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Trip Report Relentless Beauty - Panecott's Trip to the Canadian Rockies

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Okay, I know the title sounds a bit pretentious, but for those of you who have been there, or are fortunate to live in or near the area, I think you'll agree that it's an apt description. I don't think I've ever seen such continuous, never-ending and yes, unrelenting, beauty anywhere. It was breathtaking.

First, thank you kgsneds and Myer and everyone else who gave advice and input in my planning. It was very useful and I had a wonderful time. I know this report is very long but I’ll break it up into sections so it’s not too forbidding. LOL. I like to give my impressions as well as facts, and they just seem to come to me as I type. So for anyone who cares to read, enjoy. And I hope there is some useful information here for people planning to visit the area.

My first stop was Lake Louise for 3 nights, which I reached via H'way 1A from Calgary Airport. The drive was pleasant with little traffic and lots of scenery. I had a lot of OMG moments coming upon emerald and sapphire lakes glistening in the afternoon sunlight, with the ever present mountains in the background -- something that would repeat itself throughout the trip. The only bad thing about that ride was that there were no shoulders on which to pull over and take pictures or just take in the views.

On the Bow Valley Parkway, almost at Lake Louise, I had my first wildlife sighting - a black bear feeding on a small hill alongside the road. I stopped for photos along with about 8 other cars and got one great shot of the bear who seemed to look right at me. After a few minutes a ranger came along and asked everyone to leave. I saw him put on a bright red and yellow vest and I guessed that he was going to try to steer the bear back into the woods. That was my only bear sighting of the trip.

With my leisurely driving and occasional stops, the drive from Calgary took about 4 hours, altho' I know it should take much less time. Paradise Lodge and Bungalows was a great place to stay. My cabin was spacious, comfortable, and nicely furnished with every convenience, including a big soaking tub (welcome after each day of hiking and touring) and a large deck in the back facing the mountains and the valley below. The kitchenette was stocked with complimentary granola bars and coffee/tea and freshly made coffee, cookies and snacks were also served every morning in the reception area. Just lovely!

On my first full day, Lake Louise was a big disappointment -- not in its undeniable beauty, but because of the crowds, throngs of tourists, bus groups and families mulling about, talking loudly, and taking pictures (unlike me :-) ) It felt like Trevi Fountain, hot sun and all, so I decided to leave and try another time. I tend to get lost in the places I travel to and leave the outside world behind. It’s one of the reasons I love traveling alone. I’m not knocking traveling with friends, but as someone who had done both, I think solo travel has a lot of advantages.

I spent the rest of that day at Moraine Lake, Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake, where I hiked the trails along the lakes and up to the falls. The scenery was spectacular and the crowds were nonexistent so it was very enjoyable. The trails were easy and just populated enough so that I had no fear of bears. At Moraine Lake I saw a couple seated on a bench who appeared to be meditating - not a bad spot for it - and they remained that way for a long time. Fellow hikers were friendly and a few stopped to chat. It was like that throughout the trip -- I stuck to the well-trodden paths and didn't do any really strenuous or lengthy hikes and enjoyed the occasional company.

The next morning was drizzly and I left early to try to beat the crowds at Lake Louise. Happily, I beat the buses by about 10 minutes and headed for the trail around the lake. I met a couple on the trail who commented that it was a good day for sleeping, but I thought it a perfect day for a hike, with the very gentle rain falling -- what the Irish would call "a soft day". I went about a half mile past the end of the LL trail and headed back -- skipped the teahouse since I realized I had no money with me. About halfway to the end, it started to rain heavily and by the end of the hike, even with my trusty Land's End rain jacket, I was soaked enough to require a change of clothes. That was really the only bad weather I encountered, plus another half day in Banff.

I spent some time browsing in the shops and galleries in the village. A cashier in a gift shop asked me where I was from and said she’s always wanted to come to NY and stand in Times Square singing “New York, New York” until the cops came to arrest her. I assured her that no one would even notice her. :-)

As the rain let up I decided to head back to Yoho, where I had missed the Natural Bridge the previous day. But construction delays on H'way 1 made me turn back after being stopped for almost a half hour. My little rented Mitsubishi Mirage was easy to handle and I just made a U turn right on the highway, where traffic was at a standstill, and headed back to the Village. I stopped into the lovely lobby of the Post Hotel and explored the area around the hotel. I had considered staying there and I almost wished I had, altho' I had no regrets at all about the Paradise. Maybe next time...

I had two dinners at the Station House Restaurant and one at the Outpost Pub in the Post Hotel. The Station House was my favorite restaurant of the trip. As its name implies it is housed in the former train station house, the oldest building in Lake Louise. Good food, charming atmosphere and friendly service. The Outpost Pub was more casual, but very comfortable, with food served at the bar, at tables and at seating areas around the fireplace. Very cozy. I spent my whole dinner chatting with a couple at the next table from London who were in town for a family wedding. I had a delicious chef's salad and some of the dishes I saw go by - ribs, burgers, etc., looked scrumptious. It's a good thing I didn't have any more nights at LL b/c I might have gone back to the Outpost for those ribs, which were gigantic.

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