The Four Elements of Nature: Moraine Lake, Valley of Ten Peaks, Alberta

Moraine Lake in Banff, Alberta, is a natural sanctuary in the Canadian Rockies where the four elements, once thought by philosophers to comprise all things, are on display. The quartet of earth (forest and rocks), air (mist), water (lake) and fire (sunshine), in October, compose a picture of sublime order. Alchemy made philosophers' gold and from gold came life itself. This lake is perhaps more scenic than nearby Lake Louise.

Moraine Lake and the valley are virtually inaccessible in winter. The access road closes mid-October and snow buildup still blocks the way sometimes into early June. Avalanche chutes make individual attempts to get to the shore by foot very dangerous.

There is another problem in summer. An avalanche of tourists. Again, road access and parking can become a conundrum for the unprepared. Early morning and evening are the most likely least crowded times to get an edge on the buses and RVs that invade, well-meaning though they and their passengers may be.