Mountains, part I: Revelstoke, Glacier, and Banff

I suppose it was foolish of me to start a recent post with a John Denver reference, because this would be the perfect place to slip in some “Rocky Mountain High” references as way to get the post started.  Oh well, I guess I’ll have to do without.

After we left Penticton we drove up along Okanagan Lake through to the north end of the Okanagan Valley.  We stayed that night at Williams Lake Campground, just outside the town of Revelstoke.  Not coincidently, Revelstoke is at the base of Mt. Revelstoke, home to the wildflowers of the Meadows in the Sky and the namesake for the first of the mountain national parks we visited.  Before dinner we drove up near the top of the mountain, hiked the last kilometer or so, and enjoyed some truly stunning vistas and beautiful wildflowers.

Meadows in the Sky

The Columbia River, yes the very same one, flows around the base of the mountain, separating the Selkirk Range, of which Revelstoke is a part, from the Monashee range.  Interesting fact about Canada: they have so many amazingly beautiful mountains, that they haven’t even gotten around to naming them all.  That’s right, one of the placards describing the vista from the top of Revelstoke included a section of “unnamed peaks”.

The Columbia River, and some unnamed peaks

Our first night of camping under our belt, we headed out the next day for Banff via Glacier.  Glacier National Park of Canada, not to be confused with the one in the US, is an incredibly picturesque stretch of peaks and, not surprisingly, glaciers in the Selkirk Mountains, just west of the Rockies, proper.  (Note that the name of the park is Glacier National Park of Canada.  All Canadian national parks are called Something National Park of Canada because the Quebecois insist on naming their provincial parks as national parks, much as they call their provincial government the Quebecois National Assembly.)

Our first choice hike was foiled by the requirement of having four in a hiking party due to bear activity, so we headed back the way we came to hike the Great Glacier trail.  The hike began at the ruins of the old Glacier House, a lodge for wealthy travelers along the railroad early in the 20th century.  It then followed the rushing Illecillewaet River through a lovely forest dense with bunchberry.

Bunchberry in bloom

Then it began a climb up the end of the valley with fantastic views of an incredible cascade of water coming out of the glacier above.

Probably the most amazing waterfall I’ve ever seen

After eating our lunch at the edge of the stream and contemplating how amazing the creations of nature are, we headed back down the mountain to the Meeting of the Waters, and then back to the car.

The Meeting of the Waters

We camped that night at the Lake Louise Campground, near the village of Lake Louise and a few miles from the lake itself.  The next morning we set out to conquer the whole area of the lake on foot.  We started at the village and sang and shouted our way up to the lake and the Chateau to keep the bears away.  It is incredibly difficult to sing while also climbing hills at high altitude, but we had been told that bears were common in the area because of all the berries.  Once at the Chateau we followed the milky blue waters around the lake and then headed up past Mirror Lake to the lookout on the small beehive and then to the first teahouse at Lake Agnes.

A view of the Chateau and the lake from the Small Beehive

After cooling our feet in the frigid waters, we set out around the lake and up to the top of the large beehive.

Lake Agnes from the Teahouse

As we came down the other side we encountered what we believe to be a ptarmigan, a small pheasant-like bird.  It was making bizarre clucking sounds and wouldn’t leave the path.  I assured Bowen it was not going to attack her, whereupon it promptly rushed me and pecked at my ankle.  I flicked it into the air with my foot, and we rushed off down the path.

That guy attacked me (but not Bowen)

We continued along the path and up the valley towards the second teahouse at the Plain of Six Glaciers, where we had delicious biscuits gazing out at the mountains and glaciers.

A view up to the Plain of Six Glaciers

Victoria Glacier from the Teahouse

A bit rejuvenated, we hiked back down the valley, greeted by chirping pikas, to the lake.

A view back to the lake from pika territory

At this point with about 20 km under our belt, we decided we couldn’t give up now and hiked the rest of the way back to the village.  Singing to keep the bears away was much easier on the way down.  We hiked about 14 miles that day and were exhausted, but definitely gratified by getting to see so much.

The next day we visited Moraine Lake for a short hike and then headed into the town of Banff.

Moraine Lake

We took a hike up the hill overlooking the town, and then sat in a coffee shop and did some work as the hordes of tourists passed outside.  Then we headed back and had a glass of wine sitting by Lake Louise.

Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier in the evening

The next morning we got up early to head to Jasper.

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One response to “Mountains, part I: Revelstoke, Glacier, and Banff

  1. This is so fun to see your pictures and experience your travels. Thanks for sharing it!

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