Friday, August 12, 2016

A View from the Sky --- Banff National Park

Dianne is in heaven.

Roger here...  We are still in the Lake Louise area. In fact, the little patch of mint green in the photo above is Lake Louise.

This particular day was forecast to be sunny, warm and nice.  We had been planning to drive almost two hours back up to the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Ice Fields.  Riding onto the glacier and walking on the ice sounded like fun.  After doing some research we discovered that we would have trouble finding a parking place; that we would be waiting in long lines; and that we would be spending $160 for the privilege.  We would also be leaving the dogs alone longer that we (and they) would have liked.  We really were not up for all that hassle.

We opted for an open chair rather than a gondola.
We instead drove 4 kilometers to the Lake Louise Ski Resort to ride to the top of the ski mountain.  We definitely made the correct decision.  It turned out to be a highlight of our trip.  

Just before we boarded the chair lift (open seating for us), an excited man told us that a grizzly was running through the area that you can see in the picture above.  What a wonderful place it would have been to safely see a grizzly, but it was not to be.  Evidently the big bear did not linger under the chair lifts.  

Always pictures of bears, but never bears
With all this hype about grizzlies, you would think that we would see at least one.  Oh well.

The ride up the mountain was smooth and so very quiet.  A banner of a bear greeted us at the top.  

There were many possible activities at the top of the mountain.  One of them was hiking in areas not protected by the electric fence.  I did manage to open the electric gate without getting a shock.  I have become a skilled expert in that activity.  However, hiking was not in the cards.  I left the bear spray in the car.  We were not wearing hiking boots.  We were dressed too warmly.  The first part of the hike was uphill (a definite disqualifier for Dianne).  AND, we just did not feel like it.

We did wander around the well-laid-out pathways that were littered with benches and chairs for leisurely absorbing the views below.

Nice place to watch the clouds float by

The views from this elevation gave a different perspective to all the sights we had been seeing throughout the week.  For example, we could see a glacier on the top of this mountain, but we had no idea that it was so massive.  It literally covered the top of the mountain.

Lake Louise looked no bigger than a postage stamp.  The chateau at the front end of the lake seemed no bigger than a dot.

The village on the left, and the campground on the right appeared to be mere blemishes in a sea of green.  By the way, you can see Lake Louise on the far right about halfway up the picture.  Notice that it is definitely at a higher elevation than the village and the campground --- visual confirmation that our hike to the lake was more difficult than advertised.  (I told you it was uphill all the way!  -- D.)

A friendly docent wandered around one of the viewing areas.  He spent quite a bit of time with us talking about our travels, his travels, hiking and grizzlies.  He showed us a spot where a local female grizzly frequented.  We watched for a while.  She did not show up.  BUT WAIT!  We finally got to see a grizzly!  Too bad it was inside the nature center, and definitely not mobile.

The Nature Center was extremely well done.  The taxidermy of the countless forms of wildlife from the area gave a true perspective of size and identity.  Most of the mounted species had been killed in accidents.  There were displays of fur and antlers that could be touched.

We saw examples of moose, elk, caribou, wolverine, big horn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, pikas and the lynx and mountain lion in the photo below.

We watched an interesting movie about bears (what else).  A video showing the proper method for using bear spray reconfirmed that I was indeed well trained :-).  

Before leaving the Nature Center we reconnected with the friendly docent and discussed a book that I recently finished regarding the Y2Y (Yellowstone to Yukon) Project whose goal is to create wildlife corridors between the existing protected areas.  As a former science teacher I was fascinated by the displays, information, and educated advocates.  (Thanks, Sue, for recommending the book! -- D.)

We bought a voucher with our lift tickets to offset some of the cost of lunch on the outdoor deck.  We knew that we would want to have lunch on top of the mountain.  The picture below shows the restaurant deck behind the colorful furniture.

The views from the deck of the restaurant on this warm, sunny day as shown in the opening picture and the picture below were spectacular.

My bloody caesar was delicious.

So was my burger.

After lunch we followed the pathways back to the chair lift for the ride back to the ski lodge.  Dianne took a photo of the mountain wildflowers along the way.

The ride down was just as pleasant as the ride up. Without a doubt, it was more scenic.

After hopping off the chairlift, the only pathway back to the car was through another food concession (sneaky concessionaires).  This particular spot was a beer and ice cream bar.  That's right, beer and ice cream --- also food.  I did not need beer, but ice cream --- that is another story.  We both had a scoop of salted caramel.

A view from the inside of the beer and ice cream bar.

The grounds between the bar and the ski lodge were filled with a variety of outdoor games, including a giant checkers board.

Dianne took a close-up picture of the woodsy lodge before we made our way back to the car.

This alternate activity offered us a truly amazing day.  It turned out to be one of the very best days of our trip.  I would highly recommend it to anyone passing through the Lake Louise area.  


It rained most of the day yesterday, so we stayed inside.  I attempted to catch up with the blog writing while Dianne pursued her genealogy interests.  The sun came back out today and the temperatures rose.  We decided to hike along the half of the Bow River Trail that we had not previously walked.  We took the dogs, the bear spray, and the camera.  However, we did not intend to take any pictures.  We already had several of the Bow River.  Well look below, and see how the non-picture-taking plan worked out.

We managed to walk half of the trek to a bridge where the trail crossed the river for a return walk on the other side.

And then we saw them.  GRIZZLY BEARS ON THE BRIDGE that we were about to cross!

Holey Moley!
Just kidding!  Actually, they were pictures of grizzly bears that had been on the bridge we were about to cross.  The placard indicated that the trail is closed during portions of the year to provide a corridor for the bears to travel, and to protect hikers like us.

Once the camera was out, the picture-taking began.  What a beautiful setting this is, and so close to the campground!

The picture below shows the abundance of buffalo berry shrubs (that bears love to eat) on both sides of our trail.  As always I did a lot of singing to let them know of our presence.

Red berries to the left, red berries to the right....
Do you want to know what bear poop looks like in berry season?


Fresh Grizzly Bear Scat (or poop, if you prefer...)!

For some reason we were not as alarmed as we were on the hike to Lake Louise, but I did start singing louder.  (Ummm...speak for yourself, Roger. -- D.)  After we were almost run down by a kid on a bicycle, we entered a very damp area next to the river.  Check out the moss on this boulder.

We then entered an open meadow that was covered with wildflowers.  Dianne went crazy snapping pictures.

And then....  Into the Woods, Into the Woods, Into the Woods and Out of the Woods and home before lunch!  (From one of our favorite musicals.)

One last photo of the Bow River.  Really, this is the last one.  It really is.  I promise.

Tomorrow we will pack up and drive for about an hour to the town of Banff.  Our new, full-hook-up campground will be at the Tunnel Mountain Trailer Village --- part of Banff National Park.  BTW.  We did run out of water today and were forced to fill up bottles at a fill station in order to make it through the day, a first for us.


Remember the picture of the bears on the bridge?  I got a little silly, as I sometimes do --- while walking onto the bridge I demonstrated the proper technique of raising one's arms to appear larger to a bear while at the same time talking calmly.  Bandido obviously thought I was out of my mind.

Bandido says, "Dad has lost it, and he needs to give up the ice cream ".

1 comment:

Suzanne Herzing said...

It is a true vicarious treat to be able to savor your journey through your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.