Monday, November 14, 2016

On the Ledges

Glacier Plants, color pencil, 10" x 8"
Note: A high quality digital reproduction of this painting is now available for $100 plus shipping. Quantities are limited.

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On my second day at Sperry Chalet, I began to work in earnest. Renee and others on the staff had told me there were some ledges full of wildflowers along the Sperry Glacier Trail, in the cirque between two waterfalls, that other resident artists before me had really liked. After breakfast I set out with my gear and pack lunch to find the ledges.

Waterfalls on the Sperry Glacier Trail

The Sperry Glacier Trail sign indicated it was 4 miles to the glacier; the sign was in a lovely glade with a small cascade. Once past this level stretch the trail began to rise gently, and effort once again was necessary to gain ground--I was carrying my camping stool, color pencils, sketch book and camera as well as water & lunch. Fortunately, the trail leveled off here and there, making it much less strenuous than the climb to Sperry Chalet.

Glade below Sperry Chalet

The first waterfall was a bit farther than it looked from the chalet, and the sun had already risen over the ridge above the trail when it came into view. A metal bridge over the creek was anchored to the rocks by chains. One had to climb over a few rocks before stepping onto the bridge, and some of these were kind of wobbly.
The first waterfall: Sprague Creek.
The bridge over the falls.

I managed to climb onto the bridge and cross the waterfall--a lot more water there than one would suppose from a distance, flowing with considerable force. On the other side of the bridge were the remains of a wooden bridge that had been discarded, likely an older one that had become too rickety to be safe. As I learned over the next weeks, there was quite an amount of foot traffic on this popular trail, and the trail crews worked long, hard hours to maintain all of these trails during the season.

There were many flowers growing among the rocks, specially wherever there was water: Pentstemons and Spirea, ferns, grasses and sedges, bear grass and Indian paintbrush.

Pink Spirea (Spirea splendens or densiflora)

I walked for about another quarter mile looking for a likely place to sketch. Eventually I found a clump of Pentstemons growing by the side of the trail with lots of Spirea around it and, as there wasn't much level space other than the trail itself, I set up my stool and gear right there, leaving just enough space for one hiker to pass.

Wildflowers on the ledges.

Upon closer observation, this Penstemon was a different variety from the plants I had seen on Siyeh Bend a few days earlier-- this plant had small, oval leaves and seemed shorter. I included a sedge that had caught my eye around the Chalet--it had dark, almost black, seed heads with bright yellow pistils. Small bees were buzzing all around the Pentstemon flowers.
I sketched happily for a couple of hours while the sun heated up the ledge, then took a lunch break. After lunch I worked a bit more, but the light had now changed direction too much, and it was time to call it a day.

As I was packing up, some hikers returning from the glacier called my attention to a grizzly bear that was foraging in the cirque below us. It was so far away they had to point out exactly where the beast was, between the branches of Sprague Creek, before I could spot it.

Grizzly bear in the cirque.

I walked back towards Sperry Chalet and met another group of hikers who were also watching the bear; they loaned me their binoculars so I could observe the grizzly a bit more clearly.

Grizzly bear.

I was glad to be far away--even from a distance, it appeared to be a beast of impressive size--mesmerizing! That evening I heard the story from a couple who had been hiking at Sperry Glacier when they crossed paths with the grizzly. They were going up the staircase at Comeau Pass on their way to the Glacier when the bear decided he wanted to come down. They told me when they saw the bear coming, they backed up against the stone wall, trying to become invisible and not panic, bear spray ready. Fortunately, the bear didn't seem to be interested in them, and simply moved past, passing them a scant ten feet away--the photo they shared was incredible!

In the evenings during coffee hour, I would peruse a book of Glacier wildflowers in the Sperry Chalet library to try to identify the plants I'd seen, and learn more about others in case I came across them later on. I also brought my sketchbooks to share my work with the guests at the Chalet.

Over the next week I worked on turning my sketch into a finished piece, the result of which you see above. The original drawing is being donated to Sperry Chalet, but I am offering fine-art quality digital prints of it for $120 (matted). Please contact me at if you are interested in buying one.

1 comment: said...

I am more and more impressed with the low-key excellence of your prose, young love. You truly are inventing a new way to merge touring, art and literature. Nature writing is another arrow in your quiver!