Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Painters and Hikers at Lake O'Hara

Classic Lake O'Hara from Sargent's Point

Anyone who has ever been to Lake O'Hara will share my sentiment that, magically, one never tires of it. In the Canadian Rockies it's the biggest bang for your buck with numerous, satellite, alpine lakes, all equally gorgeous and close enough to easily hike to many of them in a single day. 

From September 5th to 8th, 2016, Bill and I joined another back country excursion arranged by Patti Dyment. Ten of us spent three nights in the Alpine Club of Canada's Elizabeth Parker Hut. Most of us bunked in the smaller cabin, the Wiwaxy Hut.

Elizabeth Parker Hut, left, Wiwaxy Hut is on the right (internet image)

Hut accommodations are self catering and rustic, although the kitchen is outfitted with all you need, including propane hotplates and a full sized stove and oven. If you aren't into outdoor toilets and sleeping on a continuous bunk, next to people you don't know, this is not for you.

Sharon, Patti, Grant, Gwen, Jan, Dave, Alice, Bill, Sharon and Meg in the common area of the Elizabeth Parker

For many, Lake O'Hara Lodge is cost prohibitive, plus securing reservations isn't easy. They have their own stylish bus to transport you to and from the region whereas hut and campground guests travel via old school buses. The Alpine Club of Canada's Elizabeth Parker Hut holds a maximum of 24 people and booking a stay is done, months in advance, by lottery. The third accommodation option is a 30 site campground which is usually booked out by 10am every summer morning. You can, and many do, just travel into the area as day trippers. Parks Canada recognizes the fragility of the landscape and limits access to the region via buses which have to be booked in advance. Numbers are restricted by the capacity of two school buses going in four times a day. Anyone wishing to trek the 11km access road (no private vehicles are permitted) before hitting Lake O'Hara itself and the sublime scenery beyond, is welcome to walk in.

In our group the keeners, who arrived on the 8:30am bus, were already hard at work when we arrived on the 10:30am bus ...

Jan and Patti 

When I'm at Lake O'Hara hiking is every bit as important as painting. My left hip needs replacing. Just prior to this trip, I had a cortisone shot that enabled me do two hikes which I wouldn't have been able to negotiate otherwise. The weather forecast was not favourable so, that first afternoon, while there were some blue sky patches, a few of us hit the trail to Lake McArthur ...

Meg, with the dramatic Wiwaxy Peaks beyond.  To the right you can just see the shore of Schaffer Lake  
Schaffer Lake
McArthur and Mount Biddle when we first arrived
Thanks to Meg for this image. We barely had enough time to take a few photos before ...
... those threatening clouds spilled over the mountain with ominous threats 

While we had hoped to be able to stay longer, Mother Nature had another idea letting us know, once again, how she rules and that weather in the mountains can change in a heartbeat.

Dave and Meg hustling away from Lake McArthur, which you can just barely see in the background 
Descending the tricky bit from Lake McArthur in a full on squall

Janet and Tom Novotny, of Chicago, are so in love with the Canadian Rockies they've been vacationing here every year since 1983. I'm sure stranger things have happened but even so what are the odds that they would be back at Lake O'Hara at precisely the same time, in both 2015 and 2016 as us? More O'Hara magic. You can't help but embrace their enthusiasm, plus they robustly join in on our hootenannies!    

With Janet and Tom

As already mentioned the hut holds 24 people and we were only 10, yet we hope the others will join in on our fun when we burst into song. Yes, we inflict our singing on whoever else is in residence and we aren't deterred if they're not inclined to sing along, but we are mindful of lights out/quiet time.  

Sharon, Dave, Patti, Grant, Janet and Meg

September 6th, I'm all smiles at the start of painting at Sargent's Point

I'm grateful for the many times I've spent at O'Hara under glorious, sunny skies, but on this particular trip the weather was quite ghastly. As the sky got darker it became more and more difficult for me to see what I was doing under my umbrella, which is intended to block the sun. I was cold, wet and generally cranky with how my painting was going, so I wiped off what you see here ...   

Now you see it and then no, it was gone!

Of course Grant just painted on and created another absolute jewel ...

Grant working on his Sargent's Point painting
Gwen Day also stuck out painting in the raw elements

September 7th brought more unsettled weather. Hiking seemed preferable to standing still painting so, Meg, Bill and I chose the latter and wandered up onto the Opabin Plateau ...

Bill on the Lodge's boat dock before heading up the West Opabin Trail
On the West Opabin Trail looking down on Mary Lake with Lake O'Hara beyond
Bill and the pools of Opabin Plateau with the WiWaxy Peaks in the background 
Meg and Alice on Opabin Plateau where the larches had begun to turn  
This is the sheer, raw beauty of Opabin Lake and Opabin Pass where one feels awfully small
I was thrilled to have made it to Opabin Lake

Our last morning, September 8th, dawned dismal with no prospect of the weather improving. Most everyone was weary of being soggy and cold. Several of us opted to take the first bus out at 9:30am. This is the transportation up and down the access road to Lake O'Hara ...

Tom, Sharon, Janet, Patti, Alice, Meg and Bill

On the ride down, we laughed as we recounted another incredible time together despite the weather because even in bad weather it's a most wonderful place to be. At the parking lot we bid one another farewell and happy trails, until we meet again.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

April Medical Report

For the most part things eased up in April. The burning pain of the neuropathy raged at the beginning of the month but was gone by month end. I still have a tingling sensation on the soles of my feet. Concerned about it advancing, I phoned the Tom Baker Cancer Centre to insist I have an appointment with my surgeon/oncologist, Dr. Glaze. Remarkably, I was given one the very next day, April 4th. We sighed with relief when she recommended we leave the Paclitaxel drug out of my final treatment all together.  

April 5th, with Henry and Vicki we pick up exactly where we left off, regardless when we were together last

April brought many visitors. I don't always remember to photograph everyone. It's always appreciated when folks come bearing gifts and food but it's their company I crave. Vicki and Henry stopped in on their way home to Jasper from Arizona. They brought supper and wine. Since it was two weeks after my second to last chemo treatment I opted to have a couple of glasses. It was only 5.5% alcohol and tasted absolutely marvellous. 

As we've done before, Bill strung a power cord to their motorhome. 2nd Street at 52nd Ave. became a campground for one night enabling us to extend our visit over breakfast.

On April 8th, we took another field trip to the mountains ...

The Livingstone Range as seen from Alberta Highway #3
Entering The Crowsnest Pass.  Left is The Frank Slide (Turtle Mountain), Crowsnest mountain in the distance
The Crowsnest Pass Art Gallery was showing an exhibition of student art. This collection of drawings was especially lovely 

Bill and I enjoyed lunch at Stone's Throw Cafe in Blairmore before going to the Castle Area to check out a favourite haunt, Beaver Mines Lake ...

Yours truly and a mountain I adore - Table Mountain

Out in its centre, the ice was off the lake. There was still a great deal of snow nestled in the trees of the campground which meant the road into the Recreation Area was closed.


It disappointed me that the cannabis oil didn't alleviate my hip pain. When I got Cannimed's oil (1:20 TCH to CBDdosage up to 2ml, four times a day, without any relief, I called them. I was told that increasing the dosage further wasn't going to be of any benefit. April 10th, I resumed Celebrex, at 200mg twice a day. I continue to use cannabis oil (1ml, twice a day under my tongue) because I feel it's helping with the neuropathy pain. Also, as cancer cells are famous for rapidly dividing and multiplying the cannabinoids in cannabis oil are anti-proliferative and they can check cancer from metastasizing.

Last treatment. I blessed the chemo drugs, asking them to work for my highest good
My final chemotherapy treatment was on April 13th. Denise spent the time with me and Bill. The video may not play here, but you'll at least see a still of me with her. Ringing the bell signifies that your treatments are finished. It was most gratifying to let that bell peel!

We stopped at the Scammell's to collect Avery and gave an Easter gift bag to her

Later that afternoon we celebrated my final chemotherapy treatment at Bridges on First with fine food and champagne. 

At Bridges on First, Avery and Bill with the masterpiece she and her friend, Ferris, created 
Denise and Larry pulled out all the stops with a fine bottle of Italian champagne

When it was done we opened another bottle of champagne, a gift, received earlier that day, from John Webster who owns Webster Galleries and represents me in Calgary.

Yup, I enjoyed a glass or two!
Cathy and Dave brought lunch on April 14th
Back in The Anne Frank Room, Cathy created her second illustrated journal page
I showed Cathy my latest journal entry

It was mid March when I announced that I needed to go home. Canmore is home. Bill could be happy staying here in Claresholm but is prepared to honour my wish and so our home is for sale. Although Gary put the signs up the week prior, the listing went live on April 24th. We've had three showings but no offers, yet.

Bill and our long time friend, Gary, put up the signs April 19th


April brought an abundance of flowers. As the florist neglected to include names, with the message, the flowers on the right were a mystery for a day or so. Some serious sleuthing revealed that Vic and Avril had sent them from England. The bouquet on the left came from John and Win Din when I needed cheering up the most. I hit rock bottom on the 18th over the worsening hip pain and the humbling fact that I can't walk much at all without it becoming excruciating. Celebrex alone wasn't working so I was prescribed Hydromorphone. At first I was given 3mg tablets to be taken every three waking hours, this was later replaced with extended release capsules, 6mg every 12 hours. I notice a 20% to 30% reduction in pain. I'm not happy to be on narcotics, and Celebrex and Lyrica (for the neuropathy pain) but I they are so necessary for managing the pain.

The 'French Quarter' of our dining room

The sunflowers, came from my cousin, Claudine, who instructed me to put them in my best Van Gogh vase, against blue. As I don't have either, I placed them on the buffet beneath my painting 'Portes de Roussillon' 2004 oil, 22" x 30" with the pottery we bought in the Luberon near Roussillon, France.

Bill turned 73 on April 28th. Our family believes a birthday celebration can, and often does, last for up to a month. He managed to squeeze two celebrations in before April was over. 

April 28th, Bill and I celebrated his birthday at Mocha Cabana in Lethbridge
April 30th, Denise and Bill (yup that's another Long Island iced tea) at Bridges on First

On April 26th, I had a CT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvis. The results came back saying all was looking good except for a 1cm spot on my liver, hitherto unseen. It was not detected in my last CT scan on November 22nd, seven days after surgery. I was told I'd need an ultra sound to determine just what it is. 

Sneaking into May and as this wasn't posted this yet, I can report that I had the ultra sound May 3rd. The radiologist said that he couldn't "characterize" what the spot was. I'll need a MRI for that "It's not good news or bad news" he said. "It's no news." This was not comforting. In fact I was downright frantic. I Immediately called and left messages with my  surgeon/oncologist and my nurse practitioner. The latter returned my call as we were driving home. She stressed that it's encouraging they couldn't determine anything from the ultra sound. She will book me a MRI. This "liver spot" won't interfere with the colostomy reversal slated to happen at the end of May.  

To close on a happy note, I give you an uplifting photo of me with Avery ... 

At Bridges on First, April 30th 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Painters & Hikers at Mount Assiniboine

Staying at Mount Assiniboine was a professional photographer who wants no credit for this wonderful photo!

Friend and fellow artist, Patti Dyment, is masterful at organizing hiking/painting expeditions. On other occasions, Bill and I have stayed at the Naiset Huts but, this was the first time we joined her Assiniboine group - August 7th to 10th, 2016. 

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 11,870 feet (3,618 meters) the Matterhorn-like peak is the highest in the Canadian Rockies. I've had the pleasure of painting there a time or two before. Once, along with with Liz Wiltzen and Gaye Adams, I was fortunate to have a decadent stay in one of the lodge's cabins as guests of Sarah Kidner 

On this trip, two of our four days were mostly absorbed by flights. We really had only two full days there. One was exceptionally fine and all of us made the most of it. Sharon Van Essen was brand new to the experience of painting and staying in the back country. For the most part she slipped seamlessly into the program. On August 9th, she and I painted side by side ...  

Sharon and I painted at the lookout nearest the lodge
My finished Mount Assiniboine oil on panel 14" x 11" is available at Webster Galleries 

All back country expeditions are exhilarating and inspirational. Add painting to the mix and they become gloriously enriching.

Accessing Mount Assiniboine by helicopter will always be a huge rush, plus it's a great deal faster. Eight minutes versus eight hours on foot. On the morning of August 7th, at the Mount Shark staging area, we were forced to wait for the clouds to lift before flying could commence. Multiple fights and incredible precision are required to fly gear and visitors out, economically timed with flying visitors and gear in. Lodge guests fly first. Our gang flew last. 

You can walk into and out of Mount Assiniboine, and we have. It's 28kms one way
Enjoying the flight

Flying around the end of the rock wall of Mount Caultley your heart skips a beat while your breath simultaneously catches in your throat because, suddenly, now you can see what we've all come here for - the Queen of the Rockies ...

There she is!

We were a party of eight, which is the capacity of the largest of the Naiset Huts. The huts are self catered, dorm style accommodations. The five cabins were built in 1925 by Alpine Club of Canada founder, A.O. Wheeler. Although some huts have been upgraded, the Aster's interior has not. It's especially rustic. Its two sets of double bunks are pretty narrow. Can you believe eight adults can squeeze in here? Let's just say it was a tight fit ... 

Patti, Sharon and Laura at the Aster Hut
 Yours truly painting the towers, August 8th
This is as far as I got with the Towers before it rained. The painting still waits for me to come back to it.

Our group consisted of four painters and four hikers. For Bill and me there were some new faces. It's a good thing Grant Waddell's warm, easy demeanour stole my heart because he paints altogether too well - if I didn't already love him, I'd hate him. 

August, 8th, Bill and I found Grant painting the shoreline of Lake Magog
Here is Grant with a couple of his precious, little jewels on the porch of the Aster Hut, August 8th

Bill and I hadn't been to Assiniboine since the deluxe Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter had been built. Prior to it, you had to bring your own stove and cooking gear. Cooking is not permitted inside the huts. Many of the hut porches don't have a roof, so you'd be at the mercy of the elements.

The Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter makes staying in the Naiset Huts so much easier. Aster hut is seen in the background
Before the song sheets came out, Sharon, yours truly, Bill, Grant, Patti, Laura, Megan and Anne in the cooking shelter, August 8th

It was a surprise to find John Harvie, and his wife Zel, at the helicopter staging area. I was even more thrilled that he remembered me from the late 1980s when we met at a Sunshine Village Art awards banquet. He's a delightful fellow and a consummate watercolourist. It was awesome to visit with them here ... 

John and Zel Harvie

August 8th, after a day of mixed weather the sky cleared and we were presented with remarkable evening light.

The Towers
Yours truly, Anne Walton, Laura Coderre, Megan Morgan and Patti Dyment watching the sundown, August 8th
The Queen at Sunset 

As I am wont to do, in the back country, I slipped out of bed before dawn to see if we might expect a glorious, alpenglow morning. The potential was there and the sky had the right amount of clouds so I went up to the high lookout, in front of the lodge, where I waited for my reward ...

Mount Assiniboine at dawn, August 9th
The day promised to and turned out to be a most excellent one 

Soon I spied some of my bunkmates, including Bill, gradually appearing along the lower trail, so I wandered down to greet them.

Thanks for this photo Grant
Morning mist on Lake Magog
Happy painter at work, August 9th

When Sharon and I had finished painting we dropped our gear back at our hut and, with Bill, wandered toward The Towers. We were on the right side of the creek and waved to Patti painting on the left.  

The Towers
While Bill rock hopped, Sharon and I took off our boots and socks to cross the outlet of Gog Lake

We could see Grant painting the waterfalls, but by the time we reached him he was finished and had packed up.

The grassy trail was soft, it felt so good to have the earth beneath our bare feet

The lure of happy hour came upon us and we all went tripping back down the trail. We passed Patti still hard at work ...

Patti painting The Towers

Patti is quick on her feet and hustled to the lodge right behind us. During afternoon tea (between 4 and 5pm) non lodge guests can purchase beer, wine, tea or coffee and cake at the lodge. Every day most of us made our way to the beckoning happy hour. It was grand to warm up in the dining room on the wet, cold days and wonderful to sit out front on the sunny day ...

Yours truly, Sharon and Patti, August 9th

And suddenly, just like that, the party was over and it was time to depart. On the morning of August 10th it was cloudy and drizzling but there was enough visibility to fly...

The staff work like the dickens to load gear and hustle passengers onto the helicopter 
It's somewhat of a rush to fly this close to the rock wall of Mount Caultley 
Spray Lakes en route to back to the Mount Shark heliport

I have such gratitude for times spent in places like this. The memories of these experiences fill my soul and will stay in my heart, forever.  Thank you, Patti, for making this trip a reality.