Friday, 31 July 2015

The Painted Lake

Location: Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Improvement District No. 9, AB T0L, Canada
The holiday in Jasper and Banff National Parks was going well. We'd had some nice rest days, the scenery was amazing and the reduced distances felt great. We aimed to wake up early at Wilcox Campground and do a morning hike up Parker Ridge Trail but when the alarm went off the sound of the rain on the tent helped us drift back to sleep. After the extra couple of hours in our sleeping bag we packed up and headed south, continuing along the Icefields Parkway. The rain had let up by the time we rounded this amazing corner where the valley just opened up in front of us. We followed the long, sweeping bend down deeper onto the valley floor. We stopped at Weeping Wall to just gaze, mouths open, in every direction.

This sense of amazement is a constant while travelling down this stretch of road. It really makes the time fly and before we knew it we had traveled the 30 miles to our lunch stop; completely blowing past our morning break. We were planning our usual of cheese, apple and crackers in the car park but when we went in to the services we noticed a back room, and in this back room was a lunch buffet. The buffet was $20 a head and included drinks and pudding (we had learned our lesson from Clinton). After being seated at a perfect table to see our bikes we started the feast. There was southern style chicken, sausage casserole, sweet chili salmon, mash, rice, coleslaw, salad, carrots and sweet corn kernels. It was brilliant, we ate and ate, then rested and ate some more. We drank Pepsi, root beer and ginger ale. Then for pudding we had chocolate cream pie and coffee. We were more than full by the end of it and really ate and drank our $20 worth.

With only 16 miles to the campground we slowly rolled along and found a nice place to pitch our tent. The campground, Waterfowl Lakes, was a little more expensive than the others but did have hot running water and flush toilets. It also had not one but two glacier fed lakes. We had a brief walk around the northern one before thinking of heading up to get a better vantage point. However, at the trail head we were aware that we didn't have bear spray, bells or whistles with us so decided to head to the southern lake instead. Good decision, well executed! The view was stunning. Everything about what we were seeing was utterly fantastic. The brilliant blue sky backstopping the rolling white clouds, that were perfectly framed by the mountainous peaks with hints of icy blue glacier which flowed down to rolling foot hills of trees, all of which was doubled by the reflection in the undisturbed glassy lake.

The next morning we both woke bleary eyed after a terrible nights sleep. The meal the previous day had been so filling that neither of us had needed any supper. Unfortunately, all the caffeine from countless frizzy drinks and coffee had kept us awake until the early hours of the morning. Thankfully we only had another short day to Lake Louise but there was a pass to climb en route.  Our first stop was just after the Bow Pass summit at Peyto Lake.  We walked the short distance from the car park up to the viewing platform for the lake.  Peyto Lake is the iconic glacier fed lake.  It's milky, glassy blue colour was intense and beautiful in its surrounding.  We ate our lunch and listened to the tour guides talk about the lakes.  One of which was commenting on stupid questions tourists had asked.  The one that stood out was "So, when do they drain the lake so they can paint it?".

After the short lunch stop we headed down a newly paved road toward our destination. At one point two guys went passed us on road bikes. They were on a day ride from Lake Louise up the pass and back down to where they started. They rode off along the flat as we watched the mountains and glaciers sail past. On the next little climb we managed to catch and pass these two again and continued down to Lake Louise.  When we arrived we met up with an American, Miles, who was just about to head north up the parkway so we pointed out some places and wished him luck on his travels.  As we ate overpriced sandwiches and bakery goods we got talking to Australians, Roz and Stan, and arranged to share a campground in Lake Louise.  After a few hours organising online stuff we headed down and found the pitch that Roz and Stan had paid for and set up.  As we were cooking dinner and drinking a beer a car rolled up and asked if they could pitch up as well as the campground was fully booked.  As Roz and Stan weren't around we were unsure but said yes since splitting an expensive site is always better three ways than two.  Patricia and Markus sat and chatted in the pavilion as a huge storm passed over and when Stan and Roz appeared back from town they confirmed that all was good so the six of us spent the twilight chatting, drinking and looking forward to the days ahead. 

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