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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

rocky mountain beauties.

In the midst of our current German heat wave, I’m reminiscing about the cool, crisp air of the Rocky Mountains. Just over a week ago I was in Alberta, looking for bears and hanging out with family. On one such day, my father, stepmum and I headed out for a drive along the Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Lake Louise and then on to Emerald Lake, just up from Field, British Columbia.

The 1A Highway is the narrower cousin that shoots off at various points parallel to the mighty #1, trekking alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks. The railway wandered out west in the late 1800's, binding Montreal to Vancouver across 22,500 kms of rail ties which, more comfortable than horseback, brought Canadians together long before Facebook.

On one August afternoon in 1882, Tom Wilson, a horse-packer for the railway, was led to an emerald-green lake by Edwin Hunter, a Stoney Indian. Hunter told Wilson, that this was the Lake of Little Fishes. Wilson was so taken by the colour of the lake, he re-named it, ‘Emerald Lake’. In 1884, as news spread of this stunning area, the lake was re-named again, in honour of Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.

As you would see Lake Louise in August, and from a canoe.
Photo borrowed from
Chateau Lake Louise, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in 1890, was initially built by the railway to lure wealthy travellers westwards by train. The impressive, but receding, Victoria Glacier hovers above the turquoise-coloured lake, beckoning hikers to venture just a little further. We didn't make it that far, but comfortably strolled along the lake through banks of melting snow. What I wouldn't do for some snow now!

Inside, the Chateau boasts local, fresh and innovative fine dining or fondue, fireside cocktails or teetotaling afternoon tea. From personal experience I can highly recommend the Swiss fondue dinner experience in the European-inspired Walliser Stube.

In past visits at the Chateau, some of the best moments have been spent sitting in front of the large windows, wine glass and good company nearby, taking the view in.

Wilson moved on from the Lake of Little Fishes and later the same year, as he was tracking a team of his horses that had gotten loose, he came upon another gemstone-coloured lake. So turquoise in its colour, Wilson again named the lake, Emerald Lake. This time the name stuck.

Emerald Lake Lodge, named by The Daily Meal as one of the TOP 101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around The World, is seductively tucked into the palm of the President Range mountains, 8 kms above Field, British Columbia. Like many of CP Rail's original hotels and chalets, Emerald Lake Lodge is remote, secluded and offers her guests her undivided, no-cell-service attention - albeit with an elegant, gold rush flair and first-class service.

Chalets perch in clusters beside the lake in spitting distance of the nearest staffer in a golf cart; ready to take you to a hot chocolate treat in the fireside lounge. Cross-country skiing, hiking, and canoeing are just the right activities to tucker you out enough to enjoy that.

For our visit, the three of us strolled along the still semi-frozen glacier lake and then settled for lunch outside on the terrace. It's that exciting, hopeful time in the Rockies, when you can wear a t-shirt and shorts while marching along snow covered paths or partaking in Canadian's second-favourite pastime - spring skiing!

While our server replenished our cold drinks from behind the oak bar rescued from a Yukon saloon, I munched on Endive & Radicchio Salad, with poached pear, sherry vinaigrette, and hazelnut goat cheese. Pa dug into a Rocky Mountain Ranch Burger, slathered in chipotle aioli, country bacon, and monterey jack cheese and stepmum had her beloved Cobb Salad. Other delights on their lunch menu include, a Grilled Buffalo Pastrami Sandwich and Butternut Squash Ravioli, accompanied with arugula, chanterelles, cherry tomatoes, and hazelnut butter. Hungry yet? I am.

And while my outing with pa and stepmum was nowhere near as exciting as Tom Wilson's wild horse adventure, the Rocky Mountains impress me every time. Spring, summer, fall, or winter, around every mountainy corner lies the opportunity for awe. There's nothing like a mountain.


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