Tag Archives: Canadian Rockies

Doing The Teahouse Circuit: Hiking In Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

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With the onset of winter rapidly approaching, I had not truly gotten out into the mountains that much.  Yes, I had gone out on a trip for Labour Day Weekend to see my friends, and I had done a whirlwind tour of Icefields Parkway attractions for you guys, but had not hoofed it through the wilds of the Canadian Rockies yet during that summer, which was a crime in and of itself!

Thus, there I was, standing on the platform of my C-Train at an even earlier hour than when I usually started my weekday commute, bleary eyed and jonesing for some breakfast to bring me out of my semi-comatose state (nothing is open in the suburbs at the hour you see above) before heading off on a weekend of hiking in Lake Louise.

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Eventually, I did get to the Greyhound Bus Station in Calgary that morning, but not without weaving about the streets of the Beltline during the later stages of the witching hour … kinda spooky down there when it is still dark and little activity from the general population.  Anyway, shortly after, our bus begins lurching towards the Rockies and the sun rose shortly thereafter, giving a rousing view that one can only enjoy in harvest season in Alberta!

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Upon arrival, the fresh, COLD mountain air (Lake Louise is the highest settled place in Canada at 1,750 metres above sea level (5,700 feet) granted an invigorating contrast to the air of the city.  Indeed, the overall atmosphere was as if one had stepped through a portal from a harried, loud and stressful realm to one of beauty and peace.

Clearly, I needed this getaway like a fish needs water!

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After paying a king’s ransom for a truck stop lunch ($20 for ordinary chicken fingers and fries) and a couple of 1.5 L bottles of water ($4 per bottle!!), and dropping my main bag off at HI – Lake Louise, I set off up the hill towards Lake Louise (the lake itself … as I was already in town).

I could have taken a cab up to the Teahouse Circuit trail head instead, but (a) fitness, (b) more time in nature (just look at that view above!) and (c) Lake Louise is quite the pricey place, as I’ve already shown in the previous paragraph!

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Upon reaching the lake shore, I briefly paused to take the artiest photos I could, mostly failing in the process. 😛 No matter though, as The Plain Of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes were the goals on this day, not capturing an overdone portrait…

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The weather in Lake Louise can be fickle, and this day was no exception.  Strolling along Lake Louise saw a brief moment of pleasantness, but that wouldn’t last long…

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… because sure enough, it clouded over again, and a cold drizzle began to drift down from the moody clouds above.  The views more than made up for it though, as I pushed further into the sub-alpine.

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You can’t see it in this pic, but at this point, the drizzle had deteriorated into a full-on torrential downpour, soaking my clothes quite thoroughly.  Thankfully, I had dry clothes in my shielded day pack, but it just goes to show that you have to respect the weather whenever you are in the mountains.  I could have done much better by having rain gear or non-cotton clothes myself … live and learn!

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Completely numb at this point, the sight I had been waiting for appeared in a depression in the glacial plain ahead … the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse!  Here, I dried off and changed clothes, and claimed my hard-earned award … some of the richest chocolate cake you’ll ever eat!  Don’t be put off by the $6 price tag … it’s worth it.

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The Plain of Six Glaciers is located at a dead end in the established trail, making for a good bit of backtracking to get to the junction that would lead to objective #2 on the day: the Lake Agnes Teahouse.  The weather changed once again on the way back, allowing for a spectacular suspended view of Lake Louise from thousands of feet up!

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Along the way, there are innumerable classic views waiting to be captured by your camera.  This is just a taste (lots of standalone photo posts to come from this hike!)

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I finally reached Lake Agnes with a few short hours before sunset, with the climb down all the way to the town still to be completed.  Lake Agnes has no natural inlet, being a tarn lake formed by a melting glacier thousands of years ago and only being partially replenished by snow melt since the initial formation of the lake.  I did manage to get in just in time to buy a cookie before the tea house closed … also recommended!

Ever gone hiking in Lake Louise?  Share your experience below!

The Tangle Falls Area: The Most Underrated Part Of Jasper National Park

The Columbia Icefield, located across from Tangle Falls

As you approach the southern border of Jasper National Park, the mountain scenery begins to get more epic.  After crossing the flood plain of the Sunwapta River near Beauty Creek, the road begins to climb towards the Columbia Icefields.  Before reaching this national park’s best-attended attraction, nature puts on a spectacle on the side of the road.

I’m not sure if parts of this are even accessible (the pull off from where I took the photo above) anymore without paying an admission fee to the newly constructed Skywalk (opening Spring 2014), but the views are no less stunning in spite of that.  Observe as the ice sheet of the Columbia Icefield spills over the side of the mountain plateau on which it sits.  Trips out onto the ice are available from guides in Jasper, but don’t attempt this yourself: guides have intimate knowledge of the crevasses that crisscross this area, which if fallen into can cost you your life.

Tangle Falls area, Jasper National Park, Canada

Views of the mountains are quite stunning in this area, so don’t be in a rush to get to your destinations further south: stay a while and breathe in the pine needle scented air and relax!

Tangle Falls

A little further down the road lies the lesser known Tangle Falls, despite being stationed at the side of one of Canada’s busiest tourist drives.  This beauty is just hiding in plain sight, begging you to come closer and experience its wild nature close up…

Afterward, it was time to leave and carry on down the Icefields Parkway to the next point of natural interest.  It was with some reluctance, though, as I was graced with this view as I made my way back to my oversized Dodge Grand Caravan…

Tangle Falls area, Jasper National Park, Canada

Ever been to Tangle Falls on your journey up/down the Icefields Parkway? What did you think?

Back To The Canadian Rockies – Part 1: Miette Hot Springs

My beasty rental: getting lunch in Hinton before heading to the Miette Hot Springs in my Jeep Grand Cherokee

After several months of working hard at my day job after having moved back to Calgary, I was overdue for a trip to the mountains to rest and relax.  Before my last trip overseas, I had ditched my terminally ill Cavalier (RIP Blue Rocket 1999-2012), so I was without wheels.  What to do?  Rent one, of course!

Except for one little problem … reserving a car online doesn’t guarantee you the car you select, it’s only a preferred vehicle.  In other words, they give renters ahead of you whatever they request, and only hold what’s left over for you.

In my case, I wanted a Toyota Versa … I got a Dodge Grand Caravan.  A turbocharged beast with tonnes of space I didn’t need, and extra girth I had to account for when making turns and parking and such.

Had I encountered a situation where I had to make a tight maneuver, I would have risked damaging my tires. At least in the United Kingdom, I would have been able to use Tyre-Shopper.co.uk tyres to replace them without the rental company being the wiser.

Failing that,  National.co.uk tyres would have had exactly what I was looking for.

But I digress.

Good thing I had experience driving giant tour boats at Maligne Lake prior to this 😛

The Miette Hot Springs is is a pretty chill place

After dropping my bags at my friend Steph’s place and enjoying a wonderful evening catching up post-Maligne Lake (I was a tour guide there for three summers, hence the earlier remark about driving tour boats), I had a full day ahead of me.  The first place decided to drop in on was the Miette Hot Springs area.  Located an equal distance from the towns of Jasper and Hinton, it is a wonderful place to soak away an afternoon in 40c waters, all while admiring the scenery of the Front Ranges of the Canadian Rockies, soaring thousands of feet above you.

The old pool complex at Miette Hot Springs

On this day, though, I intended to earn my time in the hot springs, as I set out on a hike down the trail that led to the source of the Miette Hot Springs.  The old bathhouse was in an even more starkly beautiful area than the current one, but overcrowding issues due to the popularity of the site, and natural erosion led to its closure in the mid-1980’s, and the opening of the current pools.

What remains today of the old bathhouse at the Miette Hot Springs

Still, it’s quite cool to have ruins of this nature in the middle of a narrow mountain valley!

Mountain stream, Miette Hot Springs

Mountain stream, Miette Hot Springs

The natural beauty of my surroundings just improved from there on, a glacially cold creek tumbling down the hanging valley from where it spawned, overlaying a source of water almost hot enough to scald at first touch.

Natural source of the Miette Hot Springs

You know when you’ve reached the source of the Miette Hot Springs.  Depending on the prevailing winds on the day that you stroll down the trail, you can smell it many hundreds of metres away.  The sulphur and calcium laced waters deposit their solid particles on the rocks over which it flows, creating a stone known as tufa.  Underground pipes carry the waters from this aquifer to the hot pools themselves back near the parking lot, which is where I headed with great anticipation, shortly after the shot I took above! 🙂

Bonfire with friends outside Hinton Alberta

After the day’s tramping and soaking had run their course, there was only one proper way to end an active day in the Canadian Rocky Mountains … have a bonfire and beers!  Heading out to a campsite with friends, meeting interesting new people and sitting by a bonfire that offset the chill of a high country evening was the perfect way to cap off my first day back in the mountains since I had lived there!

What would your perfect day in the Canadian Rockies look like?  Hash it out for us below!