Schoen Lake Provincial Park is the jewel of North Island, with Mt. Schoen as the gem set above a wonderfully scenic lake. If you haven’t been there, better get it on your list of ‘must see’ immediately.
If you are a camper then this one should go to the top of your list.
I try to paint it every year in early spring, if possible, since Mt. Schoen, always a spectacular sight, is at its best when the winter snows are still crowning its head and hanging in its crevasses. You can see this beauty from the highway as you travel down island. It makes its appearance on the skyline well before you get to Woss Lake and looms larger as you drive from Woss to the Schoen Park turnoff. This is also the road to Mt. Cain, as most of you skiers know, and is usually well maintained for its 13-kilometre length to the Schoen Lake campsite.
From Port McNeill, driving to the lake will take you about 70 minutes. Of course, if you’re a scenery freak like me, you will be stopping frequently. I always find it hard not to stop once the road follows along beside the Nimpkish River just before you get to Woss. The river’s course changes at different times of the year and the foliage along its banks is always a surprise.
On the day I did this oil painting, the winter freshets that feed the river had it struggling to stay within its usual boundaries and the cliche, raging river, came to mind as I marvelled at the cottonwoods beginning to show their brilliant greens.
The most frequent stops for me on this day, as always, came a kilometre or two before arriving at the lake. Here the vistas of Mt. Schoen are breathtaking and intriguing as the winding road takes you nearer to this rocky spectacle. As many times as I have taken this trip, this part of the road does it to me every time. To keep on going forward without taking the time to breathe in some of the views of the valley, the creeks and the looming splendour before you seems a travesty. There are some pre-requisites for me to take a painting trip to Schoen. I do want a clear sky so that I can be assured the mountain won’t be cloud-covered. A mountain of this size seems to be a magnet for any few clouds that are about, so when the rare North Island cloudless sky appears it has ‘Schoen Lake’ written on it. This painting was done on a sunny Tuesday and I had the entire campground to myself, picnic tables and all, as well as the wonderful old alder in the foreground. In four hours there wasn’t a ripple on the surface of the lake except those made by a pair of Mergansers. Thumbs up for Schoen and solitude!