Two Jack Lake Campsite #32
We moved into our long-term campsite, #32, the next day. It was a walk-in site which meant we had to bring food down from our truck to cook each night then trudge back up from the lakeside after each meal to clean and store those items in our hard-shelled vehicle, away from bears.
The short walk was worth it. Even the rangers said we had the best campsite in the entire Banff National Park. The setting was private, separate and had expansive views of Two Jack Lake. I took dozens of photos over our stay of the beautiful light on the lake in its many changes from sunrise to sunset and later.
Two Jack Lake and Two Jack Main (not open until high season) are off the Lake Minnewanka exit instead of continuing on the town of Banff. We had several opportunities to explore this larger lake, both from the bordering road and a great vantage point from the top of a giant coal mound found somewhat hidden next to a hike and area called Upper Bankhead, the name of a now gone coal mining town.
We found this unofficial viewpoint and
learned a lot from a terrific young man, Samuel, a Canadian tour guide from Fraser Valley, British Columbia, who was assessing the trail for his clients. He informed us that the scarring we saw on the aspen tree trunks was caused by elk eating the bark and a sign of a healthy forest. Johnston Canyon and Bow Valley
Our campground greeter recommended driving up Route 1A, the Bow Valley Parkway, and hiking up to the Johnston Canyon Falls, then the “Ink Pots”. When we drove up, cars, overflow from the parking lot, were on the shoulder of the Parkway.
It turned out most of the pedestrian traffic was for the Lower Falls, 1.2 km one way. A catwalk runs along the Falls and allows people to enjoy being right next to and above the Falls. There were fewer walkers on the next part of the trail to the Upper Falls, a 30 meter high cascade, an additional 1.2 km.
The crowd peters out to a small trickle on the next 3 km to the Ink Pots, which are pastel-colored pools, slightly reminiscent of those at Yellowstone without the sulphuric scent, in a lovely riverside open meadow.
On the return to Bow Valley, we took a hint from the writings of an area photographer, and opened the gate under the Castle Rock bridge and slipped our tired feet into the Bow River, soaking in the pleasant sunshine. Lake Louise and Lake Morraine
These two lakes are must-sees for any lover of mountain lake beauty. The pale glacial color of the water set below spectacular craggy snow-capped mountains is unforgettable, even for visitors that merely walk to the front of the splendid Chateau Lake Louise, the iconic hotel or out to end of the parking area in front of Lake Morraine.
There are two tea houses set in the mountains above Lake Louise, one near the end of the 5.3 km (one way) Plain of Six Glaciers and one at Agnes Lake. You can make a really rewarding hiking loop by beginning with the 2km Lake Louise Lakeshore, then continuing the remaining 3.3 km of the Six Glaciers trail to the tea house and beyond if you’re adventurous. We crossed a large patch of snow caused by a small avalanche earlier in the week, a red rock ledge with a milder alternative on a
horse path, and the gravelly narrow path to view more of the glaciers beyond the tea house.
Backtracking past the tea house and the snowfield again, we then followed a fork towards Lake Agnes and little Mirror Lake on the way back to Chateau Lake Louise. Each path, particularly Six Glaciers, providing stunning and unique views of the lake and hotel.
We were really tired after completing the roughly 10 miles of steep climbing involved in this loop but couldn’t miss seeing Lake Morraine, at the end of a 20 minute winding road on the way back to the town of Lake Louise. This lake, once seen, is recognizable on all the tourism brochures for the area and is uniquely beautiful.
I realized once on site the perfect photographer’s viewpoint was on a hill of huge rocks to the left but was honestly too exhausted to climb up them with all the other shutterbugs. We returned a different early morning and saw many people with professional lenses and tripods perched on top but the light wasn’t that great. Getting a really great scenic shot is a matter of patience, lots of time to return every early morning
and late evening and maybe just good luck! Towns of Banff and Lake Louise
Banff is a beautiful, tasteful shopper’s paradise and Lake Louise doesn’t seem to have much of a town at all. On a rainy day, you’d want to be stuck in the former rather than the latter.
There is a lot to explore in Banff and we found that riding our bikes from Lake Minnewanka, out to the nearby Vermillion Lakes and up to the historic Banff Springs Hotel was an excellent way to see it all. Every mountain town seems to have an iconic landmark and Banff’s is its Mount Rundle, a craggy edged Mountain reflected quite beautifully in the three Vermillion Lakes. What not to do when you run into a bear
One of the recommended easy bike rides was Sundance Canyon, just beyond the historic Cave and Basin National Historic site, the original area feature but not too exciting by modern standards. The paved road was touted as a family-friendly 5.5 km that opens up to a mountain panorama.
We blithely headed along that path when just at the top of downward slope, Terry, who was ahead of
me, said “Stop” very emphatically, then “Back up slowly”. The alarm bells went off and 50 feet down right in the middle of the paved path, I saw a black bear, staring directly at us, body position straight on. All training about moving slowly away went out the window as I thought about the need to get some momentum to reverse direction up the hill before the bear started coming our way.
When Terry turned around, he saw me peddling furiously away, leaving him and the bear behind. As the only one with bear spray, he was on his own! All his jokes about only needing to be faster than me if we encountered a bear were now coming back to haunt him. He called to me to slow down and at least document the event as the bear wasn’t showing any inclination to come after us. I did so reluctantly but later we considered that biking on wooded paths where bears eat is not the most carefree pastime!
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