The lure of Canada called, or rather my daughter phones and invited me to spend a few nights with her in Banff and Lake Louise. My parents vacationed there decades ago and loved it, so it’s always been on my bucket list.
We’ve been on several “mother-daughter girl trips” that have included Los Cabos and Miraval in Tucson and I love being able to spend quality time with her. We flew into Calgary, (just 3 hours from Los Angeles) stayed overnight and then headed off for Yoho National Park. It’s part of a cluster of National Parks that include Banff, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and Jasper.
The Trans-Canada highway is an easy drive and incredibly well-maintained. It sure beats the potholes we have in the States. After stopping to pick up snacks in Canmore, we passed through the Banff National Park gate to pay for an access permit to all the nearby parks.
Our stay in the town of Field – in Yoho National Park
We had reservations to stay at the Truffle Pigs Lodge. It sits at the end of the road in the minuscule town of Field (population 200) surrounded by tiny cottages (mostly B & B’s or guest houses) next to the Trans-Canada Railroad tracks. Truffle Pigs Lodge is a kitschy hideaway with a delightfully delicious little bistro. A friend of my daughter stayed there a while back and recommended it.
What’s nice about staying in Field, (which is a ½ hour drive from Lake Louise) is that it’s away from the crowds. In the past 5 years or so, the Banff/Lake Louise areas have become inundated with tourists, mainly because of Instagram and Pinterest. I can see why. It has some of the most Instagramable places on Earth to photograph. The magnificence of the Canadian Rockies, its vivid turquoise lakes, rushing glacial-fed streams and rivers is spectacular in its splendor.
We had lunch at Truffle Pigs where all of their menu items are sourced from local and regional ingredients and natural (non-medicated) meat. It’s a casual atmosphere but the meals are worthy of any high-end restaurant in the city. We split the “Hipster Shichimi Fried Chicken” (seasoned with Japanese spices, a to-die-for sweet potato salad, seaweed, and yuzu mayonnaise) and the “Veggie Beet Burger.”
I never thought a veggie burger could be so good but this one was a combination of beets, sweet potato, millet, walnuts, roasted garlic, and served on a home-baked bun with house goat cheese, mayo, onion, lettuce, and dill pickle. During our stay, we had most of our meals at the Pig.
A stroll in the rain around Emerald Lake
After lunch, we set off for Emerald Lake, a 15-minute drive from Field. The Emerald Lake Lodge is situated next to the lake and is another popular place to eat and stay. Emerald Lake is the largest of Yoho National Park’s 61 lakes and ponds. But, you can still walk around it on an easy, flat hike that is 5.2 km (3.2 miles) My daughter was determined to make this a fitness vacation, so we walked around the entire lake. It truly lives up to its Emerald name. I was awed by the vibrant hues of all of the lakes we visited.
They each have their own unique shade, caused by the source that feeds it and the reflection of its position in the sun. During the summer it doesn’t get dark until almost 10 pm so there’s plenty of time to enjoy their beauty.
A few people were out in canoes, but the weather was starting to become threatening. While we were there it thundered and there were several lightning strikes as we walked the perimeter. I began to wonder if we were being idiotic and was a little worried we’d be struck by lightning. It rained intermittently, and by the time we made it back, we were completely soaked. The temperature was pleasant, though, so we weren’t cold, and afterward, we felt energized and renewed. I’m convinced the turquoise water has a healing effect.
The deep azure color of the water is caused by powdered limestone that washes into the lake bed when the snow melts, usually in July. There’s a small window to enjoy these spectacular wonders as it can snow again as early as late August or September. When the glacier melts it releases fine particles of sediment called “rock flour” which reflects in the sun and gives the lake its amazing color.
The forest surrounding it is a deep green mixture of western red cedar, yew, hemlock, and white pine surrounded by craggy peaks with ice on top. It’s truly a tranquil environment, and not overly crowded with people like some of the more popular lakes nearby.
Better than Smokey the Bear
At one point on our hike, a helicopter flew over the lake with a large bucket attached to a line. It dipped the bucket into the water, filling it up, and then flew to dump it on a lightning-caused brush fire smoking between two peaks. There wasn’t any danger to worry about. It seemed like a regular occurrence but I thought it was cool to watch.
Just an addendum: A week after we arrived back to Los Angeles, the Canadian Rockies experienced massive fires that covered the city of Calgary in smoke for days.
The magnificence of Takakkaw Falls
Another must-see attraction in Yoho National Forest is Takakkaw Falls. It’s the 45th highest waterfall in eastern British Columbia and higher than Niagara Falls. Fed by the Daly Glacier, part of the Waputik Icefield, it tumbles 830 feet in one stretch and 1,260 feet in total. To get there, it is 17 km (10.5 miles) from Field on Yoho Valley Road.
The only time it’s accessible is between mid-June until mid-October because of the danger of avalanche. Skiing up there during winter is possible but avalanche training is required. Being from sunny California, I’m not too keen on the idea of having a huge pile of snow fall on top of me.
Miraculous Spiral Tunnels and trains
As I mentioned before, Field is located next to the train tracks. It was originally a settlement for Canadian Pacific Railroad workers in the 1880s. If you drive around Yoho National Park there are lookouts where you can view the Spiral Tunnels that were carved into Kicking Horse Pass for the trains to pass through. Some are under glaciers.
I can’t even imagine the danger of building those tunnels. Many men died doing it. It’s quite a technical feat and I don’t think I’d want to take a ride through it without plenty of Valium, although I’ve heard it’s amazing. Up to 30 trains pass through the tunnels each day sometimes on top of each other.
The only drawbacks to staying in Field
Truffle Pigs Lodge was comfortable, free from crowds, and a perfect base camp except for one thing – the trains. I happen to think they’re cool, so they didn’t bother me. But I have to warn you that they may wake you up at night when they pass through town. One of them sounded like chalk screeching across a chalkboard.
We got up early to leave for a hike at Lake Louise but had to pass over the tracks to get to the highway. What was sitting in the way? A big long train! For about 10 minutes we didn’t know if we would be able to get out to meet our guide. Finally, it moved. . . slowly. . . but it was a sight to see.
The only other annoyance is the pervasiveness of mosquitos near the lakes. They love me and guess who got most of the bites? That’s right, me! Next time, I’ll take along some repellent.
Read my other posts about our trip to the Canadian Rockies below: