hiking as there are an abundance of shorter trails that can be completed in a few hours. Popular beginner hikes include the hike to Bear’s Hump, the Cameron Lake Loop, Red Rock Canyon loop and the hike to Blakiston Falls. Advanced hikers will appreciate the 17.2 km Crypt Lake hike, which was once identified by National Geographic as one of the world’s best hikes.

For information on the hiking trails, visit www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/waterton/activ/activ5.aspx.

• High tea — The Prince of Wales Hotel is the iconic structure of Waterton Lakes National Park. Perched on a hill high above the townsite, the hotel itself was declared a Canadian National Historic Site in 1992.

One of the best features of the hotel is its enormous lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on Upper Waterton Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Afternoon high tea is an ideal way to enjoy the hotel and its impressive lobby. Be sure to ask for a seat close to the window where you can spend a leisurely afternoon sipping tea and enjoying bite-sized snacks while taking in the spectacular view.

High tea will cost $29.95 per adult and $15.95 per child aged 11 and under. For reservations, call 403.236.3400. For information, visit www.glacierparkinc.com/prince_of_wales.php.

• Rent a bike or a surrey — Pat’s Waterton has been renting bicycles and surrey bikes in Waterton townsite for years.

You can take a surrey bike, which seats three people, and see the townsite or rent a mountain bike and try some of the local trails. A great family trail is the new 6.9-km (one-way) Kootenai Brown trail, which leads from the townsite to the park gates along the edge of the lakes. This new scenic trail opened in October 2010 as a legacy gift in recognition of the 125th anniversary of Canada’s national parks.

Pat’s mountain bike rentals start at $9 for the first hour and $5 for each additional hour or $40 per day. A surrey rental will cost $25 per hour.

For more information or reservations call 403-859-2266.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.