Big Bertha is a b**** August 10, 2014

Published: August 15th 2014
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At the start of the morning, we went by the hotel where my sister was going to be staying. Mistaken on when she was arriving, we were disappointed in finding her, but were treated to a little deer group including a young fawn.

We were acutely aware that we needed to get more conditioning done if we were to successfully complete the climb to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park. We also knew that we had attempted the hike to Crypt Lake twice in the past and never come close to succeeding in making it. Therefore we decided to take the hike in Waterton Lakes National Park to Bertha Lake. At 5.7 miles round trip with about 1600 feet elevation gain, somehow it sounded workable as a goal. The trail started out as a fairly gentle climb, but then switched to steep switchbacks. We eventually found ourselves stopping at the end of every switchback section to catch our breaths. Bertha Lake eventually empties into Lower Waterton Lake, and the stream carrying the water goes over a Lower Falls (a fairly easy hike) and an Upper Falls (much more difficult). The path to the lake itself goes even further, and that is the one we took.

Lakes in the alpine and subalpine zones of the mountains have a distinct beauty. They are usually surrounded by steep slopes, and the wooded hills offer a stark relief to the brilliant blue of the lakes. The water is always very pure, so you don't have the muddiness that you often see in lower lakes and streams. The contrast of the blue lake against the green trees offers a beauty that is usually not available elsewhere, and justifies the effort to get to those heights.

Our trip up was easily the most strenuous hike I had undertaken in recent years. Jennie and I had done some walking in the 'hood to get ready, but our longest walks were only about 4 miles, and despite the Heritage Hills name of our neighborhood, our routes were mostly flat. The start of the hike was not all that taxing, but by the end we were pretty winded. We just sat and looked at the lake. I was eating an apple when a chipmunk came around looking for food, and I was not all that hungry, so I threw about half of the apple over in his direction, and then sat and watched him mowing through it. As expected, the trip back down was not much faster than going up. Old knees and ankles just don't allow for a lot of rapid shocks. Reaching the bottom, we did the only reasonable thing, going back to the hotel to get a cold brew from the kilted waiter at the Prince of Wales Hotel.

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