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 www.igs.net/~outfitters/
... 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!