We made sure to wake up early on Friday, as we planned to hike at Lake Louise, and also needed to be back at our hotel in Canmore in time to prepare for the Sabbath, which began at 8:40 p.m.
We drove to the Overflow Lot south of Lake Louise, and waited in line for one of the free shuttle buses. These appeared to be ordinary yellow school buses. Perhaps the buses serve students through the school year, and serve tourists at the national parks during the summer months. The employee assisting us with boarding the bus offered a couple of jokes:
“Question: What do you call a bear without teeth?”
“Answer: A gummy bear.”
“Question: How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?”
“Answer: Ten tickles.”
The bus dropped us off in a parking lot adjacent to Lake Louise, and we soon enjoyed the view, or as much of it as could be enjoyed through the smoky haze that was courtesy of the fires in British Columbia:
Hundreds of tourists were circulating along the promenade adjacent to the northeastern end of lake, but the numbers dropped off as we began our hike to Lake Agnes.
This slightly out-of-focus Columbian ground squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) was running around the lawn adjacent to the hotel:
We hiked southwest along the western side of Lake Louise, and the trail soon entered the woods:
The trail displayed some signs of erosion, and this dead tree looked as though it would soon be tumbling out of the eroded bank, hopefully not when anyone was walking past it.
After 2.6 km (1.6 miles) we reached Mirror Lake, which seemed more of a pond than a lake. I noted that the signage gave the distances in mileage, indicating that the sign predated the 1980 metrification of Canada.
Mirror Lake with Big Beehive:
We continued on the trail to Lake Agnes, enjoying a side view of the Big Beehive:.
Horses also used part of the trail, and we saw a group of them:
After another 0.8 km (0.5 miles) we reached Lake Agnes and the teahouse, where visitors can purchase meals and snacks:
A pair of golden-mantled ground squirrels:
We began climbing toward the Little Beehive, only about 0.8 km (0.5 miles) away, but gaining a bit of elevation.
We soon had a nice view of Mirror Lake and Lake Louise:
Nearing the peak of the Little Beehive:
Batya attracted a friendly butterfly:
Here is a panoramic view from the top of the Little Beehive. Lake Louise is visible to the right, but the rest of the horizon only shows smoky skies, where there should be mountain ranges:
As we sat down to eat our lunch at the top of Little Beehive, a bird flew nearby. It was a gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis), the “camp robber,” my old nemesis who I had last seen in Rocky Mountain National Park, where it stole a piece of my sandwich.
We descended from Little Beehive back to Lake Agnes, and began hiking west along the lake’s northern side:
Terrain adjacent to Lake Agnes:
We soon reached the southwestern end of Lake Agnes:
The trail to the Big Beehive continued on the southern side of Lake Agnes, appearing as a narrow ribbon in the image below:
The trail soon began to switchback, continually climbing the Big Beehive:
I counted nine switchbacks, and they were a bit taxing, but we finally made it to the top of the Big Beehive, at 2270 m (7,448′). At the top, we followed a flat trail to a shelter constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1916. The shelter was very simple, and I wondered how often it had been rebuilt over the intervening century. Perhaps it was like George Washington’s axe, that was still called by that name despite the handle and head each having been replaced a few times.
The shelter, and a ledge adjacent to it, provided a fine view of Lake Louise. Well, it should be a fine view, of a vivid turquoise lake, but . . . again, the forest fires ruined it:
We then retraced our steps down the switchbacks, around Lake Agnes, past Mirror Lake, and back to Lake Louise. This was about a 12.9 km (8 mile) hike, gaining 740 m (2,400′) in elevation. Considering our initial trepidation about long or steep hikes, after not having hiked in almost a year, we were doing well in Banff!
We boarded the shuttle bus around 5:00 p.m., with about a half hour to spare before the last bus. We were soon back at the Overflow Parking area and reunited with the rental car, and drove back to Canmore.
Next: Healey Pass and Simpson Pass!