Cameron Lake Memory

“These halcyon days (in Waterton) were all so similar in mood that the account of one day can be made to represent them all. We left our camp early one morning to spend the day on Cameron Lake. As I drove up the narrow winding road that clung to the mountain side, I kept my eyes peeled for unusual flowers, arrangements of flower-and-rock, or patterns of mountain peaks … After a long row (with a friend) to the far end of the lake we arrived just as the fish were biting.

“The shore at the edge of the lake was rough and narrow. Behind it rose a sheer wall of rock that blocked out any view of the mountain above. As we had approached the shore in the boat we had glimpsed at the top of the wall a narrow plateau of greenery which reached to the foot of the glacier-covered mountain. Having exhausted the new plant and rock patterns of the shoreline, I longed to explore higher up. Taking my lunch and my sketch-book in a bag on my shoulder, I searched along the sheer wall until I found a dry stream bed up which I could pull myself from rock to rock. Coming up over the edge of the brown cliff I stepped into heaven. Shoulder-high wild flowers of rainbow hues stretched to the foot of the glacier. Breasting my way through them, I came upon a tiny hidden lake on which floated icebergs the size of small buildings; the water was so clear that one could see their blue bases and then far down into brown depths below. There is something so heady about the combination of flowers and snow – the whiteness, blueness, and coldness of snow, and the warmth and colour, so much brighter in the clear mountain air, of the flowers – that time flowed over me. I could not even sketch.

“As I sat among the flowers, the heads of purple fleabanes bowed and swayed under the weight of bumbling bees; a hummingbird buzzed the red of my headband and darted off; the song of the white-throated sparrow, heard last on migration in my prairie garden, burst forth over the chattering of a tumultuous stream.

“As the sun moved down toward the rim of the mountain I felt very humble. Who was I to deserve such sublime solitude in the beauty of such a world when thousands of miles away, the people of my ancestry were being bombed out of their homes? (cf. WW II) …

“With this solemn thought in mind I returned to the edge of the cliff to find the dry stream bed that would lead me back to the shore. It was not there. Over and over again I kept returning to the spot that I had marked, but in the place where the dry bed should have been was a rushing torrent. Of course! The sun that had warmed me as I sat had also warmed the snow on the glacier. The melted snow was rushing down to the lake. There was only one thing to do – pick my way back rock by rock through the icy torrent slowly so as not to slip on the wet stones.

“On the shore I found (my friend) Rene sitting disconsolately by the boat. She had caught her limit, but in doing so had laid her lunch on a rock behind her … an unexpected feast for the gopher that ran off with it. With one of us dripping wet and the other ravenous, we covered the three miles of rowing and the fifteen miles of tortuous mountain road in record time. “



July Week in Waterton With Doris Hunt

“Doris and I once spent a July week in a mountain valley at the edge of the timber line. When we first made our way up the trail and rounded the corner into the valley it was hushed in a blanket of new-fallen snow. Fluffy flakes drifted slowly down to cling to stunted trees and alpine blooms. A proper storm might have brought an end to our holiday or given us an uncomfortable week but this one was soon over. After a threatening night the world about us cleared to warmth and sunlight. Circling the valley was a rim of bare peaks that gave way here and there to glimpses of canyons that sank far below. We set about sketching in earnest. By the crystal cold water to a small tarn, a ptarmigan strutted proudly, leading her brood of inch-high babies through a low-growing mat of Drummond’s dryas. Nearby a whistling marmot let out his shrill cry from a pile of rocks. Mountain goats browsed the sparse grass on the sheer crags or dusted in the sand of a ledge above us.

“After several days of sketching near this camp we crossed the valley to clamber over the rocky debris of a bare mountain slope, where the only sign of life was a few starved scrubs of Arctic willow, hidden in the shelter of a large boulder. Our purpose was an excursion into the world of fifty million years ago. High on the slope, at the base of the mountain, was an area cobbled with the petrified forms of Collenia. Round-topped, sturdy-stemmed, and mushroomlike, these fossils had been pushed up to this great height from the bottom of an antediluvian sea.

“As we approached the area, a storm cloud rushed at us from over the shoulder of the mountain. Black billows of cloud hung so low we felt that they rested on our heads. Retreat was impossible so we hid behind a shoulder-high rock. Zang came a blazing fork of lightning, hitting a rock to our left. Zang came another one, reaching for a rock to our right. The scree became a blaze of light about us. Thunder rolled and roared until our eardrums ached. The heavy clouds split open to loose a shellfire of hail which pounded our cotton-clad backs. We cowered beside our large rock hoping that its metal content would not attract the lightning. Covering our heads with hail-battered hands, we felt like intruders in an archaic world where man was too frail a creature to survive.

“The storm passed as quickly as it had come, leaving us drenched and glad of the warm sun. But the stimulation and excitement of this contact with elemental nature stayed with us as we circled the fossil bed and made our way back to the shelter of our camp. There we found that, in our absence, a wolverine had visited our food store and had made off with the greater part of our ration of meat. The ever-present ground squirrels had also found their way into our tent, where they had chewed the fresh oil paint from our sketches, leaving them textured with tooth and claw marks – small things to worry about in this immense world.

“All too soon our week was over. It was time to descend again to the humdrum elevation of a mere five thousand feet and to the luxuries of the modern world.

“On the way down we took shelter from the blazing sun in a leafy glade shadowed by tall fir trees and flickering aspens. The floor was a riot of colour, with mountain lilies, roses, forget-me-nots, vetches, and tall grasses in a tangle of verdure. Fat, grumbling bumblebees weighted down the blooms. Orange butterflies drifted daintily by. Dragonflies needled through the air or rested lightly on grass blades. A squirrel scolded us from the treetops and a hummingbird buzzed us, mistaking the brilliance on our palettes for nectar-bearing flowers. A group of tourists climbed noisily up a nearby path, all unmindful of the miracle I was seeing about me. For the familiar becomes a miracle when filtered through a mind already keyed to the immensity of time and the slowness of creation.

“I found myself thinking that this tangle of grasses and flowers, of winged insects and singing birds, is new to the history of the earth. ‘Just yesterday’ to a paleontologist who delves to the beginnings of life on our planet….

“As I worked to translate my feelings into paint, I realized that unless I could make my subject a part of the earth, I had failed … I was this feeling on oneness – of Nature with Man and Man with Nature – that interested me.”


Recalling Sketching Trip With Artist Friend Doris Hunt

“On the screen of my memory flashes a picture of (Doris and myself) on a blistering summer day. We are seeking shade on a mountain path near the moist edge of Cameron Lake. In spite of the heat we are wearing coats. Our heads, ears, necks, and shoulders are swathed in towels, our hats are on top, pulled low over our eyes. Our socks are stuffed with paper. We wear gloves on our hands as we look out on the scene through a cloud of mosquitoes, deerflies, and horse-flies. As I work I recall the story of Alexander Mackenzie complaining of the flies on his trip to the Pacific and trying to compute the number of flies there would be in the world when they had all reproduced in the prolific manner of insects. As I swat, I can hear my grandmother saying, ‘Kill one fly and a thousand come to its funeral.’ In the end it is not the insects that rout us but the sight of a black bear ambling down the path towards us.”
Annora's Stories of Waterton
As told by her in “Sketches from Life”
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Mountain Shooting Star 58.45.23 - Collection of Glenbow
Used with permission of Annora Brown Estate

Pioneer Waterton business woman, Mrs. Linnea (Frank) Goble, told me how much Annora looked forward to her camping trips to Waterton. “She was a very good fisherman, too. But usually she ended up with more flower and leaf samples in her creel than fish!”