Springtime in the Rockies

Last year I posted about our visit to Egypt Lake area southwest of Banff; Caught in a Riot.  That time we spent a few days at Shadow Lake Lodge, a hike or ski-in destination that was originally built in the 1920s as an outlier of the Banff Springs Hotel; part a circuit of rest houses for horseback travel into the wilderness.  

Springtime in the Rockies

This scheme also included the famous Skoki Lodge, accessed from Chateau Lake Louise and honeymoon destination of Will & Kate.

Springtime in the Rockies

Another backcountry cabin that appears on the map is Sundance Lodge along Brewster Creek, 16 km outside Banff townsite.  This location was familiar to me as a horseback destination during the summer months, but apparently a change of ownership has led to recognition of the untapped market for winter visitors as well.  It too was constructed in the 1920s by the Canadian Pacific Railway; one of two stop-overs for those heading to the primo destination of Mt Assiniboine and the Assiniboine Lodge.

Springtime in the Rockies

This should have been a picture of a big, beautiful, black wolf that crossed the road in front of us while driving down the Bow Valley Parkway near Banff.  He climbed the snowbank (see his tracks left of the flagged tree) then turned to stare as we stopped directly beside.  Just as I raised the camera, "poof", he's gone into the pines.  It turned out we were to cross paths with this fellow again surprise.

Springtime in the Rockies

Bow River

Springtime in the Rockies

Looking back at Mt. Rundle.  We knew the 10 miles in would be on an old access road, packed by the snowmobiles that delivered supplies to the lodge.  We also knew it would be extremely icy due to recent warm temps so the skis were left behind in favor of hiking boots and snow cleats.  With only 200 m to gain, it was a relaxing four hours to arrive at our destination.

Springtime in the Rockies

Main guest cabin on right was built in the 1990s.

Springtime in the Rockies

Original 1920s cabini now used as the cowboy bunkhouse.  Although the two staff were very attentive upon our arrival, we were the only guests for that night, I was itching to explore and spotted a cross erected on the hillside above the lodge.  "What's is that", I asked Steve the cook.  "Where they buried the last person who pissed off the cook", he said with a big grin.  Hmmm, well I climbed the slope to discover for myself.

Springtime in the Rockies

The view was nice.

Springtime in the Rockies

And Steve wasn't kidding.  I can enjoy a good joke and I'm sure they heard my laughter down there.  Turns out Steve was a genuine character; a retired ship's cook on a Coast Guard icebreaker based at Baffin Island, he had more stories than I could absorb in just two days.  And as a New Brunswicker of Acadian background, he knew how to tell those stories to maximum effect.

Springtime in the Rockies

Steve in his kitchen, with John the Cowboy looking on.  John and I discoverd that we'd both enjoyed reading the obscure writings of an old trapper named A.L. Karras.  John said he'd never met another person who'd read his North to Cree Lake so we had an instant bond.  During the winter season he was the handyman and wood-chopper but clearly fed-up with winter and wanting his horses back.

Springtime in the Rockies

After a hearty dinner with wine and some great conversation, we retired to our pine bed with feather duvet for a nice quiet sleep under the light of a waning moon.  When given our choice of breakfast time, I think Steve was surprise we asked for 7 am.  But we had plans to hike far down the valley and daylight was our limiting factor; with a 9 am start we would have to turn around no later than 2 pm.

Springtime in the Rockies

With borrowed snowshoes, we set out first on the snowmobile trail and then a simple ski-set track.  This was a tremendous advantage as stepping off to either side would result in sinking down to your knees in the soft, wet snow.

Springtime in the Rockies

Turtle Tom's cabin (don't ask how it got that name, nobody knows).

Springtime in the Rockies

Springtime in the Rockies

We had discussed our wolf sighting with Steve and John, and they revealed the black wolf was known to frequent this area.  Sure enough, recent wolf tracks were spotted along our trail.  That is my size 10 boot for scale!  The distance between his front and back prints measured about 4 feet, not including head and tail...a big fellow indeed.

Springtime in the Rockies

By 1 pm we'd reached the end of the trail, which surprised us.  Steve had told us that a pair of Park Wardens had made those tracks on their way past the lodge, heading to their patrol cabin.  His story was intriguing as they apparently passed rather late in the day with many kms still to travel, but came back out around 10 pm with the cryptic story that their cabin was unable to warm up so they were heading back to town.  I rather speculate they got lost in the dark, although with the benefit of daylight and a map we figure they were within 300 m of their cabin.  I tried to venture out on the virgin snow but quickly gave that up.  Time for lunch, anyway.

Springtime in the Rockies

Springtime in the Rockies

Spot the hole-in-the-wall?  That night we were joined by five more guests and chatted late into the night.  All of us were leaving the next morning.  A hearty breakfast of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, cinnamon buns and lots of coffee provided fuel for the journey, along with a bag lunch of chicken salad wedged between two gigantic slabs of fresh-made bread; a real two-fister.  All-in-all, a worthwhile trip as we ticked the Sundance Lodge off our list of must-do destinations.

Springtime in the Rockies

Advance notice!  I'm heading back to Tibet for six weeks beginning mid-April for another attempt at Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain.  There will be welcome silence for a period, but I promise one hell of a trip report cool.

Thanks for a great travel post, just dreamy without the cold!
03/01/2016 - 21:48

I will share this with my Dad, as these were his old stomping grounds. 

Thanks for the journey.




My pleasure, Tim
03/03/2016 - 03:46

I'm sure he knows this spot well

 Wonderful, Tim

Re: Springtime in the Rockies
03/01/2016 - 22:09

Looks fun, great photos too. In London we just don't get skies that are so piercingly blue as thatsad

true blue
03/03/2016 - 17:14

It is fascinating how the sky changes from a bright blue to almost black as you go higher and the atmosphere thins a bit.  Many folks I know who relocate to the coast for warmer weather say they miss those blue skies the most, almost to the point of depression!

Beautiful, Pristine, and Tranquil. Thanks Dean for sharing these!
03/02/2016 - 03:35

Also,  Good Luck on Cho Oyu!

thanks Dan, also wondering
03/03/2016 - 17:10

what we'll find on the journey up from Kathmandu, post-earthquake.

I'm moving to Canada!
03/02/2016 - 14:55


Now is the time!
03/02/2016 - 19:39

First World destination at Third World prices with our currency so low indecision

Thanks for the pictures
03/02/2016 - 21:34

I had occasion to visit Banff many years ago in summer and it was just beautiful.  We were at the Fairmont there, so not the really cool old lodges/cabins.  That looks like an amazing way to see it.  Good luck in Tibet.  Look forward to the stories upon your return.  Have you chosen your horological travel companions for Tibet yet?  I seem to recall a Sinn when along last time, no?

I have two candidates
03/03/2016 - 03:48

Sinn or the OS 

Re: Springtime in the Rockies
03/03/2016 - 04:43


I remember the line

"It was a miracle of rare device".

Thank you for your posting.




A wonderful allusion to Xanadu
03/03/2016 - 23:46

You guys really know how to have fun with this, and why THL is the best forum!  Your reference to the poem by Samuel Coleridge wherein he recounts his opium-fuelled dream of Kubla Khan's ancient capital of Xanadu, where Marco Polo opined that the forms of nature and man-made structures had combined to create a paradise:

The shadow of the dome of pleasure     floated midway on the waves,

Where was heard the mingled measure     from the fountain and the caves.

It was a miracle of rare device,     a sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice.

Its so cool that this reference also obliquely connects with my upcoming trip.  Xanadu was revealed to the western world by Marco Polo in 1275 and destroyed in 1369.  Here Kubla Khan, grandson of Ghengis Khan, ruled the Mongolian-led Chinese empire (Yuan dynasty) until deciding to move the capital 350 km south to present-day Beijing.  His rule collapsed in 1368 and the Mongol tribes retreated back to the steppes and what is called the Northern Yuan Dynasty, which included Tibet.  Thanks for sharing these inspirational words smiley.

Waiting for her...
03/04/2016 - 03:17

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! A savage place! as holy and enchanted As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover!


...who must be Tick-Tock! Wonderful place you shared with us!


Re: A wonderful allusion to Xanadu
03/04/2016 - 03:59

Actually, Khubla Khan was only part of a much longer Coleridge's opium-induced dream.

After he awoke he began to write down the entire memory but was distracted by someone.

By the time he could get back to it, most of the dream had fled.


Sundance Lodge - done and dusted!...
03/03/2016 - 17:16

Dean, it's always a pleasure to see what you've been upto.

As soon as I saw your caption "Springtime in the Rockies" my thoughts turned to Gene and Trigger  cool...

What with the Chef and Turtle Tom's Cabin you were sure to keep my attention wink.

A wonderful experience - thanks for sharing.

I see Tibet is back on the shopping list and just around the corner - can't wait to hear all about that  yes.

Keep safe and best wishes


Tony, I love your references
03/03/2016 - 23:10

Tony, you know how I love these vintage references

While Champion is nothing to whinny about (IIRC Trigger was Roy Roger's steed), Autry's rendition of Springtime in the Rockies will put you to sleep, and besides it was filmed in California surprise.  I had Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero more in mind...

Tony, you know how I love these vintage references

Tony, you know how I love these vintage references

Filmed 5 years after Autry, the background scenes for this 1942 movie were actually filmed at Lake Louise yes and the pulse-rate was kicked up a notch!

Here is a YouTube sample from Springtime in the Rockies.


Re: Tony, I love your references
03/04/2016 - 04:08

Gene Autry had a very fine voice and that movie along with many many many other "Westerns" was shot in an area just north of L.A. called Stephenson's Ranch, ,part of Santa Clarita where Cal Arts is located. I had the opportunity to visit it many times when my daughter was at school there.

In fact Autry had a large ranch there for decades and would throw an open-house every year to celebrate July 4th, a very memorable event according to the locals.

It's a lovely part of southern California and did provide the backdrop nicely for westerns made in the 30's, 40's and 50's.

Oh and BTW, Autry also wrote that little Christmas song, which he also recorded: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".

Joseph - thank you for the additional information....
03/04/2016 - 11:19

I'm most surprised to learn that Gene both wrote and sang  'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'.

It often takes a song to bring back memories of one sort or another. yes ...

Thank you again.

Best wishes


Stirring stuff!...
03/04/2016 - 10:54

Dean, I've been singing all morning - good job the neighbours are away  smiley ...

Now then, can you throw-a-light on the actor Gabby Hayes? Did he ride with Hopalong Cassidy?

Clearly there's some research to be done before we lose you to Tibet  wink

Thanks and regards