Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lake Agnes Tea House Above Lake Louise

In itself, Lake Agnes is not too different from many other sub-alpine mountain lakes, but what makes this a very special place is the tea house located on its shore at 7005 feet of elevation and has been in operation since1905.
Tea house photo courtesy of Judy Reilly DDS,  Cary, IL.  My photo was blurred.  Judy is Sandy's dentist and her husband, Mike, is mine.  They took the same hike a few years back.

Sandy and I hiked there today.  It was a 4.5 mile round trip hike that gained 1204 feet of elevation. At times this is a strenuous hike. We were not the only seniors wheezing and gasping along the trail.

Back in 1987 I was recording the Medical Section meeting of the American Council of Life Insurance that was held at the Banff Springs Hotel in early June.  I was fortunate to be able to take my youngest children, Jennifer and Jamison, who at the time were  eight and five years old respectively. As weather in the Canadian Rockies sometimes is unpredictable in the spring such was the case on the day we hoped to get in a mountain hike.  

We awoke to light snow on the hotel grounds, but heard reports of significant accumulations on the trails.  But we were told that the trail we wanted to hike was safe, but snow covered in spots.  So with two kids showing a small amount of reluctance we found a store that sold rain ponchos and off we went up the trail.  It was actually a beautiful and sunny day and the pine boughs were heavy with wet spring snow.  It looked like a winter wonderland.

We eventually reached a tea house and enjoyed Black Currant tea and homemade peanut butter cookies.  Since that time, this hike and the time at the tea house has held a special place in all of our hearts.  My now grown children often comment on that day and what a neat experience it was.

Now, 25 years later I got to repeat that hike.  Sandy and I did not realize we were in for a serious hike, but we knew the reward at the end of the trail would be worthwhile.  And it was.  Black Currant tea is still on the menu, but peanut butter cookies are long gone due to the prevalence of peanut allergies.  Glutton-free menu items are also available.  We enjoyed chocolate chip as well as oatmeal raisin cookies and a slice of peach cake.  We needed the extra sugar for the hike back down the trail.  
 The view from inside the tea house
 Outside seating on the porch

Lake Agnes still has ice and snow on the surface.  The lake supplies all the water used in the tea house.  It is pumped into a storage tank and boiled before being used in cooking and washing dishes.  The staff lives on the premises in two small cabins and in the loft above the restaurant.  Every spring the tea room hires a helicopter to bring in some five tons of sugar and flour and other supplies. Our waitress had visited the tea house as a small girl and it was her dream to return and work there.  This is her second year.  Dreams come true

The hike is spectacular.  Here are some of the many breath taking views.

The hike begins just outside of the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel in front of the world-famous Lake Louise.  
Several hundred feet above the lake we found this gap in the trees and a hiker who took our photo.
 At times we shared the trail with horses and riders. 
 This small waterfall is from Lake Agnes.
 Along the trail were occasional patches of snow.
And at times the trail was fairly rugged.

Mirror Lake is a half mile below the tea house.
 The Canadian Rockies still hold lots of snow.

One of many smaller waterfalls along the trail.
We spotted this bird but I could not identify it with a Google search.  Update:  Judy Bell, who writes a wonderful blog about her travels told me the bird is a Clark's Nutcracker.  Judy's blog is at

The following three photos were taken on the way home.

A telephoto closeup of the snow pack near the top of the mountain in the previous photo.

Indian Paint Brush flowers were not on the trail, but were in abundance along the highways. 
On our drive up to Lake Louise we kept seeing these overpasses, but noticed they did not connect with any roads.  And then we figured out they are there for the wild life that lives in the area.  Without the overpasses, wildlife would not be able to migrate within the National Park.  

Saturday we are headed to Thompson Falls, MT to spend time with family.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another Hike

 At the edge of town are several trails.  Today we took the trail along the Bow River.  I can't imagine living here and getting to see this beauty every day.  If you look closely above the river you can see the Banff Spring Hotel.  I was fortunate to have attended a conference here in the late 1980s.  The hotel was built in the 1880s and is a real classic beauty. 

In spots, the trail was really challenging.  I tried to show the steep climb on this section of trail.

Returning to town we found this elk munching away on the campus of the Banff Centre.
Banff is a very upscale community with some really beautiful homes.  Here are a few we saw.

Tomorrow we visit Lake Louise.


As an aside, I spoke with goof friend Wally Henderson in our home town of Inverness, FL this morning.  Wally tells me that we have received between 15 to 20 inches of rain.  Boy am I ever glad we had those leaking doors fixed and/or replaced.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Johnson Canyon, 3 Elk, a Badger and a Unique Squirrel

Today we decided to drive toward Lake Louise and check out Johnson Canyon along the way.  The canyon has a 1.5 mile (one way) trail to the upper and lower falls.
The highway to the canyon was practically deserted, but almost anytime you see a car pulled off the road you can be sure that wildlife is nearby.  Such was the case when we saw this elk.  Keep in mind that these animals are in their element and that means I can't always get a perfect photo of them.  Note the velvet on the new antlers.

Next we came cross these two male elks resting less than 15 feet from the side of the road.  They attracted quite a crowd but remained indifferent to us.

More photos from our Johnson Canyon trail hike:

 This moss looked like carpet.
 This little guy had a lot of people taking his photo.

You might ask: where is the badger?  Well he moved way too fast for me to get his photo.  But he was a beauty. 

Glacier National Park: the Crown Jewel of the National Park system

(Note: this blog was written off-line days ago and just posted today from Banff, where we have a fast wifi connection.)

We departed from Badlands National Park on Sunday, June 17 and arrived at Glacier National Park on the 18th. Back in 2010 we spent the better part of one day driving in the park and were so impressed with the beauty that we vowed to return as soon as we could. We are so glad we did.

We decided to stay at Many Glacier Hotel because of its location. It sits in a valley surrounded by mountains and remnants of glaciers. The hotel faces the Swift Current Lake and all together presents a picture postcard setting.

If you have plans to visit one of the western national parks, I strongly urge you to see at least this park. At 1,000,000 acres it is immense and vast. There are so many mountains and 25 remaining glaciers. If I could only visit one park, this is the one I would go see.

There are countless hiking trails and activities to engage in as well as a beautiful 97-year-old lodge to sit in and soak up the atmosphere around the huge fireplace. You won't be bored. Food is good to excellent and the staff is on top of their game. We've done boat rides, hikes and a day-long tour of the park in one of the famous old Red Buses.

We have been at Glacier since late Monday afternoon. There is so much to see and do.  It is good that we are here for a week.  We are staying in Many Glacier Hotel, which is soon to be 100 years old.  The building is charming and just what you would expect.  On the other hand a lot of improvements are underway.  Guest rooms are being totally renovated (we didn't get an updated room) -- but that is okay as we just sleep and shower in the room.  There is a lot of construction going on outside.  
The main dining room has been totally renovated and it is stunning.  We were here two years ago and I remember the dining room being a real disappointment: from seeing a suspended ceiling, to dirty and beat up walls, and stones missing from the main fireplace. Now all of that has been corrected.
Yesterday started out gray and gloomy with periodic showers, but we decided to take an enclosed boat ride in spite of the weather.  It was a good decision as the ride we took lasted 4 hours, most of which time was spent hiking.  During this time we saw a mother moose and her calf (Sandy spotted the calf, but I could not get a pic of it soon enough), later we saw a young male moose and quite a few big-horned sheep up on the mountain sides.  We also spotted a pair of loons on Swift Lake.
The hike was great and took us into the woods where there is still plenty of snow.  The snow pack and glaciers are melting so the woods are filled with small and large rapidly flowing streams.  That made for a muddy and sometimes slippery trail.

A view of Many Glacier Hotel early morning. 

 Lobby of Many Glacier Hotel.
 A swift river we crossed one hiker at time on a suspension bridge.
In the hotel is a display of photos taken of glaciers in the very early 1900s and then taken from the same position between 80 and 100 years later.  These two photos will give you an idea of how climate change is making glaciers disappear.  When the park was founded in 1910, there  were about 125 glaciers.  Today the count is about 25.  Note.  The park has the exact count on glaciers, I just did not remember the correct numbers. 
This is the only bear we saw.  For some reason Sandy was not disappointed.
We took a day trip and drove north into the Canadian side of Glacier.  Their park is called Waterton Lakes.  This is the Prince of Wales hotel. The small town was clean and charming.
 The Prince of Wales Hotel overlooks this lake. 
Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.  This is considered the most photographed point in the park

We took a day-long guided tour within the park in one of the famous Red Buses and drove past many of these spring snow-melt fed waterfalls.  When the top was rolled back on the bus we caught some cold spray.
Thanks to the Ford Motor Company the entire fleet of these old buses was entirely rebuilt a few years ago and brought up to 21st century standards at a cost of $7,000,000.  How fortunate that companies like Ford are willing to "share the wealth."  The drivers of these buses are extremely knowledgeable and personable.

The Red Buses were originally built by the White Motor Company, but since they now ride on a Ford F-450 chassis, they certainly deserve to wear the Ford blue oval logo
Taken from the Red Bus.  This person is not my Sandy.

On our guided tour along Going to the Sun Road we spotted this Mountain Goat.
One of the larger glaciers still remaining. 

 Bear Grass blooms on a 5 to 7-year cycle.  The forest was loaded with Bear Grass flowers this spring. 
 Indian Paint Brush

 Another view of our hotel
This waterall was at the end of Red rock Trail.  Most of the hikers we passed had seen bear.  But not us. 
 On Red Rock Trail.
This is the lobby of  East Glacier Hotel, one of the other great old lodges in the park.
 Unique table in East Glacier Hotel
 We spotted this mama moose and her two babies one morning.
 Is this little guy cute or what?
The constantly changing weather presented so many photo opportunities.  

We are now in Banff, Alberta, Canada.  This is a very upscale small town within the Canadian National Park of Banff.  Photos to follow in a day or two.