Day 2: A Tale of Three Lakes
For Day 2, we were off to Banff, Yoho, and beyond. But first, breakfast! I felt like I was in China for a hot second, with youbing fresh from the frying pan.
Calorically charged, we were energized for round two of Banff. Our first stop, Johnston Canyon! The parking lot was full and we were amongst a myriad of car vultures looping around for a spot. Rather than try our luck, Crystal and I decided to be proactive. We hopped out of the car and waited for people leaving from the canyon exit. Not long after a couple came out and we asked to follow them to their car to save the spot for our dad who was driving the car. Another car zipped over and tried to run us over for the spot! But too bad buddy I definitely got this one first!
Thankfully the sucky people experience was washed away by the aquamarine water rushing through the canyon. The trail shifted from climbing up cliff sides to diving under slanted edges. We wound our way a few km to the Lower Falls and ducked into a small cave for a misty view of the falls.
We didn’t spend much time in Johnston Canyon and already the views were incredible, but our day was just getting started! So begins our tale of three lakes. Lake Louise and Lake Moraine in Banff and Emerald Lake in Yoho each have their following for the “most beautiful” superlative.
We started at Lake Louise. Turning the corner, I expected a quaint, idyllic lake that British royalty would fancy a picnic by. What I didn’t expect was a breathtakingly massive swath of “glacial blue” cradled by snow-capped mountains. Like the aquamarine waters of Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise is fed by glaciers. As the glaciers move against the mountains, they grind the rock into extremely fine powder dubbed rock flour. The rock flour is so light it is suspended in the water, absorbing all colors except the characteristic “glacial blue.” (Side note: I made up the term glacial blue but it’s such an incredible hue I have trouble describing it, so I’ll just make it easier on myself and call it glacial blue from now on.)
We had breakfast leftovers for lunch by the lake and honestly I could have eaten anything and I would have been happy. Photos really don’t do Lake Louise justice. You’ll have to go see for yourself! On the walk back to the car, we saw a grizzly mama and her cubs. A group of ten or so people gathered around to take photos. I was surprised by how calmly they were foraging by the cars. But then mama bear lunged forward and the humans scattered like spilled coffee beans.
Moraine Lake was too full the entrance was blocked off for the time being so we pushed forwards toward Emerald Lake next. True to its name, rather than glacial blue, the lake was truly emerald!
From Emerald Lake we circled back to Moraine Lake and this time made it through and up the mountain where the lake is situated. Tree trunks downed on the edge of the lake formed a testy bridge towards a cliff where the daring climbed for a better view. I airplane-armed my way along the trunks and climbed a little ways up but reservation about slipping to my doom stopped me from going much further.
Speaking of unconventional bridges, we also spotted a rainbow bridge on our drive down from Moraine Lake!
In the tale of three lakes, Lake Louise won my favor. Maybe because it was the first, maybe because it looked the biggest at first (Emerald Lake is actually bigger), but it was just so darn awe-inspiring.
To top it all off, our lodging at The Crossing pulled through with poutine and lemon meringue for dinner. I like to think of eating french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds as an immersive cultural experience… With no cell service or internet, we played a few rounds of shengji (a Chinese card game) and so ended Day 2 of our Alberta adventure.