Great Alaska Adventure: Lovely Lake Louise
Several years ago when I began planning the Great Alaska Adventure, my aunt, then 88-years old, raved about Banff National Park and, especially Lake Louise. She loved to travel and she traveled a lot. (She also liked to ride on the back of my motorcycle when she was 88.) And other than her beloved Texas Hill Country, I think she liked Lake Louise in British Columbia the best.
“If you’re anywhere near there, you’ve got to go to Lake Louise,” she said. Today I was near there. And I went to Lake Louise. It was incredible, as she said it would be. The lake has been a favorite destination for tourists for more than 120 years, beginning inn 1890 when the Canadian Pacific Railroad built the first small chalet to house tourists riding its trains. That small chalet has been replaced several times over the years, and a world class resort–The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise–with more than 550 guest rooms, five restaurants and an extensive list of five-star amenities now sits on the shore of the indescribable blue-green waters of the glacier-created and glacier-fed lake.
Fortunately Chateau Lake Louise sits in the middle of Banff National Park and so the lake and all its incredible mountain surroundings remain open to the public. And the public comes in huge numbers, some to enjoy the world famous lake, others to gawk at a Chateau they will never enjoy as an overnight guest. Walking along the rocky shore of Lake Louise was a lot like walking the halls of the United Nations, as a polyglot of voices echoed across the water and into the forests. Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, French, German, Persian and English are the primary languages of the lake, similar, as I recall, to the rim of the Grand Canyon. It seems foreign tourists love North America’s world-class national parks as much as our own nationals do.
Like the thousands of tourists there today (and everyday) we strolled through the Chalet and its ornamented grounds, gazed at the lake and let our gaze rise to two of the six glaciers that feed the lake and give it its special, hard-to-describe color. Some refer to the color as turquoise, some call it aqua, and Jaguar fans wouldn’t be far off the mark if they insisted it was teal. But it is definitely not dark blue as we often picture the color of lakes. Among other things I learned this trip is that the color of glacial lakes is caused by sediments referred to as “rock flour,” which is the extremely finely ground powder glaciers create as they relentlessly grind their way down the mountain and wear away rocks under millions of tons of ice in their fatalistic acquiesce to the law of gravity. The suspended sediments that wash into the lake absorb most of the color of the sun but reflect back the light bluish-green that provides the lake’s unique color
We spent about four hours at the lake and the chateau and I thought a lot about my aunt, who died the same day as my dad a year and a half ago at age 90. I would like to have been able to talk with her about Lake Louise and why it was so special to her. And I would like to have been able to thank her for the travel tip. And for the advice she gave about living life by staying active.
After we finished our over-sized lunch and were walking through the grand lobby of the Chateau Lake Louise the harpist (of course they had a harpist) was playing a song that has been special to me since January 4, 2003. Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. This was a day for good memories.
The village of Banff has it’s counterparts around the skiing world: Aspen, Vail, Zermatt, Chamonix, Jackson Hole. But I wanted to stop by and check it out, so on the 50-mile return trip to Canmore, we detoured into Banff. It was everything I thought it would be and worse. Trendy shops, trendy eateries, trendy people. Art shops, sports shops, clothing shops. And endless streams of tourists preparing to head home with T-shirts with the always clever sayings which vary only with the name of the trendy skiing town in which it was purchased. I have to admit that we bought some souvenirs in Banff, but mostly because I had some Canadian money that wouldn’t spend well in Florida. I suppose Banff and its twins must have an appeal because they’re always full of people. But that’s OK. It keeps lots of people off the roads where I’m riding and enjoying the SPECTACULAR scenery.
Tonight is our last night in Canada, and it seems like the Great Alaska Adventure has reached another milestone as we begin the long coast back to Florida. The adventure isn’t over and we still have more to see and friends to visit, but Alaska is growing smaller in the rear view mirror and a shrinking Canada won’t be far behind. Tomorrow as we head to East Glacier National Park in Montana, the trip odometer will roll over 10,000 miles since we first pulled out of the driveway in Orange Park. We’ve only got a few more weeks left of the Great Alaska Adventure. Then it will be time to start planning next year’s adventure.