A bonus walk in Wonderland

An unexpected hitch in an itinerary doesn’t have to mean frustration or disappointment. When it happens to me at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies I consider it a blessing. Can you imagine a finer place to have to stay a little bit longer?

View from 485, Chateau Lake Louise

View from my hotel room

With no room available for me in Banff, I take full advantage of my ‘bonus’ day at the lake, starting with a hearty breakfast at the splendid Chateau Lake Louise to fuel my hike into the spectacular surrounding countryside.

I’m walking up the valley to the Plain of the Six Glaciers. This adventure along the “teahouse trail” will swallow up most of my day, exactly according to plan.

Once I get beyond the head of the lake I slow down to dawdle at leisure along a trail curling through dense forest. Eventually it spills from the trees onto a jigsaw landscape of scree, silt, avalanche chutes and terminal moraine.

Pica seen on hike

Curious pica

As I step carefully over a clutch of small boulders my eye catches a scurry of movement, a flash of brown to my left. I freeze mid-step. A tiny pika pops its head above a nearby rock. This tiny, furry cousin of the rabbit studies me warily for a few seconds, then ducks back and is gone. Or so I think.

Moments later it reappears, nervously twitching its whiskers while eyeing me curiously. Moving ever so slowly I point my camera and snatch a photo before it again vanishes.

Every step along the trail takes me closer to a superb view of the Victoria Glacier. Spectacular enough when seen through binoculars from the lake, from this new vantage point the 90 metre thick ice sheet is truly awesome. I also have a stupendous view down the valley to the landmark hotel standing like a miniature confection beside turquoise water. The sweep of landscape is overpowering.
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The view back to Lake Louise

The trail gets steeper and forms a zig-zag as I near my destination, the tea house at the Plain of Six Glaciers. This log cabin cafe is run by hotel staff who lug all the food and drink up here once a week.

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Six Glaciers tea room

I spend a couple of idyllic hours admiring the gallery of surrounding mountains and hanging glaciers, munching on sandwiches and gazing at ice-dusted peaks. As lunch breaks go, it’s got to be one of the best ever.

All too soon I need to think about heading back. Half way down the valley I take an alternate return route. This takes me to a point where I leave the trail for the brief but strenuous upward surge to Lake Agnes. By now it’s time for afternoon tea at another charming tea house which, being much closer to Lake Louise, gets a lot more visitors than its sister at the top of the trail.

From Lake Agnes it’s a pleasant descent along a trail passing though tall, thick forest to reach the lake shore. Long before twilight I’m back where I started and eager for a rest after having turned my unexpected bonus day into a hike made in heaven.

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Best lunch spot in the world, perhaps?

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