$16.36: Protection Mountain, Banff National Park
When your day starts like this, it’s gonna be a really, really good day.
When I was a teenager, I remember my mom taking me to poster store in the Stoneridge Mall. I picked out this poster.
Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (1868), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. -Albert Bierstadt
This hung in my room throughout high school. I looked it every day. I stared at every beautiful cliche of nature as I practiced bass (as little as that was).
This morning, as I approached Lake Louise, I felt as if I was stepping into a fairytale. As if that portrait had come to life, and I could explore every nook.
It was well before dawn, and I was nearly the only car in the parking lot. Bundled up, since it was in the mid-30s. Only a few people braved the cold and early hours to view the sunrise. A woman was being photographed in a wedding gown.
I talk about scent a lot in my blog. Lake Louise has a tart pine scent like no other forest I’ve visited. Like those 1970’s cone gel air fresheners you’d find in your grandmother’s bathroom.
The sunrise unfolded slowly. First just the clouds were lit, then the highest snow capped peaks. Which then reflected into the blue, blue water (did you know that rock flour gives it that special color?) Only a few early canoes disturbed the glassy surface, which resembled set blue epoxy more than water.
From this starting point, I wandered into my fairytale.
At first, I only intended to follow the easy paved trail that circles around the right side fo the lake. Somehow, I assumed it ended at the apex of the lake.
It does not. Instead, it takes you to the rock flour silted end of the lake where you have some hiking choices to make.
Getting to the “tea house” was on my bucket list. I saw from the signs that there were two. The closer one was just 6.1 kilometers up the trail. Kilometers are like 500 feet, right? Off I went. No other hikers around. Just the sound of little rivulets feeding the lake from the snow melt down the mountain side. And birds. And wondering if that shadow ahead was a bear.
After I was a good 2 miles into the hike, I realized that while I had on decent hiking shoes and socks, my backpack was filled with my iPad, a giant MilePost Alaska guide, Off, and an umbrella (heavy stuff!). But no bear spray, sunscreen, hat, etc. I had one 16oz bottle of water and a 90-calorie bar.
Why should that stop me.
From here, I could see the hotel getting smaller and smaller. You can just see it down there.
Usually I can get wheezy on hikes in the northeast, but the air here just seems to make me breathe better and better – no matter how hard the climb. And I arrive at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.
I left so early, the tea house was not even open. The hostess suggested taking the Plain of Six Glaciers Lookout trail. Maybe after some food.
This is the view from the benches at the tea house:
And only six of us up there to open the place at 9am. The food is great. They helicopter some of it in when it opens in June. Fairly simple, but such a luxury at the end of a hike. Tea, quinoa with some veggies, a hummus sandwich, and apple caramel cake. On the second floor, with fellow hikers to chat with, and a great view. What’s not to love?
While we were eating, we heard a crack/pop, then what sounded like thunder. An avalanche. By the time you hear it, it’s over. But still cool.
So, after that great meal, and having come this far, I thought – why not go to the end of the trail and really see the glacier up close.
And here were are at the look-out. After a precarious walk across this narrow moraine, you reach the dead-end.
And then, you have to got back.
So very far back. See the hotel? That’s far.
And this is how you get there. And by now, hundreds and hundreds of hikers are coming up the same narrow trail.
When the tea house is busy, this becomes the Disney zig-zag line while waiting for the ride.
I would pat myself on the back for doing so well on the hike, but I even see elderly couples coming up the trail, barely winded.
When I got to the bottom, my feet were screaming, and I soaked them in the the rock-flour colored water. Numbingly freezing, but ahhhh.
127 floors? The Empire State building is only 102.
As my fairytale day ends, I look back.
And they lived happily ever after.