It should be no surprise that it is cold here. Every morning we have heavy frost on the ground and the snow we see at the mountain peaks is in no danger of melting. But during the day the sun has been pleasantly warming us and the Airstream, so that we are encouraged to go outside and explore. Today the warming was a bit slower than forecast. By 11 a.m. it was still in the 30s (or as I should say since we are in Canada, about 2 degrees C).
We decided we were more interested in things north of here so we hitched up the Airstream and towed it 57 km up to Lake Louise. No reservations needed (or accepted) here either, this time of year. The national park campground is mostly closed down and in the one remaining open loop we are one of about six campers.
The village of Lake Louise is a much smaller place than Banff, with just a couple of streets and no large residential areas like Banff. The basics are here: a few stores, four or five restaurants, gas, repairs, medical care, visitor center, etc. There aren't many people.
The campground is the northernmost one still open. All of the campgrounds in the neighboring national parks (Jasper, Yoho, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, Kootenay) are closed for the season. Several people suggested we roam further north to Jasper National Park (227 km, 140 miles), but we can't stay there without some place to camp, and it's too long for a satisfying day trip.
Even here, the water has been turned off in the dump station. We found a single spigot near our campsite that still works, so we refilled our fresh water holding tank. Normally water is easy to find, but this time of year in Canada I've learned that we can't take it for granted. We will be watching our water use carefully once we leave this spot.
The closure of the campgrounds will make things logistically tricky for us when we leave. There are Provincial Parks with campgrounds along our route, but we don't know which ones are still open for camping. Normally I'd spend a half hour on the Internet researching and planning but we're a bit limited there too. I found wifi in Lake Louise and that's how I got the last couple of blog entries online. It's $5 per day if you use your own laptop and work outside (the store that offers this service is very small, so there's no seating inside.) I joined a group of Asian tourists who were all sitting outside in the 40-degree weather with their laptops. Unfortunately, I had to deal with a few last-minute issues related to the Winter 2007 magazine, and by the time I was done dealing with those, my laptop battery was flat and my butt was freezing from sitting on bare concrete outdoors. So, no time to research campgrounds. We'll wing it.
By the way, a big kudos to blog reader Melanie who spotted the misspelling of Pete Townshend's name on our Winter 2007 cover. Can you believe that four people reviewed that cover and nobody spotted it? I am grateful for you blog readers who are always there to lend a hand, on everything from yogurt to camping to spelling. In another 48 hours it would have been too late to fix it â€¦
The big target for today was the Chateau Lake Louise, and the incredibly beautiful area surrounding it. The Chateau, as I mentioned yesterday, was part of the Canadian Pacific Railway hotel chain, originally built around the turn of the century (no, the other turn of the century) and extended and rebuilt several times since then. It was a way of boosting railway travel by bringing tourists to the scenery.
Lake Louise has an eery translucent green color to it. It drains through a creek and is very cold, so all the trees that fall into it don't wash out, and they decay very slowly. Many of them are visible in the shallow end, making the lake look as if a hundred ice-fishing cabins fell into it. High above the lake is a glacier, looking like a giant snowdrift, and the sharp glacially-carved ridges that define this area.
A short (3.2 km roundtrip) and steep hike through the pine forest will bring you to a really terrific overlook of the lake and the Chateau. I recommend it for anyone who can hike. But if you won't be getting up there soon, check out the photo â€¦