even better than we expected...
We drove past Banff and headed north toward Jasper, bringing back fantastic memories and images from our summer trip last year exploring the canadian parks.
Amazing how quickly our minds had forgotten about the hugeness and vastness of these parks, the epic mountain backdrops and the beauty on all sides (and at all times) as you drive along. It’s hard not to have your camera out constantly and snapping a million photos or literally stopping every few hundred meters along the way for another photo. Really…really, very hard.
We had seen photos and read stories of Abraham Lake and it's been on our list for a while, so the down days without snow made it an easy decision as a way to fill in time while we wait for the weather to change. Didn't seem to matter that it added a days (at least) worth of driving to our agenda... we couldn't actually think of a single reason to not make an unplanned detour and experience the lake for ourselves.
Frozen lakes are common in these parts but a few things set Abraham Lake apart from the rest. First, the lake see almost constant high winds, which means there is rarely an accumulation of snow on top of the ice which also means the ability to have the sketchy experience of walking on a very thick but very clear sheet of ice that also allows you to see everything happening beneath the ice. Surreal really.Second, Abraham Lake also has methane gases raising from the floor beneath the lake. In the winter the process of freezing traps these bubble in time, literally freezing bubbles into layers that describe the timeline as the lake froze over. These bubbles somehow create an even more ethereal and surreal experience as they provide a depth and detail not otherwise possible on a frozen lake surface.
The result (for me at least)... was an inability to tear myself away from the lake...even despite bitter cold temps and the incessant gusting winds that made it feel even colder. I couldn't stop walking around the surface of the lake looking for another set of bubbles to photograph, for another thin section near the edge of the lake where i could see the rocks beneath clearly and felt as though i was hovering in mid air above them. Watching the snow blow across the surface or watching the constant change in the mountain backdrop on all sides.
This lake somehow tapped into a very deep part of me where art and science connect in pure enthusiasm...and was giddy for most of the day we spent sliding around on the ice snapping photos and playing in the wind. It wouldn't take long to get chilled to the bone and have to return to the van to warm up before going out for another round of photos.
We eventually pulled ourselves apart from the first stop and explored the remainder of the lake. Each portion of the lake has its own inherent value and beauty. Some the fascinating bubbles, some giant sections of ice cracked, broken and upheaved by the elements and others spectacular viewpoints of the mountains just beyond. We spent a sunset happy hour in one of these places, watching the change in colors and occasionally hopping out to battle the wind and snap a photo.
After the sun was mostly gone we pulled down a small side road and camped just meters from the frozen lake, hoping for an equally impressive sunrise in the morning. Well before sunrise we awoke to the sound of crampons breaking through the crisp windblown shell atop the snow as photographers made their way to the ice and setup for the money shot. We slowly made coffee, put on a few layers and ventured out just as the sun began to peak out from behind the peak and set the ice ablaze in colors of orange and red. Simply spectacular!
Felt a bit odd lying on the ice next to a handful of professional photographers, each wielding a few SLRs with gigantic lenses and tripods. Each setting timers or clicking remotes in succession while I lay beside them armed with little but my iPhone7 and a couple Moment lenses. Im certain their shots look even better, but the shots we did get and the memories we framed made the long drive out to the lake totally worthwhile.
We also ventured out to other parts of the lake, less windblown and fewer bubble, but each area with its own distinct landscape and terrain. All lovely.
By midday I finally relinquished and we loaded up for the drive back to banff, scrolling through photos and fully aware i could have spent the better part of a week exploring the beauty of this place.