The picture on the money

Published 10:42 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

We turn off Canadian Highway 1 onto the Lake Louise access road. We pass the village of Lake Louise and head up toward the lake. A short distance uphill is the left turnoff to Moraine Lake. It’s about 7.5 miles of scenic highway and overlooks to the parking lot. Anticipation is high; this place is so beautiful that an engraving of it was used for the back of Canadian currency.

Visitors admire the view from the rock pile. -- SUBMITTED | ARCHIE HOWELL

Visitors admire the view from the rock pile. — SUBMITTED | ARCHIE HOWELL

The road is fairly straight initially; it’s a steady climb for this stretch. The lake elevation is just a little higher than Lake Louise and the distance makes for a gentle strain on the car’s engine. It’s wooded here; only the peaks of mountains can be seen occasionally.

At the first significant turn, the view changes abruptly; the road does a few twists and turns. Pullout spots enable cars to stop for people to get out and enjoy the approach to the Valley of Ten Peaks. Standing guard at the entrance, like a massive sentinel, is Mt. Babel. Somewhere over there, at the bottom is Moraine Lake. We take the opportunities offered.

Like Lake Louise, nothing visible from the parking lot indicates the spectacle that awaits. Some walking is required. It’s late in the season; just a couple of tour buses are parked along the edge in assigned spaces. On a signboard at the edge of the parking area is a trail map. At the end of a paved path, close to the water’s edge are additional markers.

The initial view is a shocker. Turquoise water reflects a huge moraine rock fall across the lake. Mountain peaks surround the valley, the craggiest peaks lie along the south side of the lake.

To the left is the rock pile, where the last glacier piled up debris before it began receding. To the right is a trail leading to Moraine Lake lodge and to the hiking trails along the north shoreline.

Down that trail also is a boat dock and canoe rental. There are a few canoes out on the water, with two persons each. We won’t try that today.

I decide to explore the rock pile. It seems to be a good place to get pictures and have a grand view of the lake. It’s an uneven path, down a few feet, over a couple of small hummocks and around the edge of the tallest part of the hill. The trails are well used and the only problem I experience is shortness of breath. It is, after all, over 6,000 feet elevation.

The rock pile is deceiving. from the parking lot it appears as only what the name implies — a rock pile. Around the corner on the trail, it becomes a multi level viewing platform with evergreen trees tucked into crevices where dirt has nourished roots. People wander in pairs and singles, checking out what’s around the next corner or open spot. Large rocks become resting places to just look at the view.

I set the tripod and camera, move, reset the apparatus, move and repeat the process several times. It seems every viewpoint is different and worthy of film and memory.

Others obviously have the same attitude. I fill my spirit with as much as I can.

We hike for a short way along the shoreline, passing the canoe rental. This side is the only trail around the shore. The far side is rocky moraine that the glacier pushed up and left against the valley walls. Fir trees mostly line this side, with a few openings directly to the water.

We return via a secondary trail that wanders up by the lodge. We check out the cafe and read about the lodge. What is noticeable (and admired) is that these rooms have no telephone and no television. I’m ready to check in — just not this trip. It’s a luxury resort and we travel with a budget.

We return to our car and leave one of the most beautiful places that we’ve ever seen. That’s saying a lot. We decide to take the old road (Bow Valley Parkway) for the late evening drive back to Banff. Long shadows ease us into a peaceful end to the day.

JAMES D. “ARCHIE” HOWELL is a Southampton County native and 1955 graduate of Franklin High School. He can be reached at