Sunday, July 31, 2005 -- Banff Day #2

Today we saw the Vermillion Lakes and Castle Mountain.  The Vermillion Lakes are a set of (roughly speaking) three shallow lakes forming wetlands of the Bow River just west of Banff.  They're close enough to Banff to walk, but we drove to save some time.  Castle Mountain is on the east side of the Bow Valley between Banff and Lake Louise.  On Castle Mountain there is a nice trail about half-way up, to the site of an old forest lookout.

Here is Cascade Mountain, overlooking the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort where we stayed for our first two nights in Banff.  This place was OK, but one can do better (and we did, for the next three nights).

Scenes around the Vermillion Lakes...

This is not the Bow River -- that's on the other side of the railroad tracks.  Instead it's a narrow channel extending between the 2nd and 3rd Vermillion Lakes.  Whether it actually connects the two lakes, and connects to the river proper, probably depends on how high the water is.  (The Bow River is uncontrolled, so I'm thinking there's probably a huge range from spring to fall.)

Some species of Boloria (bog fritillary) -- I never could get a decent shot of the underside to tell which one.

This ichneumon wasp was a most impressive critter -- something like 3 inches from head to tip of ovipositor.

Vermillion Lakes with Mount Rundle in the background.  This is reputed to be one of the most heavily photographed pairs in Canadian Rockies.  Certainly there are variations of this photo on plenty of postcards.

More Vermillion Lakes, looking west.

OK, switching sites...

This is on the Bow Valley Parkway, on the way from Banff to Castle Mountain.  The Canadian Forest Service realized some years ago that their policy of "suppress all fires" was creating a ecological disaster in the form of uniform mature growth that was not only vulnerable to catastrophic fires but also did not support the natural variety of  critters.  So they started doing periodic "prescribed burns", such as the one shown here, "Sawback prescribed burn May 1993".

An explanatory sign (click to blow up so that you can read it)...


Flowers by the roadside (hiking back after taking the prescribed burn photo).

This scene is just off the road at what the local newspaper calls an "elk jam" -- that being when a bunch of tourists stop to take oogle an elk.  This particular elk seemed pretty safe to oogle, being inclined to just keep lying down way back in the trees...somewhere that you can't make out in this photo.  Oogling the elk at other times and places is notably dangerous, witness the much-reprinted picture shot by a German tourist, of some guy playing cat-and-squirrel (he was the squirrel), trying to keep his car between himself and some ticked-off male elk with an impressive set of horns.  The signs said that the females were not to be messed with either -- they kick.

Oh yeah, there's the elk, dead center in the photo, studiously looking the other direction.

Here's the whole of Castle Mountain.  Interesting story on the signs, which are blown up below so you can read them.

Click to enlarge.  We were impressed with the snipped that "Not only did Hector name this mountain, he also took a 12-hour trek all around and half-way up it."  I have no idea how the guy got around this thing in 12 hours.  The mountain is almost 5 miles long, and you get your choice between talus and underbrush.  I think they must have grown 'em tougher in those days.

Here is a telephoto shot of the center of the mountain.  I am particularly impressed by the boulder half-way down the talus slope at image center, that is about half as tall as the trees next to it.  It's a good question how tall those trees are -- they're not exactly in ideal conditions -- but still it seems like that must be a sizeable chunk of rock.  Uh, wait...perhaps we can get a number from the image.  According to the contour maps, the cliffs here are about 400 meters high, call it 1300 feet.  Counting pixels in the full-size image, the boulder would be about 9 feet diameter, with the nearest tall tree being about 18 feet.    Not quite as big as I would have guessed, but still a chunk.  Can't quite figure how it got that far down the talus slope and then stopped.

On the trail to Castle Lookout.  3.8 km one way, 500 meters vertical (about 1600 feet).

Same trail.  I was entranced by the colors in the rock right here.

Same place.  Yeah, I tipped the camera to make the rock layers horizontal.  This picture is very nice by itself, though I have to confess that it looks a little strange juxtaposed with the whole scene in the above shot.

Just a scene from along the trail.  This shot is really setting up the next one, which is a telephoto shot of the ice field way off in the distance at the right side of the mountains.

And here's the icefield.  When we went on up to Lake Louse for dinner, we could get a better handle on where this icefield is.  Turns out that it's just one major valley north of Lake Louise, the Bath Glacier coming down off the Waputik Icefield.  That would make it about 40 km (25 miles) away.

And finally, we have a full-spherical panorama shot at the old lookout site.  Click to play with it.

Dinner was again at Bill Peytoe's in Lake Louise.  Nice place.  Their pepper steak stir fry was addicting.


This page last modified September  10, 2005.