The call of a lone raven echoes through the forest, briefly hushing the babble of a waterfall. I have the sensation I’m utterly alone, so stark is the silence on this high summer day.
How shall I spend this rare solitude? I could go back to Aurum Lodge to soak up the sun on the deck. I could amble down to Abraham Lake, a centerpiece in a palette of blues and greens. Or I could take my camera along on a hike to admire the views of the eastern flanks of the Canadian Rockies and watch for wildlife.
A Hideaway for Nature Lovers
There’s a sense of escapism that draws visitors to the wood-beamed Arum Lodge, about 215 km (134 mi) west of Red Deer, just outside of Nordegg. It is surrounded by towering evergreens with a view of the expansive, meandering lake. Nearby are hiking trails, more lakes, creeks, canyons and waterfalls.
Owners Alan and Madeleine Ernst from Switzerland fell in love with this wild landscape when they settled here years ago. Nature lovers with an adventurous side, the Ernsts selected this untouched canvas and built their lodge with the aim of treading lightly on the earth. Aurum, which means gold in Latin, is mainly solar powered and is wood heated in winter.
Over a simply delicious family-style meal with the Ernsts and guests from England, Switzerland and Germany, we trade stories of how we spent our day: a glacier walk, a canyon hike, a quiet paddle on the lake, reading on the porch. Aura, the Burmese mountain dog, lies on the hearth, with one ear cocked. Alan tells us that every season has something special. Vivid greens in spring, a cornucopia of colour in summer and fall and breathtaking beauty in winter.
Ice Magic for Photographers
When Abraham Lake freezes, it’s as if an abstract painter has taken a brush underwater to create an otherworldly scene. Bubbles of gas are suspended seemingly in mid-movement, sometimes interrupted by an artfully placed fissure in the ice.
“It’s a photographer’s dreamscape and the absence of colour that makes it so beautiful,” Alan recalls. A hobbyist photographer, he started workshops at the lodge in 2004, bringing in a professional, Darwin Wiggett, renowned for his Rockies landscapes to help capture the magic of the lake. The workshops remain popular, particularly in winter. The frozen lake can fill the night with the booming and creaking sounds of shifting ice. Come morning, photographers will discover a whole new canvas.
I fall asleep that night thinking about the ice music on the lake and make a promise to return in winter – camera and tripod in hand.