After spending two days getting the Royal Treatment at the Fairmont Banff Springs, my husband and I were a tiny bit reluctant to leave (i.e., they had to kick us out). But little did we know that we were heading 35 kilometers west to possibly the best hike of our lives.
Lake Louise is a glacial lake, with that Crest toothpaste sheen that makes it irresistible to every shutterbug (including me). The Fairmont Lake Louise isn’t quite as historic, iconic, and crammed with character as the Fairmont Banff Springs, but it still packs one helluva glam punch, and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect hotel setting.
The next day we’d planned our longest hike to Wenkchemna Pass (20 km. round-trip) so we crashed early, got up early and drove to Moraine Lake.
We were just about to start the trail when a lovely Canadian ranger informed us that we had to hike in groups of 4, due to “bear danger.” I was in a panic that we would never find anybody else hiking this route (or miss seeing a bear for that matter), when up strode 3 young men – also Wenkchemna bound.
One friendly guy was from Japan, one from Hungary, and one from Italy – they’d met at an English language school in Toronto– and they seemed thrilled to have 7 hours to practice their vocabulary on us. We were thrilled to have sufficient bear-prevention numbers to go, as well as new chatting partners for the hike, and off we set.
..straight up at the start, a long slightly elevated stretch along the Valley of the Ten Peaks…
…and a short, grueling end up a snow-dotted rockfield to the pass.
We made it in about 3 ½ hours (I’m sure I slowed the boys down considerably) and while they traipsed further up the mountain for an even better view…. …I was saving myself for the knee-destroying trip back down and lay on the rocks in the sun for an hour of satisfying bliss.
The way down was even more beautiful than the way up (because we could see the whole valley and could literally slide down the snowy bits), but the trail was still disappointingly bear-free.
I was holding out for a bear encounter the next day on our short walk up the Plain of Six Glaciers, right near the hotel…
…but that trail was so overrun with people that any self-respecting bear would have been ashamed to show his mug there.
It was our last afternoon, so I convinced (threatened) Larry that we had to drive at least 20 miles west on the famed Icefields Parkway (with brooding glaciers and jagged peaks around every curve) before we headed back to Calgary.
Then just as we were heading back, we approached what I thought was a big accident: a cluster of about 30 cars were half-pulled off the road, doors left flung open, and people running pell-mell onto the highway. But no…half-hidden in the trees below, nonchalant as all get-out, a little black bear was calmly eating berries and ignoring the traffic bedlam he’d caused above.It was the picture-perfect ending to our picture-perfect Canadian Rockies vacation –with precious few marital spats, unbelievable hotels, great hikes, and so much beauty, it was ridiculous!