Out and About in June

Summer in FSJ: Dust Advisory

About half an hour north of here is Rose Prairie, a small homesteaders’ community where some of the people that I’ve met here grew up. 15 human members and 3 doggos from the Sunday hiking group headed out there last weekend on a beautiful warm, sunny day to explore the area.

Sandra grew up out here and it was her family’s land, now belonging to her brother, that we hiked through. Here she is unloading one of the two dogs with one of her daughters and grandkids. There are lots of new animal babies around the place, including these small cattle.

Northeast BC is oil and gas country and most of these plots of land have small pumpjacks on them; these ones still have melt water around them.

Since we were walking through private land, there were lots of wire fences to make our way through.

At the bottom right in the picture above, and below, you see Gus, a 13 year old black Miniature Schnauzer who accompanied us, a lovely little dog who reminded me of Brubin.

After we left the road, the first part of our hike was bush-wacking through the trees and underbrush down the hill towards the Beatton River from the high ridge where we began, looking for a cave that Sandra remembered from her past.

The white flowers that you see here are Saskatoons, from which many Saskatoon berries will emerge at some point. I’m hoping that someone I know is a good baker and will make some berry cobbler!

The underbrush was quite thick and it was a bit tricky to navigate, especially as we came closer to the cliff edge and it was quite steep.

We stayed back a safe distance from the edge, noting that the ground had sloughed away in places from the heavy rains this past year.

After coming close to the edge of the cliff and not finding the trail down to the cave because it was too overgrown, we headed back up and over, through the aspen trees and deadfall back to the ridge along the top of the valley.

This trail was a beautiful open scenic walk with the river below.

At this point poor old Gus had disappeared from the group; he had gotten lost in the underbrush and his human, with several others, went back to find him. (Gus was found, exhausted but otherwise ok, and those folks headed back home). The rest of us carried on down to the river, accessed by a looonnnnng trail down through more aspen trees.

Once at the bottom the valley opened up and we walked along the river’s edge, with lots of freshly deposited soft gray sand, to a shady, sandy spot beneath the trees for lunch.

It is true what “they” say about the northern mosquitoes; they are everywhere and enormous (the size of small birds!), although quite slow-moving at this time of year. Industrial applications of Deep Woods was necessary to try to keep them at bay. I keep trying my selfie shots but the optimum picture continues to elude me – I look somewhat deranged here but this was the best of the lot.

Another day, another walk: Pro Tip: when deciding to go for a walk in Northern BC, do not go into the forest – ever – without massive doses of Deep Woods. I forgot that important point when Eliza and I went walking north of town the other day. My forearms were bare and bug-spray-less when we ventured in and by the time we quickly beat our escape out again I counted 18 mosquito bites on my forearms alone – yikes!! Eliza showed me the spruce tips that she was going to make jelly with.

Fish Creek is still running very high for this time of year.

We passed by the old truck graveyard, previously seen only in the snow. Now that I’ve been doing research into the Alaska Highway building of 1942, I recognise that these vehicles are that vintage and probably came up here with the highway. However, I still don’t know what exactly they are doing in the trees here.

Across the East Bypass Road at the edge of town, Eliza showed me the path to another part of Fish Creek that I had not seen before. Here the creek is even wider as a result of several beaver dams.

As we were walking Eliza pointed out a tiny frog on the path.

June is Arts Month in FSJ: below is a report on what’s happening from the local news source.

(An artist works on a sand sculpture at Sand Sensations B.C. in Taylor back in 2013. File photo energeticcity.ca.)

As part of the North Peace Cultural Centre’s 25th Anniversary Celebrations next week, Peter Vogelaar returns to Fort St. John to create a huge sand sculpture in the centre of town. This sculpture will be 16 feet long and 10 feet tall, and will be built during the week of June 3rd – June 9th in the corner of the NPCC parking lot. Fellow sand carver Denis Kline will be doing the finishing touches on Saturday, June 10 during the Big Print Day Art Market from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.

On Wednesday, June 7, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm the NPCC will be welcoming the public to come down and witness this masterpiece take shape. The event will also feature a demonstration by chainsaw carving artist Ryan Cook, who will be competing in the Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Competition the next day.

The sand sculpture is slated to be finished for the Bright Nights Gala Reception and Performance on Friday, June 9 at the NPCC.

The Big Print

In the studio folks are working on their big woodcuts for Jun 10. Here they contemplate Miep’s howling wolf.

This project has had a big learning curve for people; the scale, the logistics of carving an MDF plate, and the whole inking and printing process remains to be figured out. Below are some of the tools that Miep has been using, discovering that the large electric drill with diamond tips was better by far than the small hand woodcut tools. Since I’m sure you will be interested to see how it all turns out, I will report on these arts events in my next blog post.

Irene, Regula, and I headed south on a beautiful sunny Friday evening to Dawson Creek for the opening of the Peace-Liard Regional Arts Council’s 35th Annual Juried Show, held this year at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. On the way, we made a quick side trip to the Historic Kiskatinaw Bridge, a curved wooden trestle bridge built in 1942 that used to be part of the main Alaska Highway.

This show is open to artists who live in the Peace Liard Region – Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, Chetwynd, Fort St John, Hudson Hope, and Fort Nelson, and it travels to a different community every year. Possibly the weather helped, but the turnout was great for the opening; the event included a great spread of nibblies, live music, a welcome and drumming from Treaty 8 First Nations representatives, and awards and speeches by local sponsors.

180 or so works were included and the diversity was breathtaking. Many landscapes, as was to be expected, but also some very interesting conceptual pieces, including the one below by Mary M,

and “Something for Leonard”, below, by Barb Daley, a wonderful mixed media homage to Leonard Cohen. On a Chinese kimono base, the piece includes 8 layers of material, each of which can be lifted up to view. Each of the layers deals with a different aspect of Leonard’s life; the materials include all sorts of fabric, stitching, photography, paint, beeswax, and actual objects such as feathers and the like.

I really love everything about this piece. Other interesting works were the blue Picasso with aliens, below, and

this beautifully-done landscape oil painting by Peter Shaw,

and this very strange wizard with pipe and squirrel piece. The figure reminded me of Ty.

Now that he’s shaved off his beard, leaving only a goatee, the resemblance is not quite as striking but with the full beard – yes, definitely, Ty in a cape.

A number of awards were handed out, including major cash prizes, and I was very glad to see Barb’s work recognised as the Best Conceptual piece. In addition, a number of pieces were sold; the community really supports its artists in this part of the world.

This past sunny Sunday saw a small group of intrepid hikers and one dog make their way to Battleship Mountain, a climbing area between Hudson’s Hope and Chetwynd. Leaving at 8:30 in the morning, we first went to the Bennett Dam to try and access the site, but the road over the dam was closed for repair. We then had to backtrack to Hudson’s Hope, then head for the Johnson’s Forest Service Road on the way to Chetwynd. This logging road is a 67 kilometer gravel treck from the highway into the bush, with loose rocks and lots of sand – sort of like driving through snow, especially on the corners. Luckily, we only saw three other vehicles while we were traversing it; each kicked up a huge plume of dust that blanketed everything from sight. Along the way we passed two burnt-out vehicles in a grassy clearing.

After an hour of bumping along, finally we saw the trailhead sign just past the Carbon Lake Recreational area and pulled over to park. We had left at 8:30 and it was now noon; the sign indicated that the 10 km roundtrip hike to the top would take 6 hours … I was thinking that we had started too late in the day for that. But anyway, after having loaded up our packs, we headed off into the bush for the steep climb upwards.

The route was pretty well marked but STEEP – I was worried and not sure that I could make it. But, having started, I just put one foot in front of the other and ascended, stopping every so often for a rest, my heart pounding and breathing laboured – the ol’ aerobic conditioning was not as good as it should have been for this route!

Luckily, there were few mosquitos and the trail led up through the forest so it was not too hot. Periodically, a nice stiff breeze cooled things down as well.

You can’t really get a sense of how steep the climb was from these pictures, because I could only take photos when we reached places where I was not scrambling up with my hands as well as my feet. The group was very kind to me, stopping and waiting while I recovered my breath.

After two hours of steady upward, we were rewarded with this great view of one arm of Williston Lake.

We paused here for a bit to rest and enjoy the view. I got somewhat nervous when the dog – aptly naked Bear – got too close to the edge.

Speaking of which, all of us had bear spray – I was terrified at the beginning of the route at heading into bear country wilderness but soon forgot about it – just too difficult to actually walk to think about getting eaten by bears!

From this viewpoint, I imagined that it would take not much time at all to get to the alpine lake from which the summit ascent began … wrong! First, after another quite long walk still upward through damp areas and snow, we came to what Sandra called “the swamp”, the first small body of water.

I was quite excited, thinking that our labours were at an end but it was not to be … off we trudged, again upward through water and snow, towards the unnamed lake which, since I was very tired, I began to think was an apparition, like those desert oasis mirages that ever recede into the distance.

But, after an additional hour, lo and behold – the lake!

The hill in the distance is the summit of Battleship and I was glad to hear that everyone thought we did not have enough time this day to attempt it. I would not have been able to do it.

We enjoyed our lunch of cheese, nuts, fruit, and protein bars lakeside.

Bear the dog looked pretty tired, too.

I am so glad to have met these folks and joined in on the hikes; I’m seeing a side of British Columbia that I never would have seen otherwise. And they are all really lovely people.

For more info on the Battleship Mountain hike, click here.

For more photos, click here and here.

Spring in the Peace

I am working with Stage North again on a restaging of the Alcan Craze for the 75th Anniversary of the Building of the Alaska Highway. It is an original play “about the impact of the construction of the Alaska Highway on the homesteaders and natives of Fort St. John in 1942.”

“Written by local playwright Deborah Butler and directed by BC Actor and Director Michael Armstrong, this play depicts the amazement and fear of the colorful characters of Fort St. John when they saw the thousands of American soldiers and the huge machinery barreling through the wilderness in a rush to build 1500 miles of road to Alaska in 8 months.” This co-production of North Peace Cultural Society and Stage North Theatre Society will have 6 performances from Sept 29 to October 7. Below are some screen shots from a History channel documentary on the buidling of the highway.

Sue Popesku, the very first person I met in FSJ and a cultural mover and shaker, is producing the play and I will be creating projections and helping with set design. Deb Butler (below: photo Alaska Highway News), the playwright and also a singer/songwriter, is updating the work for the 21st century and I am really looking forward to working with these folks on what promises to be another exciting theatrical venture!

AHsongs

In addition to the play, an Alaska Highway Road Trip guide, two calendars with historical information and photographs, and a CD of original music celebrating the highway have been produced. Here is an interview with Deb about her play. Currently, I am doing research for the videos, watching documentaries on the highway construction, reading newspaper articles, and looking at historical photographs. Sue has put together five huge binders worth of material from the FSJ Museum’s collection of memorabilia. And in an interesting twist, my boss at Community Bridge is the writer of many of those 25 year old articles. She is also the daughter of the photographer who came to town in 1942 to document the construction and whose photographs are in the Museum’s collection. Truly a small world! If you’re interested, here is a bit more info about the highway.

Little did I know, when we took the photo above at Mile One of the highway in Dawson Creek back in August, that I would be involved in its 75th Anniversay celebration.

As a further development related to these celebrations, the author Lawrence Hill, writer of The Book of Negroes and The Illegal, is doing a Northern road trip of readings to support his own research into the Black American soldiers who built the highway, about whom he is writing his next novel.

Untitled

I was fortunate enough to attend his invitation-only evening reading at the home of Brian and Connie Surerus in FSJ (above) with an enthusiastic crowd of local art and history supporters, including folks I had met the other day at the Museum.

Strangely, given that it has not rained here in months, we had five days of steady rain the second week in May and with it, the environment has become significantly lusher and greener. I am amazed at how quickly things environmental change up here. Seemingly overnight, it now gets light at 4 am when Ty is driving home from night shift, and stays light well into the late evening. The trees that were bare just last week have sprung leaves and small wildflowers carpet some areas of the hillsides. Since the photo below was taken on an overcast day, it’s a bit hard to see them but tiny pink crocuses cover the hills at my friend Sandra’s place fronting the Beatton River.

I had only ever seen her place in winter with a snow cover, so it was fascinating to see it now at the beginning of spring, with so many shades of green, yellow, brown, and gold.

Here is a panorama looking from the top of her property east to the river.

And, yes, it is true that one cannot count on being snow-free until the end of May. Yesterday on May 14 I woke up to this:

A hopefully-final for this year sprinkling of snow.

Now, about a week later, the trees are even lusher, the aspens’ leaves an almost glowing brilliant yellow green. Back at Sandra’s over the sunny long weekend, we practised some vinyasa flow yoga on the platform on her grassy knoll overlooking the Beatton River – glorious. And amazingly, her dog Kaiser just sat quietly and kept us company while we were executing our up- and down-dogs.

I wanted to take more pictures of her various bodies of water, and discovered the names and purposes of each of them (they all had looked the same to me, but they are not the same). The one below is a “dug-out”:

This pond is near the front of her property and is a small man-made lake dug out for the purpose of cattle drinking. It can also be used by her grandkids as a natural swimming pool. Below you can see her home in the distance.

The one below, at the bottom of the “draw” (a small ravine), is also a dugout and is on the border between her and the neighbours’ property.

We followed the game trail down and across the hill and walked through the brush down to the water’s edge.

Sandra pointed out all the various plants and animal tracks on the way; there are many varieties of small edible plants here and lots of animals come here to drink.

Below are pockets of moose poop, found abundantly around the property, and moose tracks in the mud.

From the top of her ridge you can see a number of cycling, biking, and ATV tracks on the hills across the river. The Blizzard Cycling Club uses these trails lots, as do hikers.

The second kind of water body that rural people have is a “lagoon”. When I heard that term, I immediately thought of Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park. But the northern lagoon is for sewage treatment; rather than having a septic field or tank that needs to be pumped out, here the sewage is piped into large lagoons where it takes care of itself ecologically, so to speak.

Above is the road down to Charlie Lake on the way to Miep’s studio; as you can see the lake is now completely thawed and a beautiful blue. Below is a picture of Miep’s lagoon; when I didn’t know better, I thought it was a natural swimming pool. Surrounding it are the ubiquitous, but now dead, bullrushes:

While out at the studio to work on a new painting, I was also treated to the frantic rubbings and splashings of the many frogs copulating in Miep’s lagoon.

In addition to the frisky frogs, Miep has several sled dogs, chickens (in the coop above), two pet dogs, and a greenhouse full of plants. And cows with babies across the road.

To celebrate Bright Nights in June, a month of non-stop arts events up here, the Print Artists North have put together three hand-made accordian books into which the artists have put small original prints to be given to local dignitaries. If you know my work, you will be able to recognise which ones mine are …

The print artists are also one of the many exhibits being shown in town over the summer for the annual downtown Art Walk; their display is on the walls at Whole Wheat and Honey, the town arts cafe and social hub.

In addition to being a venue for visual art, the cafe also hosts Vinyasa and Vino, yoga and wine with Candace, our yogi, and live music nights. The folks below are planning the next arts event, Lift Off, featuring the art and music of local teens.

Many of the people we have met here live on gigantic pieces of property, several hundreds of acres. Several have “sections”: a section is an area nominally one square mile (2.6 square kilometers), containing 640 acres (260 hectares). Karla, my boss at work, invited me out to her place just outside of town and showed me around her acreage fronting Fish Creek between FSJ and Charlie Lake.

She and Ed live in a hand-built log house with an enormously high cathedral ceiling and an always-burning fireplace.

Karla’s an avid gardener and is just getting her greenhouse up and running for the summer.

They also have a large root cellar for cold storage of the vegetables they grow, allowing them to be almost entirely self-sufficient.

This is the property that she grew up on as a child; now the creek is more like a lake in this area because of the beavers and their dams.

As well as a miniature horse named Dash,

Karla has a dog and a large building containing rabbits; Ed breeds two different kinds of these beasts.

Here Karla is demonstrating good northern attire: fleece, jeans, and the obligatory gum boots.

The gallery curators at the Peace Gallery North, Alan and Barry, are leaving town and Barb and her partner Brian hosted a lovely send-off potluck gathering on a beautiful long weekend evening at their place out by the airport. Poor old Ty was working nights so not able to join us – boo.

It’s definitely Spring: sandals, bare legs, and short sleeves are sported by many. Although it’s warmer, I’m still wearing my long pants and fleece, my one concession to the season being that I no longer wear my Russian cossack hat, just my little summer peaked cap. If it gets up into the high 20s, I may break out the Bermuda shorts.

Today, the last day of the May long weekend, I went hiking with the Sunday group to a fellow named Alex Shaman’s ranch property accessed from Meek’s road off the Hudson Hope road.

Eleven of us, plus one small dog with his own backpack, did the 4 hour round trip hike from the bison corrals to the bluffs along the river and back again.

The first bit was along the gravel road and then we headed off across the fields along a ridge over looking the Peace River Valley.

The small dog did well, and was lucky enough to have his owner carry him up the hills using the handle on the back of the pack.

It was quite windy on the first ridge we stopped at, and after a good look around, we headed back to a different, equally windy but more scenic spot, above the river.

On the second ridge was an outcrop of sandstone hoodoos high above the valley.

A number of our group climbed up for picture taking but not me, being afraid of heights.

Heading back, we bushwacked through a stand of fire-blackened trees from the wildfires that had blasted through here last spring.

I could still smell the charcoal, and as we walked ash from the burnt vegetation billowed up from our feet in clouds.

I saw what looked like animal corrals beneath the tree cover but these turned out to be burnt and fallen trees, lying in horizonatal stacks of charcoal.

As we rolled back to the cars, we saw the bison herd in the far distance. A great walk and fascinating to see the burnt and regenerating forest.

This week it feels like summer and the lakefront area at Beatton Park was flooded and closed because of high water and the excess rain that we had a while back.

But everything is beautifully green.

Hard to believe that not too long ago we were walking across the frozen surface of this lake.

Fish Creek Forest is now devoid of snow and ice; the only remaining hazards are mud and moose and bears …

We saw a tiny squirrel and butterfly enjoying the day, sunning themselves amid the trees and foliage.

We finished up Ty’s week off with a beer on the sunny patio of Jackfish Dundee Pub out at Charlie Lake.

And here’s one of those things that make me shake my head … a combination rifle/backbone tattoo on a young woman’s arm.

And, finally for this post, I will leave you with some photos of the animals to be found on rural property in these parts: the fox and moose below were taken by Miep on her property.

And the photos below are by Irene Gut, taken over the past months out at her property at Cecil Lake, about 40 kilometers north-east of here.

See more here.

Spring? … Maybe

Right now it’s about 10 degrees above and feels like Spring is here; however, we have been warned that, from the time when it first seems like Spring, there will be 6 snowfalls until Spring actually and completely arrives. It’s definitely thawing, though; the snow is melting, huge ponds are forming everywhere, mud is proliferating, and dust is blowing – freshet!

Here are a couple of photos from the beginning of March when it was still deepest winter; snow on the ground and cold with the wind chill factor.

On Ty’s week off we headed out to Charlie Lake again, to take one last walk on the still-frozen, beautiful white snow-surfaced lake. On our way down to the water we saw the tracks of a snowshoe hare being chased by a predator of some kind – fox? cougar? quien sabe?

Once again, as before, we were the only ones out there; the sound of us marching along breaking through the icy crust started to worry me as I wondered whether the ice was thin enough for us to break through into the icy cold water below.

We survived the walk, although Ty was quite bushed and had to have a little rest … haha.

We have been very busy at the studio this month; several shows are upcoming in this area for the Flying Colours Artist Association and everyone was trying to get work finished for display.

Mary did a couple of classes on linocut with stencils and brought in an abundance of beautiful coloured stencils, papers, and other odds and ends to make prints with.

A really fascinating thing we participated in on March 3 was the annual Rod and Gun Club Fundraising Dinner and Auction. This was an experience totally out of my usual sphere and much of it made me feel quite queasy.

Where the art gallery auction had only taken up half the Pomeroy Hotel ballroom, the Rod and Gun Club took up the entire space, with a huge amount of stuff related to the catching and killing of animals: a silent auction, a regular auction, bucket draws, door prizes … And I must say, the buffet dinner was expansive and excellent.

Lots of guns, including junior rifle sets for the kids; butchering equipment, shooting tables, big boys toys for chasing and transporting game, clothing, guiding packages, and the like. Also, art work by members of the Flying Colours.

Below, a volunteer is holding one of Sandy’s donated paintings aloft for bidding. I was absolutely amazed at the amount of money being spent; the bids on everything were huge – they must have raised tens of thousands of dollars, maybe a hundred thousand dollars, putting the art auction haul to shame. It’s too bad that folks can’t get as exited about art work as they do about guns and animal hunts … Charlie told us that Fort St John has the highest number of millionaires per capita in BC and perhaps in all of Canada, 4.75 per 100 people – who knew?

Somewhere around the first week of March the days became longer quite abruptly. Rather than getting light at 9:30 am, it now gets light around 6.

While it was still cold, Ty had to wear two hats rather than just one. Here he puts his woolen touque over his BC Hydro camoflague cap.

Here I am at Fish Creek Urban Forest, the last time I wore my snow suit. I have to say that I am pretty happy not to have to wear the ol’ snow suit again this year!

Irene Gut, below, is an encaustic artist who was preparing some pieces for inclusion in the North Peace Gallery’s Points of View show coming up in a week.

She uses a small iron to paint with, rubbing tiny chunks of coloured beeswax onto its surface, then runnning the iron over a smooth plasticised paper to create her works.

The coloured chunks of wax look like candies.

I have not made prints for quite a few years but I got inspired by Mary’s demos to make a mixed-media linocut for the print exchange on the theme of Our Home and Native Land. Ten artists are participating and the show is travelling around to several galleries in the Peace region of BC and Alberta. At the end, we will each get a portfolio of 10 works from the other participating artists.

I made a linocut of flowers, printed on origami paper collaged onto a collograph support, in progress above.

Carolyn is hard at work on her moose painting for the Points of View show, based on Miep’s wildlife photography, opening at the North Peace Gallery next Friday night. This moose, inspired by one of Miep’s photos, appears in quite a few works to be displayed.

We still walk along the trail north of town; just recently these condo buildings have risen from the dirt; they follow on the same design as the one we occupy; however, they are selling for considerably less than ours was going for a year ago. Such is the economy here, very dependent on the fortunes of oil and gas.

Another day, another art work … Here are a couple of my works in progress; above linocuts on origami paper and below, digital images collaged onto wooden cradle boxes.

The piece below isn’t finished yet but so far it is textured acrylic paint and collage on wood, featuring endangered birds of the Peace region and Miep’s Canada Goose photo, made small and colour-manipulated.

My home workspace is getting more and more crowded; somehow, things always seem to get out of my control and proliferate – will have to have a purge one of these days. But putting the card table in was an excellent idea so now I can work on pieces while standing – I get very tired of so much sitting!

Ty and I took a walk last weekend out along the Eastern Bypass Trail, its concrete length mercifully free of most snow and ice. My hiking boots, very warm for the dead of winter, unfortunately have very slippery soles so I have to tread extremely carefully on the still-remaining slick pockets of snow and ice.

Sandra, freshly arrived home from a month in Australia, invited me to come with her and some friends out for a hike to the Hudson’s Hope steam vents west of Fort St John. We set off about 8 in the morning for the 2 hour trip up into the Rocky Mountain foothills past Hudson’s Hope on a beautiful sunny and relatively balmy day.

On the way out we stopped at a rest area to take some photos of the Peace River Valley, soon to be inundated by the Site C dam. Fog was lying low across the river; before coming here, I had no idea that rivers could be foggy. We stopped somewhere along the way to pick up Sandra’s friend Debra, who lives with her husband in a large wooden-beamed cabin and riverside acreage far from the madding crowd. Ross hunts and collects antlers, into which he will be carving various scenes.

Along with their main house, Debra and Ross also have a wooden cabin, currently occupied by a friend and her dog.

Our route took us up past the WAC Bennett dam, seen below (this dam created one of the largest lakes in BC, Williston, the expanse of white in the middle of the image below) and onto a logging road up the mountain.

After pulling over to the side of the road, we strapped on snowshoes, just in case we needed them on the way back if the snow had melted too much to hike the trail.

The valley is beautiful and it was very nice to see some mountains once again.

The trail to the steam vents is marked in spots, although I’m not sure I would have been able to find it on my own. Much larger coniferous trees occupy this area, along with some larger aspen.

A covering of about 4 inches of snow still obscured the trail, making it quite slippery to traverse in spots; below Dora is navigating down a muddy trench.

One we emerged from the forested area, the land dropped off to the Peace River canyon. The ground was quite green, with a variety of green, orange, and yellow mosses and small groundcover.

To get down to the steam vents requires picking one’s way along a steep, narrow track that hairpins down the hillside. I made my way very carefully in my heavy boots, putting one hand on the hillside for support. I definitely did not want to trip over my feet and roll down over the cliff!

In 1793 before settlers reached the Hudson’s Hope area, Alexander Mackenzie explored the Peace River and described this geothermal area with its ever-emitting steam coming from burning underground coal seams in his journals. These steam vents reminded me of the Chimera ever-burning hilltop flames that we visited in Olympos, Turkey.

The two doggies who accompanied the group plagued us for food, always on the lookout for any dropped morsel. I was a bit worried that one of them would go over the edge in their excitement but luckily that did not happen.

The view was spectacular!

I’m not sure how long the hike is; it took us about 2 hours to hike in and a bit longer to hike out again. I was very tired after about an hour of the trip back and struggled a bit with my heavy pack and heavy boots, each one feeling like it added ten pounds to my feet. Sandra and Debra very kindly helped me out by carrying my pack and snowshoes for the last little bit. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and collapsed on the couch almost senseless. But what a great day it was!

Below is an example of some of the media things I am doing for Community Bridge, a wooden plaque with a collage thanking one of our sponsors for their support of our 2016 Haunted House. I have created four of these plaques so far – fun.

Here’s another (not very good) photo of what the plaques look like:

See more photos here.

Back in the Frozen North

All good things must come to an end and February sees us back up in FSJ, the land of seemingly perpetual winter. I really was looking forward to experiencing a snowy winter, not really having had one since I was a kid growing up in North Vancouver when the show drifts were 16 feet high and my first boyfriend zoomed around the neighbourhood in a skidoo. However eight months of it is 7 months too much!

While we were gone, the Hudson condominium building was completed and with it, the parking lot behind our place. I can tell that Spring is coming because, rather than getting light at 9:30 am, the sun now peeks over the horizon at 8 – huzzah!

I am back out at the Charlie Lake studio of Miep, where last week Mary was giving some enthusiastic artists a class on relief printmaking.

She often uses a technique called puzzle printing for her lino cuts; this involves actually cutting up the plate (as in the ravens below), enabling it to be used in a variety of different contexts.

I continued to work on the painting that I had begun before Christmas, adding some collaged aspen trees to the mix.

Friend Carolyn invited us to join her table at the annual Black History Month dinner, this year held at the Fort St John Curling Club. The food, prepared by the local black community, included a buffet of offerings from around the world.

Along with the buffet, we were treated to music and a fashion show by members of the local community who hail from parts near and far, including Nigeria, Kenya, South African, and Jamaica.

Among the participants was a lovely young woman who had taken part in the Buddy Holly production.

We had a few dances and enjoyed the festive ambience; however, Ty was working days, which means up at 5 am, so we weren’t able to last into the night.

We had our first visitor from down south, Christine, in town for work. She and I enjoyed a leisurely skate around the deserted skating oval.

Possibly it does get crowded here during public skate times, but whenever I’ve been there, usually I’m the only one on the ice. Yesterday I skated again while a couple of hockey games were played on the rinks below, the cheers reverberating as the local team won 6 – 2. (I’m afraid my selfie skills are not well-developed, as indicated by the evidence below).

Fort St John is hosting the Masters Speedskating Championships here in March and I’m going to check it out and hopefully pick up some tips.

While Christine was here, we took in some local colour at the Open Mic Night at On the Rocks nightclub and pub, where one of the guys from Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, was up on stage serenading the crowd.

And finally, for this month, I was the official event photographer-papparazzi for the Coldest Night of the Year Fundraiser to support Community Bridge and its programs to help the homeless, hungry, and hurting in FSJ. This fundraiser takes place in  many different cities across North America, all on the same evening. Participant teams sign up and collect pledges and local companies sponsor the event; we had 21 teams, 105 people and several local sponsors to the tune of almost $20,000 – a big success for the first year.

Thankfully it was not actually the coldest night of the year in Fort St John; that would have been back in December when the mercury went down to -41. At -13 with a light snowfall it was not too bad (although without gloves, my hands did get quite cold as I was taking pictures). I can’t believe that I actually said (wrote) that “-13 was not too bad!”

The event began and ended at lead sponsor Northern Lights College, with the 5 km turnaround rest stop down 100th Street at North Peace Savings & Credit Union.

Folk young and old came out to support the cause.

I was happy to take part, and even happier that the weather cooperated!

See more photos here.

From Fall to Winter overnight …

Well, it’s been a fast and furious couple of weeks up here in the north country; we’ve gone from late summer to mid-winter between the middle of September and the beginning of October. The wind is strong in this part of the world, and if it’s blowing from the north, cold!

Although I don’t think anyone can accuse the city of FSJ of being beautiful, there are areas in the surrounding countryside that are lovely. And along the ridge just north of the city there are some places with beautiful views out over the Peace Valley.

On the bypass road that runs around the edges of the city, we found an abandoned farmstead with decrepit old wooden structures rotting in the fields.

Fall lasted about two weeks and the aspen trees turned yellow and gold.

We have been spending quite a bit of time with the cast and crew of the Buddy Holly Story, attending rehearsals at “The Space”, a quonset hut on the edge of town that serves Stage North as a rehearsal space.

Here is the Director Blair Scott in action, getting the Hayriders ready to go for their first song of the show.

Have a listen here. To plays the videos, first click on the image, then click again to start the video. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a problem with the sound on my video towards the end …

And here are Buddy Holly and the Crickets, going from country to rock ‘n roll.

Ty enters stage right carrying a keyboard. We are really enjoying being part of this production; it’s been great fun!

We are both working on the projections for the show, and have spent a fair bit of time in the theatre of the North Peace Cultural Centre where the show will take place the last two weekends of October.

We have put together two large projection screens from king size beds sheets sewn by the Sew it Yourself shop, four metal pipes, and lots of hardware. They will be hung on either side of the stage for videos which I edited of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper playing at the end of the show. This necessitates three laptops, three digital projectors, 150 meters of HDMI cord, and lots of metal hardware.

Oliver, the General Manager of the Cultural Centre, has been very generous with his time in helping us to put this all together.

Here’s a shot of the top of one screen, showing how it’s attached.

This is what it looks like with the big back screen and one of the side screens; the third one will hang down from stage right on the other side.

Here’s a little promo video I put together for the show.

Back when it was still Fall, we spend a bit of time getting to know the neighbourhood, strolling through the subdivisions around here.

This artificial pond has been made just down the road from our place. We are both amazed at the number of RVs parked in people’s driveways here; on some streets every home has a gigantic motorhome or RV next to the house.

I started taking bellydance lessons about a month ago at the Studio2Stage dance lesson emporium, with Suzon Tremblay, a very talented dancer and artist.

Unfortunately, my picture of her is not in focus.

Bellydancing is much more difficult than I thought, with hundreds of moves, some of which are difficult for this old, inflexible body. I am bad, but hope to get better during the course of the class.

Winter came early, very early – September 30, to be precise …

Here’s the view from our kitchen window. Although it’s no longer snowing today, there’s still snow on the ground and more expected tomorrow. We are having the snow tires installed this weekend. Already the temperature is hovering between 0 and minus 5 and it’s only the beginning of October. I wanted to see a snowy landscape, just not this early in the season!

I still need to get some serious winter gear; here’s a picture from the outside of the rehearsal space on the east edge of town.

Other than that, I am working on my landscape photo series and getting ready to do some painting. The landscapes are getting more fanciful – here’s a taste.

Aspen Landscape with Eastern Phoebe & Harvest Moon

Aspen Landscape with Phases of the Moon

 

Greetings from the North!

The view flying into Fort St John. Wow, it’s been a fast and furious month since I’ve landed in FSJ with Aran the cat in his carrier. The beast turned out to be a pretty good traveller, once he got over the shock of going through security at Vancouver airport.

After a pretty good dose of culture shock for the first few weeks, I am starting to settle in up here. I have decided to focus on the things I like every day rather than feel sad about what I’ve left behind. First up on that list is the people that I have met here, a wonderful bunch of very friendly and active folks from many different facets of the community, artists, theatre folks, yoginis, environmental people …

One of the very first things we did upon my arrival was to walk around the neighbourhood and check out the prospects. There are two sweet little “metaphysical” stores, Earthly Treasures and The Wisdom Tree, selling crystals and other goodies for spiritual contemplation.

The Arts Post is a nice studio space with a very active group of potters.

Possibly I might try to get back into ceramics here – the studio is well set up.

I have also connected with the Flying Colours Art Association, a wonderful and welcoming group of artists who have workshops, exhibitions, and a great studio to work in every second week. I hope to get into the studio and do some painting by the end of September; at the moment I’m working on a new series of infrared photographic images of the northern landscape. Here’s an example:

peace-river

On the main drag through town is the Blacksmith Yoga Community studio, in the green building in the picture below. It’s a vinyasa studio, a style of yoga that I used to do with Kathryn Turnbull at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, but more demanding than what I’m used to. The first few sessions left me with pretty stiff muscles!

We are living in a new area at the western edge of the city, where townhomes and condo buildings have been constructed – at the moment we are in the middle of a construction site with trucks and machines coming and going. The number and size of the pickup trucks around here is amazing; even though our new car is the biggest I’ve ever had, it seems tiny in comparison. It still feels very decadent to me to just be able to hop in the car and go wherever I want after not having had a car for five years. (Thank you so much to all the friends who have so kindly given us lifts places over those years!)

Our unit is the second from the end in the left-hand building pictured below.

We checked out the Fall Fair north of the city last month, getting a feel for the country life.

A really active group here is the Spinners, Weavers, and Quilters and they had a big display of their work in one of the buildings.

We watched the cattle show, in which various groups of people brought in their beasts and paraded them around the ring for the judge’s assessment, some more skilfully than others.

We also saw some of the sheepdog show, with various doggies shepherding sheep into pens.

Horse-riding is also a big thing in these parts.

I had ridden past the Fort Bowling building on my bike when heading to the yoga studio but was unsure if it was actually in business or not. But, yes, it is definitely in business and we gave it a whirl. My arm was not really up to it, though – will have to strengthen the muscles to up my game.

It was fun, except for the burning pain in my forearm! Check out my style – I actually got a few strikes (a few less than Ty, though …)

On the northern edge of town is an urban forest called Fish Creek, a nice place to walk on a sunny day. I was a bit nervous about the prospect of bears, though; however, we did not see any evidence of them that day.

One of things that I do love here is the aspen trees; they are everywhere up here. We noticed right away that the trees are much, much smaller here.

Very close to the city is Beatton Park and Charlie Lake, a lovely picnic area.

There are paved separated bike paths along the main street and around the perimeter of the city, a very nice feature.

Since it is mostly flat, the city is pretty easy to get around on bikes. And not very much traffic, either, compared to what we’re used to.

On Ty’s week off, we took a road trip to Grande Prairie, Alberta, to get snow tires and see a bit of the countryside. The journey takes about two and a half hours each way, travelling south through Dawson Creek and Beaverlodge. We stopped and checked out the Philip J Curry Dinosaur museum in Wembley, Alta on the way.

This area is full of fossils, some of which are on display here.

Ty is not trying to steal a dinosaur bone; this pit is for visitors to practice being paleontologists by dusting the dirt off bones.

On the way back, we stopped in at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery, located in a decommissioned grain silo.

One of the really fun things that we’re doing is getting involved with Stage North, the local theatre company. They are producing the Buddy Holly Story, on stage for two weeks the end of October. Ty and I are helping out with projections and as stage hands. Ty is designing a projection system for videos that will play during the performance.

I’ve been to one rehearsal so far and thought it was great. Here are a couple of video clips of three of the songs they’re working on.

https://goo.gl/photos/FbeELESUrMGCbhnf8

https://goo.gl/photos/3yWnEo6vXowpxWgG6

Good times!