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.  

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