It always amazes me. No matter how many times my life flows from season to season here at Elk Lake, I just cannot seem to avoid the amazement. How can the seasons be so unique? How can the various times of year hold so many differences and yet all be so enjoyable? Where is the 'rut' people are supposed to fall into? That time when the world around you loses its wonder?
Granted, from every aspect, winter ought to be my least favorite time of year. It is harder to get in and out. Sure, any time of year a trip to town in an excursion, but in the winter - what with all the gear you have to put on and the mode of transportation (snowmobiles) - it takes on a whole new diminsion.
However, there is still something so special, so unique, so almost other-earthly about winter at Elk Lake. The silence, for one. It is quiet here most of the time. Even when there are people around, a few hundred yards from the resort puts me into a world alone. However, in the winter, except for the sound of the snow on my clothes or the swish of my skies or the squeak of my poles or the whisper of the wind - there is NOTHING to hear. It is amazing! Not a bird. Not a ripple of water. Not a far off cow. Nothing!
Then there is the game. Certainly most of the animals have moved on to easier pickings, but a few still remain. We have the fox who noses around the back door for treats and drops a 'deposit' nearby just to remind us of his presence. There is the coyote who leaves meandering tracks up the road and across the lake. There are the wolves who insist on coming back - even though we only see them on occassion. There are the otters who remain playful, regardless of the season. There are the hardy elk - mostly bulls - who have yet to admit the need to find easier feed. And, of course, there are the moose.
In the winter, I must admit, the game are harder to see. A group of elk spotted running across a hillside. A glimpse of a cow and calf moose near Elk Springs Creek. A wolf on the ridge across the lake who disappears like some wraith when we return for a photo. A coyote glimpsed running around the bend. A lone otter, resting beside an patch of open water or sitting in the middle of a frozen lake like that is where all otters belong.
Yet, while eyes-on sightings are down, I think I learn more about the wildlife that stays in the winter, than I do about everyone who summers in the valley. After all, snow hides no tracks and tells no lies! Thus the lake, or up Narrows Creek or even along the road - some of my favorite summer hangouts, becomes a great classrooms in the winter.
What are the fox eating? Dark scat stands out in bold relief against a winter white background. Where are the squirrels hiding? Fox and coyote tracks intermingle with squirrel tracks to tell the tale. Have the wolves moved on? No, more tracks on the lake the other day. What about the otters? What does an otter do in a frozen lake in the winter? For one, it doesn't stay in the lake. How about a game of run-and-slide along the lakeshore? Tell-tale tracks always let me know my otter friends are up to their old tricks.
And if all that isn't enough - there are always the crisp, clear, BRIGHT days and cold, black star-studded night skies. Granted the days are much shorter, but that just means I get to enjoy a few more sunrises and sunsets. And, there is absolutely nothing which can compare to a winter sunset coloring the snow capped mountains in shades of rose and orange. Aw - - now if that doesn't make your heart sing, I feel sorry for you!
It never becomes old hat. Each season flows into the next like a well-oiled clock. Each season brings the return of old friends - whether the tracks and scat and brief glimpses in the middle of a silent winter or the chit and chatter and eye candy of an early summer - each season at Elk Lake holds its own wonder. Its own colors. Its own special moments. Its own delight. Perhaps that is why I feel so fortunate to be the,
Lady of the Lake