The artists captures the whitecaps on Nimpkish Lake in this springtime portrait from the former Nimpkish Camp site.

Whitecaps churn memories

Artist Gordon Henschel discusses a favourite painting spot.

My love affair with Nimpkish Camp has been a lengthy one, on and off again for thirty years. Back then, it was a beautiful Canfor townsite loved by all its inhabitants. Not only did it have most modern amenities but one of the most magnificent views in B.C. I remember painting from the front yard of Ray and Helga Wilkinson’s looking across Nimpkish Lake to the Karmutzen Range while being pampered with coffee and cookies. What a superb town in a glorious era.

Today there is nothing there but young trees, in a park-like atmosphere of tall grass with intruding salal and salmon berries. However, if you stop where the community hall used to be, you can still hear the elusive sounds of music and revelry that was a part of the life of a thriving community.

If you walk toward the lake you will reach a steep escarpment that was once the shores of the lake. At the bottom of it you will discover, to your surprise (if you’ve never been there before), a lovely campground on the level area between the escarpment and the lake. This was built, courtesy of Canadian Forest Products, for the community as a picnic site and has been maintained to this day — all free of charge!

In the summer, when the land in the interior of the island warms, the lake becomes a huge funnel pulling in the cool air from the ocean. On a sunny day, like clockwork, each afternoon the lake at its upper end becomes a foaming froth of whitecaps. This phenomena has made the Nimpkish Campsite a haven for windsurfers. In July the whole thing looks like some huge Gypsy encampment with people vying for space along the narrow ribbon of shoreline. Once again, it has become a thriving, albeit seasonal, community.

Although I have enjoyed many a campfire singsong with this crazy group of thrill seekers, my favourite time there is in the offseason. Often in winter, not only because it is a haven from the southeast winds that plague us at that time of year, but also because it faces south, capturing the warmth of the afternoon sun.

This spring, when I painted this watercolour on the spot, it was actually hot! And guess what? It was warm enough to pull in the breezes from the ocean and whip up some whitecaps. As I was painting the wild roses in the foreground, I felt a presence. Could it have been one of the Gypsy surfers astro-traveling and making sure I wasn’t taking his campsite?

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