Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Yoho National Park

July 20- 28, 2016:

We leave Icefields Center at 8:30 AM for the drive on the Icefieds Parkway south to Yoho National Park in Field, British Columbia.  A winter Desert Trails friend, Laurel Jaques, who works at the Park and grabs us a campsite early in the morning.  This makes for a less stressful ride knowing that we have a campsite waiting.  The scenery on the southern section of the Parkway is as beautiful as the northern section with several huge glacier fed lakes surrounded by mountains.

Beautiful Lake on the Icefield Parkway

Arriving at the Kicking Horse Campground at Yoho National Park we find many campers checking in as this is a popular campground.  We meet Laurel in early afternoon and she takes us to Takakkaw Falls which is one of the highest at 830 feet and most impressive waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies.  The mountain scenery and the Kicking Horse River are equally impressive.  The Kicking Horse River get its name from an early explorer who was kicked by horse, knocked unconscious and thought to be dead.  As they were digging his grave he revived.

On the road to the Falls large vehicles have to pull to the right 
at the 1st curve and then back up the hill to the 2nd curve and 
then pull forward up the rest of the hill

The Takakkaw Falls are impressive

The River downstream from the Falls

iphone photo magic by Twinkles in the water spray

Field started as a railroad town with something very special.  It was known as the “Big Hill of Kicking Horse Pass” (sounds and was very ominous) due to it’s extremely steep 4.5 % track grade, about double the usual maximum grade.  This track was meant to be temporary, but it remained in operation for  25 years until the 1.2 mile long spiral tunnels were cut through the mountain in 1907-1909.  This tunnel was modeled after similar tunnels in the Alps and was a major engineering feat of its day. The Canadian Pacific Railroad continues to run frequent freight trains through the same tunnel today.

Field still has the railroad, but it is mainly a tourist town these days serving the Yoho and Bannf National Park areas.  There is a very busy Information Center with WiFi, several Guest Lodges, a gas station/store and a couple of good restaurants.  The town is really quaint, nice and in a beautiful mountain valley setting.

Iconic church view in Field

The Siding, our favorite dining spot in Field

The Mount Stephen House was the first great Lodge
built in Field, sadly it was demolished

There is a trail, “A walk in the Past” a few feet from our campsite that goes uphill through the forest, across active train tracks and back into the forest to a spur where an old abandoned narrow gauge steam engine lays on its side.  This Baldwin engine was used during construction of the spiral tunnels in 1907-1909 and was left there when work was completed nearly 100 years ago.

The Canadian Pacific still runs regular service through Field

What's left of Baldwin Loco # 7717

The Rocky Mountaineer Train coming out of the spiral tunnel

Laurel also takes us to “Emerald Lake” where we hike around the perimeter of the lake. Every lake here is stunning with the turquoise colored water caused by the fine “Stone Flour” or fine grains of rock washed down from the surrounding glaciers. The flour stays suspended in the water and gives the lakes a beautiful turquoise coloration.  In the rivers, the water has a milky coloration which is also stunning.  After seeing these Rivers and Lakes, all others pale in comparison.

The shore of Emerald Lake

Serene canoe ride

Cloud reflection in the lake

On the return from the lake we stop at the “Natural Bridge’ which is a waterfall that flows under a rock arch.  It is another popular tourist stop where we saw a rather upset tour bus driver trying to round up his passengers, whistling loudly, throwing pieces of apple and finally in frustration yelling “Hey Stupid.  We watched a few other people doing stupid things like jumping across a 2-3 foot gap in the rocks over the falls and clamoring around on slippery rocks near the edge.

The Kicking Horse River at the Natural Bridge

The River drop down under the rock arch

Laurel has lived and worked at parks in this area for years and knows all the good spots.  She also took us to Wapta Falls which was about a two mile hike through a forest.  Wapta Falls are not that high, but are very wide at 492 feet which you really appreciate when you hike down to the river.  You can walk fairly close to the Falls, feel the spray and we were lucky to be there to see a rainbow in front of the Falls.

Wapta Falls from the river

Wapta Falls with a rainbow

I go off solo on Friday to Lake Louise for a hike along the lake.  I end up on the Agness Lake Trail which starts at the “Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise”.  The lakefront area is a mass of tourists, all posing for photos with several languages being spoken.  The trail goes from lake level steadily uphill through the forest gaining 1,200 feet in elevation at Agnes lake.  Along the way, you pass  “Mirror Lake”, a waterfall and  then Lake Agnes and the Tea House. The Tea House was established here in 1905 and operates much the same today with all supplies packed in by horse.  The food is all made on site in a small kitchen using a large cook stove. It sits overlooking beautiful Agness Lake surrounded by mountains and glaciers, quite the fantastic view.  It was super crowded and it took a while to get served, but the Tea and Tea Biscuits, were well worth the wait.  I then continued hiking on a trail around Lake Agnes and then up a steep section of switchbacks to “Big Beehive” and then down steeply on the other side.  I eventually return to Mirror Lake and a return to Lake Louise on the Agnes Lake trail.

The Chateau Lake Louise

Lots of tourists

The aptly named Mirror Lake

Great mountain views in all directions

Lake Agnes

The Tea House

Hiking around the back side of Lake Agnes

View of Lake Louise from the trail

While there I must explore the incredible Chateau Lake Louise Lodge and visit a few of the shops inside.  I’m thinking one of these days I should park the RV and stay in one of these Luxury Hotels for a night to see how the other half lives ?  Actually if you do it during the off season it’s not so awful expensive.

I loved the lighting chandeliers

I see a sign for the Lake Louise Train Station and must stop.  A pair of old Canadian Pacific Dining Cars are parked outside, one of which is restored and is open for dinner on weekends.  The Station built in 1909 is now converted into a nice restaurant. It still serves as  a station stop for the Rocky Mountaineer excursion train.

Old rail dinning car at the station

Inside view

Old Canadian Pacific advertisement

As I was coming out of the campground I happened to see a passenger train coming out of the spiral tunnels and heading towards Field, where I was going.  I was able to beat the train to the Field rail road crossing, park and get some photos of the “Rocky Mountaineer” as it passed.  It looks to be a great train ride, have to check into that.

This train must be a great ride

Sunday was a beautiful clear day which prompted me to backtrack a bit and take a ride north on the Icefield Parkway.  The road traffic was pretty horrendous, seems like everyone was out.  I went to the exit for Bow Lake, Bow Glacier and Bow Falls which also has the historic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on its shore.  Bow Lake is another postcard view with the mountains and the Glacier.  I walked about half way around the lake on a beautiful trail and then turned around.  

The Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

Bow Lake

Bow Glacier in the distance which is the source of the Lake

Another Bow Lake view

On Monday, we go with Laurel to visit downtown Banff doing some shopping, stopping at a nice coffee shop and walking to the most impressive “Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel”  followed by a stop for lunch.  I was not expecting to like Banff, thought it would be all super trendy, artsy fartsy, but was pleasantly surprised to find it very likable.  In fact, we now plan to go there on Friday and spend the weekend.

Laurel and Twinkles posing

Shopping in the downtown

A room resembling a castle in the Lodge

On Tuesday afternoon, our friends from Logan Lake, John and Donna Waddell arrived to spend a few days.  We had spent a few days with them in early July in Vancouver and at their house in Logan Lake.  As a result, we are extending our time here for a couple of days to spend time with them.  On Wednesday, we took them to Takakkaw Falls and did a hike on the Laughing Falls Trail to Point Lace Falls and Laughing Falls.to Laughing Falls.

Point Lace Falls

Beautiful river views

The Laughing Falls

After a hearty breakfast with John, Donna and Laurel in the campground we go on a hike to a sandy beach area on the Emerald River.

This requires a group photo

 I’ve also been having quite a problem with my debit card, my Credit Union blocked my card when I first tried to use it in Canada, after straightening that out all was well for about 3 weeks, then they blocked the card again for suspicious activity.  I called them, reviewed the charges which were all good after which they removed the block.  A few days latter in the same area, I am blocked again, this time it’s because I have passed the date which I originally gave them for my Canadian stay.  I appreciate their diligence in watching my account, but think they are over reacting a bit.

It’s been a great time with our Canadian friends here, but now time to move on.  The plan is to spend a few days in Banff, Alberta and then head east to Calgary and Medicine Hat, then back across the border into Montana.

Twinkles and Slick

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