Published: July 17th 2011July 10th 2011
Today was to be our biggest challenge as far as hiking was concerned.
By now you may have noticed that my date was incorrect on the first day's entry.
The hike to Crypt Lake in Waterton Lakes is rated as "moderately strenuous". I hope I never see a REALLY strenuous hike. THe day begins innocuously enough with a short boat ride across the lake to the trailhead. Disembarking, we immediately confronted our first challenge - mosquitoes the size and stealth capability of a B-2 bomber. If you stopped, there woiuld be several on you immediately. This gave us a valuable incentive to keep moving. THe hike begins as a gently rising trail through banks of huckleberries and various wildflowers., but soon changes to a series of fairly steep switchbacks. All is under the canopy of the forest, and you are surrounded by the smell of evergreen needles. Since the trail had not been extensively used yet, the brush hung into the trail andsometimes you felt like you were breaking a new path. As we passed the cut-off to Hell-Roarin' Canyon, we could hear the rush of the water. Ascending, we stayed in hte forest for quite some time,
wandering among the huckleberries, mayapple, wild strawberries, and more wildflowers than you could shake a stick at. Unfortunately, as shall be seen in a later narrative, we did not have a stick anyway. We had to stop frequently to catch our breath. Our trail started at about 4200 feet, and we were not yet accustomed to the altitude, and were certainly not accustomed to hiking uphill for miles.
We passed a series of waterfalls of various sizes, and soon climbed out of the forest to a more alpine landscape. At this point the path became steeper and rockier. Rounding a bend, we came upon a large waterfall across the valley, and sat down to rest and look at it. Probably a big mistake. We considered our alternatives. We had come about three miles up steep terrain, probably about a 1000' climb, and faced more of the same for another 2.5 miles, culminating in a climb p an 8' ladder, a crawl through a 60' natural rock tunnel, a traverse along a 2-3' wide ledge with a steel cable bolted to the cliff on one side and a sheer 600' drop on the other. Alternatively, we could start back down
(which we knew would be hard on older knees) and find a good place to eat our box lunches and head back to the boat dock. We opted for the sane option. We made it a little higher than when we attempted this same hike with the children about 18 years ago, but still could not finish the trail. Oh, well...
At the bottom we trailed our feet in lake water so cold that only a few moments could be withstood, then amused ourselves feeding a chipmunk which had obviously done this routine before. She ate the first few bites of apple, but then started taking them and running off to bury them before coming back for more.
One important outcome of this hike: we were able to definitively answer, and document with photographic evidence, the old question of what wild bears do in the woods.
It was a beautiful day, and gave us valuable conditioning and some experience. It also made us sore as hell the next day. The pint (or more) at the pub in town at the end of the boat ride was much enjoyed.
There are more photos below