Come Saturday and after 5 days of skiing, thigh muscles starting to rebel, I was ready for a break. So after an annual ritual of a large celebratory Melissa’s Breakfast with my daughter and her husband and waving them goodbye as they headed for Whistler after a week in Banff, I went for a walk.
The morning’s blue sky had clouded over by the time I headed along the creek towards Vermillion Lakes. The previous Sunday the creek had open water along its length, reflecting blue and white among the trees (see). Now it had frozen over again, though a good few inches lower than the remnant early-winter ice along the edges, and a few centimetres of recent snow had accumulated.
The path joins the Vermillion Lakes Scenic Drive, a metalled road, in winter covered in hard packed snow and ice, paralleling the Trans Canada Highway some 50 feet above. The Lakes are broad, frozen expanses of ice and snow but at various points spring emerge from the mountain above creating areas of open water, some as small ‘ponds’, others meandering through the ice-sheet. My arrival at the lakes coincided with dispersal of the cloud cover with consequent arresting diversions onto the ice to take-in and photograph the dramatic contrasts and reflections.
While looking at one area of open water I noticed concentric ripples on an otherwise completely mirrored water. Looking closer I spotted a small bird, the size of a UK blackbird (the unfortunately named Turdus merula) close to the water’s edge, swimming and then diving underneath to emerge seconds later, water droplets shedding off its back as if coated in silicone and with what looked like tiny snails and worms in its beak. It seemed unconcerned at me being there until I inadvertently cast a shadow across it and it swam away in a huff.
Heading back was no less demanding of attention, though the same route it offered different perspectives and a still changing sky.
Only 8 miles on undemanding terrain but an altogether fascinating walk.