Sunday, 7 July 2013

The lakes of Canada

Lake Louise, AB Canada

We took the alternative 1A highway, the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise hoping to spot a bear or two, but all we saw were some mangy sheep.

The campground at Lake Louise was full, so it was a good thing we booked. It is a much better layout than Tunnel Mountain in Banff, where I felt like we were parked along a road. Unfortunately our campsite doesn’t have a fire ring, so even though we have wood, we can’t have a fire - again.

We tried to see Lake Louise the afternoon we arrived, but the traffic was horrible and there were no parking spots to be had unless you wanted to walk a kilometre or more and seeing as we wanted to do a long walk to the Plain of the Six Glaciers; that really didn’t appeal. So we went in search of Moraine Lake and thought we would have the same issue there as there were cars parked along the road before we got even close. Luckily they had people managing the flow of traffic in the car park and we were called over to jump the queue and given a spot as soon as we arrived. Lindsay’s choice was the Consolation Lakes hike, at 5.4km return; it wasn’t one of the ones I had investigated as I only look at the easy ones that are less than 4km! There was a big sign at the start that said it was recommended that people walked in groups of four or more for safety reasons because of grizzly bears. If they say it’s mandatory, then you can be fined for not complying. So we got our bear spray from the car. Along with 50 million mozzies we probably complied with the recommendation. We are going to take insect repellant on all our walks from now on. Twice people offered me their walking sticks which I took (do I look like I need help?) and have now realized that I’m actually better off balancing over rocks with nothing in my hands, so will be declining any future offers. At the beginning of this walk is the rock-pile walk up to a spectacular view of Lake Moraine, the teal blue colour is beautiful and is supposed to be better than Lake Louise.

Lake Moraine

The township here is extremely small and touristy, not really a town at all. We should have stocked up more in Banff with groceries at Safeway.

This morning we were able to turn the heater on with the remote control before we got out of bed – perfect. Yesterday I asked the person on the entrance booth what the weather forecast was, in short it sounds like you can have everything in one day, so it’s not surprising that this morning is raining and we can hear the occasional thunder clap. We were hoping to see Lake Louise before the crowds arrived but there isn’t any point photographing it in the rain and Lindsay won’t go on a 7 km walk without a camera and more to the point doesn’t want to get his feet wet. We drove up to Lake Louise when the rain had reduced a bit and walked partially around the lake and both our legs got completely soaked. It’s not as pretty as Lake Moraine, admittedly it was overcast so it is probably not showing the lake at it’s finest. The colour is not as deep as Lake Moraine but gets brownie points for the glacier behind it. The town was over-run with Asian tourists but most of them don’t venture too far, so the crowds tend to thin out the further you walk. Canadians can take their pets on the trails here, so we have seen many dogs and even a cat! Unfortunately a few owners have left the little black doggie bag on the trail, you would like to think that are they coming back for it.

Consolation Lakes

 With it still raining we went back into “town” if that is what you can call the small shopping centre and into the information centre where we ran into some friends from home: Clinton, Brenda and their son Duncan. We had spoken to them a couple of weeks ago and couldn't see how we would be able to catch up; we thought they were only going as far as Yellowstone and then back south again. We organized for them to stay on our site with us and we spent the rest of the wet afternoon and evening together in our new “home” celebrating Duncan’s birthday. It's a small world.

Lindsay, Duncan, Clinton and Brenda
The next day I wanted to go back to Lake Moraine to get some more photos as I didn’t have my lens hood on my camera the previous day and I got sun spots on my pictures. The parking was a fairly empty but there were just as many people who frustratingly dawdled up the steps in front of us. We weren’t sure if we would be able to see any of the sights/sites up the Icefields Parkway with our 5th Wheeler, so we did some of them today: Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake and Peyto Lake. All of these had plenty of parking for large rigs so we didn’t go any further. 

The trailer is a lot quicker to pack up than our camper trailer at home because we don’t have all our stuff unpacked and strewn everywhere. What is different is that we have to fill up with water and empty our tanks. We were a bit extravagant with our water usage this time, with a number of wash ups, longer showers and even some clothes washing and were nearly out of water in three days.

Travelling back up the Icefields Parkway, we were able to miss the first few sights/sites that we covered the day before. I would have liked to stop at the Tangle Falls but I didn’t give Lindsay enough notice and he couldn’t pull off into the turnout in time. It was on a long steep hill and he was concentrating on keeping the car and a 4½ ton trailer from going out of control.

The tour I had chosen for the Columbia icefields turned out not to go on the actual glacier, so we gave it a miss. I had read about a walk that was 3-4 hours wearing crampons but I thought I would have trouble walking for that long at this altitude and apart from that I did not see any sign of them. We drove to the base of the Athabasca Glacier where the carpark was very tight and managed to fit in a parking place for RV’s after a bit of maneuvering. We walked up to the glacier noting along the way the year markers where it had receded. It has been receding since the beginning of the last century at about the same pace as now, long before global warming could have started. Walking up the steep hill in high altitude left us both a bit breathless, so there was no way could we have done a four hour walk.

The last stop was Athabasca Falls where we managed to park in the bus area. It was very nice and like most falls around here, the water rushes down a canyon and there are numerous lovely trails around it.

Athabasca Falls complete with rainbow

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