Canadian Rockies and Montana

On Lake Louise

Week 14 of 52

Kate, one of Sharene’s best friends, says the outdoors is her religion. Well, after this week, we’re ready to join her church! We have been the lucky guests of the majestic mountains of the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park this past week and have loved every (snowy) minute of it.

The photo above shows us actually walking on frozen Lake Louise in front of the elegant Fairmont Hotel in Banff National Park, Alberta (one of many first snow experiences for Sharene). The locals kept apologizing for all the snow — it is May, after all — but we just tell them we’re from Hawaii and if we wanted warm weather, we would have stayed home! It is pretty amazing to think that in just a few short weeks, that frozen tundra we were walking on will be open water. Frozen or melted, the beauty of lake, mountains, and hotel is incredible.

While others bemoaned the extra long winter, we felt lucky to explore these places without the crowds, enjoying the wonder of the snow without having to drive in it, and being able to get out and hike, explore, and have some very new experiences.

Thin IceOur first stop was Jasper National Park west of Edmonton, Alberta, with a sweet little town that surprised us with several unexpected Greek restaurants. We rode a Swiss-style gondola to the peak of one of the mountains and got a bird’s-eye view of the area. We also hiked to some of the picturesque lakes. This one got the memo that spring is here and summer is on its way, because it’s starting to thaw out! But it still has a ways to go, and thinking how long a single frozen chicken needs to defrost makes us wonder if it will really will be ready for summer….

Icefields ParkwayThe drive from Jasper south to Banff took us along the Icefields Parkway and numerous spectacular glaciers. Look closely and you may see the vehicles that actually drive visitors onto the ice. As massive as these glaciers still are, they are getting smaller every year as the Earth warms, and a number of them may disappear entirely within our lifetimes. Uh, yes, this photo was taken by us, on May 4th.

One of our favorite hikes was a snow hike along Johnston Canyon in Banff. The temperature was cool, but the sun was out and we had a great walk. Lots of snow and ice on the ground so Sharene took baby steps and held on to the rail as Minnesota-born Harrison walked on confidently (see first photo with HK on the left) and then waited patiently for Sharene to catch up.

Next stop was the village of Banff — a true young blood’s heaven — full of cute 20 and 30-somethings, mostly from Australia, who come to ski during summertime down under. (Gee, that could have been our excuse for coming here from Hawaii!) The town has a posh, European feel and most hotels are within walking distance of the charming downtown. We can only imagine what it would look like in a flower-filled summer.

And there is wildlife everywhere! Elk, deer, moose, caribou, antelope; we didn’t recognize all of them but they were all over the place, even on the as-yet-snow-covered golf course. Many of the street signs are critter-based, so for all you Rocky and Bullwinkle fans out there, where else can you tell someone to meet you at the corner of MOOSE and SQUIRREL?

Remington Carriage MuseumWe left Banff Thursday morning and headed south for the States and Glacier National Park. We skirted Calgary, Alberta, and while we’re usually impressed by most things Canadian, Calgary looked like LA in 1970 before the Clean Air Act with a thick layer of yellow smog. Ugh!!

We passed through Cardston, Alberta, a small town in the middle of nowhere just before the border, and were astonished to find the Remington Carriage Museum, housing the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America — over 250 carriages, buggies, wagons and sleighs shown in a series of informative displays. An amazing find in a very unexpected place!

How many people get to have a national park all to themselves? We did! After spending the night in East Glacier, Montana, where most businesses are still closed as they dig themselves out after a killer winter, we got up early Friday morning and drove to the Two Medicine entrance of Glacier National Park. The road was closed to vehicles at the parking area just inside the entrance, but it was open to hikers all the way to Two Medicine Lake. We walked the four-miles round-trip to the frozen lake and back, and we were THE ONLY visitors during our entire time in the park. What an experience!

Photo 1 Shows how high the snow is (or how short Sharene is).

Photo 2 Can you find the white rabbit in the snow?

Photo 3 We think there is a lake out there somewhere.

Friday night we arrived in Great Falls, Montana, and they don’t call Montana Big Sky Country for nothing! We had a nice couple of days here visiting the C.M. Russell Museum and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (thanks to Gig Harbor Rick for those great recommendations). We even hit the First Friday Art Walk downtown and a big band concert!

So, we’re down from the mountains, the sun is shining, and this week we head to Rapid City, South Dakota… a world away from Hawaii.


Until next week, a hui hou,
Sharene and Harrison