Sunday 23 August 2015

Rocky mountain high

For whatever reason, I find I am forever drawn to coastal environments. Perhaps I'm genetically programmed or it's a hold-over from some past life, but given my druthers I head for the sea. However I recently turned my back on the coast and worked my way inland and uphill to a place about as far from the coast imaginable, to the alpine environment high in the Rocky Mountains.

It had been a long, long time since I'd spent any time in the mountains - decades in fact. I'd driven through or flown over the Rockies many times on my way elsewhere, but I hadn't been up close and personal with this part of the world in recent memory.

I'd forgotten the vivid blue of Lake Louise rivals that of the Caribbean Sea I have come to love so well in my travels...

... and that the riot of alpine flowers is quite glorious during the brief summer season of blooms.

I discovered that Moraine Lake, a short way from its internationally famous sister Louise, is every bit as gorgeous - maybe more so - in the depth and variety of colours achieved by its waters and in the surrounding spectacle of dramatic mountain peaks.

I got acquainted with the abundance of bird and animal life that call these rarefied places home, including rodents like chubby ground-squirrels...

... and squeaking pikas, busily engaged storing mounds of "hay" for the approaching winter.

Several times I also observed swimming water shrews harvesting floating insects at the water's edge but they moved too quickly for a decent photo.

But my delight was in the birds... scores of them... particularly warblers which were rearing their families during the brief alpine summer and taking advantage of the short but intense season of profuse insect life. Usually glimpsed fleetingly during their migration through my home turf, here they were putting on a show and not at all camera shy. 

Yellow rumped warbler

Before long they would be heading to lower elevations and milder, more southerly locations for the winter months, but in mid-August they still had a couple of weeks of work ahead of them to get their babies and themselves ready for the journey ahead. 

And of course there were the resident members of the corvid family in abundance.

Clark's Nutcracker

The real treat was a couple of days in the back-country area of Lake O'Hara, a place were visitor numbers are regulated so there were no bustling crowds of international sight-seers, only more dedicated outdoorsy people, but the sights were no less spectacular. More birds, little furry beasties, gorgeous, pristine scenery, and thankfully no up-close-and-personal encounters with the local grizzly bear population. It's a place I would gladly visit again.

Lake O'Hara
Goldeneye duck
One of the area's many hiking trails

The disturbing note to all of this is that the magnificent glaciers that once reached the water's edge of many of the region's lakes have now shrunk to a fraction of their former sizes, and it's impossible not to believe this is anything but the outcome human-induced climate change. There is speculation that the alpine lakes' vivid colours will fade once the glaciers eventually disappear and no longer feed minerals into the water. What a sad shame that would be. And what other impacts would the loss of these glaciers have on this magnificent, fragile environment?

For the time being, I will hold this trip to the Rockies in my memory. Although the seashore is where I feel most at home, I'm left feeling exhilarated and inspired, with ideas for future artwork in the making.

McArthur Lake



  1. My oh my, what a wonderful tour of the region you gave us!!!! Having been a Colorado resident for years it was so nice to "go back". And, yes, the climate change......... I am happy you got inspired and refreshed. You deserve it. I can not wait for a drawing or painting of said Raven. Put me #1 on the list for the Artist's Proof or original if you don't keep it. I am happy you are busy. We all (four legged mostly) love you here and I will see you at the Mane Event probably with Nate (just recently 12 and still going on 15+ mile horseback rides with me!!) in October. I so, so, SOOO love my pieces of your art making my home so much more of MY HOME. xoxoxoxoxoxoxox all of us at Simon Acres.

  2. ..wonderful journey Deborah. Marvelous captures! Also thoughtful remarks on climate change ... what part of the earth have humans not effected adversely. For now refreshing to see near pristine natural beauty. Thank you for sharing.