Last summer, I took my kids for a brief little getaway to Waterton Lakes National Park. I chose it because we love nature, we love outdoor activities, and because they had never been before. I wanted to take them somewhere new, somewhere fresh, somewhere we could make memories of the four of us. We had a fantastic time!
We saw gorgeous scenery, ate delicious ice cream and went on a beautiful hike that challenged us a little and offered some wonderful photo ops. When we were discussing which hike to take, my oldest suggested Crypt Lake. He wanted a real challenge and a serious outdoor adventure. I listened, nodded politely and said no. It was too much of a hike for all four of us and a little late in the day to embark on such an undertaking. But in a moment of bravado, I suggested that he and I could come back the following summer and do the Crypt hike together. It would be a Mother-Son celebratory journey to mark his high school graduation and his 18th Birthday! He seemed excited about the idea and I was feeling brave and sassy, so we gave each other a nod of agreement. Then the four of us embarked on our beautiful, though less adventurous hike on the other side of the park.
Ten months later, it came to pass that he did in fact graduate from High School and turn 18. With the summer upon us, I recalled the promise I'd made nearly a year prior. It suddenly felt even more important after all that had been lost in the pandemic. The last months of his Grade 12 year, his Grad celebrations, plans for University...his world had been shifted and tossed and turned upside down. This was a promise I had to keep.
I researched the Crypt Lake hike and silently cursed myself for agreeing to do it. With 20km (12miles) of distance and 760m (2500 feet) of elevation gain, this has been ranked by National Geographic as one of the 20 Most Thrilling trails in the world. There is one particular portion where hikers must march a very narrow, open path along a straight vertical drop, then navigate a steel ladder bolted into the rocks, climb through a small, narrow tunnel and come out the other side to traverse a rocky cliff with the help of a cable fixed to the side of the mountain. Sounds like fun!? Anyone who knows me would agree I'm not exactly a thrill-seeker, but I try really hard not to flake out on promises either. I read some reviews that said this hike was not for the faint of heart and anyone who had a fear of heights should avoid it at all costs. I also read another review that stated how much the writer's 4 year old son enjoyed the day. Well then. I guess I have no excuse.
The Crypt Lake hike begins with a 20min boat ride from Waterton Lakes Marina out to the trailhead. We carried backpacks with water, sweaters, bear spray and some treats for lunch during the halfway point at the top of the mountain. On the ride out, the guide regaled us with stories of local wildlife and assured us no one had ever died from falling off the side of the mountain. Well that's a relief!
I won't bore you with details of every step, but let me tell you this. The Crypt Lake hike absolutely kicked my butt. Did I mention 2500 feet of elevation gain and 20km round trip?? I was a hurting unit on the way up and a worse hurting unit on the way down. Thankfully, my shutterbug son brought along his camera. Every time he stopped to take a picture I was so grateful for the short break. He must've snapped hundreds of shots along the way, scrambling up and down from the trail often to gain a new perspective. Some of his pictures are below, including a few from the lensball I gave him for Christmas one year. It's a cool little tool that allows him to get some amazing shots.
The views were incredible and the eight hour day slipped by easily. My son and I talked like old friends, both at ease with nothing but the steps ahead of us, and also consciously trying to keep up the chatter so we didn't surprise the locals. The "thrilling" portion of the hike was definitely manageable...but I did have to concentrate on not looking down. Hunter of course, navigated it like the nimble 18 year old that he is. Young, in shape and totally invincible. He frequently turned around to ask if I needed a break or offer me his hand as I made my way over a log, or a rocky patch. A little humbling, but his caring concern made me proud. The half way point of the hike was a stop at Crypt Lake itself, where we enjoyed the cool air, the incredible views and a refreshing break...with a couple of the treats I'd carried up in my backpack. We were celebrating his 18th Birthday, after all.
We made it back down the mountain in plenty of time to catch the boat back to the townsite. We laughed and talked and noticed the beautiful sites the entire way. I'm so very thankful I made this promise to him and we pushed ourselves to make it happen. The adventure and challenge of this day left a beautiful memory that can't be erased.
As the events of 2020 continue to unfold, I realize this day is a metaphor for so much of what we're all facing right now. My brilliant, hard-working son has re-invented his path in the face of changes from the pandemic. He decided an online university experience is not what he wanted for his first year, so he joined the workforce instead. I'm so proud of the way he's kept moving forward and navigating what is often a rocky path. Life right now is like this hike. Sometimes hard, often challenging, never boring, with beauty at every turn.
Keep climbing, Son. The journey is unknown but always worth it. Don't forget to raise a glass with your Mom every now and then. She might be up for an adventure. :-)