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Badlands and Beyond, Part 9, Canadian Rockies-Banff

June 21, 2018– The day was starting off sunny and perfect! We were going to finally see the incredibly spectacular, Lake Louise, in Banff National Park. A place that I had wanted to visit for decades and was now able to check it off the ole bucket list! 😀


Lake Louise is world famous for its turquoise lakes, the Victoria Glacier, soaring mountain backdrop, palatial hotel, and incredible hiking and skiing. Surrounded by a lifetime’s worth of jaw-dropping sights and adventures, Lake Louise is a rare place that must be experienced to be believed.

http://www.banfflakelouise.com

The parking lot was filling up quickly, even as we arrived early in the morning. We had planned to rent a kayak and paddle the lake, but the line for canoe rentals was quite lengthy. Not wanting to waste time standing in line, we opted to hike up a path that would take us to an overlook of the lake.

Lake Louise with Victoria Glacier

As we approached the trailhead, a large sign was posted telling hikers to BEWARE! A grizzly with cubs had been seen in the vicinity and to take every precaution while hiking. While we were reading the sign, a young, German couple approached us and asked in very broken English, if they could hike the overlook with us as they had no bear spray. Of course, we told them they could, and we started the steep climb up the side of the mountain.

Robert, Annette and Phil

Annette and Robert, who happened to be on their honeymoon, were very happy we were there for protection. Annette spoke some English, and Robert spoke none, but nodded his head in mock understanding. We hadn’t walked 50 feet and there on the trail was a large pile of bear scat that I swear had steam rising off of it! (I wasn’t thinking of blogging at that time so didn’t take any pictures for proof. Shucks!)

Annette looked at me with fear in her eyes and as we began to walk on, she nearly glued herself to my side! She talked louder and faster and told us all about the sites they had seen while in Kootenay on a rafting adventure. She was glad to be able to practice her English on us and at the same time, make ourselves known to any bears, lest we surprise them. We were able to make out enough words we recognized to follow along with the story. 🙂

At last we made it to the Lake Louise Overlook… breathtaking!!

Lake Louise Overlook with the Fairmont Chateau

Coming back from the Lake Louise Overlook hike, we said our goodbyes to the sweet, young German honeymooners, checked on the line for the canoe rentals and it hadn’t changed, so we decided to walk around the lake… see what was on the other side. I had my Teva hiking sandals on and Phil was wearing his Converse Chuck Taylor’s. With no plans on hiking long distance, we had no rain gear and Phil had only a day pack and his camera.

Phil on the Overlook trail

We walked and talked to other people along the lake, took pics of the gorgeous mountain scenes and spotted mountain goats up above, watching rock climbers just below them. Phil talked to several groups of people, from all over the world, who wanted to know what he was photographing. I waded out in the lake with the warm sun shining down, making everything right in the world.

At the far end of the lake, an Australian couple told us about a trail, the Plain of Six Glaciers, that led to a Swiss-style tea house, several miles up into the mountain. They thought that it was a fairly reasonable hike to complete in a few hours and heard that it was a really cool place to visit. While we listened to them talk in their adorable, Auzzie accents, we heard a loud rumble of thunder off to the west. Thunder??! There wasn’t a cloud in the sky!! No, thunder was not what we were hearing… it was an AVALANCHE sliding down the far side of the mountain, in the very direction we were headed!!

Deciding that we did not want to walk the several miles back to the van to retrieve our hiking gear, we took a chance and started walking the trail to the tea house. As we climbed higher in elevation, we came upon rivers of snow melt that we were able to step across without soaking our feet in ice water (mostly). The more difficult part of the trail was when we encountered large areas of shale rock and scree. We also had to traverse a gorge that was cut by a river with some steep, muddy sides. Our footwear actually held up to the challenges quite well, and even though my exposed feet were walking through snow part way, the warmth of the air kept them from freezing.

Walking through the rivers of snow melt. Refreshing on bare feet!!

The trail opened up and we had a fantastic view of Lake Louise! What a gorgeous sight to behold!!

Lori and Phil with Lake Louise and her famous ski slopes in background.

We finally made it to the tea house, along with several other hikers. They had an outside privy that we were in need of and while waiting for it to clear out, talked with one of the staff members who was walking the owner’s dogs; a black lab and an enormous, Irish Wolfhound! I SO LOVE those dogs!!

We took our seats at an open, second-floor veranda that overlooked the mountain, and we saw avalanches fall several times while we were sitting there.

The Lake Agnes cabin, which we never made it to, was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901 as a refuge for hikers. According to banffandbeyond.com, this tea house at the Plain of Six Glaciers was built in 1924 by Swiss guides also employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Unfortunately, the weather turned on us so we couldn’t walk the additional trail, but we were able to enjoy a delicious snack of curried lentil soup, two biscuits with jam and honey, and a refreshing lemonade at this one. The young ladies on staff were extremely friendly and cooked all of the food on a large, cast-iron cook stove. No electricity and no running water made these pioneer-spirited girls true outdoors-women!

Not only did they cook and clean the old-fashioned way, they also walked five miles one way to work, once per week. They would pack in some foods, but most would be flown in; large barrels dangling from a long line tied to a helicopter. A love of exercise and the great outdoors had to be what motivated these adventurous ladies as they walked back to Lake Louise on their week off. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, electrical storms, high winds… these brave souls had walked through it all!

Helicopter flying in provisions for the tea houses.
Victoria Glacier

After scraping the last drops of that delicious and hearty lentil soup, we saw the skies blackening towards the west. With no rain gear or warm clothing to protect us from the elements, we deemed it best to start back to the van. While we didn’t make it even half way back before the heavens opened up and dumped snow, turning to sleet and hail, then rain on us… we did get our daily jog in and had some fun racing fellow hikers down the trail. 😀

We are headed for nasty weather!
Menacing skies ahead

In our next blog, we will show a video that Phil took of a gorgeous, silver-tipped, VERY LARGE, sow grizzly with her two young cubs… grazing right next to the Trans-Canadian Highway!

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