I like to choose a soundtrack to each blog to accompany the writing. I try to choose music that I feel captures the essence of or is linked to the theme I am writing about. If like me are moved to tears by music and would like to listen as you read please scroll to the end and press play. Enjoy 🙂
“It’s fine!” our driver exclaimed from the front of the bus “I’m just going to do some switchback turns – we’ll be up the mountain in no time.” – I’m quite grateful that at the time I wasn’t familiar with that terminology or with what a switchback entailed otherwise I may have been hop-footing my way off that bus quicker than you can say ‘Tim Hortons’.
As it turns out, a switchback is a method of turning a vehicle on a road with very sharp bends. For a large vehicle like a bus that means alternating in a forward and then reverse motion at each point until it has zigzagged its way to the top. On an ordinary day this may have seemed acceptable but this was no ordinary day. It was the beginning of September and we were in the Canadian Rockies. We had packed shorts, T-shirts and sun cream but it was -6 degrees centigrade and snowing heavily. Snow laced roads and icy ravines greeted us below.
A history of stomach churning journeys on rickety buses only inches from sheer cliff faces has left me a little fearful of anything that involves a bus and a precipitous mountain road. Keeping my eyes tightly shut, thankfully it was only a short while later until we were no longer at an angle and moving forwards again.
Arriving at the beautiful Lake Louise I can tell we are not the only unprepared tourists to befall this freakishly early start to winter. You can spot the Brits immediately – grossly inappropriate shoes that leave them slipping and sliding on the icy surfaces, shivering in their razor thin raincoats as they attempt to warm up by sipping on hot cups of cocoa. An Indian summer this is not, they quietly complain.
I gaze at the postcard I have in my hand and marvel at how wonderfully unpredictable the weather can be; depending on your attitude this really can make or break a trip. A thick fog hangs over the lake so we are unable to see the mountains that lie behind. The trees are peppered with snow and the colour of the lake appears a milky blue-green and not the vibrant turquoise I can see in the postcard.
Nonetheless, the view we see is stunning. We came here with the expectation of blue skies, visible mountain tops and an iridescent-coloured lake but instead we ended up with something better, something quite rare. Lake Louise is usually only seen like this, surrounded by snow-capped trees and unfrozen for about three weeks every year. Once the temperature plummets the lake completely freezes and it’s used as an ice-skating rink, for playing ice-hockey and is the site for some impressive ice sculptures – our tour guide informs us. There is also another benefit to seeing the lake like this, hordes of tourists flock to Lake Louise in the peak summer months July through to mid-September but the wintery weather kept many people away with only a few tourists dotted here and there.
The snow has a calming effect, it softens and mutes the sounds around us and as we edge our way around the lake everything becomes very very quiet. There is no need to rush, a slow, gentle stroll will suffice. As we approach the water’s edge we get a glimpse of its opalescent properties, the glacial stilt shining and shimmering just underneath the surface. The water looks so appealing, almost drinkable, like a soothing tonic that once drunk would lull you into sweet tranquility. My imagination starts to run wild; I think to myself – if mermaids were to exist, this is surely where they would live.
Six months on I now realize, perhaps our snowy experience in the Rockies may have been a divination of sorts. Snow has followed me everywhere lately: an early Thanksgiving snow storm giving us an early kick-start to the New England ski season, to the temples of Kyoto in Japan and a record-breaking Boston winter of epic proportions. Perhaps those scintillating waters knew something I didn’t. It’s surfaces reminiscent of a crystal ball, the shimmering was actually the twinkle in it’s eye, it’s way of playfully telling me I had no idea what was to come.
And perhaps it’s message was even more profound than this, reminding me of the sheer unpredictability of the weather and how even the best made travel plans can go awry. And how much more fun this makes everything, how you may not see what you expected to see but you may end up with something much better, something more unique.
– enjoying the warm waters of the hotel hot tub while watching the snow fall thickly all around, gently lulling us into a meditative trance, a dense foggy sky shrouding the views of the mountains behind, cloaking them in mystery
– a little post hot tub frolicking in the snow, our own interpretation of contrast hydrotherapy
– cozying up in adorable Banff accommodations with good food, red wine and much needed family time
– a lost iPhone, found and miraculously returned
– colorful canoes dotted artfully around a wooden pier, empty and swaying gently on the rippled surface of Lake Moraine, not a vacationer in sight.
The lucidity of the lakes trying to remind me that the journey is that much more fun when you let go of all expectations. A reminder that nature has its own story to tell and maybe, if you pay close enough attention you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it’s infinite wisdom.