Every morning, I prod Mary until she pours herself into the car. She is still pretty low and would like nothing better than to sleep. I’m still wheezy myself, and it is hard to be the motive force in this campaign.
This morning, she realized she had left her wallet in Ft. Nelson after having her prescription filled. The clerk there couldn’t have been more agreeable, and will mail it along. However, Mary has no driver’s license. She’s been too sick to drive anyway, but I’d entertained fond hopes that she could take over before we hit Nova Scotia.
“Maligne Lake,” oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
On Friday night we drove to Miette Hot Springs, where I had a long dip while Mary rested. This is a beautifully situated spring, but its water is not particularly hot. Still, it was well worth the visit. It is at the northern end of the Jasper-Banff National Parks complex, making it the perfect jumping-off point for the weekend.
I painted in three locations on Saturday: along the Athabasca and Maligne Rivers, and at Maligne Lake. A lovely painting was around every corner, but three was my absolute limit.
Jasper itself reminds me of Camden, albeit somewhat swollen. It has the same indecisive jaywalkers, but it is inauthentic, a hodgepodge of ersatz Alpine storefronts. I couldn’t tell if I was irritable at the crowds, at my own exhaustion, or at the crazy price inflation, but I was glad to leave.
We stopped at the Columbia Icefield. “This is the place,” I told Mary. The Athabasca Glacier tumbled off its mountain. Its glacial lake rested emerald green at its foot. We decided to walk to the toe of the glacier to reconnoiter.
We were met by a ferocious, ripping wind. I was protected by several layers but nothing could stop my easel from spinning helplessly on its tripod, especially with no trees on which to tie it down. I tried parking the car as a windbreak; the wind swirled around it. Meanwhile, even in my airtight hood, my ears were ringing.
“It’s no good,” I told Mary. “I will have to paint it from a photo.”
We drove on.
There are certain beauty spots that I’m conflicted about, where the character of the place is obliterated by the masses of people. Yosemite is one of these; Lake Louise is another. I would have painted it, if only I could have approached it. Even now, at the end of September, both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are packed solid with cars and people. It was impossible to park within a mile of either.
Cars lined the roads to both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. There was no room for a poor itinerant painter.
In general, Canadians are polite and friendly people. It seemed a pity to want to mow them down with my car, so I retreated to our hotel.
This morning I will try to get up there before the crowds return; if not, my series will be done without one of these iconic landmarks. Today we leave the Rocky Mountains behind us. The road we are now following is the Trans-Canada Highway, and it will take us safely across the prairies toward home.