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Trip Report - A Week in the Canadian Rockies


Jun 27th, 2009, 08:50 PM
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Trip Report - A Week in the Canadian Rockies

DH and I just returned last Sunday from a week in the Canadian Rockies. We flew in to Calgary, stayed the night in town and the next morning headed off for Lake Louise.

In Lake Louise we stayed seven nights at the Paradise Lodge in one of the Wilson cabins. They are small but laid out very efficiently, so we never had a cramped feeling. The cabin had a queen bed, two comfy reading chairs, a kitchen table and 2 chairs, an armoire with TV and drawers and a small kitchenette w/ microwave, coffee maker, sink, toaster, coffee maker, dishes, silverware and mini fridge. The cabin was heated by a gas-burning cast iron stove/fireplace that was thermostat controlled. There were larger cabins with enticing-looking decks, but as we spent most of our time away from the cabin, and there were showers almost daily, we personally didn't feel that the decks had a good cost benefit ratio.

The paradise lodge had a serve yourself continental breakfast - muffins, toast, bagels (with cream cheese), pastries, coffee and milk. They had baskets so you could bring the breakfast items back to your room, if desired. It is located between the town of Lake Louise and Lake Louise itself, just past the turnoff for Moraine Lake. The front desk staff was friendly and very helpful. We highly recommend the Paradise Lodge and Bungalows.

We saw black bears, grizzly bears, elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats, marmots and a myriad of squirrels and chipmunks. The grizzly bears, a mama and two small cubs, were seen while driving the Icefields Parkway, just a little north of Bow Lake. DH got some nice pictures (will try to post our photos later). Similarly the black bears (3 or 4 sightings) were spotted either while driving the Icefields Parkway or Rte 1A between Banff and Lake Louise. We never encountered any bears while hiking.

Sunday was a beautiful day, brilliant blue sky with puffy white clouds, so after we checked in at the Lodge, we headed over to Lake Louise and walked the lakeside trail. The lake is so beautiful, so blue, however it was also swarming with people. Rather than linger with the crowd, we opted to drive over to Yoho.

We had reservations for the bus to Lake O'Hara on Friday and we wanted to make sure we knew where we needed to be to catch the bus (easy to find) and how long it would take to get there (about 20 minutes). After ascertaining that pertinent information, we headed over to Emerald Lake, another magnificent lake but, not surprisingly, with a greener color than Lake Louise. It seems to me that the Canadian Rockies have cornered the market on beautiful lakes.

We had been hoping to eat at Cilantro's, but unfortunately it had just closed, so we headed off to Field and the Truffle Pig Bistro for an early dinner. I had the pasta with tomato garlic sauce and asiago cheese while DH opted for the halibut special. Both were excellent. On the way back we had hoped to stop by Takakkaw Falls, but the road to the falls was still closed (and remained so for the duration of our trip).

The next day, after breakfast, we headed back to Lake Louise, to hike up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, the beehives and the Plain of Six Glaciers. The sky was not blue like the day before but there were far less people, being a Monday morning rather than a Sunday afternoon. We had a very pleasant hike up to the teahouse where we stopped for a brief while. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to put the trail map in my backpack, so relying upon the trail signs, we headed off towards the Plain of Six Glaciers, assuming that we would pass the spur trail to Big Beehive. Alas, that was not the case. By the time we realized that we had not taken the correct trail, it was too far to backtrack - so no Big Beehive overlook for us. However the day was definately clouding / misting over so that the view probably wouldn't have been exceptional.

We headed onwards toward the Plain of Six Glaciers (PoSG) along the Highline Trail, onto the PoSG Trail. The PoSG trail had a number of snowslides across the trail that had to be negotiated and as it was starting to rain lightly, the snow was somewhat slippery. As we pressed on the rain started to pick up in intensity, and the skies started to darken - especially up ahead. We opted to reverse course and head back via the Lakeside Trail.

That evening we ate at The Station in Lake Louise. It is a restaurant in the old Lake Louise train station building, next to the tracks. I had the salmon and ?? (some variety of whitefish - I didn't recognize or remember the name - but it was good) special and DH had the strip sirloin with green peppercorn sauce. We liked the restaurant, both for it's atmosphere and for it's food. We ate there two more times during our stay.

The next day, started overcast/foggy, but was forecast to clear somewhat, so we headed off to Lake Moraine - ah yes another beautiful lake - to hike to Eiffel Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Before we started out on the hike, we spied a Harlequin Duck on the lake, so we walked part way down the lakeside path to get a better view. It was a such a pretty duck, looking like someone had painted on its colors.

It was a wonderful hike, first thru sub-alpine forest and then out in the open with the ten peaks in view. Periodically you would hear a roar and when you scanned carefully across the valley, you could see mini avalanches which looked like a waterfall of snow (I assume they wouldn't be so mini if you were beneath them). At this point the trail was generally level and about halfway up the valley wall. There were numerous old snow slides across the trail, with the snow being the quality of corn snow and occasionally the snow would give way underfoot and you would sink up to your knee, but it never presented any real problem. We reached Eiffel Lake and had lunch sitting on some rocks, listening to the avalanches across the valley and marmot spotting.

Which reminds me, while we were hiking in the forested section, I spotted an animal bolting down the trail quite a ways ahead of us, but coming straight towards us. It was large enough to give me pause - if it kept coming, I was vacating the trail. I turned to DH behind me and said (yelled?) wolverine! The animal stopped on the trail, DH got a couple of quick shots with the telephoto and then it retreated. In the photos, when enlarged, it looks somewhat like a marmot but it was very big - medium dog size - so I am not sure what we saw. During our week, we saw many marmots, but none approaching the size / bulk of this creature.

Back to my narrative - The day had cleared up nicely and the ten snow strewn peaks were contrasting beautifully with the blue sky. We only met maybe five or six other groups during our hike, so it was very peaceful.

Since we were back at the cabin by 2:30, we decided to drive go to Marble Canyon in Kootenay NP. We did the nature trail along the canyon rim and then drove onto the paint pots. I enjoyed Marble Canyon but was less impressed with the paint pots. We continued driving all the way to Radium Springs, which really didn't impress, but at least it had a better grocery store than the one in Lake Louise - so we stopped and shopped. We really should have stopped in Banff at the Safeway on the way to Lake Louise but we didn't - live and learn. It rained on the trip back to Lake Louise, but it was a nice scenic drive nonetheless.

Well this is all for now - i'll write more tomorrow.
eveningcrane is offline  
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Jun 28th, 2009, 06:05 AM
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Enjoying your report.
eenusa is offline  
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Jul 1st, 2009, 02:31 PM
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Hi - nice report! I live in Jasper, but we spent a few days in Lake Louise a couple of weeks ago (maybe we were there at the same time as you? We did PoSG/Lk Agnes on Wednesday the 17th, and Eiffel lake/Larch Valley on Thursday the 18th.) If that was a wolverine you saw, that would be quite a sighting, as they are not seen very often. I'd be happy to look at the picture, if you want to either post a link or email it to me at (my user name here on fodor's) at hotmail.com.

Look forward to reading more of your trip report!
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Jul 3rd, 2009, 10:22 AM
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Hi, back again finally

krp329 - yes, we were there at the same time! I will get my DH working on our pictures (the drawback of digital photography) and send you the photos of the very large marmot (wolverine?).

On Wednesday, it was forecast to be rather showery, so we headed north on the Icefield Parkway, in the rain, and headed to just north of the Icefield Center. Fortunately the rain had stopped, so we did the Beauty Creek hike. It was a delightful series of cascades along a scenic chasm. I gather that before the road was rerouted, it was visited more often, but now it is accessed from a small parking lot that just has a hiking trail sign (no reference to Beauty Creek). You actually walk along a berm/causeway, through a small patch of woods and onto the old road and then reach the trail. It was very nice.

Afterwards, we headed south and just south of Sunwapta Pass, we came upon a herd of Bighorn sheep, both ewes and lambs, along the side of the road. We continued driving back south, when we spotted a grizzly bear (mama) and her two cubs, in a field along side the road, just a little north of Bow Lake. We stopped for the photo op and soon there was a slew of stopped cars, buses and RVs and of course the one requisite idiot who couldn't just stay on the pavement - who had to walk a little ways into the field to get a better picture. As it is, the park service seems to be trying to get people to not stop when they see a bear, so that the bears don't get even the slightest bit habituated to people, so we felt slightly guilty just stopping, but to actually approach the animals is really overstepping (as well as dangerous). We watched for a little while longer and then headed down to Bow Lake and did the Bow Glacier Falls hike.

The hike to Bow Glacier Falls follows the shoreline for a ways and then heads west towards the glacier, up a steep set of steps, over a hill and across a rocky plain, next to the stream feeding Bow Lake (prime marmot territory). There was still a snow/ice field along side the waterfall with a couple of good size fractures in the icy snow. The waterfall itself was rather impressive. However once we arrived, the sky started to darken, so our return trip was an express hike. We got back to our car only slightly damp, but almost as soon as we got to the car, it started to seriously rain again.

A minor regression: Tuesday evening we had eaten at Bill Petyo Cafe - I had the grilled chicken sandwhich with salad and DH, the bison burger with fries. We were sitting at round bar table which afforded us a view of the kitchen. At some point I notice the cook putting up two plates on the pick-up shelf, our waitress approached the shelf and a discussion ensued - ah both plates had fries - so the cook went off to prepared the salad. Then as the plate was being picked up to remove the fries, the top of my bun flew off (onto the floor). More discussions between cook and waitress, new bun put on grill, and the continued transfer of the salad onto plate - oops! there goes the chicken, off the bun. More discussions - new chicken breast put on grill. At this point the waitress came over and said that there had been a slight problem with my order and it was being remade - would my husband like his order now or would he like to wait. He opted for now (food is always better when it has just been cooked and it had been sitting long enough through the mini comedy of errors). Not to long thereafter my sandwich appeared. It was a fine grilled chicken sandwich and the salad was excellent. DH's food was good - the bison burger a bit dry but then it was a bison burger.

Wednesday evening we returned to the Station for dinner Though I cannot at his time remember what we had to eat, I do remember that we were pleased with our choices and had a very pleasant dinner.

While on the subject of food, there were two small things that we really enjoyed. In Samson Mall in Lake Louise, there is a small candy / ice cream shop and they have a number of fruit flavored yougurts. Now it seemed unusual to have six or seven different fruit flavored yogurts and no chocolate until we learned that the fruit flavored yogurts were all vanilla based. The frozen berries / fruit was placed in a hopper that crushed them and then extruded the vanilla yogurt through (and with) the berries. It was a a wonderful machine, DH liked the raspberry and I was a fan of the mixed berry.

Also, on Tuesday, after we returned from our hike to Eiffel lake, we went into the little cafe at the Moraine Lake Lodge to get something to drink and we came across the Talking Rain Ice drinks - a 5 calorie, flavored sparkling water, sweetened with sucralose and actually containing some real juice. DH had a black raspberry and I had an Orange Mango. These turned out to be the most flavorful, tasty 5 calorie we had ever experienced. So much so that on Thursday, we drove up to Lake Moraine, just to buy a few more bottles for the rest of our stay.

Thursday we did the Wilcox Pass hike. What a marvelous hike, first through a sub-alpine forest and then onto an open ridge with wonderful views of the Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier and the surrounding peaks and then up into the meadows around the pass. There was still a little snow and mud on the trail but a wonderful hike all the same.

On the way back to Lake Louise we stopped at Peyto Lake. Yes, another beautiful lake and made even more so by the interplay of the passing cloud shadows on the lake surface - an ever-changing dance between two exquisite shades of turquoise blue. We also got to watch a pair of marmots having a rather serious discussion on the slope beneath us and in the end, one of them got chased out of the area by the other. It was so beautiful, so tranquil until .... the arrival of the bus people.

Peyto Lake is a regular stop for the tour buses and really up to this point we had really not had to deal with crowds (except for that first afternoon at Lake Louise). We had been doing longer hikes during week days, which generally weeds out large groups of people. We also tend to try and get an early start on our hikes so most of the time on a 7 or 8 mile hike, we'd meet three maybe four other groups of hikers the entire time. Now we had a minor mob scene on the viewing decks, so we beat a hasty retreat.

That evening we ate at the Outpost in Lake Louise - a small bar /cafe located in the Post Hotel, but with a separate entrance at the far end of the parking lot. DH opted for another bison burger and I had the salmon sandwich. The salmon was excellent, wonderfully flavorful, expertly cooked and well presented on its bun. It was my best meal, by far, in Lake Louise.

Well this is all for now
eveningcrane is offline  
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Aug 9th, 2009, 05:20 AM
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I haven't been on Fodor's for awhile but it is so nice to sign on and read a trip report about one of my favorite places. We have enjoyed many of the same trails and restaurants. Thanks for sharing your trip.
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Aug 9th, 2009, 10:03 AM
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I'm really enjoying your trip report, eveningcrane. I grew up in Calgary and spent a fair amount of time in the area you visited, but I haven't been back (just through) since moving to Vancouver 15 years ago. You are making me nostalgic!
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