The teahouse at Lake Agnes

The view of Lake Agnes from the teahouse veranda. Photos by David Lansing.

Sitting at an elevation of 7,005 feet, some five and a half miles from Chateau Lake Louise, is the Lake Agnes Teahouse, billed as “the highest situated tea room in Canada” when it was first built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It’s crazy to think about, isn’t it? A tea house up near the top of the Continental Divide, reachable only after a long hike of several hours?

Here’s the amazing thing: I realized once we got there that the stout woman with the oversized backpack and friendly dog who zipped by us on the trail an hour or so ago, moving so quickly it was almost as if she was jogging, was the very same woman inside the cozy little cabin making tea for us. She’d been carrying her supplies—fresh milk and assorted pastry goodies—in the backpack. Something she does every morning.

Good god.

The teahouse was surprisingly busy. We hadn’t really seen more than a few other hikers on the trail, but there were at least a dozen day-trippers sipping tea inside the cabin and an equal number out on the deck, taking in the views of the little lake and the ragged peaks of Mount St. Piran.

Because of the crowd, it took a while to get our pots of tea, but no matter; no one was in a rush. It felt good to sit on the tree stumps that had been converted into seats and to strip off some of the many layers of clothing and let the cool mountain air cool us down. Some from our group took their tea down to benches by the side of the lake; others huddled around a pot-belly stove inside the cabin. After about an hour, Bruce gathered us up and said it was time to head back down. We slipped off to the south side of the lake, over the top of a waterfall, and began retracing our steps back to Mirror Lake and the Chateau.

On the descent I was actually able to keep my head up, not having to constantly gasp for air, and take in the scenery. It was spectacular.

Just a reminder that if you haven’t entered the Woolrich Adventure Sweepstakes to win a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff (including a stay at Chateau Lake Louise), you should do so. You can enter the sweepstakes here.

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