Canoe Lake LogView from a cedar canoe
Canoe Lake at Holly & Roy's cottage.
Arrived at the boat launch across the small bay from the Canoe Lake access point. Greeted by my host standing beside her Peterborough motor boat. We greeted one another and then boarded the boat with my back pack, painting box and some 11x14 canvas.
My heart is warmed through and through by the welcome by my host, Holly Gibson-Stewart. Holly is the daughter of the late Dan Gibson who is known world wide for his nature photography and sound recordings which became Solitudes. He did most of his work around the canoe lake area of Agonquin park and his legacy is carried on by his two sons Dan, Gordon and daughter Holly.
As we crossed the south point of Canoe Lake in her boat, affectionately referee to as the "Hoboat" as in Holly's Boat.
We met some of the Taylor-Statton alumni that have cottages on Canoe lake and had a wonderful dinner together in the main cottage. Holly served baked ham with an Alfredo tortellini, followed by Hollies wonderful baked peach crumble pie. To die for.
The day became evening by the fire pit, wood crackling under a massively star dotted northern night sky. We retired for the night looking forward to a great day of canoeing, painting and visiting Tom's Burial spot, the final resting place of the one and only Tom Thompson. I will tip my hat and pay a moment of respect to the one who inspired me to paint in the first place. Day Two
We rose at 7:00am to the sound of the loons across Canoe Lake. The mist was just lifting off the surface of the water. We had eggs and toast for breakfast and then set out to Mile Marker 39.7 where we parked the car and began our hike up to the lookout point.
Lookout point was a good 45 mn hike up mountain. there was a longer more gradual route but we wanted to get up there quick. Had to stop for rest three times, drank lots of water and carry on. Not for the faint heart. Arriving at the top was an experience I will never forget. the pictures I took are good but not like seeing the vast vista in person. The sound of the high mountain breeze blowing through the pines, the solid feeling rocks beneath our feet, then the view. Oh that view! Like being in an ultralight aircraft. I shot so many pictures I killed my fully charged camera battery. There is something special about sitting alone atop such a remote place,and feeling as though you are the last human being on the face of the earth.
We completed that hike, returned to the cottage where we enjoyed Holly's roast beef sandwiches on fresh bread with horse radish and mayo. We needed to eat well for the afternoons hike.
Tom Thompsons grave:
Back into the Hoboat for a ride across Canoe Lake to the west side. We docked at one of the earliest cottages on the lake, an old log cabin with a retired Police officer currently summering there. Holly knew the way and I followed as she guided me through woods, logging road, more woods past logging bog and then up a steep incline through colorful forest to the grave of Tom Thompson.
For me, deeply inspired first by this land and then by Tom Thompson, the experience of being just one of very few who know the route to this grave and being able to see the very plot of ground where this icon of Canadian art is buried was quite a moving experience for me. I touched his grave, place my hand on the cross marking the general spot and closed my eyes as if to connect just for a moment with him. It was very meaningful. Thank you Holly for allowing me the space to feel that moment. Never rushing me.
On returning I painted another 11"x14" canvas sketch down by the waters edge beside Holly and Roy's. This evening we had Flattened BBQ chicken with Rossoto, asparagus. Splendid. It was movie night and we sat around, Holly, her husband Roy and me to watch a cd of their canoe trip down the Mackenzie River in the spring. I could never get the guts to do that. these guys are truly adventurous.
bed time now. 9:30pm. I'm pooped. Wiped out. Tomorrow we canoe.
Third dayWoke this morning at 7:00. Did my usual routine and then made my way down to the waters edge. It's sinking in now, the feeling of solitude.
It's also amazing what you can learn about a place when you take the time to talk to those who live there. So many nooks and crannies that hold stories from a hundred plus years of history.
One such story I learned of was told by "Nick". Nick is a retired Police detective and he has a hundred year old log cabin on Canoe Lake. He told us of a cabin near to his where a man lives who had personal ties to Tom Thompson. Thinking to myself that Tom himself may have set foot on these very floors where I am standing on Nicks dock.
We are going to Smoke Lake today. I will be guided by my friend Holly to another lookout point. I am very excited to see it. After that we will do some paddling in her Canoe. She is a real pro paddler, I am just a hack so it will be a learning experience for me.
Back now from paddling at the bow of Hollies canoe. She did the steering and I kept chugging along at the front. It was a real learning curve to be paddling with a seasoned pro. Learning the proper J stroke and some other paddling technics.
We paddled across Canoe Lake to a little known area called Whiskey Jack. I must have shot forty plus photos of the spot as it totally enveloped us with seclusion and peace. I predict that Whiskey Jack will be the subject of a few paintings over the coming months.
This evening Holly cooked Chili with fresh bagels and an amazing Greek salad topped with grilled peppers. Exquisite!
I painted about four oil sketches today, reflections of my days experience.
Very exhausted now, 10:00 pm and need to sleep.
This morning I woke as usual at 7:00. The air was still and rain was casually dripping on the surface of Canoe Lake. Breakfast has to wait, the fog is calling. I went down to the canoe, pulled on my life jacket and picked out the paddle I wanted to use, they have quite a collection of paddles. Very quietly and gently slipped into the cedar canoe and pushed off into the morning fog.
There is something that moves your very soul about pristine, silence and the morning fog on Canoe Lake. There is a calming of your entire being that cannot be said, only experienced.
The Loon was watching, peering through the morning mist and wondering if I was friend or foe. On realizing I was no threat she continued on with her morning fishing and calls.
This was a parting moment as I would soon be on my way homeward.
Breakfast back at Holly and Roy's was whole grain nuts and raisins with yogurt and fresh fruits. Can't forget the fresh Banana bread, nothing like fresh banana bread and tea.
I'm wearing shorts but it's getting colder and the rain is falling steadily. Had to ask Holly to use her washing machine as my jeans were covered in paint from my previous day of painting on the lake. Im now up to six oil sketches on 8"x10" and 11"x14" canvas in just three days. I have to leave them behind as they are too wet to carry home. Holly will be so kind as to bring them to Toronto when she returns after thanksgiving.
Our farewell was happy and sad at the same time. I know we will meet here again but home is calling. I haven't seen my wife and kids for four days, it is time to go.
On my way eastward I am stopping for a snooze and then little hike at Lake Opeongo. It is very different from Canoe Lake, bigger, wider, hills are higher, two very different experiences from the quaint and secluded feel of Canoe Lake. Here at Opeongo it is a feeling of wide expanse. Vastness. My time here is short, I need to be moving along. Four hours back to Whitby from the Eastgate.
So long my friend Algonquin. you have once again given me great memories which I will endeavor to translate onto canvas over the next few months and even years. You are a place in my heart, a deeper understanding of Gods creation. You are powerful and moving. Your impressions remain forever on the inner walls of my soul.
On my way home
I chose to leave Algonquin via the East Gate, for a change of scenery on the route home. My usual route would be through Bancroft to Peterborough then on to Whitby. Today I used HWY 62 and came across a wonderful bog surrounded by beautiful fall colours. Right where HWY 62 intersects with Limerick Lake Road, between Bancroft and Belleville.
The oil sketches from the Sept 2011 Canoe Lake trip:
The Artists Journey
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This sketch above became this finished painting below
The Pine Tree Painter.
How did I become known as the Pine Tree Painter? You could say I paint a lot of Pine Trees, that would be true. I paint a lot of other things too, but Pine Trees, Spruce Trees, Birch and others seem to be a continuous string in what i do. I just like the way they stand there like a custodian of the land. or a greeter to nature. So, I continue down the path with the Pine Tree Painter name on my head, It's ok.