Sunday, July 24, 2011

Canadian Rockies Part 2 - Grassi Lakes

Grassi Lakes, named after an early citizen in the area, are nestled in the narrow valley just above the town of Canmore. The trail up to the lakes starts from the south edge of town next to the Nordic Center, so hundreds of people every day hike the two or so miles up to the lakes. After a steep 8 miles on Friday, we opted for a shorter walk on Saturday, so although we expected crowds, we were happy for the close but beautiful trail. We passed and were passed by a lot of folks: families, hikers, Olympic athletes, tourists from Japan, locals on a Sunday walk. The first lake was stunning. It looked like one of the Yellowstone hot springs; its stunning colors were so inviting, but I didn't see anyone swimming, no garbage, no disturbance.

Moving up from the lakes we could see the peaks above us to the east and west, giant limestone crags. It would be great to climb there someday.

The water in the tiny creek looked great for drinking, but we had brought our own. It comes out of a large reservoir above, and to the SW, huge shining steel penstocks drop down the cliff face right into town. Electrical lines follow. Although this is virtual wilderness, it exists butting up against a large town with all the modern conveniences.

The lakes were stunning. I took too many photographs, but likely not nearly as many as the Japanese tourists, armed with the latest assortment of fine camera equipment, constantly snapping photos of everything.

Rock climbers have their way on the limestone cliffs on both sides of the canyon. I was intrigued and watched for a long time. Rebecca asked if I wanted to climb and why I didn't bring my shoes and chalk bag. This was a hiking trip, and I had climbed these cliffs a few years earlier with Jim Donini and Charlotte Fox when the American Alpine Club held it's annual meeting in Banff in conjunction with the Canadian Alpine Club.

We walked on up to the top where a powerful wind was blowing the dust and dirt horizontally into our eyes. Nothing to see there, just a dam, parking lot, and tough going, so we turned around and headed down.

There was an 'Easy Trail' and a 'Hard Trail'. We had come up the 'Easy Trail', so we opted to descend the 'Hard Trail', which was not hard, just hundreds of steps down a cliff side. It was worth the steps, because the views were excellent: huge waterfalls, steep mountains, vertical cliffs below our feet, and more tourists.

It was soon over; a shorter day, but this gave us time to go shopping in Canmore. Two years ago I'd spent a zillion dollars on a Mammut parka. Today I spent half a zillion on a Mammut hoody from the same store. Time for a beer!

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