The water at Lake Maligne is alive. To describe it as simply blue or green is to understate its spectacularity.
I visited on my last day in Banff. I got to the shuttle lot just before 9 and lined up. There are so many visitors and only a handful of parking spots at the lake itself so the shuttle is pretty much mandatory. There was already a line when I arrived. Everyone moved from side to side in the cold, like cattle. Eventually I made it to the front of the line and got on. A guide came on board and let us know about the pickup points, last departure times, that sort of thing.
The bus rolled past the small Lake Louise village and then began thundering up the narrow mountain road. I had been doing a lot of driving in the past week, and it felt good to not be behind the wheel. I was sitting next to an Chinese man who tinkered intermittently with his camera. I looked past him out the window and wondered how much of my life had been spent on a school bus.
After about a half hour, the bus unloaded in the lot. It was still well before 9. The sun had not cleared the mountains. I walked out to the lake. The blue was so piercing, it had an almost aching quality.
The water from glacier lakes is actually different. What makes it so captivating is the fine rock silt that is a result of the rocks under the glacier grinding together. The silt remains in the water once the ice has melted, suspended. Light reflects off these particles and creates the extraordinary colors.
The morning chill needled into my bones. Snowy peaks ring the lake. While there was not snow along the trail, it was thick on the shadier sides of the lake. I started to walk around the side of the lake to keep warm. A few rental rowboats were on the water. This activity seemed intriguing back at the hotel, but now I could not imagine being stationary on a cold plank in the middle of this water. I kept walking.
The trail stretched about halfway around the lake followed by a small boardwalk. An English couple was standing at the end of the boardwalk. The man’s jacket was for a soccer team that was near where my great aunt used to live. I told them that and we chatted briefly. As they were leaving, another woman came up. We exchanged the usual mundane phrases that you say at breathtaking sites. I recognized her jacket from when I had been walking lakeside. She said that it was slower going than the trail.
We started talking on the way back. The conversation felt good. I’m not a hermit when I travel, but I did have a lot of time with my thoughts in the last 6 days. Simply walking with another person and chatting was refreshing in a really primitive sense: I’m human.
Her husband was doing a more challenging hike. She started, decided it was too difficult, and then turned around, so she had the morning to herself. She said that they had been together for just about the entire trip, travelling cheek to jowl, which was a phrase I’d never heard before. She was thankful for the time apart.
We went into the cafe. She got a coffee and I got a tea and a sandwich. The sun had come over the mountains by this point and sitting outside was more bearable. The conversation had been wonderful, but I was also thankful for the snack. I habitually rush off on the most aggro thing I can find and forget to plan to eat, especially lunch. I am then left with only an energy bar, which in my frustrated state, inevitably tastes like papier-mache. This strategy frequently leaves me immediately cranky and even more ravenous within about 20 minutes.
Part of me was raring to leave her and tear off to the next thing, but I was so relaxed by the conversation and realized this was exactly where I needed to be.