In such a beautiful place it was hard to be unhappy; but the bearded stranger was clearly unhappy. I found him in a car park in the National Park some way away from the town of Jasper. The late-afternoon light was magnificent, the snow-capped mountain peaks of the Queen Elizabeth range sharp against the bright blue sky, the reflections in the placid blue of Medicine Lake absolutely crystal clear. It’s a strange lake: it doesn’t rely on streams but rises and falls according to its own underground drainage system.
He looked around hopefully as I pulled into the car park, his car standing there all alone as the sun finally disappeared behind a mountain. He was sitting on a tree trunk staring at the lake but he came over to speak to me. I learnt that his friend was working in one of the hotels down in Jasper. She was busy during the days so he borrowed her car, and set off for unknown destinations. Today he had parked here and done the walk past Beaver Lake to the two Summit Lakes. I’d been at work and I envied him: at this time of year, off-season, the trails would have been empty, and the lakes gloriously peaceful and pure.
Of course, when he asked, I agreed to drive him to town. He had left the car's lights on before setting off for his day's walk, and had expected to be spending the night in the open with nothing but crows and a dead car battery for company.
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