August 12th ~ Yoho National Park, Alberta, Canada
Yoho National Park is right next door to Banff National Park, so a day trip was in order to check out a few of the highlights in Yoho.
“The name Yoho comes from the Cree word for awe and wonder.” ~ Wikipedia
Our first stop was at Kicking Horse Pass, which I had never heard of, but we were glad that our timing was impeccable, even if we did not know it ahead of time 🙂
Kicking Horse Pass sits in the Canadian Rockies along the Continental Divide on the border of British Columbia and Alberta, as well as the junction of Banff and Yoho National Parks. This was a vital transportation route for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Initially the route over the “Big Hill” was steep, dangerous and sometimes deadly.
“In 1884, when Canadian Pacific Railway construction crews first encountered the Kicking Horse Pass they found at the summit a staggering drop with no room in either Kicking Horse Canyon or the Yoho Valley to lengthen the line so as to reduce the gradients. To save time and money the tracks were laid in a steep descent from the top of the pass to Field, dropping 237.5 feet to the mile (4.5%).” ~ Trainweb.org
This was one of the steepest railway lines anywhere and sadly disasters were a much too frequent occurrence. In addition to runaway trains, they also had to contend with blizzards and avalanches. Finding an answer on how to make this route safer was not easy, as there was simply no room to lengthen the lines on either side which could reduce the steep grade.
Eventually a solution was found – building two spiral tunnels INSIDE of the mountain to gain the needed track length which would therefore reduce the grade. The famous “Spiral Tunnels” were opened in 1909 and seen as an engineering marvel of the time.
The view-point was already crowded when we arrived, complete with an entire bus load of visitors from Asia. I found it amusing that we were all staring at a train track tunnel opening, a place I would have normally ignored. But because each train makes an entire spiral circle inside the mountain, trains actually cross over themselves. You can witness a train exiting the upper portal, while part of it is still entering the lower portal. It looks like it is both coming and going at the same time!
Within a few minutes of our arrival, a train graced us with a live view of how this all worked…
Once a waterfall, the softer rock that was below the hard limestone had eroded away until the rock widened enough for the water to flow under the outcrop, thus creating a natural bridge.
“Emerald Lake is located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada. It is the largest of Yoho’s 61 lakes and ponds, as well as one of the park’s premier tourist attractions. Emerald Lake Lodge, a high-end lodge perched on the edge of the lake, provides local accommodation. A 5.2 km (3.2 mi) hiking trail circuits the lake, the first half of which is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. During the summer months, canoe rentals are available; in the winter, the lake is a popular cross-country skiing destination.” ~ Wikipedia
The color of the water was a startling turquoise blue/emerald green and the flowers were so rich and healthy looking. I just kept snapping…
Our final stop of the day was back in Banff National Park. We had run out of time the previous day when we visited Lake Louise, but wanted to return to that area to check out another beauty, Moraine Lake.
There were traffic monitors in place who had temporarily closed the road toward Moraine Lake when we arrived at the turnoff. But, after a U-turn a short way up the road, when we approached from the other direction, we hit it just right and were admitted behind a tour bus.
Once again the tour busses were there in force.
But it was late enough in the afternoon that we almost immediately found a parking spot. A huge rock hill greeted us as we approached the lake. Those of all ages who felt the need of a challenge climbed or scrambled up the side of the hill.
“The view of the lake from the top of the rockpile is one of the most photographed locations in all of Canada. That view of the mountains behind the lake in Valley of the Ten Peaks is known as the “Twenty Dollar View”, as Moraine Lake was featured on the reverse side of the 1969 and 1979 issues of the Canadian twenty-dollar bill.” ~ Wikipedia
We stood firmly on both feet at the bottom, however if it had been clear, I might have been more tempted to make the climb as I will do almost anything to capture a good picture.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: They say that timing is everything, and time after time we seem to get lucky and arrive at the correct time, find that last parking space, get admitted when others have been turned away, receive a ticket for a sold out performance, or seats become available on what had been a full tour and so much more. Feeling blessed!
Up Next: More sightseeing in Banff National Park