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Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver

Posted on Aug 16, 2013 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Lynn Canyon, North Vancouver, BC

I had to leave a serious amount of people out of this drawing because I wanted to show the rocks more than the people. And the tree in the background was a fir/needly type, but it looks like a deciduous tree in this sketch. Time to work on my tree drawing skills, perhaps?

Lynn Canyon is a beautiful place to cool off in the summer. It’s shady, and the cool water of Lynn Creek runs through rocks and several deep green pools as well as waterfalls. One can scramble across the creek on the rocks, or jump into one of the pools from various more-or-less dangerous heights by climbing up on the rock walls around the pools.

I took my teenage visitor there along with a friend from out of town and her two sons. We had a picnic at the creek, one of the kids jumped into the pools, the rest of us scrambled on the rocks. We picked and ate blackberries, and looked in vain for huckleberries. Last year there were many at this time, this year we found almost none. Maybe because the warm weather came early this year and the huckleberry season is already over in this area? Or else, everyone in Vancouver decided to go huckleberry-picking the day before us. Who knows.

On this Thursday morning, giant groups of summer camp kids and their fearless leaders had decided to descend upon that area. I have never seen so many people standing by the pools, one could hardly see the ground. One of the many 10-year old boys made me a big compliment: “You are an amazing artist.” You know when a kid says that, they mean it. Because they will also say the opposite: “That nipple should be much higher up.” (That particular kid was critiquing last week’s sketch of my male cousin.)

The Lynn Canyon suspension bridge at the beginning of the short trail to the pools is a big attraction for tourists, and locals (to take their tourist friends to), and it’s free, unlike the Capilano suspension bridge nearby. As I mentioned in the previous post, the teenager did a spit test to decide that the Loss Creek suspension bridge on the Juan de Fuca Trail was indeed taller. I googled the height of the Lynn Canyon bridge; it’s 50m according to lynncanyon.ca, but I can’t find the height of the Loss Creek bridge online. I was guessing 100m when I was standing on it, looking down through the grate, but I am sure I overestimated its height at that moment. Knowing the height of the Lynn Canyon bridge, now my best guess is about 70m for the Loss Creek bridge.

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Doing a hike ’n’ sketch on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Posted on Aug 15, 2013 in Sooke | 0 comments

Day 2: Cooking breakfast on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Day 2: Our friends (they are brothers) are cooking breakfast for all of us after our first day of hiking. Those logs never seem to be long enough for all the paraphernalia we place on them. We were camping overnight at Bear Beach. Day 1 was a mad rush to even get to our first campsite before dark because we only started our hike at China Beach at 3:30 pm after a long drive down the Island and some complications — there was no time for drawing that day.

Six of us (two friends, our teenage visitor from Germany, my sister, my husband, and I) hiked the Juan de Fuca Trail on the west coast of Vancouver island, BC. It’s a 4-day hike over 47 km along rugged coastline.

But we planned to cover only 29 km of it over 3 days to arrive at a beautiful beach called Sombrio. We had hiked the northern half of the trail three years ago and fallen in love with Sombrio, so this year we finally managed to all get off at the same time and do the southern half of the trail.

We encountered some rats which chewed through 3 of our backpacks. We thought we had stored all our food in the bear cache but one of us forgot some pasta, one of us missed a chocolate bar, and another didn’t realize toilet paper was a rat food as well, so we were all taught a caching lesson.

We saw lots of seals, but no bears, to the German teenager’s simultaneous disappointment and relief. But he fit in well on a hike with five adults, he loves hiking and wilderness. He even got stung in one ankle by two wasps and dealt with it well, and he always offered to cook — once he figured out our rule that whoever cooks a meal, does not do the dishes. He also observed that the forest was much wilder than in Germany, where most forests are tightly managed and dead trees are removed. The sight of giant, decomposing trees slowly turning into forest soil was amazing to him. He also observed that being away from Facebook for four days turned out not to cause unbearable suffering, but was a welcome relief from social obligations, and that one should take those breaks more often.

Huckleberries and salal berries were plentiful, and even thimbleberries and salmonberries were located by the most enthusiastic berry detector in our group.

We crossed three suspension bridges, one of which looked higher than the Lynn Canyon one, according to my friend Gary’s scientific “it took 9 seconds for my spit to make it down to the water!” test. (The teenager dutifully spit down from the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge later this week and came up with only 6 or 7 seconds, so yeah.)

I brought along a tiny moleskine watercolour sketchbook, which was lighter and made sketching way faster.

Day 2: Lunch on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Day 2: We found a beautiful spot in the forest on a ridge we were hiking along and decided to stop for lunch. It was my sister’s turn to prep food, and she actually got out the cooker to make a quinoa mix to stuff into pitas with hommous. We usually do one 3-day trip every year as a group, and we divide up the cooking duties so that each person is responsible to shop and cook for a couple of meals. Food becomes very important on a backpacking trip, the energy level has to be kept up when you carry 38 lbs. on your back up and down the steep coastal terrain over mud-soaked roots and slippery rocks.

Day 2: Arriving at Chin Beach

Day 2: We set up our second night of camping at Chin Beach. I had time in the fading light to make a sketch of the driftwood at this beautiful beach. What is it about driftwood and large rocks that makes one run around on top of them and jump from one to the other? Probably because that is so much more fun than skipping around on a flat surface.

Day 3: Arriving at Sombrio Beach

Day 3: The third night of camping, and our final destination, was Sombrio Beach. Day 3 on the Juan de Fuca Trail was probably the toughest in terms of hiking terrain, but by then we were broken in and had found our rhythm. We had also planned for Day 3 to be a short hiking day with only 8 km, but we stretched it out by taking a long lunch break on some rocks near blow holes, goofing around on top of a waterfall, lots of picture-taking and berry-picking for our pancake breakfast the next morning, so that we got to our last campsite later than we thought. But we had time to bathe in a cold creek, and enjoy the gorgeous scenery around us. The next morning, the sun came back out and we were able to linger at the beach until noon before hiking a short path up to a parking lot where we had left one of the cars.

Day 4: Decamp and catch the ferry home to Vancouver

Day 4: The ferry ride from Sidney to Vancouver on a Tuesday evening was half-empty, quiet, warm and sunny. Seeing the various islands and land formations glide by in the early evening light is always a glorious view. It was a great ending to a wonderful hike. Then, after four days without a warm shower, it was great to come home to our plumbing.

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At Saratoga Beach near Courtenay

Posted on Aug 14, 2013 in Courtenay | 0 comments

At Saratoga Beach, Courtenay BC

My Austrian cousin and his family lounging at Saratoga beach near Courtenay last week. My cousin cracks himself up constantly, with his wife and daughters (and the rest of us) often wondering what exactly he is laughing about. I think he was giddy with jetlag and the excitement of a big vacation. But at least he has figured out what any comedian knows: always commit fully to the delivery of your material, no matter what.

His family draped themselves like this on the beach, I just had to draw them. Four free models! I swear I did not set up the pose.

They have moved on to visit our other family members in BC and Alberta. It was great fun, B. and family! Come back anytime.

Meanwhile, six of us (two friends, our teenage visitor, my sister, Jeff, and I) headed as far west as is possible in Canada to go backpacking for 3 days.

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A visit to Courtenay

Posted on Aug 8, 2013 in Courtenay | 0 comments

My sister's former home in Comox

My sister’s former home in Comox, BC. She rented this tiny cabin in the woods for about a year before she married. It was a great place to visit. She now lives closer to Courtenay with her husband — still in the woods.

One of my many Austrian cousins has arrived in Canada with his family of four. After two days of sightseeing in Vancouver, I have brought them and the German teenager to my sister’s in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. We are spending a couple of lazy days here. Lazy means beach time, swimming, canoeing and light hiking.

We don’t want to do too much this week because we are resting our muscles for the Juan de Fuca hike that we are starting on Saturday. I am getting excited about the hike, especially since the sunny weather looks stable.

To everyone’s amusement, I sometimes have to act as a translator between my Austrian cousin and the German teenager. Admittedly, Austrians can be a bit sloppy in their pronunciation. The phonetic difference between “b” and “p”, as well as between “d” and “t” is wasted on Austrians, meaning the rest of the German-speaking world has to rely on context if they want to understand an Austrian. On the other hand, perhaps to compensate for their omission of consonants, Austrians have added a bunch of gratuitous vowels to their speech. This results in a bit of a twang, the most extreme expression of which is yodelling.

But most crucially, the Styrian dialect that my relatives speak is not at all like High German. It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger German, and it’s my true mother tongue. I bring many years of trying to understand what my mother is saying to the table of Austro-German relations.

I also have, among my mother’s eight brothers, both an Uncle Hans and an Uncle Franz. SNL wasn’t making this stuff up. About 87% of every Austrian family has a Hans or a Franz. 86% has both. 71% of every Austrian family also includes a ski instructor. Sure enough, Uncle Hans was a ski instructor for many years when he was younger. The chance of having all of that concur is somewhat lower, but still pretty gigantic.

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Obey the poodle matron

Posted on Aug 5, 2013 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Urban sketcher Dave

I always tell people to expect neither flattery nor realism from my portraits of them.

Urban sketcher Don

Fortunately, these fellow sketchers are not easily fazed.

My urban sketching meetup group met in West Vancouver this long weekend. Officially, there are now 277 members in the group, but that day it felt more like 4. Probably because only 4 of us showed up. There is a core group of about a dozen regulars. Don and I talked about whether this was disappointing, but I decided it’s not. One can not expect more. Even in Berlin the number of regular sketchers wasn’t any bigger, and one woman, Katrin, who became my good friend, is still setting up most of the sessions there.

The people who regularly come to our meetup group already have a sketching practice. They are independently motivated and don’t really need a group to help them get out and sketch. But the connection with others who have the same passion makes the meetup group worthwhile. It’s not about the number of converts. Sketching with a couple of people here and there, instead of always alone, is all I’ve been hoping for. So Dave, Don, Sarita and I sat comfortably at an outdoor table with cool drinks, while sketching, talking, and listening to live music at the West Vancouver Harmony Arts Festival.

West Vancouver Harmony Arts Festival

To get there, I rode my bike across the Lions Gate Bridge for the first time ever, which was strangely exhilarating, as though I was exploring unknown territory. Once in West Vancouver, I even rode through a dog-walking-only zone, which is a misnomer and should say “designated poodle-walking lane”. Dave had warned me of the wrath of the poodle-matrons. Sure enough, after about 17.5 meters, I was told to get off my bike by a white-haired woman with a large brown poodle. Somehow, it was exactly what I needed at that moment.

Seawall, Stanley Park, Vancouver

After the meetup ended, I made my way to Third Beach. On the way there, I sketched the Lions Gate Bridge and then sat down on the seawall and tried to capture the end of a summer day with the sun coming down low over the water and the light flattening out the islands and mountains. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place.

Finally at Third Beach, a twitchy, chatty, slightly aggressive man started watching me draw and after a while (I had seen it coming) began talking to me in an impatient tone. Detecting my accent, he started asking me a lot of questions about Germany. He was not happy with my answers at first, then luckily he got so impatient that he started answering his own questions so I could just nod and smile calmly once in a while. I felt it was best not to aggravate him. He seemed high on something.

And I always love it when people, upon figuring out that I am originally from Germany, use the word “Hitler” in their very next sentence. As a hairdresser once did: “You’re from Germany? People always tell me I have Hitler eyes!” That hairdresser did have intense blue eyes. But I didn’t go back for a second visit.

Lions Gate Bridge, Vancouver

Having conquered the Lions Gate Bridge by bike, it felt appropriate to draw it afterwards, almost like capturing some sort of game trophy. And I am also collecting vertical motifs for possible conversion to etchings later, for the poetry book I am collaborating on. As I was drawing this, I was thinking of how skeletal structures are evident in this bridge; it looks like a spine. Maybe this anthropomorphic quality is what makes bridges so exciting to me.

Third Beach, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Back to Third Beach. I managed to stretch my sketching day into the sunset. Third Beach was remarkably empty for the August long weekend Sunday. I think people are taking the perfect weather for granted and not coming here in droves anymore. Twitchy-chatty guy commented: “Hah! You’re perving on these people!” But “these people” were appreciative, not weirded out when I showed them the sketch that they happen to be in, and both took a photo of it.

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