We had travelled this amazing route in May last year, with our dear friend Ed McNeil in his Earthroamer…this time it would be very different.
When traveling through in May 2015 hardly anywhere was open including most of the campgrounds and hotels mainly because they were still snowbound.
It is Peak season now! And….it seemed to us anyway, that the world and his wife were en-route to all the major attractions. In particular we were very aware of the many coach loads of the “new tourist moneymakers”, the Chinese.
Paralleling the Continental Divide for 230km between Lake Louise and Jasper, Highway 93 is much better known as the Icefields Parkway or if you prefer, ’Promenade des Glaciers’ in French…see how we introduced that multilingual side to us then…amazing huh? The highlight for most people is the enormous Columbia Icefield and its numerous glaciers. The parkway was completed in 1940, and most people now travel by car or bus, meaning it can gets very busy in July and August. Being here in July then presented several challenges, mainly accessing campgrounds or parking at the major attractions….the parking actually was not so bad with exception of Lake Louise, where we had been before with Ed and so was not too disappointing to miss, but Big Henry as always was attracting lots of attention.
We had a number of places we had not checked out previously. Peyto Lake, Moraine Lake and Jasper Town, and with them a number of hikes we hoped we could do weather permitting. The weather actually was more of a limiter as it turned out. We later established for nearly 5 weeks there had been very little sunshine and mainly cloudy and wet days…certainly for the week we travelled here with the exception of a couple of the days it was also wet and cloudy for us.
We had also arranged to meet with our other dear friends Brenda and Garth (also Earthroamer owners who we had hooked up with before in Washington State last year), in Jasper over the weekend.
As we bypassed Banff on our way up from Calgary we decided to first go and visit Yoho National Park. A great Hike around Emerald Lake in the morning. It is the largest of Yoho's 61 lakes and ponds, as well as one of the park's premier tourist attractions. Emerald Lake Lodge, a high-end lodge perched on the edge of the lake, provides local accommodation. A 5.2 km (3.2 mi) hiking trail circuits the lake. During the summer months, canoe rentals are available; in the winter, the lake is a popular cross country skiing destination. We were in early so managed to park up no problem and then set out clockwise around the lake trail. Due to its high altitude, the lake is frozen from November until June. The vivid turquoise color of the water, caused by powdered limestone, is most spectacular in July as the snow melts from the surrounding mountains.
The lake is enclosed by mountains of the President Range, as well as Mount Burgess and Wapta Mountain. This basin traps storms, causing frequent rain in summer and heavy snowfalls in winter. This influx of moisture works with the lake's low elevation to produce a unique selection of flora. Trees found here are more typical of B.C.'s wet interior forests, such as western red cedar, western yew, western hemlock and western white pine. The alluvial fan on the northeast shore produces wildflowers in abundance during late June and early July. It was a very pleasant hike….very few other hikers on the trail.
Back to Lake Louise and we decided to try our luck at parking up at Lake Moraine…it was very busy but going up later in the afternoon meant there were chances of more spaces in the very limited parking area. By great good fortune we managed to find a good spot to park Big H., and then working our way through the crowds climbed the 300 meters up Rockville Trail to the point to get some shots of this stunningly beautiful lake. The skies actually cleared a little for us…faint tinges of blue…it certainly helped with the photos.
We wanted to stretch our legs again and so we set off on the short 3 mile there and back hike along the lakes western shore. Initially there were quite a few other hikers but the further along the track it thinned out and we were able to get some good views down and across the lake through short path detours back to the lakes edge. Back with Big Henry we plotted our path up to Jasper and where to camp that night.