Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Icefield Parkway; Bear! Train Whistles; A Solo Hike; Docs on Bikes

On Saturday, we took a long drive north from Lake Louise up the Icefield Parkway, touted by none other than National Geographic as one of the most beautiful drives on earth. It didn’t take long to prove that magazine correct. This was the view from Bow Summit, with Peyto Lake below our viewpoint. The turquoise lake looks almost frozen-over, but its 50 degree water temp is still a bit brisk for swimming.

These hanging glaciers are actually several miles away, and much larger than they appear in a telephoto lens.

The Canadian Rockies around here are mostly limestone, with lots of sheer cliffs for rock climbers to enjoy. Unfortunately, the glaciers are receding, so if you want to see them in their splendor, book a trip here sooner rather than later!

Just past that viewpoint, Suzanne looked in the rear view mirror, gasped, and pulled over for a photo of Crowfoot Glacier. It’s hard to imagine that during the last Ice Age, glaciers filled all of these U-shaped valleys, and much of North America, with thousands of cubic miles of moving ice.

On the drive, we encountered a traffic jam (that’s more than three cars up here). The center of attraction was this very photogenic black bear. (My Lovely Bride suggested that I snuggle up to him for a buddy-buddy photo shot. I declined…)
Glancing down from the highway, we saw a small riverside campground (almost deserted) and decided to take a peek. The gurgling stream, mountain views, and warm sunshine made this an idyllic venue for Suzanne to meditate while I stretched and read a book.

Because we had added two days to our planned visit here in Lake Louise, the campsite we had been in for three days had been booked for the weekend, so we had to move to another spot. Although we lost our mountain and river view, it seemed like a good spot until midnight, when the first of 8 late night trains came down the tracks only 50 yards from The Coach, each engineer ensuring that the tracks were clear of bear and elk by loudly announcing the train’s approach with a ten second series of blasts on their whistles. Suzanne must have intuitively known I wasn’t sleeping, because she kept saying aloud, “Oh, my God.” My initial subconscious thought was that Suzanne’s dad, a train engineer himself, was sending her a greeting… after the second and third, though, I knew we had simply been allocated a campsite that the Canadians didn’t want! Unfortunately, we had scheduled an early reveille for the next morning, and constant interruptions weren’t helping our beauty rest.

The purpose of rolling out of our bunk early was to complete a steep mountain hike above Lake Louise, up to the Plain of the Six Glaciers, a 9 mile/4 ½ hour hike with 1000 foot elevation gain where your efforts are rewarded by fabulous glacier vistas and a Tea House. We had been looking forward to this hike all week, but since my back is still in recovery mode, My Lovely Hiker Bride had to do this one on her own. After a spinach and feta omelet breakfast, she set off to beat the crowds while I stayed back with Rudy and Gretchen.  Here is a view of the trail and Lake Louise far below. (She looks pretty perky for having climbed that far!)

Part of the trail is along a rockslide area, where a safety cable provides a modicum of security for those not at ease with several hundred feet of “exposure”… that’s a mountaineering euphemism for “potential free fall”! (As climbers joke, the first few seconds are exciting… it’s the last half second that’s no fun at all.)

Suzanne reached the top of the trail to find a viewpoint with several splendid glaciers that she had to herself for a while. Good think she started early, because several other hikers started arriving as she began her descent.

While on the trail, Suzanne had met two doctors, Marisa and Lis, whom she invited over for a glass of wine. We enjoyed their company immensely – they are bicycle camping here in Banff National Park during their summer vacation. Both are runners, Lis in training for her first half marathon and Marisa having run Boston last year. (She was at the 24.5 mile point when the terrorist bombs exploded. Fortunately she was not hurt.)

Tired but happy after a day of mountaineering, My Lovely Bride was happy to let me make her a pasta dinner with sausage, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. As the shadows lengthened on our last full day in the Canadian Rockies, we both wished that we had planned more time here. Tomorrow we head for Calgary, Alberta, where I hope to get my computer repaired and some corrective work done on The Coach.

Leave a Comment