It seemed like a benign choice of hiking trail. The distance was moderate, the elevation gain was minimal (at least for a hike in the mountains), and its proximity to Jasper meant that it was well traveled and maintained. But the Valley of the Five Lakes held some surprises for us.
As Its name implies, the trail’s main attraction is that it circles five lakes, imaginatively named First Lake, Second Lake… Each boasts a unique shade of jade and blue, depending on its depth. First Lake is the largest and we lingered along its shore to admire the view, stopping at various points for photos. Suddenly, Rich shouted out and pointed down the lake. What he initially took to be a large rock was moving across the lake – it was a bear swimming, and judging by its size, it had to be a grizzly! The bad news is that it was swimming toward our side of the lake, not far down the shore from where we stood. The good news is that it had no bear cubs with it. Our vantage point was such that we could not see it exit the water and get a good look at it, but we knew it was somewhere ahead of us. We allowed Mr. Bear ample time to go on its merry way, then proceeded with caution, making LOTS of noise. You never heard jollier hikers, singing boisterous songs (about bears), clapping and shouting along their way. It worked, anyway.
Lakes Two through Four passed by uneventfully, as we duly noted their colors, and warned hikers traveling the opposite direction about Mr. Bear. It was at Lake Five that things got interesting again. Erik was the one to spot two rowboats at the end of the lake. Upon investigation, he noticed that one boat’s chain was locked but not securely attached to the boat… It only took a few seconds to exchange guilty glances and mutually agree on a course of action. Seeing the lake from its center, admiring the loons, circumnavigating the tiny island, and investigating the end of the lake around the bend was sinfully delightful. And we enjoyed every minute of it!
Our afternoon hike was just a short distance down the road, and took us to Wabasso Lake which was created by beavers. By then we were spoiled by the five lakes, and found its brown waters less appealing. What was of most interest was actually underfoot. In the muddier sections of the trail recent wildlife footprints could easily be seen. We saw elk or caribou, but my favorite were the bear prints, some of which clearly showed the claws. Just like the morning encounter, that was close enough for me.