Tag Archives: mountains

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!

Lake Louise’s Other Body Of Water: Paying A Visit To Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canada

After years of working at Maligne Lake, and with the easy accessibility of Lake Louise, it was a shame that I hadn’t been to one of the Rockies’ most underappreciated bodies of water, Moraine Lake. It’s not that nobody knows about this place, as it was featured on the back of the Canadian dollar bill (before we switched to the less regal-sounding loonie coin), and there is a homely looking resort on the premises.

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It’s just that it languishes in the shadow of its more famous cousin Lake Louise, who has a much more glamorous resort on her shores, along with easier highway access. To get up to Moraine Lake, you have to drive up a winding, precarious (but breathtaking beautiful) mountain road that is only open in the summer time.  Not only that, but in the fall, there are needled trees called larches whose needles turn a golden yellow, drawing hordes of people from nearby Calgary, creating horrific traffic jams.

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So, needless to say, getting here is a matter of timing, patience, and willingness to get off the main track that time starved tourists seem to stay glued to, like a tongue on a icy flagpole. Despite these difficulties though, it is well worth to spend some time contemplating life on the shore here, as the clouds drift over the stalwart peaks, still laden with leftover snow from the previous winter (even though it’s early September), and as the icy cold but impeccably clean lake water laps on the shore, nibbling at your exposed toes.

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Or you can come here for the epic hiking opportunities, but don’t come in a party less than four, as the presence of grizzly bears in the valley where Moraine Lake is located has caused Parks Canada to ban groups smaller than that for safety reasons.

Traveling by your lonesome, or in a small group? Check in at the Lake Louise info centre and register with other randoms so that your party will meet the prescribed size.  It’s recommended that you take some bear spray in too, just in case of a hostile encounter (as long as you make enough noise on the trail though, this shouldn’t happen though).

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To register to hike at Moraine Lake, first head to the info centre, then…

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… head to Moraine Lake (not Lake Louise by accident) and enjoy some of Banff National Park’s most awe-inspiring scenery that you can see via automobile transport!

Ever been to Moraine Lake?

Choice Views From Thailand’s Hill Country

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As my time in Northern Thailand is winding its way to a close, I’d figure I’d share more pics to show you what the mountains up in this part of the country are like.  The highlands up here are (believe it or not) the furthest of the foothills that radiate out hundreds of kilometres from the main ranges of the Himalayas.  They don’t reach up high enough to get snow in the winter time, but they do provide a bit of novelty for the Thai population nonetheless, as the coldest nighttime lows in December/January get nippy enough to cause frost to form!

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Despite the fact that I described them as foothills, these mountains aren’t small exactly … you see that squiggley line in the side of the hill ahead?  That’s just two of over 1,800+ curves on the Mae Hong Son loop, a popular motorbiking route that includes the mountain valley paradise of Pai. This road is not so great if you’re stuck in a bus or minivan, but a pure joy to ride on a bike (word to the wise #1: don’t rent a Honda Click, as you will struggle to get up steep inclines … word to the wise #2: check your fuel often … it’s actually remote in this part of Thailand!)

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Just in case you think North Americans have the market on tacky tourist stuff cornered, think again!  In addition to all the Coffee In Love attractions in nearby Pai, at the mountaintop viewpoint between Pai and Sappong, you can pretend to be a Karen tribesperson! Not my cup of tea, but I did find it amusing on this day in Thailand’s hill country!

Have you done the Mae Hong Son Loop in Northern Thailand?  What did you think about it?

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!

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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?