Friday, February 19, 2016

Canadian Rockies: Banff and Lake Louise

Our big trip this year did not happen. So we turned to plan B. That didn't work. And then plan C - Canadian Rockies in shoulder season. Success. Summer in the Rockies may be lovely but I cannot imagine having to deal with the crowds. There were more than enough people for my tastes as it was - in mid-October! Maybe I'm just becoming a curmudgeon.

There's a grizzly in this picture. 
No backpacking this trip, but plenty of excellent day hikes. I was itching to sleep in a tent but it'll have to wait. The weather was too iffy, and at the same time it was too late in the season for glacial travel.

In the Banff area, we did three hikes: Sentinel Pass, the entire Lake Louise system, and the Iceline - Little Yoho trail, with lunch at the Stanley Mitchell Hut.

Sentinel Pass (12 km)

This was a nice warm up and introduction to hiking in the Rockies. Thankfully it was raining a bit when we started, which quickly turned to snow at elevation and kept the crowds away. It was really quite lovely.

Ready to get on the trail!

Climbing up the pass before the snow started to melt. The famed yellow larches were long gone but what a substitute.
Tbe view down the other side.

On our way out of Larch Valley. Not seen: hordes of crowds are their way up.

Lake Louise - the whole caboodle (16 km?)

The Lake Louise hikes held a special place in Mike's heart, as these were the first serious hikes he ever did on his own. We did the whole bowl in a day - Little Beehive, Big Beehive, both teahouses, and the Plain of Six Glaciers. Apart from never being out of sight of the Fairmont (not exactly wilderness) it was a good loop with lots of variety.

On the way to one of the Beehives.

View from the Big Beehive
Coming up on the Plain of the Six Glaciers viewpoint.

Wondering how we could get up there...

Iceline Trail - Little Yoho Valley - Stanley Mitchel Hut (20 km ish)

Folks RAVE about the views from the Iceline trail. I can't weigh in on those - we were in the clouds / fog / snow the whole time. But I still loved it. We climbed up to the Iceline, traversed the rocky fields, lunched at Stanley Mitchell Hut (or, well, the porch since we were locked out - but at least it kept us dry!) and then dropped through green forest back to the car.

Ooooooo, the vieeeeewwwws....
Doing my best ostrich impression during a snack break.

I actually really loved this. It was around here that we met the only other couple up there. It was fortuitous. We didn't have a map and the snow was covering up the rocky trail just enough to make us nervous. They had a map but were lost and a bit panicked and cold. We pointed them in the right direction, I think, and continued on our way. Seeing the glaicers and mountains so close and yet disappearing into the clouds made me feel like I was walking in a land of giants.

Coming up on the hut.

Checking out a waterfall on the way back to the car.

Giant waterfall next to the car park.
All in all, three good hikes while based out of the Banff area.

True, some of the drives were long - but they were GORGEOUS. And we got extra time to listen to a Harry Potter book or two on tape while exploring the Bow Valley Parkway and southern edge of the Icefields Parkway.

Mike also got his moose and bear and coyote spotting on with much success. My photo capturing skills were not quite up to par.

Spotted a dog!... shaped lake.

Mike could not stop talking about having spotted this fine rump example.

Off to Jasper!

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