Canadian Rockies: the icy expanse of Vermilion Lakes

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.

Looking up the now frozen creek towards Mount Norquay

Looking up the now frozen creek towards Mount Norquay

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.

Looking across First Vermilion Lake to Mount Rundle

Looking across  the First Vermilion Lake to Mount Rundle

Many of the trees along the lake edge have died

Many of the trees along the lake edge have died

Looking along the lake to the Fairholme Range

Looking along the lake to the Fairholme Range

A small spring bubbles into the lake

A small spring bubbles into the lake

One of the fallen trees

One of the fallen trees

A small 'lagoon' of open water

A small ‘lagoon’ of open water

..... mirror-smooth

….. mirror-smooth

Natural art

Natural art

Open water meanders through the ice

Open water meanders through the ice

..... reflecting Mount Rundle

….. reflecting Mount Rundle

Photographer ventures onto thin ice

Photographer ventures onto thin ice

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.

Spot the concentric ripples on the right, indicating something is going on

Spot the concentric ripples on the right, indicating something is going on

... then the silhouette of and reflection of a bird

… then the silhouette of and reflection of a bird

.... before it comes into the sun

…. before it comes into the sun

Paddling at the edge

Paddling at the edge

Ducking and diving is what creates the ripples

Ducking and diving is what creates the ripples

.... and then swimming away in a huff

…. and then swimming 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.

Looking across the 'lagoon' and the frozen lake from the lakeside drive

Looking across the ‘lagoon’ and the frozen lake from the lakeside drive

Only 8 miles on undemanding terrain but an altogether fascinating walk.

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This entry was posted in Canada, Hiking, Landscape, Wildlife, Winter and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Canadian Rockies: the icy expanse of Vermilion Lakes

  1. Pingback: Canadian Rockies: Winter trails around Banff. | Barry's Ramblings

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