The “snow fall” theme for this trip continues, although today it came in the form of snow falling down the mountainside – an avalanche! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our destination for today’s hike was the Plain of Six Glaciers. We started off alongside the popular Lake Louise. One can see why its clear blue green water surrounded by mountain peaks is such a draw, but we were happier when we continued beyond the populated tourist trails and ventured into the wilderness areas. We passed through pine forest, followed rushing water, looked up sheer rock faces, and picked our way on rocky footings and across deep snowy fields. As Erik commented, “This is what I came for!”
The reward for our efforts was reaching a Tea House on the mountainside. It had only been open for a week so far this season, and the staff willingly answered all our questions about how they get supplies up there (answer, helicopter drops once a season plus pack horses). We settled ourselves at a bright red table on the log balcony of the stone building, and savored outstanding soup and home made bread, flavor enhanced by the outdoor experience.
We did quite well in the wildlife department, spotting mountain goats, a marmot, porcupine, Clark’s Nutcracker, and even a mama Grizzly bear and two cubs. The latter were far across the lake, but we followed their progress along the entire shoreline.
There were signs warning hikers of avalanche danger in the area, and in fact, we could hear and see them up high on the distant mountains. It was on our return trip that the experience became distinctly personal. Just before crossing a large snow field, we heard the telltale sounds, and there directly in front of us was an avalanche, spewing snow above our trail! It looked just like a waterfall coming down the mountain, but the spray and masses of moving moisture were snow not water. The accumulated mounds of snow formed large snowballs that slid down the slope in a very liquid manner. It was fascinating to watch, even though it threatened to cover our path. We watched in amazement, as it poured on and on, wondering if and when it would be safe for us to continue. It eventually came to rest well above our path, and we high tailed it across, only to see it reactivate when we reached the other side.
Day 2 in the Canadian Rockies – never a dull moment.