Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Spell Of The Yukon: Hiking Montana Mountain

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will.
~Robert Service, from The Spell Of The Yukon

I have spent the last two weeks up here in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The goal is to work and play, as simple as that. Work has involved a new painting for Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario, shooting photo reference for new paintings and a private commission. As I have waxed romantic about the North before I will try to temper that here....but I wanted to include some musings and photographs from recent climbs, scrambles, drives and hikes in the area.

Here is a detailed section of the painting I recently finished here...I will blog about it soon but wanted to include it in this post. The entire portrait of my friend Danielle is 12"x24", oil on panel.

Lavender mountains cut the horizon like a serrated
 knife with dawn blushing furiously behind it.

12 hours after arriving in town, my friend Ian and I hiked up Montana Mountain. It lies about 1 1/2 hours south of Whitehorse, just beyond the tiny hamlet of Carcross.  The mountain is the one visible in the photograph above...we hiked until we were waylaid by snow and turned back...all in all a great 15km hike. My knees weren't impressed, nor my quadriceps...but it is all about the challenge (and the view) :) I was struck by the quiet world that lives up there.

The lichen crunching under my feet, the silence broken only by a small creek flowing between two ridges and the leaves slipping into an ochre hum on the slopes all around us. 

The field of mustard-tinged foliage was intoxicating..

While hiking up the mountain I took some reference of my friend Ian and had him take some of me. This reference will for the basis for two new paintings. Yes, they are a bit of a departure from my usual, figurative work, but it is the figure in landscape....instead of a sheet, the mountain is wrapped around us.

I have never been to the Yukon in September. It is a beautiful time of year...many mornings you are scraping ice off of the car windows, you are layered for warmth, and hot coffee takes on an almost religious experience. I am always inspired by the mountains outside of my window here in Whitehorse. They are like friends who never leave, never judge, but also leave you to your own devices. Montana Mountain was a new experience however. I had only climbed in an alpine environment once before, near the Arctic Circle in Alaska. On this day we climbed a total of 3,400 feet in elevation gain. The air, the smells, the foliage, the entire atmosphere of a place changes a lot when you climb that high.

Whole little ecosystems of quiet beauty abounded up on the mountain..

At the highest point, we ascended into and above the clouds. Shortly thereafter we encountered a good deal of snow. I was a bit nervous about a whiteout and we decided to descend back down the mountain.

Assessing whether to continue or not.

As we retraced our steps the snow transitioned to rain and then stopped altogether...the clouds opened up to show us Tagish Lake below, with a riot of colour all around us. It was sublime. Though I felt the effects of this new terrain in my body for days, it was worth every moment.

Tagish Lake below us..

One final surprise of the day. As we rounded a corner on the road Ian said "why can't we just see a bear today?" Low and behold, a black bear came lumbering out in front of us and crossed the road. I had to scramble for my little point and shoot and this was the best shot I could snap. I wonder what he is up to in the woods, off in the quiet, perhaps even off in the clouds..

1 comment:

jamenta said...

It looks so beautiful, serene - expansive there. A place to rest your soul for a bit while the restless world wants to consume itself with making money and exploiting the very thing that makes life worthwhile.

Sigh. Thanks for sharing Heather.