February 10, 2012
For seven summers I was the cook for The British Columbia Natural History Society. In 1994 I graduated from The Dubruelle French Culinary School in Vancouver, and ran a kitchen at a small residence on the UBC Campus. This left my summers free, and I took on the task of prepping to feed upwards of sixty hikers at elevations upwards to some 3000 m., or approximately 10,000 ft.
It involved cooking and then packing vacuum-sealed , frozen meals in large chests with dry ice before joining the caravan of cars towards the mountain destination of choice. Once at the base, everything–including me–was hauled to the summit in a net-outfitted helicopter, and the business of setting up the huge kitchen and dining tents was begun. Frequently it was snowing up top–though only twenty minutes before I’d been roasting in the July heat–leaving me scrambling to find my parka.
The challenge was to get everything unboxed and laid out in some semblance of order–while ensuring the burners were properly hooked up to giant propane tanks–so that all-important first meal could be served some three hours later. After that, I could do the washing-up and at least semi-relax by first getting my little tent set up and then getting myself organized enough to be able to do breakfast when I awoke at 4 a.m.
By Day Three (of the ten day experience), it felt like I’d lived there my whole life, and could spend my days doing watercolours while the hikers tramped all over the rugged terrain carrying the bagged lunches they packed for themselves after dinner the night before. Once I’d served their breakfast, they’d stroll about with final cups of coffee making sure I overheard their latest Grizzly Bear spotting stories. Then they’d be off, leaving me sitting there all day minding that food all by myself.
Here is a painting from one of those seven summers. And though I can’t be entirely positive, I believe this particular view is from the Eastern British Columbia Mountain Range known simply as The Columbias.
And yes, I did see Grizzlies, but only from a distance.
January 11, 2012
Taking the 40 minute ferry from Vancouver one reaches Gibson’s Landing, the beginning of the 85 km. stretch known by British Columbians as The Sunshine Coast. The road leads North towards Alaska, but ends at Powell River–the furthest major city on the coast–and visitors simply have to either turn around and come back, or decide to permanently stay.
This watercolour was painted on location on a section of the Sunshine Coast near the town of Sechelt. The wind was blowing across the Pacific, creating large breakers and bringing in a bank of fog which made it difficult to dry my paper enough to keep going.
January 4, 2012
I was raised in Rochester, New York, and then later on the New York / Vermont border. At some point we had occasion to visit the town of Saranac Lake, New York, which hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics and much earlier in its history was one of North America’s best known tuberculosis sanatorium locales. Patients went there to receive plenty of sunshine and fresh air.
Kamloops, British Columbia, my present home, was also chosen as a prime location for a TB sanatorium and it was located just outside the city limits at Tranquille, B. C., beside Kamloops Lake. The air here is dry, without even a hint of humidity in the Summer and bracingly-cold in the Winter.
I loved staying in Saranac Lake that one week in January. The lake itself was completely frozen over, with a fresh layer of snow and a blindingly-bright sun.