My daughter, who is an expert travel planner, booked us to go on an Alpine Hike at Lake Louise during our visit to the Canadian Rockies. At first, I was nervous. Would I survive hiking with a millennial? Will I have a heart attack and die in paradise? Even though I walk 15,000 steps a day at home I was concerned. Hiking uphill is different than walking on the flats.
Parking at Lake Louise is crazy
We were scheduled to meet our guide, Sam Campeau, with Canadian Rockies Alpine, at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise at 8 am. The parking lot there fills up fast, (thank you Instagram) so we decided to get up at the crack of dawn to secure a spot and then have breakfast at the Chateau.
Breakfast and a view
During the day, most of the Chateau is cut off to tourists because of the crowd annoying hotel guests. But, because we got there early, we were able to eat in the main breakfast room and enjoy a phenomenal view of the lake.
Even more importantly, we were able to use their bathroom before our hike. The public washrooms outside the hotel are not nearly as nice. We split our breakfast because we didn’t want to overeat before our hike and because the Fairmont is pricey.
However, it’s an amazing place to stay if you can afford it.
Why hiring a hiking guide when you are over 50 is a good idea
We met Sam, in the lobby of the Chateau. He’s a young French Canadian with a lovely attitude. I knew we’d be in good hands right away. We turned out to be the only two on the hike, which was fine with me because I was stressing that I’d hold everyone back.
Sam took us to the hiking trail and we started up the hill. After we climbed about 30 feet I was already huffing and puffing and thought I was going to die. It was probably the altitude. I’m a sea-level gal (from Los Angeles) and Lake Louise is located at 5,249 feet. At least that was my excuse. I was just about to go on Medicare and had gained more than a few extra pounds. I was hoping it would all fall off at the end of the hike, but it didn’t. Darn!
If Sam hadn’t been with us, we may have turned around. He gave me a pair of Black Diamond trekking sticks – which I loved – and told me to take it slow and steady. When you walk and stop every 5 minutes you can burn out fast. Think about being “the turtle” and you’ll win the race.
My younger brother made fun of my sticks on Facebook calling them “just short of using a walker,” but serious hikers use them, and I can see why. They work your arms too, so you get a great workout, sort of like a Nordic Track. I’m not sure I would have made it to the end of our 10.1 km (6.2 miles) hike without them.
The advantage of having Sam as a guide, especially for me over 60, is that he carried all sorts of first aid and other supplies with him in his backpack. If I passed out, he’d be able to deal with it.
Mirror Lake and the Big Beehive
We passed by the Big Beehive, which is a huge mound of rock near Mirror Lake. Some hikers hike up to the top of it, but that was way past my skill level. Mirror Lake is a serene little pond that reflects the Big Beehive above it.
The Lake Agnes Tea House
After a while, I fell into my groove and even though I had to stop a couple of times, for a photo opt, (and take a few breaths) we finally made it to the Lake Agnes Tea House. It’s been in operation since 1905 serving “fine loose-leaf teas” to brave hikers from all over the world. It was named after Lady Agnes MacDonald, the wife of Canada’s first Prime Minister. You have to climb up steep stairs to get up to it but then you can enjoy a cup of tea overlooking the lake. They have quite a selection.
Sam asked me if I wanted to climb down the rocks to sit next to the lake. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to fall and break my ankle or worse. He helped me down to a flat rock and gave me a foam pad to sit on. We drank some tea he had stashed in his backpack and it was nice to rest a bit.
The magnificence of Lake Louise from up above it
We could have gone back the way we came but decided to hike a little farther to catch some amazing views of Lake Louise below. The view alone made the whole hike worth it and put me in a state of awe. We were lucky we didn’t have thunderstorms as we did at Emerald Lake. The weather that day was perfect.
Then, we headed down
I’m not sure what’s harder – hiking up or down. Down has its obstacles too and can be hard on your knees. That said I was even more grateful for my sticks. As we were descending, we saw a Chinese couple in their 80s climbing up the mountain using sticks. They weren’t huffing and puffing at all, and it made me feel like a total wimp.
Many thanks to Sam for his patience. He was a Rockstar. I highly recommend him. He also took great photos of my daughter along the way. In total, we walked 24,256 steps that day.
Lunch – but not at the Chateau
By the time we returned to the Chateau, it was inundated with tourists and only accessible to guests. I don’t blame the hotel at all. If you’re paying through the nose to stay there, you don’t want a bunch of stinky hikers filling up the restaurants and using all the bathrooms. There was a deli that was open to grab a sandwich, but we decided to hit the road and look for another place to eat.
The traffic near the hotel was nuts and neon orange-clad residents were directing it away from over-filled parking lots. Once we got through we decided to check out the Lake Louise Train Station, which had been converted into a restaurant. We were able to get right in and had a lovely and peaceful lunch. Every once in a while, a train would pass by the window adding to the atmosphere. The station is celebrating 150 years in existence. I had fish and chips and my daughter ordered a bison burger. They also have a nice bar area, but we had more driving to do so we quenched our thirst with ice tea. Did I mention that Canada has incredibly good tasting water? I wish I could have bottled it and brought it home.
You may also enjoy my other posts about our visit to the Canadian Rockies:
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