Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Visit to Algonquin Park

I just arrived back from a two day trip to Algonquin Park... with no particular agenda in mind... just to visit old friends who live in the Park... and to suck up some Algonquin Summer and sun.
The Park was as is always the case in the summer... very busy with campers... wilderness canoeing enthusiasts... hikers and Park visitors from many parts of the United States, Canada and the world really.

I fought my way northward from Hillsdale to the West Gate entrance at Dwight... battling sheeting rain for over two hours... rain that made driving almost impossible at times... and certainly not restful. Not too promising!

I arrived in full sunshine... at my destination in Whitney where my both sets of friends reside permanently. The first part of my visit was to the home and studio of Gertrud Sorensen at the Couples Resort... a Five Star Resort... now run by her son John.

Gertrud and her deceased Danish husband Fritz... arrived seeking a new life from Europe in 1967. They purchased a declining fishing lodge and over succeeding years developed it very successfully into The Bear Trail Inn... the very place where my love affair with the Park began. I first visited in 1982 when I was invited along with my painting buddy Frank A. Edwards... to a workshop being conducted by my new acquaintance Poul Thrane. That was a pivotal moment in my painting journey... a journey that forever bound "Me" to the Park... and to Poul Thrane... who became a mentor and huge influence in my work.

I had promised Gertrud on my last visit to the Park to participate in The Mystery in the Park Exhibition that I would come up and we could spend a day painting together... either out in the Park... or in her lovely studio. Upon arriving... I realized that Gertrud was very tired and struggling with all of the responsibilities of having a guest. At eighty plus years of age... I will be feeling much the same I am sure.

She wanted to nap after lunch and urged me to go painting for the afternoon and to come back for supper at five-thirty. I decided to take her suggestion and was heading out of her drive and I spotted a subject which struck an immediate chord in my heart. Tucked in the woods was one of the original cabins akin to that which Frank and I had stayed in ...way back when. It was unchanged... and took "Me" back to those exciting first Algonquin experiences.

All of the other quaint log cabins and the main log lodge were moved from their Galeairy Lake location across the road and down the Madawaska River ... a distance several kilometers away. They were modernized and updated to attract "higher end" clients and the cluster was renamed Adventure Lodge. I gave a workshop and demo there in those very comfortable quarters the winter before last.

During the two hours of painting this subject... my head "danced with sugar plums"... as visions of previous visits... events... conversations even... and the faces of many individuals I painted with and admired deeply for their artistic abilities and passion... who are now... sadly departed this earthly existence. Time has a way of silently creeping up on one... and having its way finally with us all.

Gertrud appeared near the end of the session... and wandered over... all the time querying my reason for being there painting... when the Park was so close at hand. When she saw the sketch... and heard my reasons she was moved I think. She mentioned that the cabin had been kept intact for that very reason. It could be accessed by clients at Couples with their key (cards)... Chuckle! Chuckle! ... see within the relics and photo collection which chronicled the entire history of Bear Trail Inn and Couples Resort.

She offered me her key card and I made a quick visit to the "shrine" and enjoyed several moments alone with that memory treasure bank stored within. I shall return on my next rainy day in the Park for a fuller look and enjoyment... for certain!

After a wonderfully relaxing and sumptuous Hungarian goulash meal... and conversation that piqued my taste buds so... that I required no dessert. The meal ended with a rich cup of expresso... backed by numerous biscotti. What could be better to end such a wonderful visit?

Thank "You" friend Gertrud for this visit... and all of the wonderful times that you and Fritz served up to all opf us at Bear Trail!!

I... a bit sadly... bade Gertrud adieu... and was really going to just have a quick drop in to say hi to my other pals, David and Diane Kay who also live in Whitney... and own and operate the East Gate Motel.

I first met them as their overnight guest... but as I would discover... David was also a very accomplished and dedicated painter... an outfitter... trekker... part time undertaker... handyman... and very well respected and established member of the Whitney and closely-knit Park community... a jack-of-all-trades. Being so remote and operating a motel teaches those necessary lessons for survival!

Since then... David and Diane have become our friends and when opportunities arise... we visit back and forth... David and I painting... and the gals doing... well whatever gal pals do when on the loose together. In short... we have become very good friends and have made some very good and lasting memories together.

They are first class folk... generous... friendly... intelligent and obliging individuals who would be great hosts "with artist pocketbook" accommodation rates... should any of you desire ...or find yourself in the Park. Just contact ... or appear at the East gate Motel office in Whitney and ask for David or Diane. Tell them that Bruce recommended you... first class friendly Canadian treatment and artistic support guaranteed!

During our catching up... they insisted that I stay over.. so that we could have a lengthier visit. So I checked in with Deb to bring her up to speed on my safe arrival and my plan to remain over and to amble my way back to Hillsdale for suppertime the next evening... with a promise of bringing supper with me - which I did!

After a filling breakfast of sausage , toast , eggs... and several cups of their great coffee I headed off to the West Gate and back towards Hillsdale... taking in the sights as they rolled by.

The Park was strangely different on the drive home... when I had time to poke about and not have to battle the hazardous rain and roads. I was dumb founded to discover distressingly low water levels everywhere that I visited. In all of my years in coming to the Park, I had never seen water levels this low.I decided to pull into the Park Headquarters at the East Gate entrance and inquire about this baffling and disturbing situation.

I learned that the answer was fairly simple. The water levels follow cyclical patterns and are heavily influenced by abnormal weather shifts. This year, there was an over abundance and highly unusual amount of rainfall during the early spring... necessitating the release of larger amounts of water in the spring at dam control points placed at intervals throughout the myriad of rivers and lakes... some of them huge in this vast wilderness Park. The fear of devastating washout conditions along highways and cottage fronts necessitated this dire decision.

The later drought conditions that I have mentioned in previous posts which effected my area to the west... also visited the Park causing the complete drying up of marshes... roadside swales and small creeks and rivulets along Highway 60... the main east-to-west artery leading visitors through the Park. I am including a few jpegs to give you the idea... and a painting jpeg to create a yardstick of comparison.

As you can readily see and understand... this will indeed impact species large and small whose lives are dependent upon water ie. plant life ,waterfowl, beaver, deer, moose, fish to name but a few vulnerable species... the list is endless. The comforting aspect remains however... that the Park is monitored closely and carefully managed by knowledgeable staff can be made to lessen the effects which left unchecked... would be disastrous. Let's hope so!

We are indeed... but small grains of sand on a huge beach that we know as the Universe... subject to the same whims and sometimes harsh conditions that cycle about... seeming at the wrong time... and as they please. Though we can "think".... and can change the course of natural order in a negative fashion... the first and only species to have that claim... we are indeed subject to whatever Mother Earth wishes to deliver. Arrogance... and there seem so much of that everywhere in society... from us to the decision-makers these days. Take heed I guess... OR????

Back to the easel and on with my work!

Good Painting to ALL!... and Happy Summer... what remains. Use it wisely!


  1. Hi Bruce,

    I'm glad you had such an enjoyable trip and time spent with old friends.

    I can imagine how distressing it must have been to see those creeks and marshes all dried up. Thankfully it's only temporary.

    I'm still trying to come to terms with the concept of a key-card for an old cabin!

    All the best,

  2. Hi Bruce, the key card for the old cabin, wow that is interesting! It looks full of character in your painting and has memories for you too. Sad about the creeks and marshes drying up wish they could have some of the rain we are having here it is raining non stop with us. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

  3. That cabin painting is about my perfect dream house...clean, small, beautiful, rugged...Yessirree, the house of my dreams right there in the perfect setting. I loved hearing about Gertrude and Fritz as well. I hope she has many more wonderful years ahead of her.

  4. Hi Bruce! What a great story teller you are. I feel I've visited the place myself and would recognize the place, if I had a chance to go there. You're lucky to have such good friends. Really too bad about those creeks.
    Souhaitons que la nature reprenne le dessus bientôt.
    Your paintings are very inviting as always. Bye for now.

  5. Hi there Keith!... Thanks for your visit and comments... as always thoughtful and supportive!

    The totally unexpected deep dryness of the Park was disconcerting... but understandable and acceptable... given the freaky weather everywhere in this part of the country! Things will no doubt settle into their "normal" patterns and natural flow with the fall rainy period.

    Not so easy a solution or outlook for the major natural and finacial upheavals elsewhere in the world I fear. Fingers crossed!

    Yes... the "key card" to open a wildnerness cabin is a bit hard for me to get my head around either Keith. There are other "changes"... much more worrisome than that that I'll more privately share with you by way of email!

    Good talking with you Keith! I so look forward to our connections and sharings!

    Happy Summer!... and Good Painting and Trekking!
    Warmest regards,

    PS THe next post is dedicated to you and Suzanne Berry! Think that you might enjoy... and make use of my ideas and discovery!

  6. Hi Caroline!... So happy to share my brief Algonquin adventure with "You"... wish that we could share the showers! HAHA!!!

    Things will no doubt shift back to "normal" and everything will reassume what we expect... and take so for granted.

    The "key card"... nothing short of hilarious... no incredulous... given the location. However... a sidebar note: Gertrud had one of her paintings go missing from her studio last week... with only a french door separating studio and residence. I guess that speaks volumes about thievery today. Some have earned a... Five Star Rating! HA! HA!

    Good Painting!... and Happy Summer!
    Warmest regards,

  7. Hi Sherry!... So very happy that my cabin sketch evoked such pleasant memories... and HOPE!

    Hope is everything! Hope is the essence distilled from dreams and dreaming Sherry. Whether or not our dreams are fully attainable or not... ever... what is relevant and necessary is that we must continue to dream and HOPE! What good or Happiness lies in embracing or succumbing to the other.... dispair!

    Happy Summer! Keep sketching... and Hoping!
    Sweet summertime dreams!
    Warmest regards,

  8. Bonjour Helen!... La Mere Naturelle ferait des changes necessaires... quand Elle est deposee! C'est ca... seulement!

    Glad that you enjoyed my tale telling. I do love sharing my experiences not out of vanity... but to authentically offer all of my followers a "ticket to ride"... first person... on my daily adventures!

    My Friends...near and far (like your Self)... past and present are amongst my deepest blessings Helen... and I treat them with the respect and gratitude that they are due!

    Happy Summer and Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  9. Bruce, once again your work is wonderful and your writing is just as wonderful

    All the best to you,

  10. Thanks Joan!... Youa are as always... wonderful(ly) supportive in your comments!

    Good painting!... and Happy Summer!
    Warmest regards,

  11. wonderfull as always bruce,the passion drips of your work love it especially the yellow trees and stones,very special!!

  12. Thank "You" Rob!... These colour compliments mean a lot to "Me" ... coming from "You" because I always am immpressed with your own skillfull use of colour and light!

    We share these common painting goals and interests!

    Thanks for dropping by... and for the encouragement!

    Good painting!... and Happy Summer!
    Warmest regards,

  13. Hi Bruce,

    I enjoyed your trip down memory lane! How lucky for you that the cabin was intact just the way you remembered it. I love the painting of the cabin, it is so inviting. How nice to meet up with your friend Gertrude.

    Best to you,

  14. Thank "You" Sue for visiting and for offering your kind words and sentiments!

    Taking a stroll (in one's memory) is often refreshing... but going back to the source of those memories... and being with the folks who shared and helped make them so meaningful and lasting there... is the "cream" in the coffee! Rich!

    My life is indeed "rich" in experiences and friendships coming out of my painting life... and I am surely grateful... and blessed!

    Good Sketching!... and Happy Summer Sue!
    Warmest regards,