As shown in my Day 1 report of our first-time visit to Banff, Canada, we rain-habituated Oregonians hit a semi-wet period north of the border -- which made us feel right at home.
Day 2 we headed to Johnston Canyon for a creekside hike, figuring that if we were going to get rained on it'd be better to be viewing close-in scenery rather than distant cloud-cloaked mountains.
Much of the 1.7 mile hike (one way) is along walkways that have been built along the stony sides of the canyon. Impressive construction feat. In grizzly bear country you're supposed to walk in groups of four. On this hike we often were in groups of dozens.
Suddenly she yelled, "I think I saw one!" I made a quick u-turn and stopped. Yes, there was a black bear eating berries (we assume) just a little ways off the road. A passing bicyclist and a large truck scared the bear off before we could get a better shot than this.
At the other end... even grander all-natural majesty. Craggy snow clad mountains. Glaciers. Definitely the most beautiful lake I've ever seen. We overheard a waitress at the Fairmont telling a customer that the lake can be frozen until June. "We love to see the green appear," she said.
As we approached the dock after our half hour was up, a guide was taking tourists out in a Canadian flag-bedecked canoe. I would have sung the national anthem if I'd known the words, and if this wouldn't have wrecked the serenity of Lake Louise, which it would have, for sure.
The next day we went back to Lake Louise to tackle the famous Lake Agnes hike. Laurel had woken me up before I was ready, all excited: "There's not a cloud in the sky! We've got to get going!"
So even after driving 45 minutes or so, it took a while for my body to get used to the idea of climbing 1,300 feet in 2.2 miles. This is a fairly mild slope at the beginning of the hike, which begins past the Fairmont, on the shore of Lake Louise. From here on, it's all uphill -- from about 5,700 feet to 7,000 feet.
The Lake Agnes teahouse. Geez, it's easy to love Canada. In the United States there'd be an ugly Starbucks franchise on the shores of Lake Agnes, not a teahouse where hikers pour tea and coffee from stainless steel decanters. Very civilized.
Sitting on a lakeshore rock, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that we'd brought along, an incredibly cute forest creature begged for a bit of whole wheat bread. I answered his/her prayer, while my environmentalist wife kept saying, "You shouldn't feed them! It's unnatural!" Agreed. But I couldn't help myself.
Laurel decided to hike further up the trail than my tired legs felt like going. She saw a Marmot along the way, which stayed still long enough for her to fire up her iPhone camera.
Then I returned to the teahouse and ordered a pot of coffee while I waited for Laurel to return. I invited an English couple to share my table, the teahouse seating being limited. They taught me how to handle the French Press pot the coffee came in. Then we talked some politics.
The woman was particularly down on Labor/Labour, more than her husband seemingly, so was happy that the political tide had changed in Britain. I argued that we American progressives wished our country was more English-like, especially in regard to health care. In the end we agreed that if the United States was too suspicious of government, and Great Britain was too reliant on government, then Canada was just right.
Reaching Lake Louise, some purple flowers looked great against the green water. It also felt great to be walking horizontally again. But no regrets about the Lake Agnes hike. If you ever have a chance to do it, don't think twice.
(You'll have time to do that while on the way up, when my near-sea level acclimated lungs kept saying to me, "What the hell have you gotten us into, Brian?")