Thursday, July 06, 2006

The old man of the mountain

A few years ago I decided to visit the Canadian Rockies. It's the kind of landscape I always dreamed of as a child with it's huge mountains, endless forests, pristine rivers and lakes. I loved exploring Banff and Jasper national parks and tried to cover as many mountain trails as possible.

One morning I set off from Jasper on what was supposed to be a short trek looping around some spectacular lakes and returning me to the main Jasper highway 13 kilometers later. It was a beautiful walk, a real feast for the senses and I felt so extremely happy that I hardly noticed the hours slipping by until I suddenly remembered I was supposed to have looped around a lake by this time. I'd noticed several paths leading off the main track that I was on and began to wonder if I'd lost my way somehow. 'Maybe the lake is just a little further on' I said to myself and continued along the trail.

My spirits picked up a little when I saw a signpost nailed to a tree ahead of me. When I reached it it wasn't exactly what I wanted to read! It said 'Warning, Grizzly bear seen on this trail yesterday at 4pm. proceed with caution' by this time it was too late for me to turn back as I wouldn't make it back before nightfall. I decided to continue and about half a mile further on I noticed a tree where the grizzly had scraped its claws through the bark leaving deep cut marks, not the most reassuring sight as the sun began to set.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse that day, as the landscape began to change from pine forest to head high dense bushes, the very worst environment for a bear encounter as I would be more likely to suprise the bear and trigger an incident. The thing I most feared was a mother with cubs in such terrain.

As darkness began to fall upon the forest I was reminded of when I was 17 years of age and attended a boxing gym about 5 miles from my home at the end of a long dark country lane. I used to finish my boxing late at night and the only way for me to get home was to run the 5 miles along the pitch black road. Having been born with a vivid imagination every dark bush ahead of me became a mad axe murderer and every sound behind me a psychopath chasing me dagger in hand! Now here I was in another long dark lane where every brown bush began to look exactly like a hungry grizzly.

In my boxing days I overcame my fear of the long dark lane by impersonating Muhammed Ali! Running along the lane shouting quotes such as "People call Joe Frazier the heavyweight Champion of the world.. clumsy, ugly, flat footed Joe Frazier! he's too ugly to be the worlds champ, the worlds champ should be pretty like me!" I must of looked a ridiculous sight, but in my 'Ali trance' the 5 miles flew by and I was soon safely home. ( All the mad axemen must have ran when they heard Muhammed Ali coming their way and thankfully I never bumped into Joe Frazier coming the opposite direction! )

I have to confess Muhammed Ali visited the Rocky mountain trail that day, once again coming to my aid and warning any bears ahead of me that a human being was approaching. I didn't run of course, but made the whole forest aware of my presence as I walked.

Hours passed and I eventually came across a path with a sign that read 'Jasper 7km' and in the direction I had come from it read 'Jasper 27km' At last I had rejoined a path that would return me to Jasper!

I didn't encounter the grizzly that day, but in my minds eye I saw him on a ridge ahead of me, turning to look at the creature that had dared to enter his kingdom.

The old man of the mountain was the result of my experiences that day.


At 11:34 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Mr Wilson,
Thank you for this nice story.
I have spent a few years of my life as a child in Calgary and went often to Banff and it's beatiful surroundings. Telling about your experience there brought me back to great memories.
I have to thank you also for showing your skills so generously, the excellence of your work convinced me to try out pastels and I just love it.

I'm a french graphic designer trying to get more into wildlife art, your paintings have greatly inspired me,
I admire your gift and the way you share it with others.
Best regards,
Pierre Larribau

At 5:26 pm , Blogger Eric Wilson said...

HI Pierre,

Thank you very much for your kind comment. Much appreciated.


At 12:42 pm , Blogger Shara said...

Great Work!!!
this is a good link you can refer Art Collection


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