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Published: July 28th 2017
Geo: 51.1752, -115.573
This morning, we had to be up incredibly early so that we could beat the crowds at one of the most famous and popular spots in the Rocky Mountains - Lake Louise. During high season, there are so many visitors to the beauty spot that they close the road to it at around 11am. We were fortunate to have a guide who knew this and who would enable us to view the lake in as deserted and natural a state as possible. As we drove in the semi-gloom, the mist was hanging so low that we couldn't see the mountains around us. Every now and again, it lifted, but not enough for us to make our first stop at Lake Moraine; we would be unable to see any of the beautiful scenery that surrounded the lake. So, we pushed on until we reached Lake Louise, the car park already beginning to fill with tour buses, even at 6.45am.
After stepping off the minibus and a short walk down a wide track, we were greeted by breathtaking views of the lake in front of us. Aquamarine in colour, with a fine mist hanging over the far end, mountains surrounded it, with a glacier at its furthest point. The tourists from the buses were gathered on the near shore, and nobody was yet out on boats, so the lake surface was incredibly still and pristine. It reflected all of the scenery around it, creating a mirror image of the perfection. Of all of the amazing lakes we had seen so far, it rightly deserved its reputation.
We set off on a moderate hike which would take us 3.6km one way to Lake Agnes and a rustic tea house on its shore. It was a steep uphill jaunt, which led us through old growth forest. Al, being an environmental science teacher, was able to explain the flora and fauna and gave us a guided tour as we trudged up the slippery terrain. Waterfalls cascaded down at every turn and we soon arrived at the midway point - Mirror Lake. As Canadian Lakes go, it was one of the least impressive, the water level really too low to provide any kind of mirror effect, and so we continued on our way. After about 10 minutes, we arrived at Lake Agnes and the tea house - a quaint Japanese style wooden structure which looked out over the lake, which was the brightest blue we had seen on the trip - even brighter than Lake Louise herself, and well worth the extra effort to climb up.
From here, we had 3 options - go back down to the lake, climb the 1.6km up to the Little Beehive or go for the big one and climb up the Big Beehive which was another 2.6km up what looked like an incredibly steep climb - the dome shaped rock towered over us and had what seemed a sheer face on one side. In order to access it, we had to continue walking around the lake, which was no hardship as the view continued to improve with every step we too. After that, we had to begin to follow a steep series of switchbacks which led us further up the beehive. It was heavy going, and we stopped a couple of times for a rest, gazing down on the beauty of the lake below us, anticipating superb views of Lake Louise when we reached the top.
Puffing and panting, we finally reached the summit and found ourselves at a lookout which took in the whole of Lake Louise and the chateau at the far end. Or it should have done. A low cloud hung right over the entire scene below us, obliterating everything from view. However, patience being a virtue, we sat on a rock to have a snack and wait for it to lift. Our patience was rewarded five minutes later when the cloud lifted and we were treated to partial views of the lake, with its cyan surface beaming up towards us. Every five minutes, it would cloud over again and then reveal the lake slowly, the game of peekaboo lasting throughout our whole time at the top, as we moved from viewpoint to viewpoint, the mist eventually lifting completely and allowing beautiful views of the lake, chateau and surrounding mountains.
Checking the map, we saw that there were two alternative routes back down - either the way we came or a gentler but longer route that would allow us to walk back along the lake. We took the second option, and found that it was not as gentle as we thought it might be - slipping and sliding, we made out way through forests until we reached the lake, which was beautiful without the low hanging cloud. We saw where the river had deposited the glacier silt, which created a white beach right next to the turquoise water.
As we neared the hotel, our ultimate destination for a well deserved drink, it started to rain. Heavily. We picked up the pace and entered into a world of opulence and luxury - the Fairmont Chateau Louise. Feeling like frauds, we filled up on surprisingly cheap delicious hot soup and fresh bread, before enjoying a cold drink in the bar, waiting for the rain to stop. After a quick wireless stop, it was time to leave and head back towards Lake Moraine. The rain continued to fall as we drove, but as we neared the lake, it stopped. The clouds parted as we climbed the short path to the lookout point and the sun shone. It was the perfect weather to enjoy what was absolutely the most beautiful lake we had seen in Canada. It was the brightest blue, with a glacier at the far end and fluffy clouds dotted the sky. There were five layers all building up one on top of the other: blue lake, grey-white stones, green trees, white-topped mountains and blue sky. An artist could not have crafted a more perfect scene; it was, simply, stunning.
As it was only 2.30pm, we still had time to relax and enjoy Banff so we wandered the streets for a while before enjoying an amazing dinner with Emma and Al at Saltlik. It's a bbq joint that was recommended to us by a local British ex-pat and we had the most amazing calamari we have ever tasted, lovely chicken wings, a delicious burger that defeated Stacey and I had a steak salad that was perfection! The company and cocktails were also incredible and we laughed until our stomachs hurt. As we pulled into the campsite , we saw two squirrels chasing each other round a tree, chattering to one another, which kept us entertained for about five minutes before we fell into bed ready for another lovely day.
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