My friend Deanna moved to Field, BC earlier in the year to work at a lodge on Emerald Lake. She kept posting photos of the amazing views on Instagram and it convinced me to go visit her 😛
I flew into Calgary and she came and picked me up. Our first stop was just outside Banff at the Cave and Basin National Park. I figured it was a hike to a cave, which would contain a basin. The photos online looked amazing, and the cave seemed to go on forever. They were misleading, to say the least. There’s an information centre which has a short hallway that leads directly to the cave. There is water at the bottom, but it’s not the namesake basin. Just outside the building is a small natural pool, which turned out to be the basin. The area has lots of streams and pools of water, all of which have an impressive range of colours. But the whole thing left something to be desired. It definitely doesn’t need the 2-3hrs recommended on their website.
The plan was for me to sleep in Deanna’s room at the staff residence near the lodge. But long story short, Deanna’s room had some sort of leak and wasn’t suitable for us to sleep in the first night. So much to both of our excitement, we got to stay in one of the suites at the main lodge. It had a wood burning fireplace in it so we got a s’mores kit from the kitchen (with homemade marshmallows!) and enjoyed an evening by the fire.
On Friday, we had an afternoon tea reservation at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise at 1pm. We went a little early and poked around the chateau a bit and took pictures of the lake. Then we had our afternoon tea, which was lovely. We had a table right by the window looking out on to the lake. The scones were probably some of the best scones I’ve ever had. They were very light and not at all crumbly. The sweets were a buffet, and much to our disappointment, we were pretty full by the time we got around to eating the desserts. However, we still managed to have a few 😉
After we finished tea, we set out for a hike to Lake Anges and the tea house that is situated there.
The trail was at times strenuous. I figured I wouldn’t be too out of shape because I walk almost everywhere in Toronto. But Toronto is flat, and mountain hikes are not. The slope made it more difficult than I was expecting. We took our time getting there. Luckily there’s great views when there’s a break in the trees, so it’s easy to stay motivated. There’s also Mirror Lake on the way, which is a nice place to make a pit stop.
Once we got to Lake Anges and the tea house, we were so happy. It had been a long hike, and we had finally made it to our destination. However, there had been signs the whole way indicating the distance not only to the tea house, but to Big Beehive and Little Beehive. They weren’t that much further along, and they can be (at least in my head) considered peaks. So we continued on to the top of Little Beehive. It was so worth going the extra distance. We could see in all directions, including down to Lake Louise and the tiny Fairmont Chateau.
We took a slightly different route back down, and it was much quicker going down. The whole hike took us about 4hrs from start to finish.
We were pretty exhausted from our hike, so we had dinner at a family style restaurant in Lake Louise then went back to Emerald Lake. Deanna’s room had been figured out, so we were back to the staff residence. We started to watch Mowgli, but it was really not a good movie, so we gave up about 20mins in and went to bed.
On Saturday we went for a hike through Johnston Canyon. Some of the path veers away from the canyon a little and is in the forest, but some of the hike is on bridges built on the canyon wall, so you’re walking right in the canyon. It has two significant waterfalls, which have lookout points along the path. Significantly further into the forest, there are these things called ink pots. They’re pools of water coming up from the earth, and they have very bright blue and green colours. They’re almost perfectly round, so that’s why they’re called ink pots. Getting to the ink pots was the same distance on top of what we had already walked, but I figured it would be a fairly easy walk, based on what we had gone through thus far.
The ink pots ended up being much further than I anticipated, and the path wound up and down and was more similar to the Lake Agnes hike than the walk through the canyon. But it was also very much worth the effort. The ink pots are in a valley in between mountains. It was very ‘Sound of Music’ like. Deanna and I poked around the ink pots then chilled in a clearing by a stream for a while before making our way back to reality.
The entrance to the Johnston Canyon hike is fairly close to Banff, so we drove into Banff and did some touristy things. We walked down the main strip and stopped to get some snacks at a candy shop (I had an ‘avalanche bark’ which was white chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows and rice krispies, which was delicious). I wanted to drive by the Banff Fairmont and when I learned that Deanna didn’t know there was a Banff Fairmont, I insisted. It’s a very impressive building, but the Lake Louise Fairmont has much better views.
On Sunday, we decided to take it easy and go to some hot springs. There are a number of hot springs in the area, but one specifically has a wall of rocks right by the pool, and is the most ‘natural’ looking one. All of the others look like normal pools. The one in Radium at least lends itself to the idea that you’re swimming in a natural phenomenon. There’s a hot pool and a cool pool, so we switched between them a couple times. The hot pool is basically a giant hot tub. The weather was a little cool that morning, so it was quite enjoyable.
After we finished at the hot springs, we decided to drive north and visit a wolf sanctuary. All of their wolves have been rescued from places that purposefully bred them for captivity, like zoos. It was a little underwhelming, but very cute nonetheless. They take the wolves out for walks where they drive them to an area and just let them run free for a bit. You can go on those walks with them, which is awesome because there’s nothing between you and the wolves. But it also costs $150 and Deanna and I didn’t have that kind of money to spare.
We went back to the lodge and used the staff canoe to go out onto Emerald Lake. It was so beautiful. The colour of the lake is just stunning. We had dinner at the lodge, which was pretty good. It was expensive though, as everything is in the area, because of the difficulty of getting the food to these remote areas.
I needed to be back at the airport by 2:30 on Monday, so I figured it would be nice to do something on the way to the airport, since we would be driving by Lake Louise and Banff on the way. Because Deanna works at the lodge, she can get some discounts on touristy things in the area. Turns out, she can go up the Lake Louise Gondola for free, and managed to get me on for free as well. They have the open benches like on a ski hill, as well as enclosed pods. We went in the pod on the way up and the bench on the way down. At the top, you get a great view of Lake Louise and the mountains. It was cool to be able to see the peak we hiked to from a distance, to really get a better idea of what we had accomplished. There’s also a wildlife info center up there, that has pelts of various animals and kids learning spaces.
We got to Calgary earlier than I needed to be at the airport, so I joined Deanna for some errands she needed to run while she was in town. She needed to try on some bridesmaid dresses for a wedding she’s going to be a part of next year.
We also saw a bunch of wildlife!
- bears (2!)
- mountain goats
- bighorn sheep
- something that looks like a marmot