Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On To Alberta

When we learned that we did not have a full bus for the tour, Kate and I jumped into the rear seat of the 17-seat Red Bus--cramped, but feeling secure that we would have both windows for taking photographs.

We left East Glacier, MT, heading north on Route 49 on our way to the Prince of Wales Hotel in Alberta, Canada. We made a stop at St. Mary Lodge to pick up any other tour members. At the entrance were these two teepees that could be rented for overnight guests. When this choice of accommodations opened, the ones selecting these "rooms" were treated to the experience of having your room blow away! (I was reminded of the House of Sticks that one of the Three Little Pigs built.)

After a brief tour of the lobby of this small, cozy hotel, we returned to our seats, pleased to learn that there would be no other riders.

However, our pleasure at this development was short-lived. It was true that we had both windows available for photos, but the bouncing was also more pronounced in this rear seat, so it was rarely possible to hold that camera still enough to take any photos. . . at least we had more leg room.

We continued north past Lower St. Mary Lake.

At the town of Babb, we headed west toward Many Glacier. In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in Glacier NP; today there are fewer than 30; and it is estimated that by 2020, there will be zero.

Here we saw our first glaciers.

In the right third of this photo (right), the salamander-shaped patch of white just below the tops of the mountains is Salamander Glacier.

Lake Sherbourne is in the foreground.

At the end of the road from Babb is Many Glacier Lodge, a true destination type of lodging. One might choose to drive to the Lodge for dinner or just sit on the porch overlooking Swiftcurrent Lake, but it is quite a drive from any town of significant size.

The interior of the building continues the Swiss alpine theme established on the exterior. The impressive lobby has four stories of balconies surrounding its rectangular edges. Enormous logs supporting the balconies and portions of the roof structure extend from the floor of the lobby to the ceiling.

A round copper fireplace with a painted metal chimney stack is at the north end of the lobby, suspended by cables from the wood structural system.

The original wing of the hotel--now the center of the hotel--was constructed during 1914 and 1915. Annex Number 1 to the right (in the photo) containing more guest rooms and the dining room and kitchen was constructed shortly afterwards. Annex Number 2 was constructed in 1917 to the left of the original section and connected to it by a spire-topped enclosed breezeway.

As we left Many Glacier Lodge, Larry, our driver, rolled the canvas roof back so that we had a view through the top of the bus.

Two yellow canvas strips extend from the front of the roof to the rear. Their function is to prevent the canvas top from falling into the bus when it is being rolled up or unrolled by the driver.

Just before leaving the US, we came upon one of the most dramatic rock formations. This is Chief Mountain, an isolated peak on the edge of the eastern boundary of the park rising 4,500 feet above the Great Plains.

Passports in hand, we passed into Canada. We were now in the Canadian portion of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park formed in 1933-1934, when two parks (Waterton Lakes and Glacier) were combined into one operation (except for fees) to represent two countries working together in the interest of all life.
We soon arrived at the Prince of Wales Hotel. We were greeted with this view down Upper Waterton Lake. I had seen this view in so many travel brochures for this destination that I just wanted to stand in this position and soak it in.

Turning around, we saw the back of the Hotel.

Built in 1927 by the Great Northern Railway, the Hotel is one of the most photographed hotels in the world. Governed by the watch of our driver, we had little time to look for the right angle with the right light for the best photo.

Moving around to the front of the Hotel brought additional marvels.

Now if only we had that helicopter to get the ideal photo of the Hotel in the foreground and the lake behind it.

But we were running out of time for lunch, so we hurried in.

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