A Gordon Henschel original painting.

A Brush with Henschel: A trail of mystery

This painting was not of the “hollow tree” but a small 5x7 inch study done in watercolour.

There are a few favourite spots on North Island to which I keep returning, some of which are trails, for I love to walk. The Marble River Trail is right up there on my list of special places that call me back again and again. It is a silent place with the murmur of the river below barely perceptible; a place to dream and meditate with little interruption.

There are other hikers, of course, but if you wander off the trail just a little you become one with the forest; your privacy quickly becomes secure. Any sounds from the trail are soon muffled among the sheer density of the thousands of trees and the moss-carpeted floor. It is quite impossible to get lost because you are always in the valley with the river below. I often find myself sketching one of the giant old cedar snags on the lower side of the trail.

The snags are mysterious entities that somehow seem out of place in this young forest. Most trees here are between fifty and a hundred years old, while these old cedars, many of them scorched and scarred by some horrible holocaust, remain as evidence of an age old forest of monstrous proportions.

As one ambles down this serpentine walk, delighting in a new vista at every turn, these skeletons present themselves. They are as great grandfathers presiding over a very young generation, seemingly lost without fathers or grandfathers. Each time I return there the mystery presents itself. Where are the “in-between” generations? When was there a great fire? What were the events that shaped this enigma?

Am I sounding too somber? If so, I want to re-emphasize the joy of this trail. Only about 4.5 km. in length, it’s great for a short, day-hike accompanied by a picnic lunch in your backpack. On the day I painted the accompanying study of an old cedar snag I met part of the E-team working on the trail at Bear Falls. Delighted that I was painting “their trail”, they pointed out some of the great spots and told me about a particularly big, hollow tree that I should investigate. This painting was not of the “hollow tree” but a small 5×7 inch study done in watercolour.

For those of you who haven’t been on the trail, even if you’re not a hiker, don’t miss walking at least part of it. Just drive down the Port Alice road to Marble River Provincial Park, go to the far end of the upper level campground and look for the trail sign. If you don’t care to walk the whole 4.5 km., let me suggest Bear Falls at 2 km. A great hike any time of the year.

Comments e-mail: ghenschel@shaw.ca, or website: www.henschel.ca

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