Lake O’Hara, Canadian Rockies—A perfect country for the sketcher would be the land of the lotus-eaters, where it seemed “for ever afternoon,” where, I am sure, there were no snow storms, mosquitoes (even innocuous ones), no bears nor bull-dogs, and no glaciers to cool the air unduly. Here at Lake O’Hara, in the Rocky Mountains, sketching is a trifle more strenuous than it might be. Most of these discomforts are with us at one time or another, and though they are individually and momentarily apostrophized in suitable terms, they are soon forgotten.
We had some argument as to the best method to adopt—whether to camp in one spot, to wander, or to submit to hotel meal-hours. We decided to camp, but I would hesitate to recommend this decision. We are certainly free to be hungry when we wish; and we are, unless prepared to vaste two good hours of daylight, in making a fire, cooking a meal and clearing up. We looked forward to an uninterrupted orgy of sketching, carefree as lotus-eaters, paint-slinging furiously from dawn to dewey eve. The reality is far different. We waken sshuddering at 6 a.m., look out on a cold, grey, damp world, and slink quietly back to the comfort of our blankets. We rise at 8 by dint of dour determination, try to light a fire in the rain, succeed eventually, breakfast at 11, by which time all the rain there is has fallen—wash the dishes, assume our packs, and climb the nearly perpendicular mountain behind the tent in an effort to get away from the trees in order to see something. It is a stiff climb, but nature has placed gooseberry bushes at points where something to grasp is essential, and there is water to soften the impact in case of a slip. We eventually reach a meadow with a quite reasonable slope, proceed to the foot of the Opabin Glacier, set up our easels, and it begins to snow.
This has happened more than once, but we have also reached the glacier by 8:30 a.m., ready for anything, and in a mood to appreciate every manifestation of beauty—the majesty of the mountains or the delicacy of the flowers. A chance juxtaposition of mountain forms, blue perhaps under a cloud shadow, and the meadow in warm sunshine, excites my enthusiasm, and lacking a soft rock, Iset up my stool and begin to paint. The sun shines, the marmots whistle, rock rabbits squeak plaintively, bees drone; there is an occasional rumble of falling rocks from the ehights, and the ever-present roar of rushing water in which it is easy to imagine voices. The air is heavy with the smell of marigolds. A familiar voice from a distance breaks the spell—it proclaims vociferously that its owner wishes he was back in Peoria. I am sure he has never been there.
From this plateau which is immediately below Opabin Pass, delightful views are without number. The mountains and the meadow serve as a foil one to the other—the latter indescribably warm in tone, golden, and dappled with flowers—the mountains invariably cool. Streams give additional interest, variety rather, to the foreground, and are often so interesting as to provide a theme, with the mountains as an accessory. At first protesting that the mountain stream had become commonplace through too much repetition, T.W. McLean soon succumbed to their beauty, and latterly he has painted nearly all he could find, most sucessfully. One is reproduced on this page. It pictures one of the many falls on the trail to Lake Oesa.
The sketcher who would profit by our experience should establish himself at Moraine or at some point where walking, as distinct from climbing, is possible. It is foolish to dissipate energy necessary for good painting, in climbing. Regarding equipment, water-color has the advantage of portability, but oils would best render the very subtle tones which prevail. pastel would be ideal in the hands of a master, but few succeed with this medium. It is alluring but difficult whatever the sketcher uses here, for there is no lack of subjects. He might almost pick out a comfortable spot in the lee of a rock, build a fire, and thoroughly did himself in before looking up at his visble surroundings, and yet be sure to see a paintable landscape.
If the mountains lack a little in symmetry, or in artistic placement, I understand that it is the habits of certain visiting artists to adjust these errors while painting. They seem satisfactory to me however.