Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sketching Featherwoman Lake

Featherwoman Lake, watercolor pencil, 8" x 10."

My time at Sperry Chalet was drawing to a close, and I wanted to hike up towards Comeau Pass one more time, to sketch one of the lovely alpine lakes in that vicinity. I picked up my bag lunch after breakfast and got my gear ready for the hike. The morning was fine and cool, and I took time to observe and photograph the progression of wildflowers along the trail.

Glacier Lily seed pod.

The Glacier lilies near the chalet path were gone, only their seed pods remained. The yellow Groundsels and purple asters were starting to show more flowers as the Pentstemons and Spireas began to fade. I photographed other interesting plants such as Elk thistle, Yellow buckwheat and Cow Parsnip that I had observed earlier but hadn't had a chance to record.

Arrow -leaved Groundsel (Senecio triangularis)

Elk Thistle (Cirsium foliosum)
Cow parsnip (Heracleum sphondylium)

As I climbed upward into the alpine zone, the progression of bloom continued to change. Patches of Pink Mountain Heather that had been blooming the week before were now setting seed, and new plants emerging from the melting snow patches were blooming. Yellow Monkey flowers, which I had not seen before, bloomed under rock overhangs with pink shooting stars.

Going up the trail to Comeau Pass.

Pink Mountain Heather setting seed (Phyllodoce empetriformis)
Tiling's Monkey Flower (Erythranthe tilingii) and Dark-throated Shooting Stars (Primula pauciflora) bloom under a ledge.
Red-stemmed Saxifrage (Mycranthes lyallii)

Lyall's Rockcress (Boechera lyallii)

The steep switchbacks seemed a little easier to negotiate this second time, and with the patches of snow along the trail gone, I managed to reach the first lake before noon. The rocks crossing the lake's drainage had been nearly covered in snow the week before, but now they were exposed and the water flowed freely.

The trail crosses the first lake.

I walked onto some rock slabs around the lake towards the upper meadow, looking for a good vantage point to frame a painting. Clumps of wildflowers dotted the meadows--pink and yellow Mountain Heather and other alpine plants. There was still some snow on the surface of the lakes.

Wildflowers dot the meadow around the lake.

I set up my camping stool on a ledge and unpacked my lunch. The minute I started to dig into my sandwich a hoary marmot came out from behind a rock and tried to make off with one of my hiking poles a few feet away. I shooed him off and went back to my sandwich. A minute later, the marmot was back, now from behind a different rock, trying the same maneuver again. I stood up, scolded him and sent him off again. A few moments later, he was back--this time approaching from a different direction. I had to give him points for determination, or was it desperation? These creatures really craved salt...

Me waving. (photo by Linda Hsu)
Trying to scare the marmot away. (photo by Linda Hsu

The wily beastie.

 Unknown to me, one of the guests at the lodge, a young lady named Linda Hsu, had witnessed the marmot's antics and my attempts to stave him off, and photographed the exchange from a distance. The pictures which she sent me after I got home are too distant to be very clear, but give some sense of what was going on.  After a number of frustrations the marmot finally left for more promising pastures, and I was able to finish my lunch undisturbed. Afterwards I took in the view, and decided that a bit higher might give me a better painting, so I gathered my pack and stool to hike a bit farther up to the next lake.

Featherwoman Lake

This lake, which I later learned was called Featherwoman Lake, held all the grandeur of these heights: a veil of waterfall dropping into the melting snow, and Gunsight peak in the background. I walked out on the rock ledges for a closer view--perfect! I spent the rest of the afternoon there working on my watercolor pencil sketch, then hiked back to Sperry Chalet.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The View from Sperry Chalet

Painting the View From Sperry Chalet (photo by Marnie Fender)

The following day I opted to stay close to Sperry Chalet. In the morning I worked on my large watercolor painting of the view from Sperry Chalet. This photo was taken by Marnie Fender, a charming lady and fellow painter who was staying overnight with the Glacier Guides group. Thank you, Marnie! I love this photo, it's my favorite of all the ones taken at Sperry. For me, this photo tells the story of the unexpected fulfillment of a childhood fantasy I constructed when I was about eight or nine: my alter ego Maria Elena lived in the Swiss Alps and tended a herd of goats when she wasn't in school...

At that age I set out to make one drawing for every day of the year representing the daily life of my alter ego--producing 365 color pencil drawings was my goal. For the next few years I worked on this self-imposed project in my free time. I credit this with the development of my artistic abilities. By the time I left Cuba at age thirteen, I had piled up nearly one hundred and twenty drawings which show the natural development of a child learning to draw the world around her, learning the use of perspective, proportions and color to give an impression of the three-dimensional world. I also learned a great deal about Switzerland, geography, culture, and how to research subjects using our family encyclopedia.

My mother valued this record of my artistic development so much that she gave up some of the limited space in her suitcase to pack my drawings to bring when she left Cuba. I still have them today.

For most of us, our childhood fantasies hardly ever become reality--nor are most fantasies ever intended to become real. I had never thought that my childhood fantasy could ever come true, so for me to finally be able to actualize a semblance of it some sixty years later is still hard to believe, and an unexpected joy! Thank you, Kevin, for the marvelous opportunity to make my dream come true.

The View from Sperry Chalet, watercolor, 15" x 22".

I hadn't finished this painting at the end of my stay--a few of the trees in the foreground weren't quite done--but it was far along enough that I could finish it later, after I got home. I think the painting gives a good impression of the dizzying heights and crags, the expanse of forest, lake and mountains, of all the beauty that can be seen from Sperry Chalet on a clear summer morning.