When the sun rose over the mountains that June day in 2017, I was nestled in the bed like a bug in a rug. I felt happy to be waking up surrounded by fresh pine air and snow capped peaks in my little cabin at Kootenay Park Lodge.
I had another busy day ahead of me so after a quick breakfast at the lodge restaurant I packed up and hit the road.
A Special Guest Appearance
The day before I had passed a sign reporting bears in the area so I slowed down when I approached that general area. My head was on a swivel scanning for bears.
Suddenly a flash of black on the side of the road and there he was! A little bear, galloping playfully along the edge of the trees. I couldn’t help but stop in the middle of the road to watch him run along. What an amazing little creature! I waited until his furry little body disappeared among the trees, feeling a thrill for having seen him.
I had a little residual excitement inside me after the bear sighting and sang along to the radio on the way to my 1st stop of the day.
The Almost Hike at Numa Waterfall
The Numa Falls, which is part of the Vermillion River, was about 10 minutes up Highway 93 from the Kootenay Park Lodge. I parked and began hiking parallel to the fast flowing river.
“Hey, just so you know, the bridge is out up there. You won’t be able to cross.” A man with hiking poles approached from the direction I was heading.
“Oh shoot, can you still see the waterfall?” I moved toward the man.
“Yes, but not much further.” He responded. “They had some bad storms that wiped out the bridge to the trail.”
“Ooooooh ok thanks.”
I inched closer to the river to take a quick peek. The water cascaded through the dark rock. Tall evergreens lined the river and I took in the view and breathed in the mountain air. I could see a mound of bridge debris swirling in the rapids.
The Toes Enjoy Two Provinces
“Ok…on to the next stop.” I headed back towards the parking area, bypassing several large blackbirds on the way back to the car.
I then headed a little more than an hour northwest to the Natural bridge in Yoho National Park.
On the way I took a quick stop at the Continental Divide between Alberta and British Columbia. The sign stood on the side of Highway 93. I got out and was able to have one foot in each province at the same time.
The road to the park felt like a destination in itself. Hulking grey mountains rose in the distance draped in glaciers. Evergreen trees lined the roads and filled the cool air with pine freshness, making me want to breath big breaths. Shimmering turquoise lakes were around every corner.
A Kicking Horse and a Natural Bridge
I parked near the Natural Bridge and hiked over the wild running river. The volume of churning water felt dangerous just looking at it.
Kicking Horse River Natural Bridge
The torrents of water from the Kicking Horse River had worn through the solid rock, creating a waterfall and a split in the river. The pine smell permeated the cool air. I was able to climb up and over for an amazing view of the falls with a mountain backdrop. There was an area near the shore where my toes were able to experience the Kicking Horse River for themselves.
Kicking Horse River Natural Bridge
“Yeooowie that is cold.” I exclaimed, wiggling my toes in the frigid water.
After a little intentional foot freezing, I continued to my next stop on the itinerary.
In a Land of Blue Water, Emerald Lake Dares to be Different
A couple miles up the road I came to Emerald Lake. I headed up a gravel walkway through the trees.
When I emerged from the wooded path, I was excited about the unusual teal green of the water. Grey puffs of clouds made the nearby mountain seem like a billowing volcano. Small patches of snow dotted the mountain.
The vivid turquoise color of the lake is due to rock flour or glacial sediment in the water. The marl, a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate reflect sunlight to create the unique color.
There was a wooded pier leading into the shimmering water and several kayaks floated lazily along. Further up was the Emerald Lake Lodge, lined with yellow umbrellas. The contrast of the umbrellas and large grey rocks against the green water was stunning. I stood for several minutes just taking the time to ‘look with my eyes’ and breath in the moment. The mostly flat path led around the perimeter of the lake.
After taking in the beauty of Emerald Lake, I headed back towards Banff where I had explored the blue blue lakes during my 1st day of this solo road trip. Lower Bankhead was my next destination.
Shhhh…It’s a Ghost Town
Bankhead is a ghost town in Alberta, near Banff. It was a coal mining town from 1904-1922 and ruins of the town still stand. The mine was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway to supply fuel for the locomotives.
Lower Bankhead Lamp house
I parked and went down a lot of stairs leading to the loop trail. As I went down more and more stairs, I tried not to think about the hike back up. Once at ground level a black coal trail began and led to the remains of a small wooden building, the lamp house.
During the years of operation, the miners would be issued a lamp before entering the mine. A count was kept and if any lamps were not turned back in at the end of the day, a search for those missing miners would begin.
The Buildings of Bankhead
There were only a couple people on the trail and the abandoned mining town felt desolate. I was imagining what it must have been like, living and working in this valley between the mountains.
Further up the trail were several remnants of stone buildings. There were placards in front of the different structures explaining their function. I passed the Power house, the Boiler house and the remains of a coke oven. There was a large pile of small bits of coal, the slack heap.
Lower Bankhead trail
Rhubarb patches grew all around the area. It originated from the gardens of the miners who had lived in shanty towns in the property. Locomotive parts, old machinery ruins and rhubarb still remain.
On the way out, an exhibit with old photos that showed the layout of the original coal mine and town.
Lower Bankhead trrail
A bride in her gown and groom in his tux, complete with their entire bridal party and a photographer came trooping up the path. They stopped at several stone archways for photos.
I completed the loop and stared up at the climb ahead of me.
“Ooooh momma, why is every hike uphill both ways?” I huffed up the several levels of steps, stopping for photos at each level…a.k.a…panting for breath.
Lake Minnewanka or Bust
Somehow I survived the climb back to the top and mapped my way to Lake Minnewanka, which was about 5 minutes from Bankhead, and is the largest lake in the Canadian Rockies (13 miles long and 466 ft deep). I planned to hike the lakeside trail and then check out a hoodoo trail before the end of the day.