Sunday, 26 June 2016

A change of plan - Emerald Lake

To better enjoy the photos please click on them to increase their size.

Leaving Banff at 8.30 am, our aim was to drive to Lake Louise and hike the Agnes Lake trail.
The weather wasn't at all promising as we drove, [yet again], along the Bow Valley Way, to bear spot. Success - 1 elk and a contentedly, grazing black bear.

The weather didn't improve at all. The clouds were low and the rain was increasing in strength, when we arrived at Lake Louise. It seemed timely to check out the charm of the Fairmont Chateaux Lake Louise.

Stuart quickly came up with plan B. 
After warming up with a delicious hot chocolate, we continued  along the Trans Canadian Highway, to Kicking Horse Pass. I was busy taking photos of the misty view, when Stuart brought my attention to a train tunnel in the far distance. He then explained about the:-
Spiral Tunnels
"The steep grade of the railway through Kicking Horse Pass led to frequent accidents and expensive engines. In 1909, the CPR developed an alternative route, the Spiral Tunnels. The chosen route for the tunnels consisted of three-quarter circles driven into the valley walls.

The higher tunnel was about a thousand yards in length and ran south of the original track, under Cathedral Mountain. From here, the railway looped through the mountain, doubled back, and emerged, running beneath itself fifty feet lower.

Descending the valley side in almost the opposite direction before crossing the Kicking Horse River, the lower tunnel passed through Mount Ogden. This tunnel was a few yards shorter than the first, but the descent was nearly the same."

Imagine my excitement when 10 mins later, a freight train began climbing towards the spiral to make its ascent.
Spot the tunnel.
Spot the engine emerging from the tunnel.

Where is the head and tail of the train? It must be well over a kilometre long.

This may give you an idea. The tail [pink] is still entering the tunnel. The engine [red] has passed just below us.
This 1908 panorama from Wikipedia also helps.
As you can imagine we wasted some quite considerable time watching the train snaking its way along. We left as the tail came out of the far tunnel. As we drove further on, we met the engine exiting the 2nd spiral, but there was nowhere to pull over to view this.

The 2nd spiral to take the train through the pass. Sadly, the best I could do.

Our adventure continued on to the meeting of the Yoho and Kicking Horse Rivers. 
Yoho River

Kicking Horse River.
It was quite difficult to find an unobstructed view of their confluence.

'The Natural Bridge' rock arch, a little further along the road, confines the Kicking Horse River to a narrow chute. It was fascinating to watch the glacial waters churning through and escaping into a vortex, before cascading on down the river.
The Natural Arch - above
The Arch

Below the arch, it was relatively, calmly continuing its journey.

Our final destination - Emerald Lake.
This turquoise lake must be stunning on a clear sunny day. It certainly brought me joy as we hiked the 6km trail around its perimeter.

It was difficult for me to imagine that the green slope seen across the lake, is an extremely dangerous avalanche area in winter. 

The Emerald River making its tranquil journey to the tumbling, rushing Kicking Horse River.

Views as we make our way around the lake.

A return 2.3 km trail, took us above the lake to the amazing Hamilton Fall. It was impossible to get a photograph that captures how stunning the fall is having descended from far above, through a deeply carved rock passage.

Field, nestling at the base of Kicking Horse Mountain, was established in the 1880's and soon became the hotbed centre for the railway construction. 

The day was overcast, cold and drizzly, but it didn't dampen my enthusiasm for these mountains, lakes and rivers. My joy swelled when I spotted natures small miracles.

I would love to read your comment.


  1. Good grief! So many excellent shots. Most memorable to me is the large tree in the window with the tiny people... And the train pictures, and the bears.... What a trip!

  2. Thanks Bill. It certainly was a fantastic day. I always think of you when I see freight trains. The engineering of this line is mind boggling, especially given the weather conditions for a large part of the year. Sad to say, many lives were lost in its construction.

  3. Even a "gloomy" day can result in beautiful images, though maybe different than what you'd imagined. Maybe some day you'll be back on a sunny day and you'll have even more to share. Thanks, as always, for taking me along on the trip!

  4. Oh this brought back great memories of when I visited! I too was lucky enough to see a train pass through those amazing tunnels. And Emerald Lake is stunning, even in the rain!

  5. I can't get over the colour of the water - so clear and blue. Beautiful photos of what must have been a wonderful day, albeit with rain.

  6. Wonderful photos of a wonderful area, Helen! The Spiral Tunnel construction has been a fascinating project.
    PS I use Picasa for editing my photos and also for creating Picture Collages. Unfortunately Google is now retiring Picasa and focusing on Google Photos. :(