Years beyond counting ago this land lay flat, below an inland sea. Layer upon layer of sedimentary deposits accumulated, entombing tiny fantastical organisms in muck.*
But things larger than the mind can grasp were moving, shifting. Like a carpet held at one end and slid along the floor from the other, the land wrinkled, cracked, lifted, and folded.
Later, much later, the snows came and seemed to never stop. When snow falls and doesn’t stop it piles up. As it continues to pile pressure mounts at the bottom, squeezing out the air and forming ice. As more snow falls on top the ice below thickens, the pressure increasing…until a funny thing happens. The ice, under mountains of pressure, takes on the qualities of a liquid once more! It flows, ever so slowly, ever so inexorably. Ten to fifteen meters a year, carving valleys and ploughing everything before it.
As it courses ever so gradually downhill it leaves its snowy frozen realm behind for warmer climes. At some point an equilibrium is reached where the rate of the ice’s flow is matched by the rate of melt. A great berm of rock and other material carried down by the river of ice forms.
If the snows slacken, or the climate warms, the point of equilibrium recedes. The glacier shrinks. The great berm, a barrier laid across the valley floor, remains, and behind it, fed by the continued melting of the ice, rises a lake.
These glacier spawned lakes, brown and turgid, or sparklingly emerald in hue, lying down in broad tree covered valleys or high up, cupped in craggy mountain paws, dot this majestic primeval land.
Yesterday, leaving the City behind, we journeyed to this magical, almost mythic realm. Walking alongside the snow covered lake, gulping in the cool mountain fresh air, skating on the cleared lake ice, peering up and around at the lofty snow and ice covered peaks, I silently mouthed a short and inadequate hymn of thanks.
Sonny-boy said the place reminded him of the Snow covered White Queen land of Narnia, for he is working his way through the C.H. Lewis series of books and half-way through the first movie.
Later, in order to warm up, we took a stroll through the old world charm and luxury of the Chateau. “It’s just like Hogwarts!,” he enthused. “Wait until we get to Banff,” I told him, “I’ll show you a Hogwarts-like hotel.”
Before heading up to the Hotsprings for a loll in the pool, we explored the winding labyrinthian halls and corridors of the stately old Banff Springs Hotel, even taking the elevator and then stairs up to the top floors.
After poaching ourselves in the pools, we joined the steady line of traffic out of the mountains and back into the City, returning home worn and tired and refreshed in body and soul from our little outing.
* For further reading on the lifting nearly to heaven of fantastical creatures read A Wonderful Life, by Stephen Jay Gould, based on finds at the Burgess Shale, not 50 kilometres from Lake Louise.