Huh. Trying to make the best of a weird double site…
Following the high of our four-day Banff experience, this stop was rather different. We are at the next campground as I write this, so we’ve had a chance to process some things in hindsight. Our overall impression of the Lake Louise campground is not that positive, but we think there might be things we could do in the future to mitigate the weirdness of it. When I plan these things, I don’t pay that close attention to things like weekends or holidays. I’m mostly just trying to move us along some general path with nice stops along the way, and where I can get reservations. So, I hadn’t accounted for this being a three-day weekend on Canada Day in Canada. Anyway, it was pretty crowded in the Lake Louise area and the “hard sided” campground sites are set up weird.
Beautiful drive from Banff to Lake Louise
Our move from Banff to Lake Louise was uneventful, with Richard riding the Bow Valley Parkway pretty much the entire way. I did see a Grizzly down in the bank next to the road as I was driving, and I tried to text Richard to warn him, but there was no service. I pulled over at the next safe opportunity to make sure he was ok, and he hadn’t even seen it, which was probably a good thing. I saw an annoyed Grizzly mama back on our last trip and I have a profound respect for how large and fast they can be. So that was exciting, but the only wildlife spotting that happened on that stretch.
“Morant’s Curve” – classic pic
I tried to stop for a planned photo at Morant’s Curve before arriving at the campground. This is something I’ve seen photographed many times in the Banff travel groups I joined. I’m not sure why this is such the photo op, but there is one particular view, with the mountains in the background, and the curve of the train tracks hugging the river, that everyone tries to get. Bonus points if you can snap a pic while a train is going by. So sure, I was going to try to get that, but the parking was not trailerable and I had to drive on past. Once I got close to Lake Louise, I had enough service to text Richard and ask him to snap a pic for me. Unfortunately, he did not get the text until he was about a mile past. But he wanted to be nice, so he rode back. He is a good husband and took several pictures for me. Then he left. Then he heard the train coming and he turned back around, super sped up back to the viewpoint, just so he could get me that picture. With all of his good intentions and his super speedy bikey legs, he arrived right in time. He snapped like a dozen pictures and was elated to show them to me. Thing is, he took them going in the wrong, and not very picturesque, direction. It was a really good try though. We did go back later, and we were able to catch a train going by, so I got my pic.
Richard’s pic – He took a dozen of these
At the campground, I had a little while to ponder the weirdness of the site before Richard rolled in. All the sites are set up like pull throughs, but they are double. So, the electric hookups AND the picnic table area are together, with another site right next to you set up the same way. Normally, the electric is on one side and the table is on the other, so your door opens away from the campers next to you. In addition, it was uneven gravel, so it was a challenge to figure out where to put Dory. I ended up doing a Caravan Mover Maneuver to put Dory’s nose closer to the electric and put her butt at an angle to shield us more from whoever might be pulling in next to us. We eyeballed the space and agreed that no matter how large a rig might be coming in, they would have plenty of room. Wow, we were so wrong.
We had a bit of time to settle in and figure out what we wanted to target in the area. Richard rode into town to get some beta and find out about the shuttle system that takes people up to the lakes. Right after he got back, our neighbors pulled in. The sound and vibration was jarring enough that we both startled and looked out the windows to see a rig pulling in so close to us, it looked like they were going to hit us. I jumped out and sort of said hello, asking if they needed us to move. The guy was friendly enough and said he was fine and had room, but I also noticed he had slide outs. I literally stood outside, pretending to be chatty and super curious about their rig. “Oh wow, are those hydraulic levelers? They do that automatically? Incredible. Tell me more.” Really what I was doing was getting ready to throw myself between their slide outs and Dory’s roof. It didn’t quite come to that, but we both agree that was the closest we have ever been to our neighbors in any campground ever. And it turns out we really do not like that. That situation alone affected our whole stay, and we are now wondering what it might have been like if we had reserved BOTH sites in a slot, perhaps closer to the kiosk and front of the campground so that cell service would have been better too. Note for the future.
Across the river “wildlife corridor”
Oh, also this campground is located immediately next to the train track that eventually becomes scenic. They run all night. And they blast the horn loudly as they go through. Oh, and they have a tent campground surrounded by an electric fence because of bears. But the trailer campground is not surrounded, and they give you handouts about how many bears there are and what you should do. The Do Not Do list includes basically any kind of walking around, especially at dawn or dusk or near the river. There is a potentially pretty little trail that follows the river that I was too nervous to explore. I went as far as the start of it where there is a bridge that is “closed” with a piece of caution tape to allow for “wildlife traffic” right on the other side of the river. I tried to tell myself it would be fine to walk the trail, even if I saw bears on the other side because the bridge is closed. Then I thought, wait a minute…
But it is purdy for sure.
My nervous system was highly activated by bear threat (my friend Rita will appreciate my noticing of nervous system activation). Richard’s nervous system was highly activated by the proximity of our neighbors. And we both startled awake at night when the trains rumbled through, shaking Dory and blasting horns that even I could hear with my hearing aids out. Oh and also, the campground is above 5,000 feet, so I couldn’t drink wine to go to sleep.
As for going up to see the lakes, there is very limited parking and the best way to do this is to use the shuttle system. Richard got us shuttle passes for Saturday. He snuck in a ride up and down to Moraine Lake in the morning before our shuttle time and we then had to drive up to the ski area to catch the bus. This was a bit Covidy for us, so again, adding a little more to already activated nervous systems, but we masked up and tried not to notice the people sneezing behind us.
Moraine Lake is absolutely beautiful, no question about it. The color in the photos is unfiltered. It really is like that, and they say it is because of specific minerals from the surrounding rocks. There were lots of people up there, but not too overwhelming. We did a bit of a walk along the lake, opted not to rent a canoe, and headed to the lake-to-lake shuttle that would take us to Lake Louise.
As we were standing in line for the shuttle, we spotted a Grizzly mama and her cub across the parking lot. This was exciting, but also really scary, despite the fact that we were pretty far from them. The people taking pictures about twenty feet away from them? Not so much. Mama was very chill, and baby was as adorable as anything can possibly get. Baby stood up curiously to look at the crazy people taking pictures and stuck very close to mom. Pretty quickly the rangers came and got the humans to back off. They then started to approach her while holding big sticks. Mama looked right at them with an expression of tolerant understanding and led baby away and into the woods. I took lots of pictures, mostly from inside the shuttle bus, and that was as close as I want to be to a Grizzly. Back in 2003, we saw a mama and cubs, and we saw her charge a tourist who got too close. I have never seen an animal close that kind of distance that quickly and it made a permanent impression.
Arriving at Lake Louise, we immediately saw that it was much more crowded than Moraine. Richard had to take a work call and I walked over to the shore. Throngs of people were lined up taking posed selfies, to the point there was not really any room available. I’m going to sound super hypocritical and judgey here because I take so many tourist pictures, but I don’t really get the posed selfie thing. You could hear the partners giving coaching directions, “Turn more to this side,” “Put your hands on your hips,” “Look out at the lake….” Some people pretended to be surprised by the picture or pretended they were going to fall in the water, and they had to hold that pose for multiple shots. One man got the saddest selfie I have ever seen. I don’t know if he has resting sad face, or if he is super sick of posing for selfies, but that one was confusing to me. Did I snap pictures? I did. But the whole thing felt kind of weird.
I take fake pictures too because I frame out all of the people. But there is a nice Canadian flag for Canada Day.
Richard joined me and honestly, we didn’t feel like hanging around. So, we shuttled back to the ski resort and returned to Dory, where our neighbors were holding wrestling matches behind our back wall, punctuated every so often by the sound of the train.
Yoho Valley Road
Our plan for the next day was to try to get to Yoho National Park and do things that were a bit less touristy. We drove to the bottom of Yoho Valley Road to head up to see Takakkaw Falls. Richard rode it and I drove it, and it was stunning. Really, this was one of the most jaw dropping drives I’ve ever done. And at the top, you are rewarded with one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada.
Our next plan was to drive to Emerald Lake, a plan which was fully thwarted by an accident and subsequent highway closure. We sat in a stopped line of cars for a while, occasionally scooting up a few feet only because people ahead of us were bailing and turning around. After about an hour, and some conflicting reports from people coming back, we decided to try to salvage what we could by getting ice cream in the town of Field. The turnoff was just in view, and we saw the rangers let a few cars go by. By this time, the trucks and campers determined to get through had simply pulled onto the shoulder for the long haul. Some set out camping chairs. We were able to slowly move past and make a left into Field. There, we found the ice cream place and wandered around for a while. We checked out the Visitor Center and learned all about the spiral tunnels for the trains. And eventually, we gave up hope that the road was going to open.
Trying to make the best of it with ice cream in the cute little town of Field.
Dejected, we returned to Lake Louise, got some shopping done, got a quick dinner, and did a lot of talking about how things felt “off.” Looking back, we both see very clearly all the things that mounted up to throw us off our game. We have a deeper appreciation of how much it affects us to be in a campground situation where we don’t feel comfortable. We need that safe and private downtime when traveling, especially when things are a little weird during the day. We think that if we hadn’t had such a huge rig so close to us, it would have helped. Or if we had stayed one night in Lake Louise for the logistics convenience, but then moved to the Kicking Horse campground in Yoho for the next couple of days, that would have been better.
Lake Louise – Bow River
The moral of the story is that you win some, you lose some, with campground sites. What we want to try to remember from this experience is that when we feel weird, we should honor that and let each other know with some kind of safe words, like “Uh oh. Maybe we should move,” or something like that. There are almost always alternatives, and we have a better appreciation now of how much we depend on our Dory time to relax and reset.
Total miles from Banff: 46.4, 16.6 mpg, 4 hours 20 min (because I was stopping and waiting at turn outs). Site 122. Not good. Double site in a weird way so that picnic table and electricity is on the same side. Huge rig right next to us. No privacy. Cell service for ATT sucked even though it said 2 bars LTE. Verizon had 2 bars 5g through either Rogers or Bell. Loud train goes through all night long.