This mission requires three essential components.
The first is an incredibly beautiful lake.
The second is a seaworthy vessel.
The third is an awesome force for propulsion of the vessel.
On the 16 KM (10 mile) Akamina Parkway, drive west from Waterton Village, the overcast conditions persist following my brief tour of the Prince of Wales Hotel. Cameron Lake, at the end of the Akamina Parkway, is deserted with the exception of Visitor Center and Boat Launch staff.
There is time to wander around the north end of Cameron Lake while patiently waiting for better weather. Cameron Lake is about 2. 5 KM (1.6 miles) long, with 2,708 m (8,883 ft) Mount Custer consuming the view at the south end. Mount Custer resides in Glacier National Park, Montana and hosts the Herbst Glacier on the north flank. Forum Peak, which hides Forum Lake on the other side of the ridge, looms above Cameron Lake‘s southwest corner. It is a spectacular image, even when bathed in low-level cloud. I will spend some time, taking a few photos and chatting with Parks staff while we all wait for weather to improve. The combination Parks Office and Snack Bar is near the path which leads to the trailhead for the amazing Carthew-Alderson hike.
Within a half hour, weather is showing some signs of improvement. A kayak is bailed out for me. I don a life jacket over rain gear and begin my aquatic journey to the far, south end of Cameron Lake where giant waterfalls tumble down the headwall from the Herbst Glacier. I will track the west shore to significantly reduce the influence of swirling winds on the lake’s surface.
On this day, in this place, which is normally very busy, I have the entire lake to myself.
Blue sky begins to appear almost immediately. I pronounce my prophetic wisdom prematurely.
The summit of Mount Custer at photo center, and Forum Peak on photo right, begin to peek out from cloud as the sky clears and ceilings lift. It is a fascinating, slow motion transition as my kayak moves within a horizontal plain, while the clouds move in a vertical plain, and I move towards an expanding image.
I pass the end of the wooden, viewing platform at the end of the picturesque, 1.5 KM (0.94 mile) Cameron Lakeshore Trail and swing around a rocky point into a small, quiet and shallow bay beneath Forum Peak.
As I paddle towards the south end of Cameron Lake, I will soon enter the United States of America.
The blue sky has disappeared and ceilings have dropped again. A breeze is picking up. No surprise. It is the common nature of mountain weather. Fickle. I am well prepared.
The images at the end of Cameron Lake become increasingly profound and dramatic. The roar of falling water enters the sensory mix and increases exponentially. The surface of Cameron Lake is beginning to get choppy as I transition from very shallow, crystal-clear water into deep blue, almost black water, where the shoreline hosts large chunks of ice which have calved from the glacial field above. Lingering fields of snow occupy areas protected from the sun.
As I approach the waterfalls, the breeze is becoming more brisk. Increasing chop on the water is making directional navigation more challenging. A successful photograph is measured as one where both the camera and I remain above water. Several attempts are often required to capture a level, still photograph as the kayak gets tossed and twisted around. It is time to turn around and head back in the unlikely event the situation turns ugly. Risk is very low. I stay very close to shoreline and can easily beach the kayak into grizzly bear territory, if required.
The reverse in direction shows the nature of the storm descending on the region. Although I am alone on the lake, hardy souls in rain gear are beginning to hike the Cameron Lakeshore Trail.
Although the view along the lake appears a bit ominous, I am enjoying clear views at lakeshore and in one very shallow spot, I take the time to slalom around rocks breaking the surface near the brilliant green slopes beneath Forum Peak.
I am very close to the shoreline, to take advantage of calmer water, and the Cameron Lakeshore Trail is often within a few feet of my location. People begin to take my picture, and on a couple of occasions, strike up a pleasant and polite conversation.
Whatever everyone else thinks, I am having a wonderful time. The exercise is keeping me warm. My rain gear is keeping me dry. The upper body workout is a refreshing change from hiking – an opportunity to rest my feet. Cameron Lake is a good-sized lake and I have the entire surface to myself.
As I approach the dock, the boat launch staff are busy preparing boats for others. The water is much calmer here and weather is beginning to shift back to a clearing trend.
It has been an outstanding excursion. I pay my fee for the two hours spent on Cameron Lake and drive the short distance east on the Akamina Parkway to the Lineham trailhead for the next adventure of the day. I am looking forward to my first view of Lineham Falls.