Treasure at the top
I love hunting for treasures. I think it’s why I love consignment, thrift, and antique shops. I have found amazing treasures in these cluttered, disorganized, and often not terribly clean places. What I didn’t expect was to find treasure at the top of a mountain.
A few weeks ago I went hiking again. We chose Lake Louise. I had heard that Lake Louise was a beautiful spot – apparently my grandparents vacationed there after they were married – and I was not at all disappointed by the view when we arrived.
I was not prepared, however, for the beauty that was further up the mountain.
This is not another post about hiking, I promise. I will get to my point.
Imagine your journey to work. You get in the car (or public transit) and in an hour or less you arrive at work. Maybe you had to bring some papers with you, or maybe your laptop. At the end of the day you get back on the road and head home. Simple, right? Not if you work at the Lake Agnes Tea House at the top of the mountain above Lake Louise.
When you arrive at the top, first you lose your mind because it is so beautiful. Then you see a big, rustic log cabin. People are sipping tea while admiring the amazing view. They are eating sandwiches and snacks and are resting after the 90 min trek to the top.
But how did the cabin and the tea and the sandwiches get there?
The cabin was built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a refuge for hikers. The tea came a little later, in 1905. Now this may not seem like such big deal, but there is no road, no easy way to carry tools and lumber. There is a path, an uphill rocky path. You can get there on horseback, but the people who work there hike.
We talked to one of the staff. She explained how they hike up at the beginning of the work week carrying all of the supplies needed for operation of the tea house. Then they live in a small cabin for the week, without electricity and use the same (hmm…how to say it…) ‘fragrant’ outhouses that customers use. They only bring ingredients up the mountain. They have many kinds of tea and a small but awesome menu. Everything is made on site. The kitchen is run by propane that I assume is delivered by helicopter. At the end of the week they hike down with all of the garbage generated by the tea house.
So, there are the facts. But the experience is so much more.
The hike up the mountain is lovely. A workout for sure, but not too hard. And just when you start to get tired you turn a corner and see Mirror Lake, a small glacier lake that photos cannot do justice to. We put our feet in the chilly, clear water.
A bit more hiking, an amazing waterfall…
and you reach the top. The top is a spectacular glacial valley, beautiful Lake Agnes, and the tea house.
I ordered a chai rooibos (it came recommended). All of the teas are loose leaf and the water comes from the clean, beautiful glacier lake (we saw them filling the kettles). I had a tuna sandwich on homemade bread. At that moment it was the best meal I had ever eaten.
Everything tastes better at 7000 ft.
In my busy, city oriented life it seems crazy to me that people would hike up a mountain, camp for a week, make and serve tea house fare, and probably not for much money. But they do. And for a moment I thought how awesome it would be. In the mountains you get a sense of what really matters because you can’t help but feel small in the world. Then I remembered how much I hate camping and the smell of the outhouse and decided it definitely wasn’t for me. But I was grateful they were there. Those people who are stronger and more dedicated than me.
The descent was just as beautiful as the ascent and we decided to treat ourselves to a swim in the cold but very refreshing Mirror Lake. When we reached the bottom I felt grateful and proud.
This was a special experience.
The Lake Agnes Tea House is a beautiful tradition that I hope continues for many years to come. It will always have a special place in my heart.