Beautiful Photos: Calgary, Banff, Vermillion Lakes, the Cave Basin, Lake Louise and Morant’s Curve
MORANT’S CURVE, JANUARY 4, 2023
Morant’s Curve? I didn’t know about this incredibly scenic and thrilling lookout point on the Bow Valley Parkway, Hwy 1A — an alternative scenic and wildlife route between Banff and Lake Louise — until last October when I came across Cora’s piece Epic Travels – Road Trip from Calgary to Jasper. I followed some of her suggestions.
I stopped at Johnston Canyon and walked to Lower Falls, and then paid my tribute at a memorial built at Castle Camp to honour thousands of Europeans, majority of them Ukrainians, who were interned by the Canadian Government during WWI. About 4 kms before reaching the end of the Parkway at the Lake Louise end, I joined visitors at a well constructed lookout point on Morant’s Curve for a beautiful view of the Bow River and the mountains and forests surrounding it. Everyone was anxiously waiting for a train to pass by on this historic site that acquired its name from Nicholas Morant, a photographer working for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the mid 20th century. He was hired by the railway to produce promotional material, but his extensive work in the Canadian Rockies was used to promote tourism to Western Canada
The visitors already at the lookout point watched the entire freight train go by. I reached the site in time to see its last half. Readers may note that Morant’s Curve is only 6 kms from Lake Louise. The Parkway from Banff to Lake Louis is 58 kms, with the speed limit restricted to 60 kph. There are a number of safe lookout points along the way, some in the form of extensions built into the roadside.
MORANT’S CURVE: OCTOBER 16, 2022
I could have stayed at Morant’s Curve the whole day, but Jasper was still more than 230 kms away. Yet to come were many other highly recommended trails, falls and scenic lookouts. Running late as I was, I bypassed all of them with the exception of Peyto Lake and the Columbia Icefields.
There is no set schedule for trains crossing Morant’s Curve — they depart from Banff going westbound to Lake Louise or from Lake Louise eastbound bound for Banff. Avid photographers wait patiently to capture exciting shots — especially that of the bright red CP engine coming into view from the west side — i.e travelling from Lake Louise to Banff — with its powerful headlights. The lookout area provides an incredibly beautiful view of the Bow River flowing by the railway track. There are beautiful forests and mountains all around. Huge black ravens come by and sit on the lookout fence poles searching for food to scavenge on.
Upon my return to Calgary after spending a few days in Jasper, which I specially visited for the Dark Sky Festival, I put out pieces about the Castle Camp Internment Memorial and Ron Richie’s stunning photographs of the Dark Sky at Jasper’s Pyramid Lake. Ron was equipped with a high profile professional camera with an incredible lens that also beautifully captured the Milky Way.
A selection from hundreds of photographs taken during my October Jasper adventure as well as from an earlier summer trip that I did with my daughter, Nurin, to Waterton National Park and the Kananaskis will have to wait until springtime 2023, when both Nurin and I will showcase the sites we visited for the benefit of Albertans and Canadians as well as people around the world who want to go there in summer. The province of Alberta is truly majestic with so much nature to admire. Each provincial or national park has something unique to offer.
The weather in Calgary after my return from Jasper in the 3rd week of October, took a sudden turn for the worse. It then improved and worsened once again before the warming trend began during the last few days of 2022, which has carried well into 2023.
JANUARY 1, 2023: CALGARY
On January 1, 2023, I went for a walk along trails on Bow River near Fort Calgary and the Calgary Zoo. I watched planes flying under beautiful blue skies over the river, children happily tobogganing with their parents, and ducks finding patches of water to swim on. As the sun began to set, I drove to a nearby lookout point, Crescent Heights, for sunset photos. Here are some of those photos.
JANUARY 2 – 6, 2023: BANFF AND LAKE LOUISE
The last time I was in Banff was in 2007 — and in summer, and before that in 1980. The forecast for the beginning of January 2023 in Banff and Lake Louise looked good. Alberta Motor Association’s road reports (keep this AMA link handy to see road reports at any time of year) indicated bare dry roads or snow covered such as the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Lake Louise. I spontaneously decided to drive to Banff on the following day, January 2. People were returning to their homes after the holiday break and on-line hotel booking sites offered fantastic deals.
As readers can see, it was beautiful in Banff and I made the most of the good weather.
I visited the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the insightful Whyte Museum in the heart of Banff (I plan to put out a separate post in the coming days), took the Banff Gondola and almost walked the entire trail from the Gondola building to the top of Sulphur Mountain, before turning around 200 metres from the end due to fatigue. I also dipped myself into Sulphur Hot Springs (after 42 years!!!), and took some easy trails along the Bow River. I witnessed a magnificent sunrise at Banff’s Vermillion Lakes, where I had earlier seen people paragliding on the frozen lake.
At Cave and Basin, the original home of the Canadian National Parks System, I was introduced to the endangered Banff Springs Snail that is found only in a handful of thermal springs in Banff National Park and nowhere else in the world. This small snail is the most at risk wildlife species in the park. At a whopping 3 to 5 mm in size, these creatures call Cave and Basin in Banff home.
After Banff, more was to come on a day trip to Lake Louise. I left Banff at around 6 AM on January 4. I travelled on Hwy 1, the Trans Canada Highway, and I arrived at Trailhead Cafe, shortly after it opened at 7 AM. I headed to the picturesque and world famous Lake Louise, after a hearty breakfast sandwich and freshly prepared coffee. At the frozen lake, where the iconic Fairmont Hotel is located, I saw people walking, skating and cross-country skiing. I walked on it for about 2 kms in all. The views of the mountains were stunning, with the sun just touching the peaks. Watching people skate on a groomed section of the lake, maintained by Fairmont, and cross country skiing was pleasing to the eyes.
And once I was in Lake Louise, what would stop me from driving a few kilometres to Morant’s Curve? Perhaps icy roads, but as per the AMA report the road was covered with snow. I had snow tires on my car. The 4km drive on the snow covered parkway was comfortable and the car handled the drive well at the restricted speed limit of 60 kph.
I was very excited about revisiting Morant’s Curve in winter, after seeing it in the glory of autumn in October!
Around 400 metres from Morant’s Curve, I heard the rumbling sound of a train, and as I approached the lookout point there were at least a dozen people cheering the passing of the train.
Luckily, this was a full CP freight train and very long. I quickly managed to squeeze my car into a small parking area on the other side of the lookout point, and was able to see the last several carriages of the train. It was travelling eastwards and, actually, this is the best and preferred way to see the train on Morant’s Curve — going eastwards from Lake Louise over watching it coming from Banff.
I was happy seeing the train but not thrilled. I had missed the red engine and the driver waving at the crowd and acknowledging them with the train’s horn or the whistle. I decided to wait and wait. It was -15°C but without the wind it was perfectly tolerable. I went into the car only once for a sip of water.
Then, another red engine appeared from the Lake Louise end of Morant’s Curve. It was a full CP freight train with dozens and dozens of carriages carrying freight. The bright red engine car with full headlights was a sight to behold. I took photos. My video turned out to be shacky, as I was taking pictures simultaneously. I felt sorry for visitors who arrived at the site after the train passed.
A South Asian family of three from Milwaukee, USA, stopped by hoping for a train to pass by. We heard the sound of a train’s horn coming from the direction of Lake Louise, 6 kms away. The family put off their departure for 10 minutes; it never arrived. The train was probably going westwards towards Jasper. They left for Johnston Canyon. I felt fully satisfied seeing the complete train and taking some nice photos.
As I was set to leave, a group of buoyant girls — who simply enjoyed driving anywhere they could go — stopped over and encouraged me to stay a little bit longer. I had no idea when the next one would cross the lookout point. However, their light-hearted and fun-loving conversations within the group kept my spirits alive. We watched a maintenance crew driving a truck on the track. My time at Morant’s Curve had exceeded 90 minutes. It was now time to depart. I bid farewell to the girls.
As I walked back to my car, and started the engine, the girls waived at me and asked me to return. I did!
The train this time was very small. It was led by the red engine coming from Lake Louise, the ideal setting. And we all waited until we saw it disappear into the forest at the other end of Morant’s Curve. Our happiness and joy was unbounded. The girls were very excited — clapping and shouting. I was able to take a very short video with my iPhone, while I clicked away with my Olympus camera with the other hand.
Really, Morant’s Curve is a place I would stay for hours to watch the trains. I wish they were more frequent. I would never get tired of seeing trains in this part of the world. Summer or winter, it is an experience of a lifetime, and truly a joyous moment as the train driver waves, blows the whistle or the horn. The drivers are aware that dedicated train lovers are in the lookout area to watch their trains pass through one of the most scenic train lookout points in the country.
VIDEO OF TRAIN ON MORANT’S CURVE, JANUARY 2023
When you go to Lake Louise from Banff (or vice versa), take the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A — speed limit 60 kph) and not Hwy 1. The distance is only 60 kms. You will see and experience much much more of nature and wildlife, especially in spring, summer and autumn.
All along the road you will experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. At Morant’s Curve, you will encounter anxious visitors wondering when the next train will reach the scene. Their anxiety will turn to joy as the beautiful red engine appears around the bend — the Morant’s Curve. On my future trips to the area, I would always visit Morant’s Curve. It is there that you see beautiful pristine nature come together with the power and ingenuity of the human mind that was responsible for building the railway track and trains in the first place. What a magnificent effort more than a 125 years ago.
VIDEO OF TRAIN ON MORANT’S CURVE, OCTOBER 16, 2022
My trip to Banff National Park would always be incomplete without visiting Morant’s Curve. Visit it with your family and children.
Date posted: January 14, 2023.
Last updated: January 19, 2023 (snail model and descriptive image added.)
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