Waterton Lakes National Park: Perfume: Photo Essay


Post by Dionne


My Favorite Place on Earth:

Waterton Lakes National Park and How It Relates to Perfume

Greetings, my fellow niche nerds!

This is a post of a different sort than my usual review; call it my “What I Did for Summer Holidays” assignment. Portia has mentioned to me that visiting Banff National Park is on her bucket list (just like seeing Australia is on mine), so I thought I’d let her and you in on one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets and a place very dear to my heart, Waterton Lakes National Park.

First of all, here are some maps to get you oriented:

Alberta north america Waterton ParkPhoto Stolen Waterton Park

Just to give you an idea of scale, Alberta’s about 1,125 km (760 miles) from top to bottom, bigger than California, smaller than Texas, and almost three times the size of the UK.

alberta pc.gc.caPhoto Stolen pc.gc.ca

You see that liiiitle green blob in the southwest corner of the map? That’s Waterton. It’s a lot smaller in size than Banff or Jasper, the two much larger green areas on the west edge of the map.

waterton-region-500 pc.gc.caPhoto Stolen pc.gc.ca

So here we are in the southwest corner of the province, about a 3 hour drive from Calgary. Waterton shares its southern border with Glacier National Park in the United States, and the two combined are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/354

So with the technical stuff out of the way, it’s time to gush. As much as I love Jasper and Banff, Waterton is a truly special and unique place. As you’ll see from the pictures, the prairies come right to the feet of the mountains, so there is a sense of airiness and grandeur here I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Waterton has been called the “Anti-Banff” because it’s quaint and quiet, with very little development.

Both The Engineer and I had spent time here as kids, and I remember distinctly our first visit back as a young married couple. I said to him, “I feel like a dried-up sponge that’s been thrown back into water. There’s just something about this place.”

Since then, we’ve come back every year. One of the things that struck me on that first visit as an adult was how strong of a scent memory Waterton held. It’s mountain air and water and the prairies all mixed together. Portia asked me what perfumes I wore when we were camping there this year, and I told her I hadn’t worn any. I brought a passel of decants, and I typically enjoy working my way through a bunch of samples whenever I camp but….. I just couldn’t do it. Stepping out of our trailer that first morning and breathing in, I wanted nothing to get in the way of that smell.  I thought to myself, “What is that? Is that sage?  I wonder if there’s anything that smells like this in perfume form.” So that’s become one of my latest quests, finding a perfume that smells like sage and mountain air, something that reminds me of Waterton. Will I find it? Not sure, but it’s going to be fun trying.

So before I show you some of our family photos, here are a couple of questions for you: 1) Have you ever been somewhere so special you chose not to wear perfume? 2) Sage and mountain air, people. Any recommendations for my sampling quest?

Here’s hoping you all have places that touch your spirit and soothe your soul. Mwah!


Waterton 1

The Engineer and Dragongirl hiked to the top of Bear’s Hump, a short but steep trail on the edge of the townsite that gives an amazing panoramic view of the area. This is facing south, and it also shows one of the reasons why the town has stayed small. Basically, there’s no room to get bigger.

Waterton 2-1

The same spot facing north. Waterton’s combination of prairie and mountain makes for an extremely diverse and unique biosphere.

Waterton 3

Mainstreet. Most of these stores haven’t changed since I was a kid.

Waterton 4

The Playground in town.

Waterton 5

A plaque at the playground

Waterton 6-1

Our site at Crandell, facing west.

Waterton 7

Same spot facing north.

Waterton 8

This fellow was in a neighbor’s site. There are deer EVERYWHERE here.

Waterton 9

It’s typically for bears to be around the Crandell campground as it’s away from the town, and we usually see one or two every year we come. For some reason, possibly the abundance of berries, we saw three or four *every single day* this year. It got to the point where I just left the camera with the zoom lens on my lap everywhere we drove.

Waterton 10

Because of the bears, we saw this sight all the time too, typically referred to as “Bear Jam.” This is on Red Rock Parkway on the way to our campground, there are mountains to the left and the right of this photo.

16 thoughts on “Waterton Lakes National Park: Perfume: Photo Essay

  1. Hi Dionne,

    Thank you for these great photos and maps! We’ve been to Glacier but have never crossed over the border to Waterton Lakes. We will definitely make that a priority when we go north again.

    I have several places on earth that are my favorites. Besides Glacier, I love the Palouse in WA and the Columbia River Gorge on the border of OR and WA. I would recommend the deserts of eastern OR and WA for that open feeling, the smell of sage, with mountains either near or in the distance.

    Mountains and mountaintops are favorite places too. The top of Dizin in the Alborz in Iran is beautiful in summer and winter. The top of the mountain between Cervinia and Zermat is too. Once we had a house by the sea in Yachats, OR where big cliffs meet the sea, yet another favorite place. I have to stop here. I could just keep on going and my bucket list is even longer!

    Thank you again, Dionne.

    Azar xx


    • Glacier is stunning as well, and I have to give major props to the Going-to-the-Sun road, that’s an amazing drive, and Logan Pass to Waterton Lakes is a very doable day trip.

      It’s funny that you mentioned the Columbia River Gorge, as I’ve been pretty bedbound this month post-surgery with not much to do but read. One of the books I’ve devoured was set there, and I though it sounded spectacular. When the younger Wild Things get older I’d love to do some longer road trips, and Vancouver-to-California is on that list.

      Iran sounds amazing, and someday I’d love to see Mongolia too. My father grew up in Southern Alberta and said Mongolia really reminded him of home.

      One of the things I love about the perfume community is the international aspect. If you pop over to Olfactoria’s Travels, Sandra has a gorgeous photo essay of her summer in Norway.


      • The Columbia River Gorge is very beautiful! In my twenties I dated a windsurfer and, of course, much of our time was spent at Hood River. For some reason, Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille always reminds me of the tree surrounded riverbank. If you are ever there, you should also check out the Maryhill Museum. A beautiful mansion that was built by Sam Hill, overlooking the gorge with its own full sized replica of Stonehenge.


      • ElizabethC, I smiled at your comment, since the book I read also had the Maryhill Museum and the Stonehenge replica in it as well. It’s a small perfume world….. I’ve never sampled Un Bois Vanille, although I love its big brother, Feminité du Bois. Now I wasn’t to give it a whirl. 🙂


  2. Hello Lovely Dionne,
    This is a WONDERFUL post! Thanks for taking us on holidays with you all.
    My favourite places to soothe my soul? A few years ago my BFF and I were lucky enough to spend my birthday at the Wildflower Hall in Shimla, it was about as close to the heavens as I’ve ever been.
    Anywhere that Jin is.
    I also have a sloping paved area beside my pool that is a perfect 10-11am sunbaking spot that can bring me to peace in about 30 minutes with the flowers or vegetables that grow next to it and the babbling, bubbling of the pool, the warmth of the sun. I love it but everyone else looks at me funny.
    Also in the afternoon I have a nap before getting ready to go to work, that 30-45 minutes works magic.
    Portia xx


    • Just googled Wildflower Hall….. wow. That is stunning. And yeah, I’m right with you on spending time with our vSO’s. I remember reading a few years ago that one commonality of successful long-term relationships is that the partners are almost addicted to each other, and I can relate. If it’s been a couple of days since The Engineer and I have spent quality time with each other, it feels like a craving to be with him. He is my safe place.

      Ahhh, sun and gardens. A few years ago after Son#3’s rough patch health-wise, I found myself struggling with depression, and puddling around in the flower garden was an essential part of my recovery. How lovely that we don’t have to travel hours to feed our souls, dirt and green can be found just outside the door.


      • Dionne,
        Mum and I spent a lot of time together in this garden. A lot of it is due to her green thumb. Over the years I have brought it to a more water wise place but it still has the same bones she envisioned. It is a joy to be able to spend time here again.
        Crawling in to bed with Jin snoring like a steam train is bliss, he acknowledges my presence and then rolls over expecting a hug. Before I’ve counted to five he is already snoring again and I go to sleep serenaded.
        We are lucky, good lucky on almost all levels.
        Portia xx


      • It actually makes me feel a little verklempt thinking of you working in that garden with your mom, what a beautiful gift that must be! And yes, we are very lucky. Bouncing back from my littler surgery reminds me just how much I have to be thankful for; life is good.


  3. Hi Dionne – Here’s my suggestions: Library of Flowers The Forest (oak bark, arctic moss and white sage), TokyoMilk Paper & Cotton (coriander, white sage, birch wood and tundra moss) and Gorilla Perfume at Lush Devil’s Nightcap (walk through whispering oak woods on a dark night – notes of oak wood, oakmoss, clary sage and ylang ylang). The Juniper Ridge Backpacker’s colognes smell just like the outdoors but are more cedary. Two places to soothe my soul – up north Wisconsin sitting on the deck of the cottage in the birch trees overlooking the lake with the loons calling and Montserrat, Spain where it looks like you could just walk right off the side of the mountain onto unending clouds.


    • Thanks for the recs, fleurlisa, I’m adding them to my Lemming Spreadsheet. The only TokyoMilk I’ve tried thus far is Bittersweet, but I adore it, and Margot Elena’s new Library of Flowers line has recently crossed my radar. Lush and I don’t seem to get along as a rule (bummer, because I’m a sucker for a good deal), but I have to give you major thanks for mentioning the Juniper Ridge line – I had not heard of them before! I found a thread over at Basenotes where the founder popped in and asked questions, and he mentioned they’ll be revamping the website and offering samples later this fall. Also, he mentioned loving the smell of “the mountains above Big Sur in the height of the sage bloom season…” Yup, that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.


  4. Fresh mountain air is wonderful. I’m looking forward to fall as usual. I love the way it smells outside when it’s cool and the leaves are starting to fall. Add in that touch of smoke from burning leaves and it’s just about perfect. I don’t blame you for going scentless. Sometimes on trips like that it’s the best way to be. I hope you find a scent that comes close to the real thing.


    • Right there with you in loving the coolness of a fall evening, Poodle. Burning leaves doesn’t seem to be a tradition here in Alberta, so I’m not sure I’m knowledgeable about the scent, but I adore the smell of a campfire, so I can imagine. I love the hint of smoke in things like Tea for Two and Winter Woods, mmmmm.


  5. Dionne, thank you for sharing these great pictures and your vacation impressions.
    I’m not an outdoor person so my vacations, even when they include nature, are of the type where perfumes still feel in place. I will not wear any perfumes on hikes or for excercising but other than that only illness (mine or others around me) will make me to skip my perfume for the whole day.


  6. You are most welcome, Undina. I wear perfume on more “cililized” 😉 vacations and love the chance to cram my carry-on with way more decants than can possibly wear. Waterton Lakes seems to be the only place that is an exception for me. And like you, illness is a time to go without as well. I came home from Waterton and two days later had my gallbladder out, and for the first week wore nothing at all. That’s by far the longest I’ve been without since falling down the rabbit hole, although I mostly slept that week, so I think it doesn’t count.


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