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Unread 12 Aug 18, 09:17 PM  
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Canadian Rockies Road Trip July 2018 - Day 5 - Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Johnston Canyon

When I first booked our flights to Canada back in 2017 and starting researching the first photo I saw of the Rockies was of Moraine Lake. I thought it looked stunning and it was one of my must-dos on our list. As I looked and researched more it became clear that a lot of luck and planning was needed to see it as at times it seemed to be like the golden ticket of car park spaces. And so with a plan and hopefully a bit of luck we had an early night the night before and rallied ourselves for the 5am start. We had packed our bags and sorted everything we needed the night before so it was (just) a case of getting up, showered, dressed and breakfast. Dragging a teenager out of bed anytime before 11 is a challenge in itself but we where all in the car and on our way just before 6am for the 45 minute drive up to the Lake Louise area.

The early morning brought some amazing colour onto the mountains and given the lightness of the traffic made for a very enjoyable drive up to Lake Louise. We phoned both our mums on the drive for a catch up and to see how they where and soon we where at the turn off for Lake Louise, with a little bit of anticipation on the parking front for Moraine Lake we turned off. It was only a short drive off the main highway and as we started to climb a gradual hill we could see the bollards blocking the access road with some Parks Canada staff positioned there. They had signs up already saying the car park was full to Moraine Lake at 6.45am. We decided instead to head down to Lake Louise and got parked no problem although the car park here was also starting to fill. We set off the short walk to the lake.

Even at the early hour and without the sun showing the full colour of the lake it was beautiful. There was a slight mist over the water and you could see the green tinge to it. It was also quiet and we had some time to admire the views before it became too busy. We decided to do the hike up to Lake Agnes and the tea-room and for the first time so far this trip I felt cold. I nipped back to the car and picked up my jacket and we set off. The hike isn't particularly a long one, its about 2 miles to the tea house, this is however all uphill. I made the mistake, I don't know why when I had better shoes, of wearing Vans with trainer socks and although they didn't rub weren't the best things to have on. The trail was quiet and we enjoyed the hike before the heat of the day really set in. After about an hour or so we arrived at the tea house and a peaceful Lake Agnes.

The lake was stunning and even given the early hour, it was just after 8.30am, the tea house was bustling. We found a picnic table off the main veranda which was full and one of the staff spoke with us and although our spot wasn't on the main service route sorted us out with drinks and some of their cakes. I had a black maple tea and mountain bar which tasted delicious, maybe it was the hike up but I loved the cake and cuppa and could of sat quite happily taking in the view of the lake and enjoying the early morning sun. As we where sat we could see and hear a helicopter coming in and it landed further up the mountain and dropped off some pilots who headed down for refreshments. We found out that they ship in empty containers for the loos and then fly the full ones back down the mountain to be disposed off, unusual job to say the least. The staff at the tea room also walk up everyday and carry down all the rubbish so ask that you take yours with you which we packed up as we left. We took some more photos of the lake and then the pilots let us know that another helicopter was coming in to pick them up so we waited for it to arrive.

It was amazing to see it land, it was very loud and very windy but brilliant to see it circle the mountains, fly over the lake and land pretty much next to the tea-house before setting off to shift more poo. We then walked down a slightly different route by the side of the beehive which eventually joined the main trail and we headed back to Lake Louise. As the sun had now fully risen over the lake between the trees you could start to see its green colour and it looked breathtaking. We also passed people coming up to the tea-house, to be truthful we passed a lot of people it was a pretty much a constant stream of hikers heading up to the lake and tea-house and I was glad we had chosen to do this first and enjoy a bit of quiet time. We where soon down at the bottom and could see the lake in all its glory.

I've said many times that no matter how good my pictures are the sight of these places just blew me away. I knew I would be impressed but it was breathtaking and you found yourself just standing, looking and taking in the spectacular views.

As we approached the Fairmont hotel you could see that there had been a massive influx of people and the walkways where teeming with visitors. There where signs saying you could not enter the hotel unless residents there so we stayed on the path that circled the lake and had some time to relax as well as take some photos.

We didn't choose to canoe here as the boathouse was busy and as the crowds where still pouring in made the decision to leave and head back towards Banff. The car park was full and there where some cars waiting to come in and we left and headed back away from the Lake. I was still convinced that we would need to come back for Moraine Lake but as I approached the turn off I clicked on my indicator and the staff member waved me in. I couldn't believe it, I was shocked as given the crowds at Lake Louise didn't expect it but quite excited and relieved so set off down the access road. We arrived at the car park and parked in the first stop we saw. As we left the car to head to the lake there where a few spaces so it may be they wait for a few to be free before they start letting cars through as oppose to one in and one out. As we walked to the lake you could start to see the bright blue of the water and in no time we came to see what had been one of the first images I had seen of the Rockies.

Again it was just stunning and given that the crowds here where less due to the smaller car park and controlled access felt a lot more peaceful. I was just blown away again. We walked down by the side of the lake and spotted a deer in the woods before we found a place by the side of the lake to have lunch and another pretty special view to eat your sandwiches looking out over.

It was so quiet and relaxing I could of happily stayed their the rest of the day. We had looked at the canoes but these looked more expensive than anywhere else. Not many people seemed to be taking advantage of them either so maybe the costing was putting people off, it was about 100CAD for an hour, but as I knew there where lots of opportunities elsewhere we chose to wander and enjoy the views here so walked further down the lake.

We walked to the far end of the lake where there is a small cascade of water and as we did the clouds rolled in darker. There was some rumbles of thunder and as Sam isn't keen on this we headed back to the hotel and cafe to pick up a drink. It did start to spit with rain but the storm never really took hold and by the time we where back at the car park and hotel it had passed over. We grabbed some coffee and found a seat taking some more time to relax and take in the views. At this end of the lake there is a rock pile with a path heading up for views over the lake. I left Kirsty and Sam relaxind and headed up. Once up there the blue of the lake seemed even more vibrant and to this day find it hard to believe that water can be that colour.

I found a rock out cropping and sat just taking in the view. This was maybe one of my favorite places of the trip. From seeing the picture to planning and sorting everything out to finally being there it just felt a really special place and something I will always remember. After a while I headed back down to meet up with Kirsty and Sam who told me about an incident that happened whilst I was away. Near the rock pile there is a cluster of logs which I presume have collected there over the years and form a sort of dam, some people where walking on these even though it is not a path. A small boy was on there with his granddad and slipped in-between the logs becoming totally submerged in the water below. The water is freezing as it is glacial melt and fortunately his granddad managed to get his arms in and fish him out, both luckily trotted off unharmed just very damp and cold.

Once back at the car we take a steady drive back towards Banff and decide to make a final stop at Johnston Canyon as its on the way home. It doesn't take long to get there and as its nearer 5pm the car park has plenty of space. We park up and head to the entrance picking up an ice-cream on the way. The gorge is lovely with walkways cut into and attached to the rocks. We are soon at the lower falls which are impressive with a tun of water flowing over them. Kirsty and Sam decide they are all walked out and I head off to the Upper fall alone. At this point there aren't many people about at all and I'm mostly alone. As its berry season makes you a bit nervous in case of bears but I'd read my bear guide so sort of know what to do if I come across one. Its about a mile or so to the upper falls and there is a viewing platform over them, another beautiful sight and well worth the hike and stop.

The thunder starts to rumble again so I head back to the car where both Kirsty and Sam are waiting for me. They had been waiting on one of the walkways but once the thunder started Sam decided the car was the best place to wait so they headed back. We didn't have a long drive back to our place and not long out of the canyon saw the signs there was wildlife as a collection of vehicles had gathered so we pulled up when safe. There are some young elk grazing and I look to get out the car for some photos. As I turn to do so I lean on the steering wheel setting off the car horn, very loudly. Everyone turns and I'm shot some very killer looks from all the professional photographers with their massive telephoto lenses. I sneak out take a couple of pics and drive off as quietly as possible.

We pick up some petrol and once back I sort the hotel bill in case we are away early in the morning before the reception is open. Back in our place it hot-dogs for tea before chilling and recapping on some of the things we had seen and done today. Banff was such an amazing place and like most so much to still see and do. A return visit is definitely on the cards in the future.


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