Sunday, July 24, 2016

UNESCO World Heritage Site #112: Canadian Rocky Mountains - Lake Louise

Lake Louise with Glaciers in Background 

Red canoes, Lake Louise boathouse 

Okay, we're now about a tenth of the way through our goal of visiting all 1,052 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Only 940 more to go...we just have to live 200 more years to visit them all! Number 112 is the entire range of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, so there will be several posts for this one site. We arrived through Waterton Lakes National Park, which is the world's first international peace park, joined below the U.S. border with Glacier National Park. Our first stop in the Rockies was Banff, followed by Lake Louise. This area was designated a UNESCO site in 1984 for its outstanding natural beauty, geological importance and important fossil beds.  

Luis walking around the lake 

We arrived late in the afternoon, so took a walk along the lake, then got up early the next day to hike up to the Six Glaciers Plain lookout, about 18 km (11.19 miles) round-trip. It was a great hike since the weather was mostly cool and there were few people on the trail. I always say that if you want to avoid the crowds at popular parks, just go for a hike. After the first hundred feet, about 80% will drop off and after the first two miles, 98% will be gone. Most park visitors in any country hang around the photo op spots, then get back in their car or tour bus, so we generally have the trails almost to ourselves except for a few fellow intrepid explorers.  

Hiking up to Six Glaciers Plain  

On the way, we encountered teams of horses and mules taking riders and supplies up to the glacial plains. One poor young cowhand was stuck with a mule who refused to budge an inch. He couldn't get him to move no matter what he did including dropping a few F-bombs. He looked as if he was at the end of his rope (as was the mule, quite literally), when he finally got him moving. There was a large "horse jam" at the trail intersection since none of the teams could pass each other on the narrow ledges until the mule decided he was good and ready. 

Horse and mule teams on the glacier pass

"Nope, not going up there": stubborn mule and frustrated cowboy both at the end of their ropes

We had gorgeous views when we finally reached the top. The glaciers have receded greatly of course, due to climate change, but there are still enough of them to get some spectacular views. We wanted to visit the Glacial parks while there still are glaciers, since most are predicted to be gone completely in the next 15-20 years.
  Woo-hoo! We're here! 

Inching carefully back down the rocky trail; lots of loose slippery pebbles