After paddling Wolf Lake

Canoe provides a floating studio

Artist Gordon Henschel recalls a trip to Wolf Lake.

Driving along some of our North Island roads is always a matter of mixed emotions. On the one hand, our scenery is unsurpassed, a fact that makes us one of the most desirable tourist destinations in the world. When it comes to green we have cornered the market. When comparing uncluttered highways, we are the envy of the more-populated countries.

On the other hand, it is sometimes hard to see the scenery because our eyeballs are shaking uncontrollably from hitting the washboard and potholes. We don’t need speed bumps on many of the roads that pass through our busier areas.

One of the problems in keeping our roads graded is the seasonal nature of the logging industry that maintains them. In winter, when the rains destroy the smooth surface, the logging companies are often shut down because of snow. With time on their hands, the employees and their families still use the roads, which are soon fashioned into virtual obstacle courses. Needless to say, this does not deter most North Islanders from enjoying the backcountry scenery during any time of the year.

One of these “mixed emotions” drives is the road to Zeballos. It passes through some of the most incredible scenery on North Island and ends up in one of its most delightful hamlets. Short drives of just a few kilometres accesses many lakes such as Anutz, Atluk, Tsiko and Wolf Lakes, along with their respective campsites, which will keep the traveller going for weeks. This painting is of the last of these. Let me tell you about my painting experience with it.

On a beautiful fall day, I threw our old canoe on the back of the pickup and headed for this lake, which had caught my eye more than a few times, on the way to the magic city of Zeballos. It lies off the road just beyond the Atluck Main turnoff. As you climb over the hill, look to the right and you will see it far below you. It’s very easy to miss the access road to it because it is so small but if you watch for it, it’s the first road to the right past the Atluk turnoff.

Once you get on this road keep your eye out for the creek that flows into Wolf Lake. Unless you have a good four wheel drive and can wheel down the creek bed to the lake, you’ll have to make your way into the lake by canoe down the creek. This is what I had to do with a lot of portaging over the dry spots. In spring you can probably float right down it on high water. If all this sounds like a lot of trouble, it is; but well worth it!

The lake is even more gorgeous once you are paddling on it. I made my way down to the far end before I heard the roar of the falls that empties out of the lake. On a grassy slope I had my lunch while surveying the scene, did a pencil sketch but decided to paint a scene from the end in which I entered. It is here that I pulled my canoe up the pebbly beach. The red canoe looked so good in that setting that I just had to include it in the painting. Later, in my studio at home, the finishing touches were added and a larger painting grew from the original. Remembering the French Impressionist, Claude Monet, and the studio-houseboat that he had painted from, I named the painting Floating Studio.

 

Gordon Henschel owns an art gallery in Nimpkish Heights. www.henschel.ca