Our short stay in downtown over, we took the nearly two-hour drive to Lake Louise very well after a long day of travel. The road side was nothing short of spectacular as we left downtown. First it was the lush green fields spread till the eyes could see. The lack of buildings on either side gave the impression of a sky dome only it was this beautiful real blue sky. The occasional clouds were fluffy and healthy somehow reflecting the environment. As we drove farther the landscape changed with the Rocky Mountains making their presence. To say these were awe-inspiring is an understatement. Their character was changing with every peak. It was fascinating to look up to their tops and see how the vegetation changed and spot those few spots of snow still left over. After about 30 minutes of these mountains, they got higher and higher and I saw a huge bank of snow on top of one of these reminding me that real winter is never over near the top.
Lake Louise is part of the Banff National Park. We were to be visiting the park for the next four days and that came at a cost of nearly eighty Canadian dollars. Due to the long weekend, the wait to get the ticket was long and it took about 20-25 minutes to get through. The line was so long that it was hard to make out the instructions for different lanes from the distance and I, like so many, had to enter the lane at the middle sure to the annoyance of a couple of drivers. Once we had our tickets, we were on our way.
As we approached the turn to the lake, about two miles prior we came across an overflow parking which was full of activity with signs of a shuttle to the lake. We ignored it thinking it would be convenient to drive in. However at the turn, the road was blocked and police was directing traffic away from the town. Poor guy had to answer the same questions from every car driver. We decided to turn back and head toward the shuttle stop. There were quite a few people in line with a really loud group of ethnics unaware of those standing in line and trying to enjoy their holiday in quiet. The shuttle ride was surprisingly about 10 miles or else we would have walked instead of waiting in line.
The shuttle dropped us off near the lake. There wasn’t much of a town there as we walked down the pathway and lo and behold we came across the most stunning turquoise waters surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The color of the water is something to be seen to be believed. I had seen photographs of the lake on the internet but was sure it was photo shopped to look great. Only after seeing the lake in person did I realize nature could be so beautiful. The color of the lake is due to rock dust arriving there by the water that has melted the overlooking the lake and comes from refraction of light by dust deposited. There were over five hundred people of the banks of the lake. The other side was this fabulous Fairmont resort where the cost of a night was upwards of $1200!
We first took some photos on the bank and joined the line for a kayak ride. It was the first time I would be kayaking, but my son was more than a novice at that. If you haven’t canoed, one thing you need to know is paddling on one side pushes the boat to the other side. Thus you see people working in pairs to steer the boat straight ahead. When the boat needs to turn, it will be working the paddles on the other side. Also the person at the back of the boat has more control in the navigation, so it is best to let him or her steer and the rest follow his/her directions. There were about 10 or so boats on the big lake but quite a few were close to the pier. As we started getting away from the dock, I would nervous whenever we approached another boat. In such time, it is best to stop paddling and wait it out unless you are an expert. There is no real danger strictly speaking. As I got more used to the paddles. We got a sense of coordination pretty soon among us three and it was then we started enjoying the awesome beauty around us. The banks of the lake were wooded and rising up the mountains. We had been advised to stay away from the banks and not to go near the lodge as there was an outlet and the current was pretty strong near there.
We canoed quite far off towards the far end of the lake idling in between to soak all of it in. When we turned back, the paddling was a bit more challenging due to the currents. It was about fifty minutes of spectacular nature!
The last shuttle back to the parking was at 6 PM and we had to get something to eat. We ventured into the Fairmont resort. All the restaurants were late for lunch or reserved for the hotel guests with only the sports bar open. A game of soccer between New England and a Canadian city was going on as was evident on the two huge screens. If you travel within Canada, you will most certainly appreciate the pleasant service and staff you encounter for the most part. Our waitress more than made up for the glitch we had waiting to get in and food turned out to be great. By the time we finished lunch, it was close to five. The line back, or the exodus as the shuttle manager had earlier called it, was short. By then, the police had gotten smarter and just barricaded the turn with no one to direct traffic.
Having finished the visit, I was planning to head to our night stop but my wife suggest we visit Lake Moraine. This lake was up on the mountain and the 30 minutes slow drive was worth it. Lake Moraine turned out to be as spectacular or even more. There was quite a bit of rush in that we had to park on the mountain side about 1/4th of a mile and we were lucky to find an open spot as someone was just driving out. The entry to the lake was crowded and people trying to get selfies. Quite a few venturesome folks had managed to walk across the narrow puddle on the floating logs and climb up the hill to get a vantage view. We broke away from the crowd and headed up the trail where we found few log cabins overlooking the waters. These would have been much cheaper compared to the Fairmont lodge or so we thought. A few people were enjoying canoeing. The sun had already disappeared behind the tall mountain though it was very bright still. There was a sense of mystic calmness over the waters conveying what was to come later in the evening. But we were done by then. We had a two-hour drive to the Delta Lodge in Kananaskis and I wanted to get there before it got too dark. It was Route 1 most of the way back and then route 40 for about 14 miles. There was absolutely nothing on either side of route 40 for most of the way, except for a casino close to the intersection. Apparently in such a cold country as northern Canada, there needs to be something to get people together and a casino is one such means. I was hoping to see a lot of stars in the sky given the remoteness, but the skies were cloudy to play out my wish.
The Delta Kananaskis lodge is in almost no-man’s land. The ‘village’ itself is a group of lodges with a Village Center being a grocery store and a ski-accessories shop. You can get sandwiches and drinks for morning breakfast and maybe lunch, but it was too dark and late to try it out. Of the restaurants still open after 9 pm, Grappa turned out to have a couple of vegetarian choices. Before this we had to drive to our room getting out of the lodge and back into the neighboring facility. The parking lot was full indicating we weren’t really the only ones to venture out so far up north. The restaurant was within walking distance as you could walk back on the property itself. We were lucky to get in at closing time and get hot soup and pizza. The service was just beyond excellent and he would have been surprised at the fat tip. Tipping customs in Canada and the US are way different. I have read to believe that Canadians are okay without a tip and service doesn’t falter due to a lack of it.