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North to Alaska - Live!

by Kathy 21. August 2011 20:49

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<<Jasper National Park | Banff National Park >>



Lake Louise

Lake Louise is a brilliant green jewel that is tucked away in the northern part of Banff National Park. I first saw a photo of the lake 19 years ago when I was researching honeymoon destinations. The image looked like it was from a fantasy world. While Ben and I didn’t choose to start our marriage off along its banks, I knew that we would have to visit one day—just to see for ourselves if the lake was truly that spectacular. And now, I can finally say, “Yes, it is.”

Here are our photos showing the grand Chateau Lake Louis along the water’s edge:

Looking away from the hotel, across the lake toward the glaciers:

We didn’t stay at the Chateau, however. Instead, we had made advance reservations for a site in the “hard sided” campground near Lake Louise Village, about 3 miles downhill from the lake. The sites were separated by trees but were designed so that two RVs shared the same site—a bit cozy, but it worked out fine.

Sebastian's "gotta' climb" instict kicked into high gear when he saw the trees next to our campsite:

I must note that the “soft-sided” (tent) campground right next to ours was surrounded by an electric fence to keep bears out. The fence undoubtedly did a good job with respect to keeping bears from reaching any food that might be stashed in the tents. However, we had been in bear territory for the past two months and had never encountered such a drastic measure. As a mom, I was wondering whether the bears here were more dangerous or perhaps just more numerous than in other places. In any event, I was on “full alert” protective mode during our entire time here, although I will add that we didn’t see a single bear.

Getting from the campground to the lake was not a seamless effort. Driving there in our RV was discouraged by a large sign proclaiming that the road was “steep, narrow,” and “not recommended” for “oversize units.”

Our campground map showed a trail that wound its way up to the lake, so we hopped on our bicycles and set off. We soon discovered, however, that the Lake Louise area was bike-unfriendly, with “no bikes” signs posted on the trail that headed up to the lake. I didn’t want the kids to be pedaling uphill on a purportedly “narrow” road with a steady stream of cars and tour buses. So we ended up staying on the trail--walking, and pushing our bikes beside us:

Stairs, steep slopes, and about 3 miles of pushing--let’s just say that we won’t ever repeat that experience.

Our first view of the lake was in the evening, when the sun’s rays no longer lit up the surface. But the water was still a deep turquoise:

The color is caused by the interplay between light and “glacier flour”—the finely ground rock that moving glaciers scrape away from the mountainsides and deposit into the lake. The saturated water absorbs all the colors from light waves except the stunning turquoise/blue that is reflected back to our eyes.

Genevieve and Sebastian dipped their hands in the water—too chilly for swimming! The water here doesn’t usually rise above 50 degrees in the summer.

On our return to the campground, we chose to take the road, which turned out to be very smooth and wide, with no tight turns or even remotely sketchy sections. (Who wrote that warning sign at the bottom?!) We zoomed downward, reaching our campground in about 1/10th the time that it had taken for us to plod our way uphill on the trail.

The next morning, we were up early, ready for a 6.6 mile round-trip hike on a trail called “Plain of Six Glaciers.” The trailhead was at the lake. This time we drove our RV. Arriving before 8 a.m., there were still plenty of spaces to choose from in the two large parking lots next to the hotel.

To reach the trailhead, we walked past the historic Chateau Lake Louise—now owned by Fairmont.

The hotel had a very different look in 1910, with the wooden Rattenbury Wing in front, and the cement Pointer Wing to the rear:

The Pointer Wing is now the oldest surviving part of the hotel, although it has undergone extensive renovations:

The Rattenbury Wing, however, burned down in 1924:

A new wing had been constructed in 1925 and modernized over the years.  Up close, the solid wall of windows exuded an air that seemed more "corporate" than "fairy tale":

To reach the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail, we first had to walk along the entire right side of the lake--1 ¼ miles on the Lake Shore Trail:

Across the milky green expanse, Fairview Mountain rose 9000 feet high:

Some bright red canoes sliced through the water:

The cliffs to our right turned out to be magnets for rock climbers, who were mere specks from a distance:

One of the climbers:

At the end of the lake, we connected with the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.

Looking back at Sebastian:

The trail now began an upward climb for the next 2 miles:

Ben and Sebastian had a slow and steady pace:

Here we are with Mt. Lefroy in the background, rising to 11,230 feet, with the edges of Lefroy Glacier peeking out from beneath a layer of dirt:

A close-up of Mt. Lefroy:

To the right was Mt. Victoria South (11,365 feet high), and the bright white of Upper Victoria Glacier along its front:

To the left was Mt. Aberdeen (10,431 feet high), rising above a valley of glacier moraines—stretches of sand, gravel, and boulders left behind after the glacier had retreated.

Genevieve was excited to discover a patch of snow (not ice), where she scooped up a handful and made a snowball:

Going forward, the trail became very narrow, with a significant drop-off on the left side (which doesn’t show up well in the photo below):

We eventually crossed over a portion of the glacier moraine. Over our shoulders, we could see Lake Louise in the distance:

The trail then switchbacked upwards, through a forested area that provided lots of shade:

Around a few more bends was the authentic Tea House, built in 1927 and resembling a Swiss chalet.

Since 1959, the Teahouse has been run by the family of Joy Kimball. There is no electricity, so the food is prepared fresh daily on propane stoves. Supplies are brought to the Tea House in three ways: by helicopter in a one-time drop at the start of the season, by horse-pack, or by workers who hike along the same trails that we covered this morning.

The food here was excellent—hearty soup, delicious home-made bread, tasty quinoa salad, and delicious chai and hot chocolate. And we topped off our meal off by sharing a huge square of moist chocolate cake. The meal alone was worth the hike.

But, lucky for us, we also were treated to the grand scenery all around:

Even the outhouses were charming:

A display had two photos showing the drastic retreat of Victoria Glacier from 1904 to 2003:

It was hard to believe that 100 years ago the glacier had filled the area to our left, past where we were standing.  Now, the glacier was just a sweep of white at the base of the cliff face:

Our hike back down the mountain and along the lake seemed to pass much too quickly.

Ben and Genevieve, hand in hand:

Lake Louise was indeed lovely--the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable day together.  And it was worth the wait.

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin