We really are poorly organized: we had a whole week to decide and now it is time to go, we have not even pack our backpacks neither we have an idea on where to go.
Quickly, we pack everything up, last second work phone call, a long wait and then we still need to stop for some groceries and, obviously, we arrive in Calgary at the rush hour and stay in line for a long time. Nonetheless, we finally reach Banff late in the afternoon. We decide to go to the Visitor Center out of town, in the hope not to find too many people. Actually, we find nobody, but the reason it’s pretty simple: they do not book campgrounds here.
So, we get back in the car, drive to the city center and park, run to the Visitor Center which is almost closing and book the last campsite in the whole park, at the Lost Horse Creek Campground (signaled as Redheart 6), in the Egypt Lake area. We hit the road again and begin to drive towards the area, while we decide what to do before beginning to walk the 6 km needed to reach the campground. We have, infact, time for another quick tour, so we decide to pick the Stanley Glacier one.
The choice is made just by chance, deciding among the hikes close to the campground and not too long.
Along the road 93, the one which brings to the Kootenay National Park, we have the first surprise. Behind a turn we spot our first moose: it is a little one, without any antlers and we see it just for seconds, while we speed on the highway, but anyway, we have spotted our first moose.
We go on and enter the Kootenay National Park and shortly after we are at the beginning of the Stanley Glacier hike.
The view is spectacular already from the parking lot and once we walk the first steps, we are plunged in bright colours: the sky, the trees and the flowers are sourrounding us. We walk on the first hill with some wide, long switchbacks, never too steep and once we get on top, we are rewarded with the first glimpse of the glacier. It is majestic, back there at the beginning of the valley and we cannot wait to get there.
The path then goes down in a hollow before going up again for a last time towards the end, the official one, of the path in a rocky flat. We stay here a while, enraptured by the two waterfalls falling down from the cliff and then disappearing in the steep valley.
We get a watch around and we discover that yes, he official trail stops here, but another two ones, dig by all the feet which had walked them, are going on towards the glacier, passing down the waterfalls one and on the other side of the valley the other.
Our quick hike had just become a quite long and strenuous scramble up the rocks, but every single step is rewarded with an unbelievable sight. The narrow valley, enclosed between huge rock walls dug in the centuries by the ice, has a little hill right in the middle – the interpreters have taught us, it is a common set up for glacial valleys: tall lateral rockwalls, almost cliffs, with a little peak or mountain right in the middle.
The interesting thing is that this hill in the middle is flat on top and a river is pouring in there, then free-falling between rocks down in the valley, and the top of the hill is not to hard to reach.
Once we overcome the little river which flows after the waterfall, we almost climb towards the flat up there. It is now almost two hours we are walking, right the short one hour hike we thought at the beginning.
Once we get on top, our legs are burning, but we cannot be more happy. The hard scramble, actually deter a lot of tourists who get at the beginning of this second part and so, we are up here alone with just another couple, the whole valley all for ourselves.
At this point, we can finally take a little bit of rest. We put on our jackets and beanies – yes, we climbed a lot and, most of all, we have gotten closer to the glacier and the air begind to be really cold – and we take our little snack: a banana, some cookies and a bag of tiny carrots, the right amount of energies to engage on the descent.
Starting the descent is pretty hard: we are totally not able to go away from this place, we almost regret not to have brought our tent with us, it would be an unbelievable place to spend an exciting night – it is forbidden, we know it, but who whould ever come up here to search for us?
We have to compel ourselves to begin to walk down, but before we need to see every single inch of this place: we climb the more that we can the steep rocky wall which leads to the glacier, but since we wear our sneakers – the scramble was totally not expected at the beginning! – we cannot reach too high up, more, our legs quickly begin to burn.
We decide to go back following the other path, which seems shorter, the one which runs on the opposite side of the valley, in front of the glacier. We have to walk around the all flatland on the hill, and to do so, our biggest sorrow 😉 we have to walk where the river pours from the rocks, or better, where it comes up again from under the rock to jump down into the valley.
Sad to leave this place, but totally happy to have stumbled here just by chance, we quickly walk down along the trail in the forest to go back to the parking lot, enjoying every single step along the valley, plunged in the bright colours of this amazing day.
In an hour or so we are back at the car, but way far from being done with walking today. What sould have just be a short hike to fill up an hour, has begun an afternoon long hike and now we still have to walk more than other six kilometers to get to the camground where we are going to sleep tonight.
We get back in the car again and we head towards our new adventure, impatient to discover other amazing place.