Sunday, September 21, 2014

Home from Canada, Eh?

We're back from our Canadian adventure.  I'm out of superlatives…plumb out.  At one point during a hike in Jasper National Park, Alberta, we were standing at a glacial lake, below the Angel Glacier, below the peak (5,000 vertical feet away) of Mt. Edith Cavel, and Sue took out her camera to take a picture of the scene.  Then she stopped in both awe and frustration, and said, "what's the use, I might just as well toss this thing in the pond, because there's no way it can even come close to capturing this sight!"  We had a lot of those moments.  So, that's why I'm out of superlatives.  If any of you reading this will be so kind, send me some superlative words to use as I blog about Canada.  I'm going to do this in installments, so you have time to think and send.  Help me out!

We left our cabin on Tuesday three weeks ago (I don't pay very much attention to dates anymore) and drove the scenic route  through western WY, up past Yellowstone National Park, and stopped for the night at Malmstrom AFB, MT.  It was weird to be on an AF base again.  I felt no compulsion to get over to the legal office and start doing legal assistance or useless reports of some kind.  Nope, we just got up and left….into Canada!  Over the past 3 weeks we've developed a story to explain ourselves.  It kinda started with the Canadian customs officer…."So, where are you from?"  We went the easy route with "Colorado".  He came back with "So then why the Alaska license plate?"  That led to "I'm military, recently retired, used to be stationed in AK, retired from DC, dropped last kid off at college, now we're on our second honeymoon to Canada."  He totally understood and was really nice.  We've told that story a lot since then.

From the Canadian border to Calgary, the earth is, in truth, flat.  Especially in a rainstorm that significantly reduces visibility.  But we found Canada to be very tidy.  Tidy farms, tidy towns…it was great.  We stopped in Calgary for gas, and it looked like just another american city (except tidier).  Sue leaned back for a snooze to pass the last 85 kilometers until we hit Canmore, at the south end of Banff National Park.  Ho hum,  rolling farmland (very tidy) and then all of a sudden we came over a small rise and BOOM….there in front of us the mountains seemed to leap out of the landscape!  There had been snow up high (while we had rain in the flats they had snow) and the snow on the high ledges accentuated both the height and the steepness of the mountain peaks.  I told Sue she needed to look at this, and she growled slightly and then opened her eyes…no more sleep for her….she was too excited!

The mountains got better and bigger and prettier (remember, I'm out of superlatives) and we drove on to our campsite at Lake Louise.  We were tent camping, so we were placed in a special enclosure that had about 400 campsites that were completely surrounded by bear-proof electrified fence!

Not being an overly trusting soul, (or very bright for that matter), I decided to try out the fence!  YOW…I couldn't taste my food for a week ;-).  Just Kidding.

After a lovely night sleeping in our tent we decided to take a hike the next morning.  The weather was iffy, but iffy weather in the mountains can be especially beautiful.  (ok, so i'm using words like "iffy"…you guys need to help me out!)  We went to famous Lake Louise to hike the Plain of the Seven Glaciers trail.

Pretty cool cloud, eh?  If you look right through the hole in the cloud, that's where we're going (or went, whatever).  Our destination was at the end of a canyon where we could see six hanging glaciers and one coming down a steep pass or chute.  And to reward our efforts, there was a Tea House up there where we could buy hot soup!  This is Sue about half way there.  We later saw a big chunk of snow slide off of that sheer rock wall in the background!

And here she is again…in the distance that's Lake Louise with its snazzy hotel where our hike started.

We had lunch at the top, and enjoyed soup at the tea house.  The tea house was build by the Canadian Railroad many years ago to give the early tourists a place to get warm and get food.  They didn't have PowerBars back then, so they needed some help.  We heard many foreign languages both on the trail and at the tea house.  This is a very popular destination.  After lunch we decided to take the alternate route back, detouring to Lake Agnes, and lovely small lake that sits in a secluded bench above Lake Louise.  While the hike to the Plain of the Seven Glaciers was fairly tame, the hike to Lake Agnes was not.  We had to go over the Big Beehive, and I was sure glad I had my Rocket-Powered-Booster-Thruster hiking poles, or I'd still be trying to get up!  We made it, and were rewarded with a great overhead view of Lake Louise.  The color of the water is NOT retouched…its Glacial, baby!

Up there we chatted with a young couple who were on their first honeymoon, and with an older couple from Australia.  That's us in the Big Beehive lookout.

We then descended to Lake Agnes, where there is a second tea house.  We had apple crisp and a cookie (yes, we have PowerBars, but that doesn't mean we have to eat them!)  

From there our hike was a long descent back to the big hotel at Lake Louise.  In the picture below, as far away as you can see up the canyon, right off of the lower right corner of that white spot in the middle, was where we had lunch.  It was a fabulous day, a beautiful hike, and it never really rained at all.  It was a great start to our Canadian adventure!

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