Lake Louise and The Plain of Six GlaciersPosted: October 8, 2012
When I travelled to the Canadian Rockies in September with my husband, we went to Lake Louise several times and twice hiked the trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers as far as the teahouse. I found the lake and the mountains deeply beautiful.
Our first glimpse of Lake Louise was on a sunny day the week following Labour Day. We had heard that the crowds thin out then, but there were still many of us tourists out to see Louise. I had seen photos of her since moving to Canada in the 1970s and expected the pathway we took to the left of the hotel, down from the upper parking lot, to lead us to a trail to her. However, we were surprised as we walked around a bend to find that spectacular scene right in front of us. Here we joined scores of other tourists strolling, gaping and taking photos with large and small cameras and cell phones.
However, we soon left the throngs and walked, with increasingly fewer people, along the lake and up to the trail. We decided to return earlier the next day to hike to the plain of the six glaciers when we had plenty of time. And that’s what we did, stopping often to take in the blessed beauty and to take photos. Other hikers were out walking and we let them pass us as we continued our slow climb, sometimes exchanging a word or two about the beauty surrounding us.
I owe something to Richard Louv who wrote The Nature Principle that I’ve written about. And that is, I am much more accepting of finding other humans on nature trails than I was in the past. That is because he spoke of the extreme importance of people being in nature to care about it enough to want to preserve it.
On the way up the trail we saw golden mantle ground squirrels, who likely saw us as bringers of food. One day I saw a pika which I identified later in a guide book as the small animal I’d seen with round ears–a member of the rabbit family. We saw grey jays and ravens. Earlier, at the base of the lake we’d seen another bird–clark’s nutcracker.
The mountains and glaciers surrounded us. We saw walls of nearly vertical rock and glacial streams of cascading water flowing into streams that led to the lake. At times we were accompanied by rumbling and witnessed a distant avalanche on what I believe was Mt. Victoria. At one point the trail took us on a narrow ledge by a cliff with steel ropes which were comforting to hang on to.
The path itself was generally not rough, but it was a steep climb at times for us, who are moderate day hikers well past our physical youth. By the end, we went very slowly, but made it to the plain and the teahouse there—a wooden building in the conifers with Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the breeze. There, at an altitude of over 6000 feet and after hours of walking, we rewarded ourselves with tea and sandwiches looking out through the deep green of the trees. We stood later, squinting into the sun at the glaciers, and I was able to see the tiny shapes of mountain goats that another visitor pointed out. A raven croaked energetically from the top of a dead tree and the sun was warm on us. I can feel the clear atmosphere now as I write in Toronto.
Then, it was down slowly in the late afternoon, retracing our steps and seeing the land, the heights from a new perspective. Lake Louise gradually came into sight and the rock wall that climbers had earlier been scaling. Greeting us were reflections in the opal water of the calm lake. Those days in the midst of the extreme beauty of earth on the plain of the six glaciers trail and at Lake Louise brought me great solace and a feeling of inner light. They remain with me still and give me strength.