A Brush with Henschel: September – Nimpkish Lake

The day was a sun-filled jewel.

All summer long the valley of the Nimpkish River has been ‘doing its thing’ and this summer, being exceptionally clear and mild, it really performed well for people who like wind. As an aside remark, one day in July my thermometer read 29 degrees Celsius in the shade. What happens each warm summer day is unique to just a few valleys in North America and needs certain conditions to make it happen. Air has a tendency to rush from a cool area to the warm vacuum that a nearby area has created. If you spend a day at Nimpkish Lake in July or August you will experience this phenomenon first-hand.

In the cool of the morning the lake is a mirror, flat as a pancake with not a ripple disturbing its surface. Many a summer boater has been lured into striking out on a long, day-cruise by this morning calm. As the morning progresses and the land begins to warm up, the fog on the lower reaches of the Nimpkish River burns off and the interchange with the cold North Pacific waters of the ocean begins to happen; almost imperceptibly at first, just barely causing little ripples along the lake in a few select places. As the wind travels along the length of the 25-kilometre lake, it increases in velocity to create waves that at times reach 2 metres in height. This is windsurfer’s heaven!

They come from everywhere on the globe to this spot at the end of Nimpkish Lake, converging as would an encampment of gypsies, to frolic in the sun and the waves. Here you will find the very old and the very young with a variety of ages in between. They have two things in common: all are in great physical shape and all are passionate about windsurfing. They have Western Forest Products to thank for this idyllic campsite, although the community looks after keeping the area litter free and the communal area’s grass cut.There are kids everywhere, usually wet from just getting out of the lake, adults gathered in small and large groups sharing coffee, etc. and stories. Over the years many strong friendships have resulted from this common love for the wind.

In September I decided to paint there, knowing full well that there would be few campers at this time of year. The day was a sun-filled jewel and as I drove down the steep hill that approached the site I wondered how many people I would see. After all, the previous day I had been to Telegraph Cove to find it bursting at the seams, four tour buses alongside the road and each parking lot filled with vehicles. Obviously they had not been windsurfers for here, at the far end of Nimpkish Lake, the entire area was deserted.

I drove to the far end of the campsite because I really wanted a view from which I could see the end of the lake and the Pinder Peak Range of mountains. That was no problem since I had my pick of sites and picnic tables. It was a very warm day for September, but obviously not consistent enough to draw the crowds this time of year. As I was painting I heard a vehicle, which soon made its appearance: a SUV with windsurfing gear on its roof.

It was 3 p.m. and the wind in the middle of the lake was whipping up some whitecaps. I had been painting since mid-morning and the surface of the lake had changed completely. I decided to finish the painting at home, packed up my gear, and drove back through the campsite past the only campers there, the couple in the SUV. Already decked out in their wetsuits, they were arranging the straps on their boards and sails, a flash of red and blue in the green surroundings. Had I been a surfer we probably could have talked for hours, but I decided not to disturb their solitude since they, obviously not being painters, had not disturbed mine. We waved.

Comments: email: gordon@cablerocket.com. Website: www.henschel.ca.

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