The day was not very cold, perhaps –5 Celsius (23 F). We chose the trail leading to Bertha Falls and strapped on our snowshoes.
Under foot, the thick blanket was powder and perfect. The day was dim from thick cloud cover, but not a breath of the area’s usual wind rustled the tenacious evergreens or kissed the barren bark of the hardy deciduous trees and bushes. The place was hauntingly gorgeous.
We plodded purposefully up the trail. It had been ages since either of us had created such giant footprints. I wore my old wood and rawhide snowshoes and Decon wore his new, high tech Christmas presents. After some unsteady minutes, I finally got my snow-legs and progress began to be rapid. Well, at least for a few strides.
Without warning, my left leather binding gave way. The binding was old, but I had come prepared. In seconds, I produced an old leather bootlace from my pack and had it looped and knotted in place. It was as good as new!
Decon & I moved foreword again, stopping here and there to catch our breath and to take some beautiful photographs. Without the slightest breeze, the place was like an expansive tomb, complete with a thick layer of white sound silencer and a huge frozen lake protected by mighty, snow-capped mountains. To call the wondrous scene ‘peace giving’ was an understatement!
Tranquil vistas followed by serene, soothing scenes, burst upon us. Tiny mounds of pure white snow adorned the evergreen bows along the trail, perched like sculpted puffs of albino cotton candy on the green. Towering above us, the steep mountain slopes were spread with a thick layer of conifers dusted in icing sugar. On we strode in awe!
All of a sudden, we heard voices. The area was well travelled in the summer time, but in the dead of winter, we thought we were alone. Two girls, ladies actually, emerged from the trees along the trail ahead. Decon and & I moved off the path to let them pass, visiting briefly with them for the duration of our unexpected encounter. We were on our way to visit Bertha Falls, and one young lady told us that the picturesque waterfall had been named after her Great Aunt. Wow! What were the odds of meeting such a person in such a remote location?
Decon and I moved upwards while the girls headed down. How cool would that be to have something so notable and beautiful named after a member of your own kin? A sweet family treasure to be sure!
As we hiked along, the alpine chill seemed to settle upon us. The visibility gently shrank and tiny snowflakes began to sprinkle down. I had packed my stove and my thoughts lingered on the hot soup I would soon be sipping in the snow.
Finally, we reached the frozen waterfall. It was so snow-covered as to be unrecognizable as a falls, but both Decon and I remembered a hot summer’s day when we had enjoyed its splendour with some of our children. Just below the falls, a stout wooden bridge spanned the silent stream. Its deck and railings were filled to overflowing with piled snow. It looked like a whipped cream display gone wrong!
Without the warmth of hot soup in my belly, I set up my camera and tiny tripod on one of my snowshoes and we immortalized our frozen selves. The snow was heavy now, and the camera’s flash highlighted every flake between the lens and our chilled bodies. Streaking flakes obscured our images a little. The day was waning, so I quickly gathered up my strewn belongings: the stove, fuel bottle, the plate to set the absent pot on, the thick, flexible foil (that protected the intense flame), and my tripod and camera. By the time I had everything stowed, my fingers were beyond numb. The temperature was plummeting, and the weather was definitely changing for the worse.
An inspection of my snowshoes revealed that my old, reliable leather bootlace had broken in several places. With the trailhead more than two kilometres away, I was out of rope tricks. Fortunately, Decon had some rope in his pack. We quickly cut a chunk and I fastened it where the spent lace had just been. Off we went – again.
The visibility dropped to about two hundred feet, making the panoramic view of the lake feel like we were standing in a large room with drab, windowless walls. It was just the trail, a few visible trees and us under a sky full of fluffy snowflakes. When we reached the place where the trail widened and Decon and I had plodded side by side on the way to the waterfall, I stopped for one final photo op. Cold fingers or not, the fish-shaped tracks in the virgin snow just looked too good to pass up!
With about a kilometre between us and our destination, I absentmindedly glanced down at my feet. “Not again?” The rope that had replaced the worn leather lace had nearly cut its way through the leather that held my toe. The whole binding appeared to have just a few more steps before total breakdown. I stopped and dejectedly unstrapped my oversized paws. It was no longer a snowshoeing trip for me.
Like walking on a vast waterbed, I slogged into step behind my friend. The trail was already packed down several inches by several sets of snowshoes, but I still had trouble. Every few steps, without warning, one of my booted feet would sink into oblivion. I tried to keep up with Decon, but slowly but surely, he pulled away. With my shiny wood and golden woven rawhide across my shoulders, I pushed on.
For fifteen long minutes I slipped and slid, constantly fighting for balance. Up the hills and down the slopes the trail twisted and turned. Finally, the car came into view.
It was covered in at least two inches of fresh snow! Unreal! I got the doors open, brushed it off and dumped my pack and snowshoes into the trunk. We paused for one final photo. Decon stood beside the “Bertha Falls” sign while I snapped.
With that, the adventure concluded, and as always, not everything went as planned. Funny how adventures and life can be so similar. Oh, did I say that the adventure was over? Well, only almost!
Our retreat from the newly whitened mountains was slow. I drive a double trailer, 82-foot monstrosity for a living, so a car usually seems pretty easy. However, not everyone I caught up to shared my feelings. As we overtook civilization, the two-lane road became more and more thick with traffic. Soon, I gave up trying to pass people. I was overwhelmingly outnumbered.
Now ordinarily, returning late from a jaunt in the mountains was perfectly fine. In fact, it happened most of the time. However, all the slower going created a problem. I was supposed to use the car, which was really my wife’s car, to pick her up from work at 7pm. I had dropped her off there at 7am and should have easily been back when she finished at 7pm. Well, I tried, but in the end, it was 7:45 before I rolled, or rather slid, into her view. Diana wore an “I told you so” expression, but successfully kept it under raps; masking it with a relived smile. On the way home, she had to hear the saga. Diana eagerly listens to my narrations and descriptions, but is secretly glad that it is usually only one of us that experiences them.