Banff National Park has been on my “must see” list for as long as I can remember. It was at the top of the list when planning my long journey through western Canada, with Lake Louise the first sub-heading under it. As of the end of my last post I had finally arrived… in the pouring rain!
After settling into my campsite the girls and I jumped in the car and headed up the hill to Lake Louise. (I should point out that Lake Louise is a town as well as a very popular lake) Even in the glooming wet weather the lake was beautiful and clear, but I knew I was missing much of what’s magical about this place.
After a few quick shots we hopped back in the car and drove out to Lake Moraine as well. Same thoughts applied here. I could only hope the weather would clear before we left the area.
I wasn’t so lucky as I was down in Banff. I listened to the downpour throughout the night and woke to it in the morning. On days like these work is always my best option, so that’s what I did. I got to know the staff at a local restaurant quite well, since that was my only internet option. I should add that I was constantly on the lookout for bear… grizzly in particular, but any bear would do. I scoured the campground several times a day, and made my way across the river and up and down several quiet roadways in search. No luck. (As stated in the last post, a grizzly and cub were seen in the campground the day I checked in.)
The following day it continued to rain but I’d had about enough of sitting still. Rain or not I had some exploring to do! While planning my route through Canada I reached out to a few friends (and virtual friends) for suggestions on where to go and what to see. Most, if not all of them highly recommended driving the Icefields Parkway. This parkway actually connects Banff National Park to Jasper National Park so I knew I’d be driving it regardless, but my drive to Jasper would be in my motorhome with my car in tow making it harder to pull over at will. I decided to get out and drive part of it in my car that morning.
I was just about to pull over to get a shot of Hector Lake and the mountains in the distance when I spotted my first Canadian bear! (I’ve seen numerous bear in the US.) This was not the grizzly that I coveted, but a beautiful black bear. Certainly better than no bear at all! It sauntered away shortly after I got this shot.
I little farther up the parkway I stopped at Bow Lake which was still covered with a fair bit of ice. The surrounding mountains and mirror smooth water made for some interesting shots.
After a few more miles I turned around and headed back south again, this time taking the turn to Herbert Lake. I’d no sooner gotten back on the road again when I spotted my first grizzly… in the wild… anywhere! This was a truly exciting moment for me. According to a resource I’ve tapped into with the Canadian Parks system this bear is young, maybe 2-2 1/2 years old, and “cinnamon” in color.
Feeling pretty good about my morning thus far I decided to take a detour back to the town of Field, British Columbia… which I drove past without even seeing it on my way to Banff. I’d been told by some fellow campers that Siding Cafe served a pretty good breakfast, and I was hungry after the excitement of my morning. Loved the sign I saw there!
Breakfast was great, but my real motive for venturing back west on the Trans-Canada Highway was to visit Yoho National Park. I had my radar set on Takakkaw Falls, one of the tallest falls in Canada at 833′, but the roadway to the waterfall was closed. Instead I drove out to Natural Bridge on the Kicking Horse River, and from there to Emerald Lake.
I made a stop to see the famous Spiral Tunnels on my way to Field but there was not a train in sight. Luckily I timed my return just right and hurried through the parking lot when I heard a train coming. (There’s an interesting bit of history about these tunnels at the link above.)
That afternoon, despite the clouds and since it was my last full day in the area, I decided to go back to Lake Louise for a hike. After dropping the girls off in the motorhome I headed up to the lake while pondering my choices. A friend suggested I not miss one of the “tea houses” found on two of the trails there so I decided on the Lake Agnes hike (about 4.3 miles round trip) and headed upward.
This trail is rated moderate which is probably appropriate, but it was made a little trickier by slick patches of snow and ice at the higher elevation. The reward at the top, in addition to the view, was a quaint little tea house where I sat on the deck, ordered a cup of chai, and entertained myself by watching the birds and squirrels darting about. Oh, and did I mention the view??
Wouldn’t you know the morning I was scheduled to leave I woke to skies of blue. “Bluebird morning” as my Colorado buddies would say! There was absolutely no way I could leave without seeing Lakes Louise and Moraine under these skies so the girls and I headed up the hill one last time. Wow! What a difference a little sunshine makes! Finally I could see the magic and splendor that called me to this place.
Let me assure you, the magic didn’t stop there. I spent the remainder of the day driving north on Icefields Parkway, without a doubt the most spectacular 150 mile stretch I’ve ever driven! Thankfully there were frequent opportunities to pull off the road, even in a sizable motorhome. And Jasper… holy moly! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! Coming up next!! And soon, I promise!
A special thanks to Travis with the National Parks of Canada for his tremendous help in identifying several of the mountains I’ve shared in the last two posts!!