|Brothers and I trekking into Johnston Canyon.
The lake, Alberta’s largest reservoir, was a frigid expanse of ice stretching to the distant horizon. The temperature was hovering in the mid-teens but thanks to a strong breeze and Mother Nature’s sense of whimsy the mercury felt like it was dipping into negative territory. No problem.
We were mostly prepared for the harsh winter weather that blankets the area around Banff National Park, in fact had been getting ready for a month or two after I messaged my brothers — Gary, Larry and Ian — that I was bored and it was time to plan another wintry adventure.
I suggested Banff. My brothers foolishly agreed.
|Searching for bubbles on Abraham Lake.
They were just one of the natural wonders and highlights of a day-long mountain photo tour that included stops at a number of iconic spots filled with the heady and awe-inspiring handiwork of Mother Nature and her magical elves — thanks and a tip of the cap to Nick, our splendid guide and photographic guru.
My brothers, all talented photo hobbyist, were weighted down with 20 to 30 pounds of cameras and equipment — extra lenses and polarizing filters, spare batteries and memory cards, remote shutter releases, lens cleaning kits and tripods. I was lugging around an iPhone 11 that weighs in at a tortuous 7.97 ounces! Okay, their photos are probably better composed and a bit more focused and colorful then mine. My arms and back, however, didn’t ache at the end of the day and, to tell the truth, my pictures were just fine!
|Stupendous sunrise at Vermillon Lake.
We mostly stayed busy driving around Banff National Park, staring somewhat slack-jawed at the snow-capped peaks and pristine valleys that are as ubiquitous in the Canadian Rockies as billboards and pine trees are along I-75 in South Georgia.
|Canadian-Pacific train chugging through Morant's Curve.
A day later we were up before the crack of dawn to begin our photo tour of the region. We began the outing at Vermillon Lake to watch the sun rise. We weren’t disappointed. The sun, literally and poetically, brushed the sky with lovely streaks of, wait for it, vermillon.
It was spectacular and an auspicious beginning to a journey brimming with aching beauty that filled both our hearts and cameras with delight. It was also chilly — very chilly!
To battle the elements I wore a base layer of merino wool underwear, a flannel shirt, fleece vest, thermal snow pants and socks, quilted puffer jacket, balaclava and woolen beanie. Finally, after pulling on a pair of Merrill Thermo Chill Mid-Waterproof boots, I was good to go. And go we did.
|Trekkers hiking across Bow Lake and the Wapta Icefield.
Each spot was filled with a preternatural beauty, hard to define and impossible to capture. It was something to be felt and experienced, like a soft breeze in early spring or the stirrings of first love.
Norman Maclean, one of my favorite authors, once wrote about the same idea in much more poetic fashion.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”