While in Yoho National Park in British Columbia this past September, we hiked around Emerald Lake. Emerald Lake, like Lake Louise, is a tarn formed in a basin surrounded by mountains into which melting glaciers have poured their water. And, like Lake Louise, it owes its green blue hue to rock flour. Rock flour is made of very fine particles that have been ground down by glaciers moving against bedrock and washed into the lakes.
The hike around the shore of Emerald Lake was level for the most part and not a strenuous trail, with some climbing near the end. We hiked here twice on our travels. The first time we went on a cloudy and cold day, while our second hike was in mixed cloud and sun.
This trail took us through varied landscapes. On one side of the lake is an open expanse of meadows and streams. I believe I am right in saying that this side is a moraine, that is, an area of gravel and sand washed down from the mountains by their glaciers over time. Here, the trail is paved and is wheel chair accessible. Having never been in the Rocky Mountains until this trip, I was very taken by the beauty of the streams and rivers at the base of mountains and stopped to look at these for a long time at Emerald Lake.
We continued on the trail which led around the other side of the lake through a lush forest reminiscent of west coast rainforests and unusual in this area. I loved this part of the trail, filled with the deep atmosphere of the woods through which we could see mountains on the far side of the lake. Living in Ontario, I am familiar with woods, but not with catching glimpses of enormous mountains beyond the trees. These sights always evoked in me a sense of mystery and awe.
Again, I took many photos and in late afternoon was drawn to the reflections of the mountains in the lake. I did not keep track of which mountain had which name—two of them being Wapta Mountain and Mt. Burgess—but they seem to have accepted my ignorance with good grace.
Before writing about the time we spent in the Rockies, here’s a side trip to Algonquin and Arrowhead Provincial Parks in Ontario. I travelled north this past weekend to see the fall colours. The oranges, reds and yellows were at their peak contrasting with pale greens and the deeper green of conifers. We hiked in Algonquin Park, coming upon other nature lovers, among them families with young children. As before, we were gladdened to see parents introducing their children to nature.
Saturday and Sunday were cloudy and cool, but the rain held off until late afternoon each day when we had just finished our hikes on the Hemlock Bluffs and Bat Lake trails. I felt blessed to be among the trees and rocks, by lakes and streams.
We saw chipmunks, many chickadees, blue jays, hairy woodpeckers and a great grey owl on Sunday. This we found in the comical way we often do in parks. We came upon a large crowd of people pulled over by the roadway, with their telescopic lenses and smaller cameras all looking intently off to the side. We thought we’d see a moose when we joined them, but no, this was a much rarer sighting we were told. I had never seen an owl in the wild and was happy to see this bird who rewarded us at one point by spreading his or her huge wings and floating out of the tree toward the ground, perhaps in search of prey.
Our last day, Monday, we spent at quiet Arrowhead Park, taking a gentle walk to and from Stubb’s Falls. Monday was sunny and warmer than the weekend. We walked among the bright trees and onto boulders at the side of the falls. The deep colours, loud rushing water and the reflections in the river were a tonic and a joy to see before returning to the highways and the different rushing of Toronto.
We love to inscribe our initials to show that we exist and are present now and for others to know in the future. Sometimes it’s just our names or initials and sometimes we enclose these in hearts to mark our love.
It was no different at Kortright, where, on a recent visit, I noticed the carvings and drawings at the lookout points in the wooden railings. I like to imagine the young people who left their marks, although they could have been left by people of any age. There, in the woods, the markings took on an air of simplicity for me.
Perhaps someday I’ll add my initials to the others, a poignant sign of changing life and my desire to fix something in time and space that cannot be fixed.
During this most recent outing to Kortright, while sitting on a bench in the woods, I turned my head and saw the trees as I had not before. I cannot describe what called to me, except that the shapes of the trunks, the sun and shade, the greens and browns configured a pattern and an atmosphere that I felt I belonged to.
On that late summer day, a few trees had begun showing orange leaves and two chipmunks on a path searched for food long enough for me to photograph one of them.