We "closed the circle" on Thursday arriving back in Vancouver after two months away. Much of the trip west was spectacular. After miles of flat and endless fields of corn, the sudden rise of the Badlands (South Dakota) was both welcome and striking. The gentle pinks piercing the blue skies, the occasional wildlife, totally captivating.
More highways, more corn, and then the Black Hills of Mount Rushmore fame - northwestern South Dakota. A few years ago we witnessed the presidents carved from rock, but hadn't seen Crazy Horse - equally ambitious and impressive. The 172 meter high carving was started in 1948 and continues today - initially the dream of Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear who invited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to carve a memorial honouring North American Indians.
The white plaster cast below stands at the visitor center, a model of the plan for the finished carving; in the distance the progress so far.
Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, jointly shared by Alberta and Montana was the next highlight. We set out before sunrise one morning in Montana to drive "The Road to the Sun". The pavement curves, precipitously clinging to the sides of those rocky mountains, every corner offering expansive unparalleled mountain vistas and dramatic drops to the river below.
We came upon the locally famous "Wild Goose Island" as the sun rose, and were lucky enough to see it again on our return - we drove the road west for two hours and back east again immediately. The RV was neither welcome nor practical on the winding roads, so we used our tow car for the journey - happily retracing our tracks for the 'reverse views'.
The dark shadow below is cast by our motorhome transiting the golden fields between Glacier and Waterton. Although they are united as one park, it is currently necessary to exit Glacier Park to cross into Canada before reentering Waterton.
Perhaps the "signature" of the park, Waterton Lakes Lodge welcomes the visitor on arrival to the Alberta side of the peace park. While there is no equivalent "highway to the sun", the park and its lakes are hugged by glorious mountains, the sides of which, sadly, are now viciously and extensively scarred by fire. Somehow the beauty is not diminished - the power of the peaks somehow more visible through the leafless trees.
And then, BC. The drive through the Kootenays is beautiful; lake after lake and cotton-candy skies greeting us with each turn.
The changes are startling - suddenly there's a transition to dry Okanagan grasslands and Kamloops country sage, and more lakes.
The ultimate conclusion - on our final day we were treated to the sight, from the safety of our RV, of a mama bear with three cubs traipsing across a nearby field. After prolific "Wildlife Corridor" signs lining so many of our routes, it was a delightful surprise to see bears appear without warning. We were in their environment, not vice-versa. Encouraging.
It's good to be home. I'm running out of superlatives.
We camped in Ontario with son and grandsons at Bon Echo Provincial Park - a weather adventure with a two hour walk in torrential rain one day and a canoe trip interrupted by an electrical storm the next. Our spirits weren't dampened and the family tent remained dry on the inside. Mel and I were happy to be in the RV!
Leaving Ottawa we headed for the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg just north of Toronto where we found a special exhibition of the work of Vancouver artist Gathie Falk. Gathie's work is eclectic and intriguing, ranging from video to paint to clay.
Lake Huron wasn't far away and after an overnight there we headed back to the US, once again to circumvent the long northern miles around Lake Superior.
US prairie and farm country is hard to distinguish from Canadian farmland and barns and corn are ubiquitous.
That peaceful farmland was rudely interrupted when we hit the big time... you want to be sure of your destination!
Big rigs rule!
Gary Indiana ran into Chicago Illinois, and Chicago almost ran into Milwaukee, Wisconsin where we exited the freeway with relief and were rewarded with a visit to the spectacular Milwaukee Art Museum with its spreading sails. The "wings" open when the museum opens, close and reopen at noon, and close at the end of the day.
The interior is equally magnificent in terms of scale, both of the architecture and the artwork.
So much space! Nothing crowded here.
Back to the prairies, gradually flatter and flatter with more and MORE bugs.
The Missouri River - much like the Okanagan for a few miles before the land flattened again. The sign reads, "Beware of Poisonous Snakes".
It's possible to remove the bug spots on the photographs but this is "real".
Division of labour. I did the dinner dishes! Off to a clean start tomorrow.
A week ago we were in Morden, Manitoba where this water gym was a popular attraction at the municipal campsite. From Morden we skirted the east side of North Dakota to get to the northwest shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. Lots of big sky country, drama in the clouds, and cheer in the fields of sunflowers.
A Minneapolis friend pointed us to some local highlights not far north of Duluth in and around Two Harbors.
From there it was a long drive through Wisconsin and Michigan (at times an obstacle course through construction cones) to return to Canada at Sault Ste Marie.
A lakeside campsite in Michigan before we crossed the border made my camera happy.
Now we're an hour from family and friends in Ottawa so I'll sign off for a couple of weeks...
Maybe I should start with trivia by saying that the gas price dropped to $1.39/litre in Medicine Hat but has risen since to $1.79 where we are in Manitoba today.
The past week found us travelling from Fernie in the Rockies to Morden in southern Manitoba. The vast prairie horizon is interrupted by gun-metal grey silos and ‘lost and lonely’ occasional farmhouses; it feels like a hard and lonely existence. But there is great beauty.
One of our first prairie stops left an indelible impression. Writing on Stone Provincial Park in Southern Alberta is a gem, and a surprise as the road drops suddenly, winding through strangely shaped mushroom-topped hoodoos to the tree-lined Milk River and campsite below. The drama and power of the hoodoos is a stark contrast to the endless prairie horizon, though the impact of both is amplified by the lovely blue prairie skies.
From Writing on Stone we travelled to Cypress Hills, a park that straddles Alberta and Saskatchewan, another variation in the otherwise mostly flat landscape. The views and the shade are welcome.
We’ve stayed off the main highways, choosing instead secondary roads with almost no traffic. Those routes are not always smooth (!), but we found that we could make steady progress without the hassle of multi-lane highways.
We did see and hear a “hailstorm” of grasshoppers hitting the grill, and at night we found large moths that somehow found their way indoors and gravitated to our lights. Many of these photos have been taken through bug-covered windows as we travel at 90km.
Local, regional, and provincial parks are plentiful some offer lakeside camping - we loved Thompson River Provincial Park in Saskatchewan.
The skies are not always blue! Night before last a prairie storm - thunder, wind, lightening, rain and hail. We had noticed cows “bunched” closely together - as close as they could be - and wondered about their sanity given the intense heat and humidity. A local farmer told us that cows bunch for two reasons; one to help them deal with the bugs, and the second when a change in weather is about to occur. Sure enough the skies opened. Bovine wisdom.
Any travel from Pender begins with a cruise, a chance to slip into holiday mode. We left home Wednesday, August 3rd, getting only as far as the mainland - a leisurely/lazy start to a cross-Canada trip.
Thursday we found ourselves in Manning Provincial Park - BC parks don't disappoint. Besides privacy and a sturdy picnic table, our campsite came with a "pet" hare, almost as cute as the resident chipmunks. And there were other curious rodents around too.
The park visitor center staff recommended an alpine meadow walk. We discovered a profusion of wildflowers normally at their peak in mid-July, delayed this year by the unusually wet and cool spring, now displaying their best against magnificent mountain vistas.
We learned that these delightful 'bad-hair day' Western Anemonies began as bright yellow blossoms and morphed into what you see here. Other meadow flowers included Fireweed, Columbine, Scarlet Paintbrush and more.
Friday we travelled through to the Okanagan, seeing and smelling smoke as we approached and drove through Keremeos. Fortunately Oliver, our destination, wasn't badly affected though we heard rotor blades constantly as helicopters flew from the Keremeos Lake Fire to a small lake near Oliver where they dipped down to fill their buckets with lake water.
The vineyards are - of course - green and lush and lovely. Below is Burrowing Owl - just one example of the countless wineries in the valley; the vines below that belong to Jackson Triggs.
This morning we drove through picture-perfect Osoyoos, leaving the Okanagan for the Kootenays.
We stopped for coffee at The Board Room in Grand Forks. The interior walls on one side were lined with board games for sale, on the opposite wall were board games for rent, and outside was a "life size" Connect Four game. Best of all, the coffee and treats were gourmet and the mural on the outside wall worth the visit itself.
Not sure just where I'll be writing from next. The adventure continues...
Ecstatic after so much uncertainty to announce that Art off the Fence 2021 is a go - live and in person on South Pender Island 12 days from now.
The outdoor show will feature paintings, woodwork, pottery, wire sculpture, mixed media and photography. Below are examples of some of the work I will have on display.
And, another show...
I am delighted to have had two photographs juried into the Sooke Fine Arts Show. Sadly, for the second year in a row, the show will be online, but I have to say Sooke offers an amazing website -
Visiting the show from the comfort of your home, you will feel as though you are in the gallery, first viewing the work from a distance and then 'walking' forward for a close-up view. In addition the viewer is able to 'virtually' hang each artwork above a couch or a bed, providing an accurate and easy-to-grasp idea of the size/scale of the piece. Visit the online gallery starting Friday, July 23rd.
Please feel free to pass this newsletter along to friends.
It's been a long time. I hope this finds you well and anticipating the return to some semblance of normal wherever you are.
With pandemic restrictions loosening and summer art shows opening, there is more impetus to return to writing Musings. I am prompted now, in this first 'issue' in months, by the opening of an art show in Sidney running from now through July 3rd.
The New Photographers Gallery is open five days a week, closed Thursday and Sunday. With fifteen photographers participating Birds on the Wild Side promises to be a colourful and eclectic show; I hope you'll be able to drop in.
It is unusual for me to post "Musings" twice in quick succession but timing makes it unavoidable this time. Please be assured that I will not be filling your mailbox every couple of days!
There is an exciting event taking place this weekend and I hope you will plan to visit some Pender Island studios on Saturday and Sunday. Sandy Shreve has kindly invited me to show with her at Ridgeview Studio (#10 on the map; maps available on the Ptarmigan Arts website as well as at Ptarmigan Art Gallery and Talisman Books). Sandy has ample outdoor space, and much of what we show will be outdoors. Measures are being taken at each studio to ensure this a well-distanced and safe event.
"Torn", acrylic on canvas by Sandy Shreve
"Horizon Line", photograph by Diane MacDonald
In addition I'd like to highlight the current show at The Gallery at Ptarmigan Arts - "Forest Life and Flights of Fantasy". "Because I Love You" (below) is my image in the show.
Wishing readers a happy, safe, artistic autumn.
On the road again! Two weeks ago we left the coast heading - well, anywhere to escape the smoke. Our plans changed on a daily basis as we evaluated our options. Initially we headed north and west, choosing the Chilcotin route towards Bella Coola, novel to us. Even that far north there was ample evidence of smoke; turns out "you can run but you can't hide". Not overwhelming smoke, but plenty of evidence of the fires of 2015 and 2017, reminding us of the 2020 fires just to the south.
Choosing RV sites, we were lured into Puntzi Lake with the promise of a bakery at the campsite - a little unexpected 'in the middle of nowhere'! A second surprise was the discovery that white pelicans call Puntzi Lake home in July and August before migration to more hospitable climes.
One of the pleasures of travel in the province is seeing changes in the vegetation. The "trembling aspens" and pine forests offer a beauty distinct from coastal cedar, oak, and arbutus.
We found the winding, ice-turquoise Chilcotin River spell-binding, softening as it does the stark sculpted desert walls and dunes that descend sharply to the water's edge.
Smoke obscured the glacier-covered mountains that line the route to the remote coast. Forty kilometres from Mt. Waddington, the highest peak in British Columbia, we were unable to discern even an outline. As we u-turned east and back-tracked to Williams Lake, we vowed to return to Chilcotin country someday.
It was illuminating to post-process images taken through smoke. I discovered that we could all use a personal 'dehaze filter'! Magically the processing filter allowed us to "see what we couldn't see". Below is what we 'really' saw followed by the same image processed using Lightroom's dehaze filter. Unfortunately the filter did not remove debris from the windscreen, 'dehazng' rendering both distant mountains and spots on the windshield more visible.
Hopscotching as we were around the province, we sometimes found fall before we found summer.
From Williams Lake we headed east towards Revelstoke, the route lined with lake after lake after lake. Among them, Bridge Lake, above, where a couch invited visitors to the end of the boardwalk, and, below, Shuswap Lake where, ironically, smoke be damned, we made our own fire!
Many of the lakes were obscured almost totally by smoke; others, like this one, allowed us a peek at their magnetic and majestic beauty.
Fortunately the distance across the Arrow Lakes is not far; the captain of the Galena Bay ferry was able to navigate safely through dense smoke. Maybe she uses a dehaze filter!
We camped 16 miles south of Nakusp on Arrow Lake, its capricious moods changing with the weather. Smoke was beginning to dissipate and the sight of fog and clouds was welcome.
West along southern BC route 3 the change to undulating desert brought sure signs of fall including beautiful grasses, pine trees, and more trembling aspens.
The Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail and the Columbia & Western Rail Trail extends from Hope to Castlegar. The trestle mirrored in the Kettle River below is part of the decommissioned track, now home to an extensive recreational trail providing almost 650 km (400 mi) of connected hiking and biking pathways.
From there we chose to head north and west towards home: along the way, a dramatic peak, a climber's magnet, seen from Marble Canyon Provincial Park.
Along Duffy Lake road yesterday we were granted glimpses of snow-capped peaks through the cloud-laden valley of Cayoosh Creek. The highway's a rewarding winding, hilly route; the prize once through to Pemberton is the thundering drama of Nairn Falls.
And then, Whistler. In contrast to the natural architecture of the river, the Audain Museum - an architectural beauty befitting the marvellous Canadian artwork collection housed within. Emily Carr and EJ Hughes, along with wonderful Northwest Coast masks are highlights.
(Below top: EJ Hughes, bottom Robert Davidson)
Satiated and feeling fortunate, we return home this weekend having managed to avoid considerable smoke and the first significant storm of the season!
Art off the Fence in the 2020 showcase format will launch for a final three weeks at the Driftwood Centre this Wednesday, August 5th. My image, Confluence, represents a toast to better times ahead.
There's a wonderful new show, Islands Wild, at Ptarmigan Arts Gallery at Hope Bay:
Three of my photographs are currently on the walls at Ptarmigan Arts. Two mystical images, Enchanted Isle and Aurora are photographs of shadows cast by sunlight through wavy glass. The sun created magic!
Sunlight once again casts its magic, this time through rain, in a third more traditional image, Rainbow Route.
Last but not least, I am delighted that my Sooke Fine Arts entries have gone to new homes! Printed in limited editions of five, Flying Solo and Deep Dive remain available framed or unframed.
So, a toast to better times ahead, to staying safe, to staying calm, and to being kind...