DAYS 27, 28 AND 29 – ICEFIELDS, LAKE LOUISE, AND BANFF

COLUMBIA ICEFIELD

Monday September 1, Labour Day (Muriel)

This was Labour Day.  Canadians celebrate the same holiday we do in the USA, but they spell it with a “u.”  We checked out of our hotel and drove closer to the center of town for breakfast.  After breakfast, we supplied ourselves at a small market with cheese, sliced salami and an organic banana and headed out of town.  We traveled down Icefields Parkway toward Banff National Park of Canada.  We enjoyed a picnic in our car at one of the scenic view areas while it drizzled outside.

A bit farther along Icefields Parkway, we entered Banff NP and soon parked for the Columbia Icefield.  The icefield straddles the Continental Divide and Jasper and Banff National Parks.  We walked the path up toward the current edge of the icefield, reading educational signs about the icefield, glaciers, wildlife and global warming, past the terminus in 1982, then more and more recent dates.  The icefield and its glaciers have been receding for several decades, due to global warming.  With the steep slope and the high elevation, we were glad for all excuses to stop and catch our breath, and I was very happy to have my walking sticks for the trip down.  We found one bird alongside the steep path.  No, it wasn’t anything exotic, just a Savannah Sparrow.

As we continued along Icefields Parkway, there were seemingly endless peaks, many partially or entirely topped with snow or glaciers.  There were dramatic views of the Bow River, sometimes near the road, sometimes far below.  Eventually we arrived in Lake Louise, where we headed to the enormous and famous Chateau Lake Louise.  Allan had heard so much about this hotel that he decided to treat us to a luxurious stay there for two nights.  The first version of the hotel was built in this spot, on the shore of Lake Louise, directly across from Victoria Glacier.  The lake is dammed by a glacial moraine and is filled with melted water from the glacier.  Spectacular!

When we checked in, the hotel staff told us they had upgraded our room from the tiny one we expected to a fairly large room with a view of the Victoria Glacier.  We unpacked, settled in at our computers, and relaxed.  All was delightful until I decided to take a shower before dinner.  The shower door only opened inward, the showerhead was unmovable, and there was no place to stand in the shower without being drenched.  After I got drenched with glacial melt water, I settled for a bath.  That got me unchilled and clean, but there was no way we could shampoo in the bathtub.

VIEW FROM WINDOW OF OUR FIRST ROOM

On our way to dinner, we stopped by the front desk just before 7:30, to let them know about the problem shower.  We expected they would say they could adjust the door the next day.  Instead the clerk said he could move us to our choice between two rooms, that he would have a bellman show us the two.  We said we needed about ten minutes to pack our stuff and hurried back to our room and packed.  We waited and waited and waited, Allan making several phone calls to the desk.  Eventually, the clerk showed up after 8:30 and took us to one room – with a door opened to a living room with a perfect view of the glacier from two of its windows.  I guess the delay shamed him into giving us the small room with a view plus the second room that gave us a suite.

We had a very late dinner in the hotel bar while the hotel moved our two suitcases, two computers, one computer bag, loose pair of boots, etc.  After dinner we unpacked a second time and settled in, very, very comfortably.

Tuesday, September 2 (Muriel)

VIEW FROM SECOND ROOM NEXT MORNING

CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE

VIEW OF HOTEL AND LAKE FROM OTHER END

In the morning, we watched the lake and glacier and people strolling along the lakeside.  We went to breakfast in the basement (some basement!) where we watched the lake and strolling people.  We joined the strolling people, walking the short distance to the boathouse on the left, then 2Km to the right to where the terrain became steep.

It was already afternoon.  We drove to the village of Lake Louise where we headed to the information center for where to spend the afternoon and then to a deli where we got coffee and a couple of rolls.  We crossed back into British Columbia to Yoho National Park where lunched on yesterday’s leftovers and a roll at the parking lot of the Spiral (railroad) Tunnels and continued to Takakkaw Falls.  The road to the falls had two of the sharpest switchbacks we had ever seen, but was not particularly frightening.  In very light intermittent drizzle, we walked a fairly short and easy path to the viewing area for this extremely tall waterfall.  Afterwards we returned to Lake Louise and our very cozy accommodations at the Chateau.  We enjoyed the view from our room and later from the hotel’s steakhouse.

Wednesday September 3 (Muriel)

Looking out the window at our amazing view, we could see that it had rained during the night.  The rain had stopped and several people were strolling the lakeside.  We had breakfast and joined the strollers briefly.  We packed and checked out of the hotel.

We drove toward Banff, the other town in Banff NP, along the old route, 1A.  We stopped at several lookout points, getting good looks at Gray Jays.  Our main stop was in the large, crowded parking lot of Johnston Canyon.  We followed the semi-paved path that was sturdy, suspended catwalk in many places along the river to the first waterfall.  Unlike most of the lakes and rivers in Jasper and Banff that were cloudy from suspended glacial flour, this river was sparkling clear.  We searched below us frequently in hopes of finding a dipper, but to no avail.

All along the road the views alternated between almost endless green forest and dramatic mountain peaks. Approaching Banff the views were especially outstanding.  By the time arrived in Banff where we had an excellent lunch, the peaks were disappearing behind clouds but Allan did get one or two shots as we drove into town.

PANORAMIC VIEW APPROACHING BANFF VILLAGE

Banff is a much larger town than Jasper.  We found it much less charming, perhaps because it is so much larger.  Allan had wanted to take the gondola to the mountain top there, while I was ambivalent given my fear of heights.  The weather settled the issue.  The clouds were increasing.  We stopped in drizzle at the Cascade of Time Garden, expecting to learn about the wildflowers we had been seeing.  Instead we found an attractive and picturesque garden filled with very familiar plants you can find in gardens throughout the Los Angeles area.  We found a few Dark-eyed Juncos and increasing drizzle.  We drove uphill toward the tramway to see what the terrain was like.  The higher we went the harder it rained.

We turned around, the rain diminished to a drizzle, and we headed southeast to Calgary.  Much of the drive was in very hard rain, but it ended before we arrived in Canada’s fastest growing town of almost one-million people.

We settled into much more modest but comfortable accommodations.  According to the hotel’s website, the local restaurants are McDonalds, Denny’s, Pub, and a few similar others.  Allan picked a Greek restaurant a couple a miles from our hotel from the Auto Club Tour Book.  When we got there, it was out of business.  We saw an interesting looking restaurant across the street, Sun BBQ with part of the sign in Asian letters.  With some help from a patient food server, we picked out a delicious meal made up of dishes we had never had before except for the steamed rice and tea.

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1 Response to “DAYS 27, 28 AND 29 – ICEFIELDS, LAKE LOUISE, AND BANFF”


  1. 1 Faith Backus September 8, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Finally had a chance to read and look — it all sounds fabulous despite the rain. I have been the J&B only once, 30 years ago, to ski, and mainly remember being the coldest weather I have ever experienced, so at least you’re not getting that. I love the mix-up at the Chateau — how nice! Did you take pics of the room? And the African Grey mimicing a mockingbird is great.

    I am so glad you are putting your vacation first — I confess to wondering how much you would really do that, but I’m so glad you are. And you’re only 1/3 of the way through your trip. So much to look forward to.

    — Faith


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