September 8th and 9th
A hike was in order.
I left Canmore and drove the beautiful Route 1 to Lake Louise, where, despite the sun in Canmore, it was even colder and stormier than the previous few days combined. There, I went up and joined the throngs of people getting their picture taken with the Victoria Glacier at the lake, warmed up at the Fairmont Hotel, and wondered what the heck to do with myself. The rain was making it impossible to climb. The cold and the pain in my leg made me want to curl up by a fire, not my damp Honda. Once it got dark, however, I found a place to sleep, and woke up feeling more positive and healed.
It rained in the morning, but by the time I started up the trail to the Agnes Teahouse, the sun had come out again. I felt like crap still, but, as I learned from the other backpackers on the JMT last year, “You’ve gotta start slow for the first half hour!” So, I did, which was easy to do since the path up to the teahouse was graded for horses (praise all trails graded for horses, for they make it possible to walk fast, and walking fast is fun). Once that first half hour had passed, I had gotten my stride back, and had to pack away all the layers I had brought with me in preparation for the apparently “horrible, rainy day,” that was supposed to be happening but was in fact not. It was still cool, and as my pace caught fire, the air felt amazing on my skin.
There is a waterfall right below a staircase that leads up to the teahouse below Lake Agnes, and coming up over the edge was a beautiful sight, indeed. It was late in the morning, so the teahouse was already crowded with people, but there was enough room for me to squeeze in for a few minutes and enjoy the heat and amazing smells of bread billowing out of the kitchen at the back of the hut. The Lake Agnes Teahouse was not my final destination, however, so I quickly moved on, dropping a majority of the people with whom I had been sharing the trail as it arched along the back of the lake, looking upward into the basin’s walls.
The trail skirted these walls, and instead went over the formation the made up the south side of the lake, called the Big Beehive. The clouds had moved in and a light snow had started falling, so the climb over the Big Beehive felt good and warmed me up once more. The somewhat disappointing view at the top of the hive prevented me from lingering long, and I headed down the other side to meet up the the Highline Trail that leads to the Plain of Six Glaciers. On my way down I found a massive pile of bear scat, followed quickly by some very fresh, very much Grizzly shaped prints in the trail. I am not an advocate for listening to the radio in the woods, but I was very alone on this part of the trail, and I couldn’t seem to remember any songs to sing in my nervousness about the bear. So “The Tallest Man on Earth” accompanied me down the hill until I was met by another woman who had been doing the exact same thing.
Her name was Leslie. She was from France, but had been living in working Montreal for the past eight years. We decided to hike together up to the Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse. We spoke about bear safety and conservation, the French language, her studies at university about the history of Chile and its relation to France, you know, normal stuff. At the teahouse, I ordered a cup of English Breakfast and a set of biscuits with butter and jam. We shared a table with some Albertans, and they asked me aggressively about Donald Trump, of course, and complained about how young Justin Trudeau is. I chatted back about how filling those biscuits were, that John Muir had been so right about just bringing “a quantity of tea and bread” with him on his hikes, and how much I was enjoying Canada…politics are fun!
The last climb of the day was up the viewpoint of the Victoria Glacier. A snow storm was hovering above the mountain, and the wind and snow were intense as we made our way to the top. Leslie revealed that she was nervous of heights, so we headed down quickly after reaching the top of this unofficial bluff.
The sun came out as we hiked down, still chatting away, and we said a fond farewell once we had reached the chateau again. Once we parted, I was left once again, wondering what to do with myself. This made me moody, which I mitigated with a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a can of Pilsner…you know, healthy things!
The dark settled in as it always does, and I felt once again the itching in my feet to move on. Lake Louise was a bit too touristy for me, and I could tell my climbing goals were not going to be met. The awesome crags at the back of the lake were just too cold and wet. Other climbers were not making their way out there, and so I had no partners. It was either just hang around, hoping, or move on.
For due diligence, I did hike out to the crags the next day, which was cold but miraculously clear. As I had suspected, the rocks were silent. I spent some time with them, a bit regretful, but let it go as I made my way back across the lake. That area had given me what it could.
Jasper was calling.