Sunday, August 23: Lake Louise
For the second morning in a row, I had trouble sleeping. I had the alarm set for 6:20, but around 5am I was awake. I tried falling back asleep, but I couldn't. I would sort of start dozing off, and then I would jerk awake. I stayed that way until the alarm went off. This not sleeping in the morning is beginning to wear thin.
We got a fairly late start in the morning. We got the buffet breakfast, then we headed over to the Sunshine Valley ski area to check things out. There were some hikes in that area that we were interested in, but we would have to take a bus from the ski area to the trail head.
It turns out that the bus runs every hour, and it costs about $28 per person round trip. It isn't too crowded during the week, but on weekend one might want to make reservations.
Then we drove up to Lake Louise, which is about an hour north of Banff. We figured that Lake Louise itself would be very crowded, so we drove to Moraine Lake. The good news was that it was a lot less crowded than LL. The bad news is that it had a much smaller parking lot. There was a solid line of cars parked on the road from where they started allowing it, all the way to the parking lot.
Not surprisingly, the parking lot was full. We ended up driving slowly around the oval of the parking lot, trying to find a car that was leaving, and having that car be in front of you rather than in front of the car in front of you.
We did about three laps to no effect. I was wondering if we should bail, but Amy had more confidence, so we continued. I think it was on the fourth lap that we saw some people getting into their car. I waited for them, feeling bad because I was effectively blocking everyone behind me. It seemed to me that the people were taking a very long time getting settled, but it probably wasn't *that* long. They (and the car next to them) pulled out, and I dove in.
We had been planning to hike the Larch Trail, but Amy saw that it was rated moderate, so we opted for the easy Consolation Lake hike. But first, we opted for some lunch. We stopped at the deli and got some sandwiches. I only ate half of mine, but I saved the other half for the trail. Mike got (along with the sandwich) some catsup-flavored potato chips. Mike offered one to Amy. The face she made was priceless. I tried one. My face wasn't nearly as good as Amy's. I'm guessing that the taste of these chips was an acquired taste. Obviously we had not acquired it. We thought they were gross.
After lunch, Michael dragged me up to the gift shop to get him a bear. He looked to me like a clone to “Chow”, a small bear that Amy got in Glacier NP a few years back. He is supposed to be a baby grizzly bear, sort of cinnamon colored. I guess they must be Rocky Mountain bears, as both came from the Rocky Mountain area.
We found Amy, and then we headed up the trail. We took a small detour up to “Rock Pile” overlooks. This went up some stairs on the back side of a large rocky hill (actually a rocky moraine) overlooking the lake. The view from the rock pile is one of the classic shots of the Banff Park.
The problem with the main hike was that they said that we needed to be in a party of at least 4 people because of bears. This was a problem because we were only 3. We thought about trying to join some other group, but going uphill Amy is very slow.
Eventually we decided that the trail was busy enough that we could survive with only three of us. We hiked around the base of the Tower of Babel. The trail led through a scree slope, but they had leveled the trail, so it wasn't too hard to cross.
The trail then climbed slowly along a small creek. I called the trail the “Trail of Many Mushrooms”. There were tons of them along the trail, with lots of fairly exotic types. Amy is into mushrooms and was having a field day with them. She stopped for many pictures, which also gave her a chance to catch her breath.
I had thought at the start that it was a bit too cool for just a tee-shirt, so I wore my orange fleece over it. But that was much too warm. So at the viewpoint I took it off, and hiked the rest of the day with just my tee-shirt.
Halfway up the trail, Michael dropped a bombshell on us. He suddenly realized that he didn't have his camel-bak. The loss of an old camel-bak wasn't too serious, except for the small detail that his iPhone was in it.
My best guess was that he had put it down at one of the “Rock Pile” viewpoints, and then forgotten to pick it up again. However, we checked our photos, and I had one of Mike on the way up to the viewpoints. He wasn't wearing it at that point. So perhaps he had left it in the car, but more likely he had left it where we had lunch.
Michael was of course rather upset by the situation. Our point of view was that whatever happened to it had probably already happened, and that it was not feasible for Amy to go back down the trail and then come up again. I would have hurried down the trail while the other two continued up, but I figured that if they wanted groups of at least four, then a single person probably wasn't a good idea.
So in the end we decided to continue the hike and to look for it when we finished.
The trail continues up at a moderate pace until it makes a right turn to go behind the Tower of Babel. There it climbs much more gradually as it proceeds up the valley to Consolation Lake. At the end of the trail, there is a large scree field that one has to cross to get to the lake. There looked to be no good way around it, and no clean way through it. We cross about a quarter of the way through it before deciding that it wasn't any fun and retreating.
I ate the other half of my sandwich while waiting for Amy and Mike. The ground squirrels there were very bold. Amy and Mike got some good close-ups of them. One of them came up to me and was scurrying around literally about 6 inches from my boot.
We saw some good views across the lake of some high hanging glaciers. Unfortunately the air was rather hazy, so we couldn't get very good pictures.
The hike down was a lot easier and faster than the way up. At the bottom, Mike and I hurried to the car. The Camel-bak wasn't there. We rejoined Amy, and we checked the tables where we ate. It wasn't there either.
The next step was to go into the deli and inquire about it there. Fortunately, as we entered, we could see it sitting behind the register. Apparently he had in fact left it at the table, and then someone had turned it in. In any event, it ended well, and Michael was very happy to have his iPhone back.
We got some ice creams and then strolled down to Moraine Lake. Amy wanted to sit for a little, and I got bored, so I decided to check out the trail along the lake. I kept going “just a little further” until I ended up at the far side of the lake, where there is sort of a delta as a small stream of glacial meltwater enters the lake.
We then drove down to the main road, took a left, and drove up to Lake Louise. At that time, there was plenty of parking available (although there were still tons of cars). We parked and went down to that lake. The views weren't that great because of the haze. We checked out the fancy hotel there. For grins, we checked out the menu for the restaurant there. It was pretty pricey. A strawberry shortcake ran $14. We then headed back towards the car.
At the lake I told Amy to keep going, I wanted to take a quick picture, and I walk faster than she did. I took the picture and then I looked for them. I couldn't find them. There were two paths to the parking lots. I guessed they had taken one, and hurried along it. Halfway to the car, I figured I had guessed wrong.
They weren't at the car, so I retraced our earlier steps by going down the other path. There, next to the lake, I found them. I don't know how I missed them earlier.
Just down the road from the main area there is a fancy building, something like Deer Lodge. Amy wanted a picture, so I pulled over. Next to the road was a small picturesque stream. While Amy was doing her thing, I pulled out the tripod and took some cascade pictures.
Then we started homeward. That proved to be an adventure. Just before the turnoff for Moraine Lake, the traffic stopped. It was literally backed up to that spot from the highway. Due to a stop sign at the base, cars only proceeded very slowly.
We inched our way down the mountainside. Eventually we got to the stop sign, and I figured that our troubles were over. I zoomed across the intersection and got on the ramp for Highway 1 towards Banff. When it was too late to do anything about it, we saw that the highway was solid traffic that was going very very slowly. Around 5 or 6pm on a Sunday was the wrong time to be on the road. I think it is like a leaf-peeping weekend back home. Everyone heads up to New Hampshire for the weekend, and then late on Sunday, everyone is trying to get back home.
We crawled along in the left lane for a few minutes, until we came to a connector between the two directions. I darted through that, and started tooling up the highway back towards Lake Louise. However at that exit, I turned in the opposite direction and picked up Route 1A. This is a smaller road that parallels Rt 1. It is the road we took back the previous day. On it, you couldn't go as fast as on the main highway, but under current conditions you could go faster than the main road, and it was a lot less frustrating and more scenic to boot.
Just before Banff, 1A ends and merges into 1. At that point the traffic was flowing fine. So in hindsight, I don't know how long the slowdown was, and whether the alternate route was faster or slower, but c'est la vie.
Michael wanted to eat at the hotel restaurant, so we drove straight there, brought our stuff up, got cleaned up, and went down for dinner.
The food there was a bit pricey, but it was better than I expected. The restaurant there seemed to be a step up from your typical hotel restaurant.
It is now after dinner. I've uploaded camera flashes and am finishing up today's journal. Soon it will be time for bed.
The parks here are very different from those in the US. Banff, Jasper, etc. are large towns inside the park. In some ways it reminds me of Bar Harbor, which is almost inside Acadia NP, although Banff is much bigger than Bar Harbor.
Amy and I used a bit of sun screen, but not enough. I got a bit of sun on the face and on the back of my neck. Amy got a bit more. For the rest of the trip we'll have to be a bit more diligent with the sun screen.
When Amy was hiking up to Consolation Lake, she reminded me of climbing Mont Blanc, the slow pace, the heavy breathing, the frequent rest stops. It was very similar to what I experienced going up. But then going down is totally different.