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.

Certainly, the natural backdrop can make for a studio setting that would add turquoise and blue highlights to any portrait, but the purist may be dismayed to observe the enthusiasm for "selfies" in this pristine cathedral of trees, rocks and bracing mountain air. On the other hand, the human trespasser can be forgiven to deem the ego to be equal to, or superior to, its natural surrounding. We humans, after all, claim to have dominion here.

To me, an observer on the path, the statuesque beauty of a Korean model, in fur collar, stationed on a rocky shoreline staring at her cellphone was a curiosity and not necessarily a distraction. However, I thought the place welcomed more the aspiring paddlers in hooded jackets hoisting their canoe to the water's edge, and then gliding into the rainbow lightstorm pushing over the frosted peaks.


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