It was an enchanted moment…a gift. And I nearly missed it.
My brand-new husband peeked out of the curtains of our honeymoon suite. “Shell, get up and come look at this. It’s a gift!”
I was snuggled deep into the covers. My eyes were shuttered closed and happy to be that way. After months of wedding planning and finally being officially man and wife, I was in need of a lazy morning to sleep in.
I mumbled, in my best new-wife-but-leave-me-alone voice, “What is it?”
“Just come look!” came the reply.
“Can’t you just tell me?”
“No. You have to see it to believe it!” Then he whisked the curtains open and blinding light shined into the room. Shielding my eyes, I sat up and took in the view of a snow-covered mountain, just outside our window.
I sat straight up in the bed, “What? Snow!? How in the world?”
“I told you, it’s a gift!” his excitement was barely contained. “Get up. Let’s go!”
Less than a week prior, we stood in Frost Chapel at Berry College in Georgia taking our wedding vows. To say the temperature was sweltering is an understatement. It was 1986 and it was one of the hottest July’s on record with the longest number of consecutive days without rainfall. When planning a wedding in the winter I thought of heat, seeing as the chapel didn’t have air conditioning, but I figured a stone chapel would cool down by 7:30 in the evening. I was wrong. The triple digit temperature only served to turn the chapel into an oven. This sparked a last-minute effort to create funeral fans with our names and wedding date on them to hand out to our guests, who were dripping wet before they even walked up the hill to the venue.
My dream had always been to marry in February and have a ski trip honeymoon, but I was a teacher. I could take 3 personal days during the school year for a trip, or have the whole summer. We chose the summer…in the 1980s…when long sleeved, high necked, old fashioned, Victorian wedding gowns were all the rage. People still tell me that our wedding was the hottest they have ever been in their lives. I tell them, no one was hotter that day than me! Hair falling. Make up melting. I have pictures of me and my attendants standing over fans, dresses unzipped and off the shoulders, trying not to get sweat rings under our arms!
Bill and I couldn’t get to the Canadian Rockies fast enough. Though skiing was out of the question, we knew it would be cooler there. I packed my bridal trousseau of cotton slacks, summer sweaters, and canvas espadrilles, ready for a 70-degree honeymoon. Awaking to snow was not in the plan, however, being southern born and bred we couldn’t pass up the chance to go out and play! We went to the gift shop to buy sweatshirts and layered our thin windbreakers over them. Off we went, following a directional sign that said Mirror Lake. I don’t think there where many other southerners at Lake Louise that day, because we had the trail to ourselves. Maybe they were just smarter than we were, but we didn’t care. Young, in love, and surprised with the gift of snow in July, we embraced the moment fully. The flakes were coming down hard and thick. They created a magical world unlike anything we had ever seen. Delicate masterpieces caught on my eyelashes. We turned our faces upwards to catch them on our tongues. The pine branches bent with the weight of white wet fluff. The mountainous views were in every direction as we climbed. It was breathtaking.
We arrived to discover how it came to be called Mirror Lake. The reflection was stunning. It was an exact replica both right side up and upside down. The heavy snowfall simply made it more like a postcard from another world. What joy filled our hearts! Just to be a witness to such beauty was beyond anything we could have imagined. Then we saw another sign which said, Tea House with an arrow pointing to a continuation of the trail. By this time, we were cold. Our clothes even with the sweatshirts, were ill equipped for hiking in the snow. My “cute” shoes were soaked through and without socks it became a problem, unless we kept moving. We had no gloves, so our hands were in pockets. The hoods of our windbreakers were up, but since they were not waterproof our hair was soaked as well. The thought of a Tea House, some warm liquid enticed us to continue our climb. Never mind that the sign had no mileage listed, or that we hadn’t seen another soul thus far. It wasn’t long before we began to question our choice to continue, but each time we would wonder what was just around the next curve. Each twist and turn brought us even more beautiful views.
When I wanted to turn back, Bill said “Just one more turn, then we’ll go back.”
Then, when he was ready to give it up I would say, “But we might be almost there. It can’t be much further.”
The sound of a waterfall in the distance gave us fuel to keep going. The snow had stopped, and even if we never found the Tea House, the sight of a waterfall in such a majestic place would only make it more astonishing. So, we climbed. As the rushing of the water increased so did our pace, mainly because we were cold, tired and wet. We wanted to see it before we turned back. When we saw the falls, we were once again overwhelmed with the gift of a snowy day.
In just a few more steps, the house came into view. It was a thrill to almost be there. It was still a bit of a climb, but the end was in sight…but so was the closed sign! We were heartbroken. All that way, as beautiful as it was, and there was no hot tea waiting for us. It dawned on us that we might actually be in trouble, as cold as we were. We had depended on making it to a place to warm up, the sudden realization that we had to hike another 4.5 miles back down the trail without a rest was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Bill wanted to continue to go up to the porch, look in the windows, and sit for a bit to overlook the glacier-fed Lake Agnes, which was the clearest water I had ever seen. I made the case for turning back immediately, because to sit down when we were wet in the cold would not be wise. He told me to stay put for a minute and he ran ahead to peek in the cabin perched on the lake between the mountains. Much to his surprise when he looked inside there were people, who waved him in.
He cracked the door and said, “Can we come in just to warm up even though you are closed? We are cold.”
The man laughed and said, “I forgot to turn the sign around. We’re open.”
In minutes, our we shed our outer layers and put them by the stove. We ordered hot tea, along with sandwiches on fresh baked still-warm bread. I think it was the best meal I have ever had in my life. Since we were totally unprepared for our hike, we were thirsty, and asked for water. We were given a ladle to go down the to the lake and fill our cups with the clearest, best tasting water ever. We sat there looking out over the lake and snow-covered mountains amazed. We were together, warm, dry, full of love for each other and grateful for our gift day.
This week, our oldest is having a camping adventure through the Canadian Rockies. She sent us this picture which is what triggered this blog. Who would have thought 31 years ago, that our offspring would return to the same Tea House we stumbled into? In the pictures she sent us, she sits enjoying the food, the company of friends, and soaking in the same views we saw all those years ago at Lake Agnes. It has served as a reminder of our beginnings and a snowy July day in an enchanted forest…that was a gift.