The Serenity of Banff Park…And No Fish…
There’s something to be said for having a quest, going on said quest and then having said quest not quite quenched.
But something wonderful occurred in its place.
Fresh alpine air, snow-capped mountains, even in late Spring, Swarovski-crystal clear water…and no fish.
Okay, there were fish, we saw them jump. But they saw Us too, I guess.
Once you head West out of the hustle and bustle of Calgary metropolitan mayhem, about a 40 minute drive in, you realize why you live where you live and how very lucky you are.
In all directions – beauty – maybe chaotic as Mother Nature orchestrates but beauty nonetheless.
The road, now, a major, well-constructed four-lane monster, that because of the traffic demands we also make
freeway over-passes for the wildlife too.
Why should we have all the fun and why should anyone die on a Road Trip – four wheel or four paw?
Are there multi-lanes up there for the Elk and the Bear, you ask? Not sure. Reasonable souls tell me it’s just grass and wildflowers. I, myself, am picturing lanes of green grass with dandelions as the yellow stripe and white prairie crocus as the white passing stripes. After all, wildlife have those glow-in-the-dark eyes at night, just light headlights, why not passing lanes and stripes too?
It doesn’t matter where you look on your quest West, the beauty surrounds and envelopes…
Castle Mountain (once called Mount Eisenhower, dedicated to the General who made D-Day a WWII success, and if you ask me, it still should be!) is the King of the Trans-Canada West and as seen here, even peeks majestically over Highway 93 heading south, it’s just that massive…
but other granite monuments hold vertical sway in this alpine wonderland as well…
Our home-away-from-home destination was to be The Post Hotel in Lake Louise,
one of the original valley hotels in this area, built in 1947 and named to recall the many Post Hotels in Europe, it also referenced an additional building on the property which was the de facto Canada Post post office for the village. The original hotel was a modest beast (below left), built of massive logs from the British Columbia town of Revelstoke and from the headwaters of the Bow River. The stain applied to the logs, then, has become its trademark look now – redwood - the original building still stands today (below, right), housing the upscale Cigar Room/Lounge and Dining Room.
You’d like to think you’re going to “rough it” when on a fishing trip…but who says you have to, right? Not I, I say. There’s fishing in the woolly wilds and then there’s luxuriating before and after and I hear the fish don’t mind you much, either way. Real wood-burning, field-stone fireplaces (or just don’t bother lighting anything at all), award-winning meals, a mind-blowing spa and a stellar bedside view. I’d like to say this trip was exhausting but if experiencing the very best is exhausting, well then, I’m wiped!
Once a good night was had by all, a new Banff Park day dawned and off we went a-trekking, in search of the feisty fish, you know, those sleek, glistening, rather slimy critters that have different names like Pike and Bass, but this time and at this lake, our target was the elusive Cutthroat. I’d like to say it was the Dolly Varden kind, just because I giggle every time I say that name, picturing a rather large bust on some girlie trout (I wonder if Dolly Parton knows about this fish?!) but it wasn’t. No matter. I picked the cutest lure I could find in the box, a flashy neon-pink-with-black-spots doohickie, something a Barbie-doll or a girl of seven carrying a Barbie-doll would have chosen and off I went at a feverish pace to the waterside. Okay, I just sauntered along on down the trail, sniffing the lodge-pole pines and hearing them quietly creak and groan with the swaying from the mountain breeze. Who would rush in the middle of the mountains if there is no bear chasing you?
The trail we started from, off Highway 93, is a rather good trail, if I say so myself. It’s all downhill, what a treat! Oh, yeah, hmm…what goes down has to come back up. Oh well, that’s for later and who can have a worry in the world, even if it does involve gravity and puffing, when all you want to do is live in the alpine-wonder Now. I didn’t even think of bears when I should have, as this is the Dead-Tired–But-Awake-And-Growling-Hungry-Badass-Bear Season after all! But hey, if I don’t bite them, why would they bite me, right? And besides, I’m no where near as tasty as a prairie crocus! (right)
Water in the Parks is anything but predictable in colour. Every variation of greens to blues, electric aqua to vibrant turquoise, and today, on Lake Altrude, a lovely shade of soft emerald green in one view, melting into soft aqua blue in another.
Wet precious-gem colours of delight that cost not the world to enjoy. It’s the glacial silt that has come down from the mountains and the living algae which colour the water. I just love how Mother Nature creates vistas we mere humans can’t even contemplate until we have witnessed them with our own eyes…
The bedrock, millions of years worth in the making, that with erosion and Ice Age uplift and thawing has created a world where not everything you see is on the level, like a living optical elusion of mammoth proportions.
Floating on this lake all day was a tough thing to do. All that fresh air, all that clear water, all the time in the world to concentrate on not thinking, while the fish also didn’t think twice about our hooks. It may be considered a frustrating pursuit if one doesn’t get a bite but for Us Thinkers of Not it’s Open Season on Serenity.
Just For The Record: I DID have a couple of “bites”. And boy, was I was excited! Too excited. I almost took my eye out with the hook whipping back out of the lake at me the first time. I forgot this was NOT Marlin fishing, you do not have to tug THAT hard. The second “bite” I nailed the tug on that nibble just right! I caught me a nice hunk of lake-weed, it was a BUTE! Nobody but me was impressed. I would have taken a picture of it, to prove to you the fruits of my labours but was told not to pictorially boast so much.
The day wore on and as Alberta is known to do, rain kissed sun, and they both kissed gale force winds, right up until everything went dead still, dead calm, all in a matter of minutes, over and over again, all day. It was enough to make one meteorologically dizzy, if not wind and weather burned to a crisp.
We lunched on the banks of the lake, took in a hearty beef stew, well, dehydrated beef stew that when boiling lake water was added tasted like culinary Nirvana. Why is it that everything outside tastes perfect? I swear, we could have had BBQ’d Skunk and I would have been in 7th Heaven! Dehydrated Starbucks coffee too, hey, we’re outdoorsmen who were NOT raised by wolves, you know!
More floating and fishing was on tap after the midday meal. Now, the gravity in the boats seemed heavier, the urge to nap with fishing pole in hand more likely but our stubborn determination kicked in that in no way shape or form could we return to the resort, having to answer the Bell Boy’s Question: “Well, did you catch any?”, with anything but the affirmative.
That drive and fear of embarrassment. Oh, now I get it! Now I get why fishermen are such liars. I never got that before.
We were seriously prepared to stay out as long as it took. Nothing and No One was going to prevent us from completing our appointed rounds (oh, wait a sec, that’s the postman’s motto, I’ll try again>>>), from hooking a fishy, even if we had to die trying. And just as we put that promise into action, a massive cloud formation came looming over the nearby mountain ridge from the south-west, one that did not look like it was going anywhere nor doing anything but morphing into a Level 5, Def. Con tornado-mixed-with-hurricane-mixed-with-cyclone disaster.
We were outta there!
Man, our zeal was not very zealous.
A half an hour later, after we were ready to leave, that Def. Con 5 was now Picture Perfect. Welcome to Alberta!
It took us a while to pack up for we had brought everything but the kitchen sink, well, it looked like that and now all that we had brought was water-logged, aided by the fact that “One of us” slipped and landed butt-first into this glacier-fed lake. I won’t go into details but the laughter was all-consuming, for me. I’m not The One.
A fish laughed too. I heard him. This ginormous trout hurled himself out of the water, just for this very occasion, pointing with his fins, laughing. It truly was embarrassing…but not for me.
Just as we were about to go, this most amazing double rainbow graced our presence.
As if, just for Us, we had our own little Pot of Gold, or two, at the end of each. Someone was shining down on Us. Someone was happy.
I know I was happy. The fish were happy. The Soaked One, not so much.
We ended this more-than-perfect day with a trek to a nearby creek,
the water so unbelievably fresh, so frighteningly frigid, so swiftly moving…so nice. The ripples danced, the water lapped, the well-worn, flattened river stones glistened in all their aqua and burnt umber glory. I wanted to pick up the rocks and keep them for myself to remember this day but I could hear reasonable voices telling me that if I did that there would be no rocks for anyone else to view…in The Rockies…I pondered that thought for a minute but obeyed regardless.
The Post Hotel Lobby was a welcome sight. One forgets how much in pain one can be when one hasn’t done squat all winter. The fireplace was de rigeur too, as was the hot tub, a nice bottle of wine, a huge meal and a steaming Irish Coffee to cure the chills in me. It’s utterly amazing I’m here now, being able to type this to you, I should have died from an over-dose of YUM!
No fishies were caught on this trip. So sad were we. But we have resolved to try and try and try again, or at least however many times we can manage before we have to declare bankruptcy. I feel an after-glow of guilt in some ways, luxuriating in a place that has seen such hardship from the pioneers of long-ago. But if there is a little slice of Heaven and it ends up being in Canada, I’d say there’s a good bet it was here, on this day, at this time and in these places. And I was there awash in it all.
When we got home the next day, we had BBQ steaks and a HUGE Hotel bill.