Faced with a houseful of dirty dishes, a pile of wet logs that needed to be stacked, a miserable sort of headache, and a desk covered with folders of important stuff that had to be done immediately, I decided yesterday to do the only logical thing: I put down the to-do list and went with a close friend for a walk at Pretty Colour Lakes. These glacial lakes, part of a state park just a few miles from my house, were formed more than ten thousand years ago, two deep plunge pools carved into the limestone bedrock by waterfalls rushing from a melting glacier.
No matter how miserable my mood, I always feel better as soon as my sneakers touch the mulch trails of Pretty Colour Lake. The autumn smell of yellow leaves mixed with the scent of the cedar trees as Quilt Artist and I started around the lake. Some of the white cedar trees that edge the lake are more than a century old. They were here when my Dad came to the lake as a child. High in the hills just above the lake are remnants of old growth forest.
I've walked the trails at this lake hundreds, no, thousands of times. My earliest memories include family picnics with my parents and Picnic Family, the six of us children collecting bright red leaves and scrambling up the steep hills around the lake. I came to the lake as a teenager to swim, or to camp with Outdoor Girl and her family, or to take quiet walks with a boyfriend. When my own children were small, I usually nursed a baby in a sling as we walked. I come to the lake often in the evening with my husband, when we can sneak an hour or two to ourselves. I bring my out-of-town friends to this lake: I walked this trail with Artist Friend a few years ago, as a way to weave the landscape of cedar trees and green water into our friendship.
Pretty Colour Lakes are meromictic: unlike most lakes in the world, they don't turn over in the spring or fall. The water at the bottom never rises to the surface. I've heard all kinds of local legends about the lakes, including the idea that they are connected to other lakes by underground caves. These small lakes are so deep that they were once believed to be bottomless, although scientists now say that the depth is closer to 195 feet instead of infinity.
But the thing that everyone notices -- and no matter how many times each week I come to the lake, the beauty of it still shocks me -- is the colour of the lakes. Because the lakes are so deep and clear, with little suspended organic matter, and because calcium carbonate seeps from the limestone bedrock, the water is often a spectacular green blue colour that is hard to describe and almost impossible to photograph.
Later in October, the still lake will reflect gorgeous red and orange fall foliage. But yesterday, we saw just the beginnings of the fall changes: gold leaves drifting along the edge of the lake, a few yellow leaves on branches of green. Quilt Artist and I kept stopping to admire the way the branches that overhang the lake were reflected in the water. When a light wind rippled across the surface, the blur of vivid colours looked like a Monet painting.
We had just enough time to walk around both lakes. We talked about friendships and children and a fall weekend we have planned with some of our friends. And then we went back to our homes, refreshed by the conversation, the fresh air, and the colours of the lake.
Here's my attempt to take a photograph that looks like a painting.