Banff to Kamloops, BC
Friday, June 21, 2013
Rainy, heavy, heavy clouds, low 40s to mid 60s
Bill was up early to check on road conditions finding that the highway was reopened to Lake Louise and that conditionings getting worse in Canmore and Calgary. We learned that the flooding was at “lifetime levels” and that the Bow River valley already had gotten 150-175 mm of rain with lots more expected. Not a good thing to hear.
So we quickly got on road by 7:30, heading in the direction of Lake Louise. We got our news about road closings at the Visitor Center. There was one guy whose entire job it was, that day, to obtain the latest information and to update the large, anxious crowd trying the figure out how they could continue with their vacations. He did a great job! But he didn’t bear good news. It was there that we found out that the road back to Radium Hot Springs, R-93, was now closed and also that the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, that we’d intended to drive, was also closed. The only sure way north would involve a very long detour to the west. The weather at that point was actually pretty nice and we decided to wait until 3:00 to see if the way to Jasper would open up.
So, we did some touring around Lake Louise. We drove by the hostel where we’d stayed a couple of winters ago while cross-country skiing with our ski club. The Bow River which also flows through Lake Louise threatened condos next to the hostel. The sandbags that had been placed to protect them looked pretty puny compared to the rushing water.
We had an excellent breakfast at Mountain Restaurant in town then drove up to see the Lake Louise, itself, as well as the Fairmont Hotel beside the lake. The lake really is beautiful in the summer. The hotel lobby was crowded with visitors being briefed on how their tours were being rescheduled. Next stop for us was Moraine Lake. It was a beautiful drive in to the lake as was the lake, itself. The sun even peaked through revealing the aqua-marine color of the glacier water that feeds the lake. We hiked the short trail up the moraine for an overlook. Then it was back to the Information Center about 1:30, only to find that the road to Jasper would be closed for at least an additional 48 hours. Ugh! We bit the bullet and immediately began the 350 mile drive west towards Kamloops.
It wasn’t our plan to head west but it turned out not to be so bad after all. In fact, much of the drive was breathtaking. The route, after all, runs through Yoho National Park, Canada’s Glacier National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park. To top that, the roads were dry beginning just a short drive west of Lake Louise and the sun actually came out later in the day!
We saw the famous spiral railroad tunnels constructed in Yoho NP that replaced old, extremely steep track. Then there was Natural Bridge waterfall that were completely obscured by rushing flood waters. Faeder Lake, though, next to Kicking Horse River was still serenely beautiful. The drive down the famous “10-Mile Hill” along Kicking Horse River was pretty dramatic, too.
Glacier NP, with more than 100 glaciers, was also pretty cool. It snows a lot along this stretch of road and there are quite a few “tunnels” that are actually massively built snow sheds that cover the road and protect it from avalanches during the winter. Rogers Pass, in the heart of the park, is popular for ski mountaineering, camping, hiking and mountain climbing. It was especially pretty. Every historical event is celebrated along this drive, not the least of which was the site of the “Last Spike” driven in Canada’s first trans-continental railroad.
Shuswap Lake claims to be Canada’s houseboat capital. It certainly appeared so with large marinas filled with nothing but houseboats. The lake is huge and quite dramatic. Shaped like an “H”, the road follows it’s shores for about 50 miles.
Nearing Kamloops, we set up camp at Kamloops RV Park. The place was not very nice, crowded with small sites, but it did the job. The showers were welcome and we quickly threw together some burgers and a salad for dinner.
We’re now in Pacific time. It is nice to gain and extra hour to sleep after a nice but very long and eventful day!