Day Five: Spectacular Mountain Views on an Off Day
My wife and I were intending to spend most of today reading and gazing at the mountain/lake scenery at Pyramid Island. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy and too cool (with oncoming rain) to stay for more than half an hour. But we had a backup plan: drive to the Miette Hot Springs about 40 miles away. As we took Route 16 to the hot springs, we saw some unusual mountain patterns. At the base of one promontory, I spied a huge boulder resembling a frog’s mouth with five recessed eyes. Another mountain had sluices of green pastures channeled from its peak to its midsection. There was a series of milky-white and bright grey flat-topped mountain ranges that covered the entire horizon. While passing by Talbot Lake, one side was deep blue and the other side was bleached out, almost colorless.
When we arrived at the hot springs, Mt. Hagan loomed close by. It was smothered in fir trees except for its bare peak that was crisscrossed with lateral yellow streaks. Except for the “bath” pool, we did not hike to the mountain springs: it was becoming stormy, and my back was sore from pouring over so many vignettes.
On our way to a motel before flying from Raleigh-Durham to Vancouver, my wife and I stopped at a restaurant, making sure to hand lock all of our car doors ( because of a fatal computer malfunction, we can no longer lock the car electronically). Confident that our stuff was safe, we entered the restaurant. After we finished eating, we returned to our vehicle: Well, the car was locked; but the trunk, which just happened to contain our luggage, was wide open, as it had evidently been during our hour-long meal.
After frantically searching for the most valuable items, including our passports, we determined that nothing had been stolen. What a relief! What a confirmation of the goodness of human nature that prevailed at least for that one hour. On the other hand, anyone who saw that the trunk was open—our car was situated in the middle of the crowded parking lot—ought to have alerted the restaurant manager so that we could have been aware of our oversight. In any case, no harm was done; and from then on, we promised ourselves to be more scrupulous.
In Western Canada, however, a few times we forgot to lock our fully functional electronically equipped rental car while we browsed in a store or started to hike in a national park. How hard can it be to remember to press a button, eh? But fortunately, ever mindful of the potential disaster in North Carolina, we caught ourselves soon enough, back-tracked to the car, locked it and, just to be sure, waited until we heard the welcome telltale sound of the beep.
I’m not sure about my wife, but whenever I have memory lapses, no matter what the context, I remind myself (okay, I rationalize) that I am genetically inclined to be absentminded. I have had senior moments for as long as I can remember. Yet without them, my life would be more standardized, less predictable. So perhaps I should celebrate, not deplore, those senior moments, as long as I can still find my way back to my train of thought and to, of course, my car.
At a supermarket check-out counter in Jasper yesterday, a dour leathery-faced cashier instructed me to properly insert my credit card into the hand-held machine, wait for the receipt, and then sign a copy of the transaction. When she had finished her tutorial, I said somewhat snidely that I knew the drill. Just as I was on my way out, she abruptly told me to come back. Before I could ask her why she summoned me, I saw my credit card embarrassingly embedded in the slot. The cashier, trying hard not to smirk at my oversight, stared at me with a deceptively deadpan pose that rivaled Jack-Benny’s. I hurriedly left the store.
The procedure to check out might have been routine, but so was my faux pas. I guess it just substantiates what I wrote in my last vignette: the chronically senior moment strikes again.
The Ice Field Highway Revisited
Our first impression of the Ice Field Highway while driving from Bannf to Jasper a week ago: Wow! Ditto for our return trip from Jasper to Banff a week later.
But by going in the opposite direction, we noticed different enthralling glacial mountain variations within the 140 mile parade of behemoths: a flat-top peak crowned with acres of pristine snow (no comb-over there), snow drifts plastered at the base of a mountain pass, a series of serrated peaks that almost pierced the sky, bundles of stray morning clouds hovering half way down a mountain side, the top half of a cobalt slated glacier striated with rings of snow, huge vertical ghastly-gray boulders that protruded like tumors alternating with flat-bellied rock, glacial ridges that in a rain storm looked like ghostly silhouettes as we approached Banff.
Last week, we didn’t stop at the much hyped Columbia Ice Fields that contain stupendous glaciers. This time, we spent a few minutes taking pictures without being jostled by other visitors. We were lucky; the tour buses with their frazzled and frenzied tourists hadn’t yet arrived. The glaciers were stunning, granted. But we had seen so many others just about as magnificent—distant and close up, whether on the way to the Icefields or in other areas of Jasper National Park throughout the week.
Am I getting a bit jaded? Perhaps. But after a refreshing four-day respite in Calgary visiting friends, I will be ready to appreciate and applaud the last segment of our trip in the Canadian Rockies. From our upcoming one-month strategic home base in Golden, BC, we will drive to nearby highly touted national parks: Banff in Alberta; Kootenay, Yoho, Glacier, and Revelstoke in British Columbia.
My mantra will continue to be, Revel on!
Clueless in Canada
While my wife and I were enjoying a lakeside view in Victoria, BC, I was a bit chilly, so I decided to retrieve my light-weight coat that I had left in our rental car, a hatchback Nissan Versa that was a cinch to locate because of its distinctive deep turquoise color. But when I got to the car, I couldn’t unlock it, no matter how gently or how vigorously I pressed on the key button. And my coat was gone. I paced about, trying not to panic.
But then I noticed that there was no rental sticker on the back bumper, so the Versa couldn’t have been mine. Relieved, I approached the row of cars directly in front of me. I spied another Versa, identical to the one I couldn’t open: Yeah! It was inscribed with the telltale Thrifty rental decal. And as I peered into the back seat, I saw my coat. Overjoyed, I simply unlocked the car, and began to breathe steadily once more.
Two Nissans, exactly the same model with the same style and with the same unusual color, one parked right in front of the other one. What are the odds of that happening? Then I had a fanciful thought. How amazing would it be if I turn around and see a guy confidently approach my car, mistaking it as his own just as I had assumed that his car was mine? At that point, two duplicated senior moments would have converged into a vice-versa coincidence.
No such luck. As I returned to the lake, I saw no one from any angle walking into the parking lot towards either Versa. Of course, I might have missed that moment because I had to frequently look at the ground to hopscotch around the plentiful duck droppings.
I am Unashamed
Three weeks ago, as I was about to retrieve my computer as it slid to the end of the conveyor belt at the Toronto airport, one of the security agents got a hold of it first and started to examine it. When he saw that the battery housing was empty, he looked bewildered. He asked me where my battery was. I told him that I had left mine at home. I rarely used it, and I certainly wasn’t going to unnecessarily weigh down my suitcase with something that was a nuisance to begin with. The agent didn’t believe me. He started to fumble with the computer as if to conjure up the elusive battery. Frustrated, he vainly searched further up the conveyor belt and then underneath it. Finally realizing that I was telling the truth, he reluctantly let me have my computer, shaking his head as if I were an eccentric at best and a fool at worst.
Yesterday, a waitress thought that I was nuts. As she brought me some bread, she poured some olive oil onto a small plate and then tried to add balsamic vinegar to the mix. I quickly stopped her. I said that I didn’t like any kind of vinegar. She looked dumbfounded. After all, who didn’t like oil accompanied with vinegar? I bet no one has ever rejected the vinegar that she automatically poured onto the oil. She remained stunned for a moment, as if she couldn’t fathom the fact that I had somehow disrupted the natural order of the universe. Without saying anything to me, she wobbled back to the kitchen.
For years, my idiosyncrasies have stumped if not stupefied a few people (my incredulous high-tech friends keep pressuring me to get rid of my lowly flip-top cell phone and switch to a smart phone). I don’t feel embarrassed to be at times a nonconformist. In fact, with so many Canadians familiar with French, maybe I should wear a T-shirt here that proclaims Vive la difference!
Still a Fan of the Mountains
Driving from Calgary to our home base in Golden, BC, was wondrous and a bit wacky. As my wife and I began our trip north, we got closer and closer to a panorama of glacial mountains buttressing Banff National Park. Streams of wispy white clouds hovered over and under the peaks, but they didn’t obscure the massive snow banks of Mt. Athabasca in the Columbia Ice Fields. Going further west, we saw an unusually expansive flat-top mountain range, a formidable fortress so treacherously sheer that no one would ever dare to scale it.
As we got closer to Golden, the ride was awesome. Without warning, we approached a series of reddish brown cliffs that at one point loomed on both sides of the narrowing road. Because of rockslides, massive steel meshed nets had been draped from the bottom to near the top of some of the cliffs. Considering that we saw jagged chunks of boulders strewn against the netting, we appreciated the precaution. In one threatened highway switchback, an extensive towering granite barrier with entrenched cables abutted the cliffs.
Soon afterwards came the wacky part of our journey. At first, we saw a sign that clean-up road work was ahead. I figured that maybe some debris had fallen onto the road or that some pot holes were being filled in or that a boulder had to be hauled away. I was mistaken. Momentarily, a man loosely covered (Hazmat style) in a bulky yellow road worker’s outfit beckoned us to stop. Looking ahead, I saw a man with a broom meticulously again and again sweeping thin layers of dirt away from the middle of the road and onto the shoulder. We couldn’t pass until there wasn’t a speck left. It was a hoot to see him so preoccupied with something so insignificant.
At times, place names that we noticed on signs were equally humorous: Bugaboo Provincial Park and a Hoodoo River. But I guess I shouldn’t pick on this stretch of British Columbia. In Oak Bay near Victoria, there is a Foul Bay Road.
Lake Louise: Still a Treat
On the way to Lake Louise, Alberta’s most renowned scenic attraction, my wife and I stopped for a snack at the tiny hamlet of Field. While having a sandwich, I admired the mountains. Most of what I saw was pretty outstanding: snow glazing the peaks, wrinkled and rutted rock facings that resembled hieroglyphics, and waves of fir trees lining the slopes, except where ski paths had been sliced out. But what struck me the most was an unusual grouping of eight tightly triangulated bare coned peaks.
Knowing that hordes of tourists overwhelm the parking lot at Lake Louise during most of the day, we arrived very late in the afternoon. We readily found an empty slot, and the lakeside was relatively crowd-free. Forty years ago on our first trip to the Canadian Rockies, my wife and I (especially my wife) were so enamored of Lake Louise that we vowed to return after retirement.
This time, the lake vista was just as delightful. As we so vividly remembered, the glowing lake itself is picture-perfect turquoise. And the Victoria Glacier, theatrically positioned as the central backdrop of the lake, its peak enveloped by slightly caramelized snow and symmetrically flanked by smaller promontories, is still a powerhouse showcase. You don’t have to be outside to appreciate the ambience of the lake: even the postage-sized views from within the grand Chateau Fairmont are magnetic.
For the past month, we have seen other spectacular lakes and glaciers, but not one of them has the glamour of Lake Louise.
An Eventful Day at Glacier National Park
Yesterday, my wife and I visited Glacier National Park, BC. Everything at first was routinely spectacular until we got to Roger’s Pass. We saw more multifaceted glaciers in that spot than we had encountered at any other area in the Canadian Rockies. There were at least a dozen gigantic glaciers: they almost encompassed the horizon. And the topographical variety was astounding. There were round peaks, and there were peaks that resembled cathedral spires. A few glaciers had substantial snow on their peaks—others had none at all. One glacier had mingled rows of dark and light green fir trees—another one was mostly gouged-out bare rock. A couple of glaciers had sandy-brown patches that probably had been exposed from a series of avalanches. Rogers Pass was a unique mélange of glacial monoliths that would be a fitting setting for Edvard Grieg’s rousing classical music gem In the Hall of the Mountain King.
Our next stop was the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk that meanders through the world’s only inland rain forest. What impressed us the most were the humongous root tentacles of the old-forest dead trees, roots that have in their decay nourished a host of tree shoots.
While the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk was an easy stroll, the Rock Garden trail was unexpectedly arduous. I had read a bit about the walk from an on-line site. Nowhere was it mentioned that you would have to traverse the crevices of extraordinarily large and at times jagged boulders for half the hike. So when my wife urged me to follow her as she took what I thought was a dangerous detour through the maze of rocks, I emphatically told her that she was going the wrong way. But she continued to beckon me. I had no choice but to follow her precarious route and even take pictures of her straddling the boulders and then letting her take pictures of me doing the same. She was grinning; I was trying not to grimace.
Soon, I saw a couple of railings positioned to help people maneuver down one of oncoming rock piles. Only then did I realize that my wife had actually chosen an approved path. Eventually, without any missteps, we both made it back to the trailhead.
At that point, my wife asked me if I had read the information at the entrance to the rock garden. I said I didn’t because I had already done research on the internet. It turned out that I had read the sanitized version. For on the entrance wall was a picture of the trail that clearly showed that to complete the hike, you had to scamper over the boulders.
It may be that my wife is, on occasion, overly adventurous, but this time she simply stayed on track. I accordingly apologized for not believing her. Sometimes it is glacially hard for me to admit that following in my wife’s footsteps has always been the right thing to do.
Thanks to My Wife
Before we got to the top attractions in Glacier National Park, my wife instructed me to drive into an untitled trail that I had no interest in exploring. I complied, and I’m glad that I did.
After I parked and we began to walk a short distance, we greeted an older couple from Calgary who were quietly sitting in their car. As we all began to chat, my wife suddenly got distracted by some movement in the woods and then saw a few baby deer heading towards the road. Ever so cautiously, my wife stole towards them. When they tentatively moved away from us, so did my wife.
In the meantime, the man, who looked like a good-humored leprechaun, got very animated when he mentioned curling, a sport that I had never heard of. Surprised by my unfamiliarity with the game, his eyes twinkling and his body bobbing, he began to enlighten me. To curl, you roll a 40-pound rock across the ice at a distant button-like target within a circle. He then pantomimed the different ways you can hold and release the rock, explaining in detail the virtues of each method. Then he lobbed a bombshell at me. Curling is not only a favorite pastime in Canada. It is played worldwide; in fact, it is a sport long included in the Olympics. Wow! The man was so fanatically wrapped up in educating me about the game that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he lunged into the woods to find a rock suitable for a test curl.
I didn’t expect such entertainment along an unheralded trail. After my wife returned from her delightful deer pursuit, she renewed her conversation with the man’s wife. I didn’t hear what they were saying, but they seemed to be pleasantly engaged. Sometimes, the road less traveled can be a boon or a boondoggle. Yesterday, it was a boon.
One of the closest waterfalls near us is Wapta Falls, in Yoho National Park, BC. To give ourselves a break from so many day-long jaunts to major scenic attractions, we chose to drive a short distance to the relatively unheralded Wapta Falls.
Once we got there (after skirting frequent and occasionally deep potholes on the gravel road), the dirt and pebbly trailhead for the first mile was level, wide, and airy—with lots of vibrant spruce trees spaced just far enough apart from each other to let in splashes of sun. The last mile was narrower and had oddly shaped and sized archipelagos of exposed roots that we carefully bypassed. I was surprised and a little spooked to see hundreds of downed trees, some mangled, some still very sturdy, with many of them scattered very close to both sides of our path. In fact, one such hacked-off tree limb was suspended at a 45 degree angle only a few feet above our heads.
But soon enough, we reached Wapta Falls. It wasn’t very high and it wasn’t very raucous, but it was the widest waterfall that we have seen in the Canadian Rockies. And it was in an unusual setting. Instead of massive pressurized churned-up water racing to get to the falls itself, caravans of white-capped rivulets without much fanfare tumbled down the chute. Something else was noteworthy. There was an obstacle that blocked a portion of the plummeting water from steadily making its way down the river: an unwieldy cliff that the water bashed against but couldn’t get beyond. Remarkably, I saw thin lines of water trickling back into the falls from two spots midway on the cliff. It was as if water behind the cliff had somehow bored through, trying to go upstream again. Curious and Curiouser!
As for my wife, she was doubly delighted with Wapta Falls because, using her brand-new selfie, she was adeptly able on her own to take pictures of us posed in the forefront with the waterfall as a backdrop.
Don’t shortchange Wapta Falls. It may not win any of the scenic wonders divisional titles, but it could well be one of the wildcards especially with its peculiar, if sometimes eerie, charm.
A Saving Grace
The afternoon after my wife and I combatted the marauding insects at the summit of Mt. Revelstoke, we regrouped and decided there was enough time to visit one of the greatest engineering marvels in Canada, the Revelstoke Dam. I expected to see torrential waters rushing into the dam. Instead, even from the highly touted elevated platform, all I witnessed were slight currents of water leaving the dam, nothing else. Inside the visitor center, a documentary and multiple interactive activities were informative but hardly inspiring.
Although our stay at the dam was a letdown for me—my wife wasn’t overly impressed either—I soon got revved up at a gourmet coffee shop in Revelstoke, ready at the wheel to venture anywhere else as long as it was close to the highway home. Driving a few miles towards Golden, we decided to stop at a short boardwalk within Revelstoke National Park, the Skunk Cabbage Trail that we had earlier bypassed. Unlike at the dam, I didn’t have any preconceptions at this site. The walk turned out to be enjoyable. Even though we were next to swampy terrain, not one mosquito bothered us. That was a plus. And it was pleasantly cool on the path as well. At first, we didn’t see any skunk cabbage, but after a while, bushels of them emerged on both sides of the boardwalk. The cabbage wasn’t in bloom and the leaves were limp and a bit brownish. Nevertheless, they were humongous, each one big enough to enwrap bundles of cabbage kids.
By the way, never did I smell anything skunky or funky.
I yearn for revelatory moments on a vacation, but I also feel that it’s a shame to overlook the little things along the way.
The Big Chill
A few days ago, a man from the condo unit either adjacent to mine or underneath mine repeatedly and meanly bellowed out the f-word in the presence of another male, two females, and a toddler. Because I was in the process of watching a video, I tried to blot out his harangue, but the f-word still got through. His ranting lasted for over 10 minutes. I had no idea what the context was. Did he use the f-word to emphasize a concern, to express shock or disgust, or just to vent? Was he directing the f-word at anyone with him or was he speaking to someone on his cell phone? Was he sober or was he high? Again, I can only speculate.
Ever since that day, the man had either been muzzled or had gone elsewhere. But this morning, he started spouting off again. This time I heard a meek female voice and then the following frightening curse: “F-you, for real!” That sure sounded personal to me, most likely aimed at his wife. Their child soon began screaming, and then I heard the f-word no more. What a dysfunctional family!
I’m glad that when my wife and I were raising our two children, we consciously avoided using such foul language, and if an expletive did slip out, it certainly wasn’t broadcast to the neighborhood.
The man’s uttering the f-word itself didn’t irritate or anger me the most. No matter how often he did so, if he had used the expression in jest or disbelief or in grief, I would have been more understanding. I cannot, however, abide his consistently vicious tone. Nonetheless, I have not said anything to him, although I have been tempted.
But because whatever choice words that I might muster from my arsenal of invective could adversely affect my and my wife’s well-being, I will remain silent—with my wife’s blessing, I’m sure.
A First and Some Seconds
Yesterday, my wife and I did lots of sightseeing. But before we got to our destinations, the ride on the Trans-Canadian Highway itself was especially scenic. New snow that looked like confectioner’s sugar was sprinkled on the tips of some of the glaciers. On another mountain, one ski trail was almost completely filled with batches of snow. What a delightful beginning to our day.
Soon afterwards, we reached the easily accessible Natural Bridge in nearby Yoho National Park. What we saw was remarkable. Mini rapids from the Kicking Horse River churned around massive boulders that formed the natural bridge. At one spot, however, the millennial force of water had carved a small shaft through the rocks that ultimately would form a gorge. Many of the knife-sharp cliffs surrounding the rapids looked like they had been filleted in pillars. Some tilted at odd angles. They all glistened in the sun.
My wife, wanting to get closer to the rock piles, fearlessly scooted over boulders to reach the river’s edge. What better way to take an intimate selfie, eh? As usual, I followed. After we stopped, I felt the rocks next to us. Their wood-like texture reminded me of the ones we had examined so long ago at the Petrified Forest in Arizona.
After we climbed back to the parking lot, we drove up the road to Emerald Lake, a site that we explored last week. This time, my wife took scads of pictures with her selfie, an inexpensive but extraordinarily useful invention. You don’t have to rely on strangers to snap a photo that may not be posed or focused just the way you want it to be. With the selfie, you can fine hone your shots and take as many photos as you want.
Speaking of strangers, as we reached a spot where we were ready to take a picture, a woman in a small group admonished us not too politely that we were intruding on her spot. What a crock! Nonetheless, we moved away while the woman cackled with her coterie.
Our last jaunt for the day was Takkakka Falls, another site that we visited last week. This time, we stopped next to a sign for Yoho Lake, less than a mile from the parking lot around the bend. Yoho Lake wasn’t visible, but we were amazed to see a waterfall we had not noticed before. Even though it was substantially smaller than the main attraction up the road, watching it snake its way down the mountain was an unexpected treat.
From the roadside we found a path to Takkakka Falls. Because the wind was blowing the mist away from the main trail, we could get a closer look at the falls than we did last week. But the vantage point doesn’t make much difference; the sight is altogether majestic. What was very different, however, was the color of the mist. The other time that we were here, it was slightly light grey; yesterday, it was dark grey, like smoky ash. In fact, parts of the cliffs surrounding the falls seemed to be darker as well, as if they were charred. Perhaps any kind of scenery is not exactly the same in subsequent viewings.
All in all, it was another rewarding day in Yoho National Park. Yahoo!
Yesterday while driving back to Golden from Yoho National Park via the Trans-Canadian Highway, I encountered two menacing vehicles, a car dangerously passing me and a truck tailgating me within only a wisp of air between us.
The car, speeding at least 30 kilometers over the limit, illegally passed me on a two-lane stretch of Highway 1. That was safe enough, but he then continued to pass the car in front of me, barely avoiding another vehicle coming from the other direction. Further down the road, I saw that the same speeder was trapped behind a row of semis crawling up a two-lane mountain pass. I didn’t rejoice; he could have been speeding because of some emergency. But I did feel somewhat gratified.
Later, while driving on a four-lane section of the same road, I passed a super-slow car and temporarily stayed in the left-hand for about a second. Then in my rear-view mirror, I was shocked to see a semi so close that it was almost nailed to my back end. I guess I wasn’t going fast enough, although I was exceeding the speed limit by 10 km. Obviously, he wanted me to get over to the right-hand lane. Yet I couldn’t do so because another truck was neck and neck with me. That standoff lasted for a while. In the meantime, with high beams blazing, the gargantuan semi still loomed behind me, completely filling up my side view and rear view mirrors. I was afraid that he would bump me off the road if I didn’t get out of his way.
I had no choice. I floored the gas pedal and roared slightly ahead of the truck beside me. In order to keep a safer distance between us, I continued to excessively speed to gain more leeway. By that time, the semi behind me was now barreling down the road, most likely to intimidate other drivers.
I was overjoyed when I safely got to my condo at Golden. But I did get rattled today when I learned that there was a fatal crash on the same highway just west of where I had driven yesterday. In fact, the Trans-Canadian Highway had to be closed most of the day to clear the area from the aftermath of the accident.
Everyone may know that driving is the most dangerous thing we can do at anytime and anywhere. But too many of us remain clueless about our environment on the road; and by driving offensively, we up the ante and the body count.
On the Road
Jumping Pound Creek and Two Jack Lake are located far away from one another in Banff National Park. As I was driving through a series of switchbacks the other day, I thought about connecting their names. Crisscrossed, the result would be, perhaps more memorably, Jumping Jack Creek and Two Pound Lake.
More about names: That same day on the road, after I passed by a sign for Dead Man’s Flats, I happened to get behind a vehicle labelled ChemoRV: Quite an unsettling coincidence, eh?
Ninety kilometers per hour (slightly under 60 mph) is the maximum speed for the Canadian national parks featured in Alberta and British Columbia. From what I have witnessed, drivers habitually excessively speed as if that limit were a meek suggestion. Perhaps it would be appropriate to change the signs to 90 km Minimum.
Glacial runoff colors many mountain rivers, lakes, and streams a bluish tinted milky white. You can get a similar color at home: mix two cups of skim milk with a gallon of ice blue Gatorade.
Just before driving into a mountain storm, I saw an amazing tableau: spinning swaths of clouds releasing huge rain droplets that shimmered in the soon to be obscured rays of the sun.
Yesterday, I stopped the car when I noticed a bear in some bushes near the road. My wife grabbed her camera and silently approached what turned out to be a mother bear and her two cubs. Not as fearless as my wife, I decided to stand next to the car. My wife took multiple pictures of the three bears when they were foraging together and when the mother bear briefly left her cubs, crossed the road, feasted on berries, and then returned to her brood. What a coup, considering that a few weeks earlier my wife had only gotten a flickering glimpse of a bear as it progressed into the woods.
Just as my wife was completing her shots, a park ranger on patrol told me to immediately retrieve my wife because the local bears’ “stress level” had recently risen. My wife reluctantly complied, but not before she had amassed a treasure trove of photos, a tribute to her adventurous (if perhaps a bit foolhardy) spirit.
Kudos to Yoho National Park
Yesterday, my wife and I visited two attractions near the town of Banff: Minnewanka Lake and Bow Falls. If we had seen the lake and the waterfall at the beginning of our trip six weeks ago, I might have been more wowed. But even then, despite the silken turquoise sheen of Minnewanka Lake and the stately mountain ranges embracing it, despite the jaunty mini-rapids of Bow Falls with celebrated Sulphur Mountain in the background, I would still have been somewhat disappointed: neither venue sported any glaciers tinged with or tousled with snow. To me, snow on a mountain peak is the ultimate high in the Canadian Rockies. It enhances and enlivens all the scenery within its borders.
Later that same day, driving from the outskirts of Banff National Park into Yoho National Park elevated my mood: snow was compacted on one glacial peak and threaded its way through another one. At that sublime moment, I truly felt at home on my way home to Golden.
I then fondly recalled the famous title of one of Alfred de Vigny’s 19th century romantic poems, “Ou sont les Neiges d’Antan”: Where are the snows of yesteryear? Well, yesterday, although I was cut off from snowy peaks at Banff, I got plugged into them at Yoho. I remain unapologetically spoiled.
Our Last Hurrah at Lake Louise—and an Old Memory
Relying on the weather forecast (sunny, zero percent chance of rain), my wife and I made our last visit to our sentimentally favorite spot, Lake Louise.
Usually we get to Lake Louise in the late afternoon, when the sun is not too strong. But yesterday, we got arrived in the early afternoon. Because there was little breeze and lots of unfiltered sun, we tried to find some shade. But all of the benches that offered some shelter were facing the hotel. Undaunted, we spied some relief from the heat: a mostly shady area at the top of some stairs leading to an abandoned structure beside the hotel. After a short climb, we had a respite from the sun and a partial view of the lake and the glacial mountains.
With my back to the locked gate, I was pretty comfortable. My wife stayed with me until a few clouds drifted over the sun. At that time, she scampered down to one of the hotel chairs in front of the lakefront. When more clouds clustered, I joined her. For about an hour, we had an ideal time beholding the imperial scenery to the saturation point.
After a bit, I noticed showery sheets of precipitation wrapping around the glaciers. At first, I couldn’t tell if it was snow or rain. But because the air suddenly got so chilly where we were seated, the temperature at the peaks was probably cold enough for snow. Gradually, all the glaciers became shrouded. Then the far lakeshore became hooded with squally rain. My wife and I, transfixed by the encroaching storm, remained in our chairs until we got pelted and had to rush to the hotel lobby.
What an awesome time it was! I remember a similar summertime incident years ago at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As a sunny day turned overcast, I told my wife that something like confetti was streaming toward us from the far end of the canyon. She was skeptical at first. Perhaps it was a mirage. But it didn’t take long for her also to notice the white stuff as it ever so slowly and methodically came closer to our perch on the lookout. It appeared to be snow, and soon we felt some flakes. The canyon was totally obscured, and our visit was cut short; but it was worth it.
What we witnessed decades ago, a summer snow squall in the Grand Canyon, was a precious treat stored in our bulging hope chest of vacation memories. Now we will enter yesterday’s exceptional experience at Lake Louise.
It's interesting you stopped in Field. DW and I visit the Canadian Rockies over the past 40 years about every 3-4 years for a major hiking trip. We stay in Field as a hiking base for Lake Louise area, the southern portion of the Icefields Parkway, and Yoho NP. It's our favorite hiking area in North America. We have stayed in Jasper a number of times too.
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