Zoomer‘s Vivian Vassos discovers a history both personal and royal as she explores two of Alberta’s most beautiful lakes.
The first time I saw Lake Louise (above), it was ice. Glass, a mirror of the snow-covered crags that rose up behind it, chevron-like arrowheads that steered the eye to the pale emerald-hued surface at their feet and to the crystal blue sky above. Gliding over it was a lone skater, effortless and inspiring those who watched to lace up and join in. Soon, the quiet was broken with the sounds of blades carving over frozen water, along with the kind of pealing laughter only the joy of being in this postcard of a place could bring. Framed in a way that made it seem otherworldly, at that moment the most beautiful place on earth. And, in many a traveller’s eye, it is.
The second time I saw Lake Louise, it was summer. The glacier-fed water was set free of that icy grip, shimmering a turquoise green-blue dappled by sun, diamonds sparkling and dancing on its surface, daring me to follow the light and at the same time, look away from the near blinding intensity of it. Louise was still on this day, again like glass, but the crags – these Canadian Rockies, snow-topped even now – shared their vanity with a reflection of canoes, slicing the lake like red and yellow knives over butter.
I had brought my parents here this time, after a bucket-list trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train. They stood awestruck, just like I had the first time I’d seen it, the postcards not doing it justice. The wind was whipping, even though it was July – Canada Day to be exact – so we took shelter in the Fairmont hotel that sits at the lake’s shore.
Through the Chateau Lake Louise’s arched picture windows, the view took on a bit of voyeur’s excitement and no less breathtaking. But neither the walls nor the wind could hold us; we braved the breeze and hiked the path that hugged the lake’s shore.
Its proximity fed us, an energy that encouraged a conversation about Dad’s time playing soccer in Alberta when he first came to Canada from Europe in the early 1950s; how the hotel was tied to our railroad; and how my great-grandfather, my mother’s grandpa, had come here to help lay the tracks. I had no idea. I was discovering family history that had deeper ties to this place than I had imagined.