Lake Louise is 2.5 hours away by car from Calgary. This hamlet barely has a city centre, yet it is famous for its natural beauty. As an urbanite, I had never expected myself to fall in love with Lake Louise that greets busloads of tourists every weekend. Many visitors simply stick around at the manicured garden outside of the luxurious Fairmont Chateau, which is the signature hotel of Lake Louise. I was tired of this overpopulated meeting place and wanted to discover the hidden gems of Lake Louise.
Finding Lake Agnes Tea House
I followed the path to Lake Agnes Tea House hoping to find drinks that are less pricey than the hotel’s. I walked along the path that surrounds the lake. The sun was in the perfect spot. The lake was like a mirror that reflected the mountains, trees, clouds, and boats. Everything was still and quiet. I even tried to make as little noise as possible to preserve the tranquil environment. After 2 hours, the sense of perfection was interrupted by frustrations as the tea house was nowhere to be found. I was almost certain that I saw signs directing to the tea house. A hiker came from the opposite direction and said “at least a few more hours”. I thought he was just joking because I had read from Google that the hike should be 1 to 2 hours.
Staying on my Path
I carried on and discovered a few streams behind the trees. It was a waterfall. I had no idea where I was. I just knew that golden leaves carpeted the ground, and I had never felt that kind of humidity in the mountains. The water was noisily smashing on the rocks. The land was moistened by the water splatter, and I almost felt that I was at a creek instead of the mountains.
When I heard the echo of the mini avalanches coming from the peak, I began to question my decision to continue. The breathtaking view kept me going. At the time, I was seriously thinking that the reason why some tragic hikers die is because they are willing to surrender themselves to nature. The thought of getting crushed by an avalanche faded as I encountered my options to continue.
The road on the left is for horses, which is extremely rough for people without hiking shoes. On the right is a ledge with a rope for support. Some hikers behind me took the ledge, and I followed. I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie set. Except, this one was for real. For me, falling simply meant surrendering to nature. I was definitely not ready for that.
Arriving at Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House
It was truly an adventure, and after hours of hiking and resting, I finally found the tea house. I stood in front of it and dropped my handbag on the ground. I wasn’t equipped for such an intensive hike, but I did it. The tea house’s roof and balcony are made from wood, but the structure of the house is built from stone materials. The Tibetan prayer flags on the house added brilliance to the architecture. This image did not remind me of the one that I had found on Google Maps. I later realized that I went to Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House instead of Lake Agnes Tea House.
As other travelers arrived, the tea house got a bit busier but definitely not crowded. Some hurried their way to the outhouse upon arrival. Others were attempting to use their smartphones, but, of course, they were so far from civilization, and digital gadgets almost seemed to be obsolete. Who needs technology at this place anyway? Even the kitchen staff worked under the natural sunlight filtered through the windows. As I enjoyed the breezy wind, I looked down from the balcony and saw a few huts inside the forest. The staff probably camp there during the summer.
Celebrating Being Lost
The hummus whip in my sandwich was as thick as an iPhone. I needed all that after a 4 hour hike. As much as I admired the landscape, atmosphere, and food, I knew I had to get back to the hotel soon. The weather changes dramatically throughout the day at the mountains, and I didn’t want to walk back in the dark. Going downhill was much easier for me even though I didn’t have my hiking gear. The tranquility kept me going, and despite the fact that I missed the first tea house, the hike to and from Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House was pleasantly unforgettable. For my next hiking trip to the tea house, I’ll definitely consult the Banff Lake Louise National Park Website for tips.
Article by Annet Chu
Photography by Derek Loo