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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day 51: Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake

With scenery as superlative as that to be found heading north out of Banff along the Bow Valley Parkway, past Johnston Canyon and then into the Village of Lake Louise, words seem...well...superfluous. But let's have a go.

We had heard that attaching 'village' to Lake Louise was also superfluous, the place amounting to little more than the somewhat incongruous stately white hotel complex perched aside the most photographed lake in Canada, and a small mall-like sprawl of essential services at the foot of the hill leading up to the lake. We had also been warned that trying to park a caravan in the Lake Louise parking lot, let alone the lot attached to the other "must-see" attraction in the area - Lake Moraine of old $20 bill fame - was damn-near impossible. Not to mention getting the whole kit and caboodle up the twisting and steeply inclined roads leading up to both sites in the first place...To say nothing of trying to get a spot in the Lake Louise campground at the height of summer and without - shock horrors! - a reservation.

Suffice to say that Carmella stayed in Banff and we turned this part of our odyssey into a day trip, knowing full well that we would be retracing our steps a week later en route for Jasper.

The thing about traveling in Banff National Park, however, is that no matter how many times you go up and down the TC or the more rustic parkway route that parallels it, you never feel like you are retracing anything. A slightly bluer hue of sky, a cluster of clouds hanging low over a chain of peaks, and the whole scene is completely transformed.

En route to Lake Louise we stopped off to hike up Johnson Canyon - fabulous! We also gawked at an enormous elk who was munching grass at the roadside, and seemed totally unperturbed by the traffic jam he was creating on the parkway as vehicles screeched to a halt and people poured out of cars to get a good photograph of him. On a slightly smaller scale, we took about fifty photographs of a cocky little golden mantled ground squirrel who was obviously well used to posing for passing tourists.

It was a great treat to eat lunch in the opulent dining room looking out over breathtakingly beautiful turquoise Lake Louise. We also caught up on email in the hotel's very ornate lounge. As for the equally stunning Lake Moraine, we took a hike around that one...one eye on the glacier looming up above the lake, another on the lookout for grizzlies who were apparently in the area.

We finished the day at the pretty Lake Louise train station - once abustle with Victorian and Edwardian holiday-makers coming to spend the summer at the chic lakeside resort; now housing a restaurant catering to the equally well-heeled. We looked hungrily at the menu...And headed back to campfire fare Chez Carmella in Banff.