Today we had planned to continue our trip to Lake Louise but we have been thwarted by the weather. It has ben raining steadily overnight and throughout the day. This area has had as much as 130 mm of rain with up to another 50 mm forecast for the next twenty four hours. This is causing major flooding and mudslides. We checked out of our Banff hotel this morning but found that all the roads out of town are closed. After a bit of deliberating, we have decided to stay here for another night and try to continue on tomorrow. They highways people started working on one mudslide that has closed the Trans Canada Highway (to Lake Louise) at 2.00 am this morning. It’s now 5:15 pm the afternoon but we are unsure whether the road is yet open. A little further east (from Calgary), the highway is completely cut with bridges completely washed out. We drove up to the junction of the highway this morning and there were semi-trailers stopped and lined up on the side of the road as far as they eye can see. The little town of Canmore down the road, where we stooped for coffee the other day, is completely cut off by floodwaters. I guess that if we are to be stuck somewhere, Banff is not a bad place to be.
The whole town is clogged up with people who are stuck here. The streets are lined with tour busses and people are just walking aimlessly around the streets. The area around the railway station is clogged with RVs (Camper Vans in our language) and the hotel car park is full. The rain in this area seems to be making headlines on Canadian TV. Apparently these rains and floods are the worst for twenty, or more, years.
Paradoxically, we drove up near Lake Louise yesterday as we explored some back roads. The weather was grey, but not threatening. We drove as far as the Yoho National Park and Kicking Horse Pass. It is here that there are two circular tunnels on the railway line. Without them, the gradient would be too steep for the trains, but by creating a spiral through the mountain, they can make it easier. Even so, the trains typically have two locomotives at the front, one in the middle and another at the end. In this photo, you can see the back end of a train just entering the top of the tunnel, while the main body of the train head already emerged from the mouth of the tunnel at the right hand side of the photo.
We found a lovely little place for lunch at an inn in the little railway town of Field. This is where, in the old days, they used to keep train engines to push trains up the steep grade to the top of Kicking Horse Pass. As well as some very nice food, they also had an espresso machine and we could at last get some decent coffee. The young waitress (or Server, in Canadian) knew exactly how to make a Long Black because that is is the type of coffee that her mother likes. Good on yer Mum! The only problem was having to wait for about 12 minutes at the level crossing on the road into the town as a long freight train passed through. These Canadian trains are longer than Rob Oakshot’s speeches in Parliament!
Near Field, we saw a road that went to Takkakaw Falls which used to have the distinction of being the tallest Canadian waterfall at 373 metres (1,224 ft. It is now regarded as the second highest waterfall in Canada as one somewhere else has been measured more accurately and found to be higher. The road turned out to be closed only a kilometre or so up the mountain, so a view of the waterfall was out of the question. However, the turnaround point was at a place where a little river joined the main Kicking Horse River and this very rugged spot gave us a view like one of those seen like those seen in movies like Deliverance.
The scenery along the way was again, stunning. Perhaps it might have been better with sunny blue skies, but you have to take what you get when travelling. Along the way, we passed this impressive peak – Castle Mountain. It was renamed Mt Eisenhower after WW2, but because local people strongly rejected the name, it was changed back again and only the closest peak on the right was renamed to Eisenhower Peak.
It is still late spring / early summer and only a few wildflowers are out yet. These red flowers are fairly common along the roadside and we think that they are called ‘Indian Paintbrush’
At one place along the Bow Valley Parkway, we passed the site of a WW1 internment camp. This appears to have been a rather sad part of Canadian history as over 8000 people of European origin were locked up when the war commenced. Some were even canadian citizens. They were subjected to very harsh conditions and appear to have had their possessions confiscated without recourse to appeal. This one remembers those of Ukrainian origin who were interned at a camp near Castle Mountain.
Finally, driving in this area of the world has some interesting elements to it:
1. I can drive along the highway at 10 km per hour over the speed limit, and still be overtaken by almost every other vehicle on the road.
2. You can turn right at any red light, so it seems, after stopping first and making sure that all is clear.
3. Four way stop signs are common at most city crossroads. It seems the convention as to who has right of way, is based on taking turns. Canadian drivers actually seem quite courteous and polite about this. I can imagine having an altercation at very corner if this rule applied in Australia.
4. It is clear that pedestrians have right off way. In many places – especially in Vancouver, they just fearlessly wander across the road, expecting that cars will stop and give way to them.
No problems with any of this, we just need to be able to get on the road again. Let’s see if we can make some progress tomorrow.