Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Prince Of Wales Hotel, Waterton

Katherine and I are sitting the Tea Lounge of the uniquely beautiful Prince of Wales Hotel here in Waterton Lakes National Park, next to the high, narrow window reaching up to the second floor balcony, offering a stunning view over the hotel patio and down the long sweep of the glacially cold lake. The hotel, a 6 story gingerbread hotel which could be right out of the Swiss Alps, is old, quaint, with a deeply grained wooded interior. it's iron chandelier reaching up all five of the interior floors contained within the central atrium which hosts the Tea Lounge.

The staff here, mostly younger people working the summer season, are dressed in the Royal Stewart kilts and flashes, reflecting the regal naming of this unusual gem nestled against the Rocky Mountains in southern Albera. A harpist gently plays in the background as the staff serve tea and sandwiches. Outside it is chilly, mountains driving the wind down the lake. Waterton Lakes National Park is sufficiently south that the lake itself is shared with the US Glacier National Park, as are most of the surrounding mountains.

The village of Waterton is a summertime town, closing down in late September, opening again in early June. In these long days yet short months, thousands of people visit here. Waterton is a very busy place in the height of summer. Now, as the fall approaches and the hotel readies to close for the season, there are still plenty of guests even though the season is near ended. Soon almost every business in town will shutter and close; most summer residences are already closed. Staff will leave and the town will be near empty.

In winter, so rapidly approaching here in the Rockies, Wateron is a small idyll of snow and ice, popular with the winter hiking and cross-country ski crowd. Only two of the town's many hotels and guest houses open for that cold, dark season. Instead the town becomes the haunt of deer, mountain sheep, elk, fox and whatever else decides to wander through. Even the quaint, eclectic Prince of Wales Hotel will close this weekend, a skeleton staff remaining to care for the building during the cold months.

Then, in June, all here will spring to life once again. The grass will green. The lake will thaw. The snows will flee. The trees will leaf. Once again, summer will come to Waterton. Would that this could be me, that I could enter the winter of my life certain in the knowledge of spring, certain in the rebirth offered by a new summer. For now, I will enjoy this fall season, this slow closing down. For now, both Waterton and I are getting ready for a rest.

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