After months of planning, Jess and I finally departed Calgary on May 1st, 2018 for our tour of the United States. Essentially, we wanted to get to Canada’s East Coast by taking the “scenic route”, which is what we told the fellow at the border crossing just before getting into the States.
Our roadtrip started with a stop off at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is preserved because it had a significant impact on the early people of Alberta. I’ve wanted to see this for years and now was the time.
When we got there, we saw that it was $15 or something to see the exhibits and we just wanted to see the landscape. We took the free walk below the bottom of the cliff where buffalo used to be hearded off to their doom so that the aboriginals had food. Reading the little infographics around the site were pretty brutal. They talked about the smell of dead carcasses, the sound of injured buffalo moaning in pain, and stuff like that – I don’t really recommend this site for children if they are literate. The highlight here was the large amount of marmots running around. Definitely worth it, especially because I had no idea what a marmot was until we went there. Basically, they were like dog-sized gophers running around by the dozen.
After that, we headed to our first night’s stay in Waterton National Park. This place was unreal! It’s like the Rocky Mountains near Calgary, but without the swarms of tourists. It’s equally or more beautiful, but less populated and doesn’t have as many shops or hotels – best for the outdoorsy types.
The campsite I looked up prior to arriving said it was open, but it lied to me. We went to the entry point of the park where the girl checks that you have a Parks Canada pass and asked where we could stay since it was getting late. She pointed us to a free campsite with fresh water, a cooking shelter, and long drop outhouses. It was also right beside a stream which I would have paid way more than zero dollars to camp beside. We got lucky the other site was closed. That night, a second car pulled up to the campsite and a German fellow named Yens got out while it was still running, came over to us while we were drinking, and asked if he could hang out with us. We shared our wine, vodka, chips, a banana, and drunk Colin took the liberty of blowing up his air mattress for him, even though he did not ask me to. He was our age and traveling the Canadian Rocky Mountains on his own, with pretty broken English – the kid is an adventurer. We shared travel stories, coached each other on our native languages, and exchanged hugs before going to bed.