|Katie and me at McArthur Lake|
|My cousin Mary Irene McCartney captures Lake O'Hara from above|
|This was about the only wildlife we saw|
|Camille Consolvo works her way along the ledges above Lake O'Hara|
|I got to practice my Polish with these two Canadian emigres from Poland, Martin and Magda, now living in Vancouver|
She has been there three times, which is unusual because it is a difficult place to get a reservation.
Realizing that there are environmentally fragile places, Parks Canada limits the access.
Katie had to call for five days to get us a three night reservation. She used two phones and was assisted by four others who called on multiple phones. At the park we heard the reservation horror stories of many others.
But once there you realize why there is such a great demand and why it needs protection.
The 9,000 feet-plus peaks, the numerous, large glaciers, the lakes with other-worldly deep blues and greens, the high mountain trail routes, the pristine nature of the place makes this an international destination.
The restrictions are so tight that once you reach the trailhead you unload your gear and get on a reserved bus and travel a bumpy road uphill for 11 kilometers to the campsite where you scramble for a choice spot. There is a group gear and cooking area with public toilets.
The trailheads fan out from this spot.
This site sits above Lake O'Hara close by, a large deep emerald lake beneath Wiwaxy and Huber peaks and their glaciers.
Katie knows all the hikes in this area and favors MacArthur Lake, incredibly, larger than O'Hara, with its own peaks and glaciers and a hiking trail that climbs through cliffs that one must use hands on to climb.
Parks Canada staff reminds hikers to stay on trails to prevent erosion and any damage to the alpine turf that surrounds the lakes.
The trails, which lend themselves to loop hikes, are classified by signs that illustrate difficulty and include alpine routes with narrow ledges and steep drop-offs. A well-conditioned hiker can traverse an entire cathedral-like basin on these alpine loops.
We were joined by my cousin Mary Irene McCartney of Owatonna, MN and Great Falls friends Mike Dannells and Camille Consolvo.
Katie had done the steep Wiwaxy Gap alpine route of 1,600 feet in 1.2 miles in the previous two years, but determined that it would be not worth our time because the rainy weather would have obscured our views.
We did a an alpine Oesa Lake route with several lakes and ledges that some of our party of five thought was the best hike they had ever taken.
One evening we also walked around Lake O'Hara.
The rain did dampen and shorten our trip. The second night out it rained steadily and we decided to forgo a third night, opting to return to Great Falls.
Going through Canmore, the drive is 450 miles each way, a sizeable trip, but scenic all the way.
Katie said that she would like to do the Lodge or one of the cabins along O'Hara Lake some day, a pricey option. Although that would be a First Class option with gourmet meals and special bus accommodations, it would cost about $1,000 per night!
I wasn't especially thrilled with the camping, where so many people are grouped into one spot sharing facilities, but I liked meeting people from so many foreign countries.
I guess I'm spoiled by Montana and expect to see wildlife, especially grizzlies for which this area is renowned and mountain goats, but alas, not a siting!
The Canadian Rockies are a World Heritage Site and the scenery is as good as anything I've seen in the Alps.
It reminded me that I should spend more time here, and if I had my life to live again, it would include many more trips here.
This trip reminded me that
|Mike Dannells and Camille Consolvo are encouraged by Katie up ledges through a cliff to Lake McArthur|