Monday, July 25, 2011

Canadian Rockies Part 4 - Eiffel Lake

Rebecca and I ticked off the best of the best hikes. Next on the list was Isis Lake, at the other side of Temple Mountain. As we drove up Highway 1 from Canmore, the sky turned horribly dark and the rain began to fall. We slowed down at a pit stop to mull over our options. Every day was precious, and this was one of the best hikes...maybe number 5 on our list. Back in Canmore the skies were blue. Here several hundred meters higher, we were in the thick of the weather. We owned fine parkas, had umbrellas and Alaska spirits so we continued on.

We drove up through the rain, past Lake Louise, turned onto the Morraine Lake road and headed uphill. A vintage green Mercedes coup drove up the 14 kilometers to Morraine lake ahead of us. I remarked at what a beautiful old car it was and how much I'd enjoy owning one. , By the time we arrived, the weather turned beautiful. The Canadian parks trail system is first class. Here is the sign for our trail up into the mountains above Morraine Lake to Eiffel Lake.

At the lake shore, crowds of tourist were disgorged from dieseling busses, that continued to belch fumes into the valley as the crowds wandered quickly to the lake edge, take a photo and hop back onto the bus. Behind the lake, the many peaks wound in a circle around the lake and up back around to Lake Louise to the west. Sentinel Pass rose to the right; a beautiful lodge was built on the lake and provided food and lodging for the guests.

There, sitting by the lake shore was the owner of the vintage Mercedes, a vintage Danish/Canadian. A fine gentleman who enjoyed our company and our appreciation for he treasure of a vehicle. We spoke for a while; I could have spent the rest of the day with him.
The trail gets right with the program. Seven cruel switchbacks brought finer and finer views as we ascended. We passed a lovely young family from Chicago. They were of Indian origin, but as American as we were. The girls, ages 10-13 were a delight and told us of their 15 mile hike the previous day.
At the trail junction we veered left; last time we'd gone straight up to Sentinel Pass. This time we were headed to Eiffel Lake, supposedly one of the most beautiful places in the Rockies. Soon we were on snow. The spring in the Rockies was late again this year. We should have learned from our adventures two years ago to bring boots instead of running shoes. Looking SE across the valley, every peak looked massive and forbidding.

We could see Morraine Lake far below; snow covered the peaks ahead and across from us.
The earliest spring plants were just beginning to flower.
Every step brought huge new peaks and cliffs into view.
We heard an avalanche across the valley, and I looked across just in time to snap a photo of the powder falling down the limestone cliffs.
The huge pines of the lower valley gave way to a larch forest, then to alpine tundra.
Looking ahead at Isis Lake, we could see that it was still frozen over. Huge snowfields barred the way, but undeterred we plowed our running shoes. It was a little harum scarum over some of the steeper slopes, but we went methodically across.
The air cooled and we donned parkas; the sky threatened; the sun disappeared. We traded sweat for frost.
At the lake, the heavens opened. We sat under our umbrellas and ate the sandwich, apples, and granola bars. After a few minutes, the fun ended, and we packed up the remains and started the downward trek in the rain.
Not too far down the trail, I saw a hoary marmot...then three little one playing and fighting over some root and food in the ground. They looked and played like all kids! We must have spent fifteen minutes right next to them, taking photos and watching their antics. Momma seemed to be disinterested, but stayed within 10 feet or so.
My gazillion dollar Mammut parka was perfect. I stayed warm, dry and happy all day, taking photos, gabbing, boring Rebecca to tears with stories, and saving a bucket of memories for the next trip. Time for a beer!

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