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Monday, September 2, 2019


After a fun week of exploring, hiking and seeing the world from the top of a mountain, we’ve packed up and Jasper is now fading in our rear-view mirror as we head south towards the Athabasca Falls.

These falls aren’t as high as others in Jasper National Park, just 23m high and 18m wide, but flow from the same river that streamed past our cabin. It’s a popular tourist spot, visited by thousands annually. I don’t mean to be morbid, but over the years a few daring individuals have disregarded the posted danger signs to stay on the trails and have climbed over the fence to have their picture taken, slipped on the spray-slicked rocks, and fallen to their death. We learned of one such tragedy after we arrived home. For more pictures please check out this link:

The next major stop for us is the Columbia Icefields about an hour’s drive south from Jasper. 
 It’s the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies and it is shocking how much the glaciers have receded since I first saw them as a teen. We never booked an explorer bus guided tour on the ice, but we did venture onto the edge of the ice in a previous trip.  Sadly, it’s predicted the Columbia Icefields glacier could be gone in possibly another hundred years.

At last, after another hour or so on the road, enjoying vistas of lakes and tumbling streams, we arrive at world-famous Lake Louise, often called the “jewel of the Rockies”. 

Now known as Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, it has been a vacation mecca for over a hundred years. Somewhere I have pics of teenage me sitting on the lawn in front of the chateau, surrounded by orange and yellow Iceland poppies, the chateau a white palace of elegance and beauty of a bygone age.

In 1882, while delivering supplies to the construction crews for the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.), Thomas Wilson was escorted on horseback by guides to what the Stoney Indians called the “snow mountains above the lake of little fishes”.  He was so in awe of the beauty and color of the lake that he called it Emerald Lake. (This was later renamed to Lake Louise in honor of Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.

Several years later, Cornelius Van Horne, general manager of the C.P.R., fulfilled a vision of providing lodgings for a few outdoor adventurers by building a modest, one-story cabin on the shore of Lake Louise.
“The original Chalet Lake Louise hosted visitors from different dining stations along the railway line as well as day visitors from its elegant sister, the Banff Springs Hotel.  While only 50 guests registered at the chalet in 1890, by 1912, 50,000 guests had already slept here…
Through two early fires and four architects, this small, summer cabin would evolve to become today's Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.”
Over the years,this gobally-famous chalet has hosted kings and queens, movie stars and sports events. Several films have been made hee because of the breathtaking scenery.

Be it summer of winter, there are all kinds of activities to enjoy while staying at this elegant CP hotel. A few years ago hubby and I celebrated our anniversary by revisiting Banff (where we’d spent our weekend honeymoon). When we arrived at Lake Louise, we were surprised to discover the lake was still frozen in mid-May! And what a chill radiating off the ice. Only a few feet had thawed, lapping along the shoreline. So, we simply strolled the perimeter of the lake front, took a few pictures, and headed back to Calgary. Anyone wanting to take a canoe trip across the lake, would be best advised to wait until summer.

Speaking of summer, I have to share this little tidbit about Lake Louise. When Calgary held the Winter Olympic Games in 1988, several events were held in Banff and Lake Louise. The following year, Alberta Tourism ran the most amazing advertising campaign---it showed Lake Louise covered in snow and ice, then there was a slow-motion segue from frozen, snow-covered lake to sparkling aquamarine water and Iceland poppies bobbing in the breeze…and the caption read something like this:  Come back to see what lies beneath the snow. Makes me think of that song, The Rose sung by Bette Midler. Genius advertising and unforgettable for me, even 30 years later.

Now, after I stop smiling about that commercial, let’s motor onward to Banff, approximately half an hour’s drive away from Lake Louise . You cannot see everything that needs to be seen in Banff in a day, or Banff National Park in a week or even a month. Just be prepared for people. Lots of people. Parking spots are hard to find. (On our latest trip there, I couldn’t even get to browse in my favorite shop, the year-round Christmas Store on the main thoroughfare because of the parking problem. Hence the quick trip to Lake Louise.

Back in 1883, while the CPR railroad was built through the mountains to complete connecting Canada’s east and west coasts, some CPR workers saw steam rising from crack at the base of a mountain. They thought this would make a great money-making venture. Spas were all the rage in Europe, so why not have this attraction here? They climbed down through an opening to the pool, built a cabin nearby and invited people to take “the healing waters”. In 1885 a tunnel was dug for easy access to the basin. Disputes over several claims filed in the area caused the government to take notice and declared the area a park.

The government encouraged the CPR to build a hotel there and thus began the reign of elegant, European-style CP hotels out West, many still popular to this day. As the townsite grew, the park was renamed Banff in honor of William Davidson, the area’s first European settler who had grown up near the town of Banff in Scotland. This became Canada’s first national park.

There are so many places to visit in Banff. The Cave and Basin—(remember those CPR workers’ dream??) is no longer used as a spa; it is now a museum with tours through the tunnel to the cavern basin. For those wanting to bathe in the mineral waters, they can do so at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Another popular spa is a few miles away at Radium Hot Springs.

We spent hours driving on narrow paved roads through the mountains, visiting beautiful lakes, such as Peyto Lake, which is world-famous for its shape and color. One has to drive carefully because of the roaming wildlife. At our condo unit, we saw deer meandering on the grass. They were so used to humans that they’d come right up to our sliding glass door, curious to touch hands in search of food. They eagerly accepted chunks of bread. We later learned that a deer’s stomach does not tolerate bread well, so when they say, don’t feed the animals, they’re right. Even little creatures, like squirrels can lose the urge to forage in the wild when they’re fed by humans. They can end up starving if they haven’t stored up food for the winter.

By Kimpayant - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Banff’s most famous landmark can also be credited to the vision of the founder of Chateau Lake Louise with this quote:  "Since we can't export the scenery, we'll have to import the tourists." - William Cornelius Van Horne  Castle of the Rockies is another name for the Banff Springs Hotel (renamed Fairmont Banff Springs in 2001). “In 1886 William Cornelius Van Horne had a vision to bring the beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains to the rest of the world. He commissioned blueprints for an impressive hotel to be built at the convergence of the Bow and Spray River, in what is now known as Canada’s first National Park. Construction began in 1887 and the hotel publically opened in 1888 on June 1.”

It cost $250,000 to build it, a lot of money even then in today’s currency. The workers made a mistake and had the hotel positioned at the wrong angle, thus giving the kitchen staff the scenic view. Mr. Van  Horne was furious when he visited in 1887. He quickly drew up plans and expanded  the hotel so when it opened the next year, the guests could enjoy the scenic Mount Rundle view from their bedroom windows as originally intended.

With the onward western expansion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, communities sprang up around the winter stations for the crews. But it isn’t just the West that can boast about these elegant, chateau-style hotels. To name just a few of the famous ones: Chateau Frontenac (Quebec City), Royal York (Toronto), Chateau Laurier (Ottawa), Hotel Macdonald (Edmonton),Palsier (Calgary), The Empress  Hotel (Victoria), Hotel Vancouver (Vancouver).

How can you tell I love these wonderful queens of the railroad? Space doesn’t allow me to expand on my love of these hotels which reminds us of a more elegant age. I hope when you visit Canada, you’ll have a chance to stay at one of these beautiful, historic hotels and enjoy the elegance of a bygone age. If you share my interest, please visit this excellent link for pictures and a bit of information about these hotels:

And as you enjoy a virtual stroll through these elegant rooms, I hope you’ll share your experience at a favorite hotel or resort you’ve stayed in.

Is it any wonder then, that I had to write a story set in the beautiful area I just talked about? Originally Diamond Jack’s angel was set in the Crowsnest Pass, not too far from Banff. In the original story, Angela had accepted an invitation to sing at the newly opened Banff Springs Hotel in the summer of 1888. Well, that book is hibernating somewhere in a box, so in order to have my story included in the Hot Western Nights anthology this summer, I resurrected that story from memory, cut a lot of the story and moved it to Colorado’s equally beautiful mountain scenery.

Here is a brief excerpt from Diamond Jack’s Angel in Hot Western Nights:

Jack thought he’d died and gone to heaven. A few days ago, Angela had been as cool as a mountain lake, and now this incredible woman was kissing him with a passion he’d dreamed of for months.
 Elated, he carried her to the sofa, unable to let her go, and kissed her cheeks, her eyes, brushed aside her silky hair and trailed more kisses along her neck. He knew he was moving too fast, but her whimpers drove him wild with need to touch her. When her fingers tunneled through his hair to hold him close, he dipped his head and kissed the creamy flesh rising from her bodice. Ever since their kiss the other night on the piano bench, he’d barely thought of anything else but kissing her…making love with her.
 “Marry me,” he whispered against the enticing swell of her breast.
“Oh, yes,” she murmured on a breathless sigh.
Half-leaning over her, Jack slid to his knees on the carpet and stared at her, hoping he’d heard right. “You will?”
“Will what?” she murmured, her eyes dreamy.
“Marry me.”
“I will? Why?”
“Because you love me.”
She gazed at him, a frown forming between her eyes. “I do?”
Desperate to recapture the passionate mood of moments before, Jack clasped her hand and held it against his lips, kissing her fingers. “Yes, you love me.”
She pushed herself upright, unaware of the pressure that put on her barely confined breasts and Jack’s willpower. “But…but that’s impossible. We barely know each other.”
 “We have the rest of our lives to do that.”
She sat there in a puff of blue skirts, her golden hair in disarray, looking so adorably puzzled that he couldn’t resist leaning forward and kissing her parted lips again. “Lil’s right. You’re beautiful in blue.”

Link for Diamond Jack’s Angel/Hot Western Nights

Beneath A Horse Thief Moon:


  1. Your blog brought back loads of great childhood memories visiting Alberta's mountains, Elizabeth. Sad to hear the icefields are shrinking so rapidly. I remember walking on them as well. And yes! The Rose sung by Bette Midler was one of my fav songs back in the day.

  2. I'm glad my blog brought back memories for you, Jacqui. I love the mountains and hope we can do a family trip next summer. I should send you Part 1 of this blog, which is our holidays in Jasper. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. You describe such a beautiful part of the world. What stories one could tell. Better get busy my friend. (Smile) Doris

  4. Doris, I'm typing as fast as I can but get sidetracked by all the great posts on our blogs, in other groups and FB in general. But I'm constantly thinking about more wips to tackle this winter when I'm really housebound by snow and cold....oh did I say two four-letter words? Thanks for stopping by, Doris. You're always so supportive.

  5. What pretty pics. I hope to visit one of these days.

  6. Elizabeth, these places are just beautiful beyond compare. If Canada wasn't so dang cold in the winter I would think it a wonderful place to live. I can see why you're stocking up those ideas for WIPs to work on in the winter. I think I would also have to stock up on all my food and supplies for the winter, too, because I just don't believe I could make myself get out there in that cold and snow. Burrrr! I have loved visiting different places in Canada in the summer and fall, and I thought about taking the snow train that goes across the country, but I think my traveling days are over, especially in winter. LOL
    I'll just have to stick to the Smoky Mountains and sunny beaches--which aren't too sunny at this moment with Hurricane Dorian approaching.
    A beautiful blog, Elizabeth.