From Ammolite to the Ten Peaks – June 2018

After leaving Banff, we headed backward 15 miles to Canmore. Canmore has a small ammolite “factory” that offered free tours, and Oma really wanted to visit.

Ammolite is an opal-like organic gemstone made from the fossilized shells of ammonites. It is one of few biogenic gemstones (others include amber and pearl). Although ammonites are found worldwide, gemstone quality ammolite has been found only in this area of Canada.

The Trans-Canada Highway between Banff and Lake Louise is very scenic.

The factory was basically a jewelry showroom with some museum-type display cases and a work area in back for crafting ammolite jewelry. However, the woman who provided the tour was one of the jewelry makers and did a great job of educating us on the history and jewelry-making process. Even I thought it was well worth the time. The showroom had lots of ammolite jewelry as well as chunks of ammolite for sale. The jewelry was expensive, but some of the chunks were priced over $20,000. Oma drooled, but decided to be content with the ammolite necklace that she bought fifteen years ago and didn’t buy anything.

Wildlife crossings are common along the highway.

We took advantage of the shopping opportunities in Canmore and stocked up on groceries at a Safeway, filled our propane tank and topped off our fuel. By this time it was afternoon, and we headed back past Banff and along the Bow River Parkway.

The lower falls of Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon seems like an obligatory stop along the way. I think we’ve stopped every time we’ve been by, but it’s a very pleasant walk except for the crowds. The crowds thin out if you walk beyond the lower falls, but it was getting late so we didn’t take the time this year.

Some of the canyon, with a bit of the “trail” in the upper left.

We stopped to get a campsite at the trailer campground at Lake Louise, then headed over to the lake. It was still moderately busy at 5:30 pm, although most of the busses were at least gone for the day. We didn’t have beautiful light, unfortunately, but the mountains were at least visible and honestly this year’s picture (at the top of the post) is pretty typical for most of the other times we’ve been there.

The real prize is Moraine Lake and the Ten Peaks, reached from an access road on the way to Lake Louise. On our way there, we got rained and sleeted on, so we had low expectations. Amazingly, we arrived to find no rain and all of the mountains visible. Again, there wasn’t a lot of blue sky and sunlight, but from our experiences this is a pretty typical view. We took the trail to the upper viewpoints of the ten peaks and hung out for a bit taking in the beauty. But by now it was late and time to get us and the animals settled in the campsite for the night.

Our neighbor had left when I took this picture, but you can see the two picnic tables on opposite sides of the tandem site. Every site was like this.

We’d never stayed at this campground before, and it is unusual. Each site puts two RVs next two each other with (if you park correctly – many of the rentals did not) your doors facing away from each other. So you’re right next to your neighbor, but have woods and good site separation from the next pair of sites. Your electric post is also on the door (wrong) side, so you might need an extension cord. It’s odd. While I didn’t like it, it turned out not to be as bad as I feared from reading reviews. We found it peaceful, and it was a short walk from our site to the river.

The trail along the river was very nice and only a short walk from our campsite.

Day 14 (Day 8 in Canada)

Miles: 90*
Driving time: 3:15
Roads: Freeway and side roads
Overnight: Lake Louise Trailer Campground
Weather: Partly sunny becoming mostly cloudy (41/55)
Total miles since crossing Canadian border: 497*
Total miles: 2,065*
* Since our motorhome is our only vehicle, mileage includes side trips.

You can get close to the lower falls in Johnston Canyon if you are willing to stoop through a natural tunnel and get a little wet.



Johnston Canyon

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