I just returned from a second trip back to Algonquin Park. I was looking forward to a couple more days of fall plein air painting with my painting pal David Kay. I was delivering a load of wholesale frames to David that he had ordered from Deb and we were going to sketch for two days.
As I approached the West Gate entrance at Dwight, the weather took a quick turn for the worst. It began pouring rain and looked like it would continue for the remainder of the day. Since David and his wife Diane were not to arrive back in Whitney from a shopping trip to Bancroft... it had been my plan to paint my way to their place and to arrive late in the day for supper.
It seemed a waste of money to purchase the necessary day permit to try and paint in such a down pour... so I decided to gather photo reference along the way in lieu of trying to paint. Thus began my Algonquin Misadventure!I stopped at a high bluff overlooking a beautifully panoramic view of Source lake and jumped out excitedly to take several useful photo references. Upon returning to my van... I discovered that I had locked the driver's side door upon jumping out. I was now standing clad only in a light shirt... looking at a completely locked out situation five miles in either direction from help in the cold rain.
My first response was of course panic... followed by several minutes of copious self-deprecating name-calling. Finally, I decided to try and hail a passing vehicle to try and hitch a ride to the nearest Park Authority. After three badly failed attempts... I returned to the van to seek another plausible solution. I tried my cell phone... but found it out of signal range in this corridor. I thought that perhaps I should find a large, heavy rock and gain entry by smashing the passenger window- a costly choice that I wisely decided to leave until there were no further possible choices.
I considered trying to walk for help but my woods and canoeing experience told me two things. When lost... sit down in the woods rather than wander aimlessly. Think... and make a plan. The canoeing rule is the same. Stay with the canoe. Never try to swim to safety... the boat floats and buys you time! Reason prevailed and I returned roadside to try and hail a passing vehicle. As my luck would have it... the next vehicle... a white half ton truck driven by a young installation technician stopped and offered to help me find a solution.
Corey Dolan of Arnprior was on his way to a job in Burke's Falls. He carried with him a full tool kit and a tire iron. Within an hour, we managed to wedge open the door frame (without causing damage) and insert a braided piece of stove pipe wire to lift the inside door latch. MY misadventure drew to a satisfactory conclusion... thanks to a stranger's generosity and good will. We shook hands... I said many thank yous and I asked for his business card. His good deed was not going to go unrewarded!
The rain unfortunately continued into the next day... but David and I headed out to Opeongo Road, knowing that there were good subjects to work at. I arrived earlier than David and had completed a small 8x10 inch canvas along the highway and was well into my second attempt on a 14x18 inch tamarack theme on Lake Opeongo Road. We spent the rest of the afternoon painting together and "talking art"... just sucking in the muted beauty and quiet of a setting that a week before had been hectic and overrun by "autumn leafers"... as the locals refer to them.
David and I said our goodbyes and I headed westward on Highway 60 toward the West Gate... content with my day's work and enjoying the wistful rain-darkened beauty of the remaining oak, birch and evergreen stands of colour in the distant hills and the many swamps on both sides of the highway. It was a bitter-sweet feeling to be leaving... bitter because I feel so at peace here in The Park... but sweet... that I was heading home to Deb and the Gallery.
As I approached Source Lake.... the location of the earlier Misadventure... my eye caught some movement on the lake side of the highway. There... less than thirty feet away were THREE bull moose blissfully grazing up to their knees in a bog. I quickly pulled over.... camera in hand... and headed slowly back across the highway to their location. Two of the bulls were immature with only nubs instead of a rack... but between the two stood a very sizable and obviously in-charge, dominant bull with a huge rack. They all continued to graze... paying little or no attention to me as I advanced cautiously towards them.
At one point the large bull raised his head while continuing to chew... then resumed his feeding. I moved towards an opening in the tag alders that were between he and I... being VERY careful to watch and be ready to beat a hasty retreat if his body language changed. Bull moose are VERY dangerous and unpredictable during their rut season. They view any intrusion into their space and territory as confrontational... and are more than prepared to drive out the "competition"- even human!
I was able to come within ten feet and kept shooting continuously (without flash). I had never in my nearly thirty years of coming to The Park been this close to this majestic animal. It was intoxicating... and an unexpected and unusual gift to share this time and space. Suddenly... his patience with my presence reached an end. He looked up and turned his head (and rack) to face me directly. By the changed and more focused look in his eyes... I knew that it was time to leave them alone. I backed away... still facing him ... VERY slowly and crossed back to the van... with its driver door open.
Sometimes... "The Universe" provides unexpected blessings.... gifts of a life time. I will always remember this "fifteen minutes" and cherish them always. Studio painting never offers this firsthand gift.
"I" ... am again...deeply blessed!
Good Painting to All!
PS I sent of a 10x12 sketch I did at The Oxtongue Rapids Road... not far from Source Lake... to my Roadside Assistant/ Good Samaritan.... Corey Dolan of Arnprior. Thank "You" Corey!!