Things Go Better With Coq

The night in the Lake Louise overflow was very peaceful and quiet, even though we were woken by the road crew pulling out at dawn. For $10/night, we could hardly complain about an early start. It had rained through the night, but the morning was promising to clear, so we geared up and took Buddy to have a look at the lake.

I have to admit, Mike had to talk me into going. I wasn’t expecting much, since we had taken a quick drive through Banff the day before. I really wasn’t impressed with Banff, at least the town part of it. Very crowded, very touristy, very difficult to get through, even at this time of the year. Just seemed to scream “We want your last dollar” the whole time we were there. Not my cup of tea.

Respect for the Lady

But Louise was so different. Yes, it was still busy, even that early, but except for the very large hotel, it hadn’t been overdeveloped the way Banff had. Simple walking trails and pretty overlooks lined the lake, which was completely calm that morning. The water reflected back the image of the snow capped peaks that towered above it. The autumn colors popped here and there along the trails and up the sides of the mountain. And even though there were many people, it seemed everyone spoke in hushed tones, almost respectful of the incredible scene around them.

The lake itself was an indescribable aqua/teal color, created by suspended minerals in the water. These minerals are scraped up from the mountainsides by the glacier that creeps along the ridge above. As the glacier melts, it feeds water and the minerals into the lake below. The color is really something to behold, and as bright as the photos are, still don’t do the actual color justice.

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Beautiful Lake Louise
Clark's Nutcracker
This friendly Clark’s Nutcracker decided to introduce himself when we arrived at Lake Louise. No zoom used here, he really was that close.
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The Lake view from the trail.

We wandered around the lake for a couple of hours, and then decided to head back to the trailer and get on the road once more. Many friends had recommended Lake Moraine to us as well, but it was really starting to get busy by the time we decided to leave Lake Louise, and we decided to give it a pass and save it for the next time through.

“Ici Farce Canada”

We made good time traveling through the Rockies, hardly noticing the day passing as we were enchanted by the incredible scenery. We made short stops in Golden for a quick propane fill-up, and at the Spiral Train Tunnels in Kicking Horse Pass.

These are giant underground loops designed to help trains travel up and down over the mountains.  Because they are complete spiral loops, the trains actually cross over themselves.  From the highway lookout, you can see an engine coming out of the upper tunnel entrance while 15 meters below, the end of the same train is just entering the tunnel.  The ingenuity and skill of the engineers and builders is incredible, not to mention the time and effort it would have taken to build such structures.

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Spiral Tunnel Entrance
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Kicking Horse Pass Historical Marker

The historical plaque for Kicking Horse Pass also made me smile as it reminded me of an old Royal Canadian Air Farce sketch. Dave Broadfoot was one of my favorite comedians, with his indelible characters such as “Big Bobby Clobber” and “Sgt. Renfrew of the RCMP”.  His “Member of Parliament for Kicking Horse Pass” routine was killer. I miss him.

The day carried on and we crossed over Rogers Pass and came upon the Giant Cedars Boardwalk, which had also been mentioned to us by Gail and Shelly. By this time we needed a bit of time out of the truck, so we stopped and walked the trail. These trees are insanely large, and have to be seen to be believed.

Hard to see, but I’m actually standing a bit back from the tree, so it’s even larger than it appears here.
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Mike showing a better perspective.
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Devil’s Club, a particularly thorny and unpleasant plant, seems to grow throughout the forest.

Plaques along the walkway offered insights into just how old these giants are. Factoids like “these trees were seedlings when Christopher Columbus sailed” made them that much more amazing. We are so glad we stopped. Thanks again girls! You rock!!

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Pass through solid rock.
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A short squall we drove through.
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View from inside a snowshed, built to protect motorists from avalanches.

By the time we reached Vernon, we knew we’d gone far enough for the day. The Wal-Mart in Vernon is reputed to be unfriendly towards RV’ers, so we opted instead for the SuperStore parking lot, since there seemed to be a large number of rigs settled in for the night already. And we’re glad we did.

Our First “Face to Face”

As it turned out, Katie & Brad from The Rogue Less Travelled were also staying in that lot for the night. We had been commenting and chatting on each other’s blogs for some time, but had never had the chance to meet face to face. After a quick mix-up of trying to figure who’s rig was who’s, we had a lovely long chat with Katie, exchanging ideas, information and war stories. Unfortunately, Brad wasn’t feeling well that night, so we’ll have to wait on the pleasure of meeting him as well. Katie, it was great fun meeting you, and I hope we meet up again down the road somewhere.

Roller Coaster Ride

The following day found us maneuvering the dreaded Coquihalla Pass. If you’ve ever seen the show Highway Thru Hell on the Discovery Channel, you’ve heard of the Coq. This is the infamous mountain highway where Jamie Davis operates his towing service for big rigs. And small wonder. There are times it seems the road goes either straight up or straight down for miles at a time. And straight isn’t really the right word. There are s-turns and switchbacks galore, sometimes with little or no shoulder between you and the valley floor hundreds of feet below. I was uncomfortable enough looking over the side, I’m glad heights don’t really bother me.

This particular highway was the reason Mike was keeping such a close eye on the weather. The view was incredible, but the drive was intense. At one point, our GPS announced and elevation of over 5800 feet, and the outside temperature, according to Hank, had dropped from 17 degrees to 2. We drove through areas already white with snow, and when we hit rain, it was slushy when it hit the windshield.

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We passed a sign that indicated a 7% grade for the next 17km. Throw that in with a ‘variable speed’ zone due to construction, and it made for a very interesting ride. Still, we had seemed to time it just right. Hank and Lonestar never put a foot wrong, and we came off the end of the Coq just as darkness descended. The Flying J in Hope was too busy for our tastes, so we continued on into Chilliwack and found the Wal-Mart. It wouldn’t be a lie to say that it took a while for both of us to settle into sleep that night, lol.

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