I Can Touch the Stars

A quote for this piece from Jack Nisbet’s book “Sources of the River”: “That afternoon they crested Athabasca Pass and made camp on the west side. Thompson went out to look at what lay before them, and when he returned found his crew probing the snow with a twenty-foot pole, trying to measure its depth. There was too much to clear away, so they had to build their fire on top of the snowpack. That night a storm blew through, and the few logs they had brought with them for firewood were soon consumed.” From David Thompson’s narrative: “In this exposed situation we passed the rest of a long night without a fire, and part of my men had strong feelings of personal insecurity. On our right about one third of a mile from us lay an enormous Glacier, the eastern face of which quite steep, of about two thousand feet in height, was a clean fine green color, which I much admired . . . My men were not at their ease, yet when night came they admired the brilliancy of the stars, and as one of them said, he thought he could touch them with his hand.”

It occurred to Joseph when he was painting this, that one of the glaciers David Thompson spoke about in his journals, is no longer there. The first full day in camp, Joseph, Andy and Sharon decided to climb up a mountain opposite their campsite at the height of land (the spot closest to the area depicted in the second painting “I Can Touch The Stars”.) “There being no trails we slogged through marshy wetlands, and pulled ourselves up the steep mountain front by using the bushes and alpine trees to hold onto. There was a wonderful waterfall, and rushing stream that that became our lunch spot. After lunch we all enjoyed a wee nap along a ledge overlooking the valley and the campsite far below on the other side. Again, the high alpine growth was used to lower ourselves down the mountain. We ended up at a slightly different spot, which happened to take us past a bear’s den. Nobody home. Our good fortune.”

Sharon Cross 2014