Wednesday, February 28, 2018

#0049 "Road to Phillipsville"

From Spring 1977...
The road between Toledo and Phillipsville, Ontario, is shaded by old maples on both sides for about a quarter mile section. The leaves were just beginning to unfurl in the spring of 1977. I wonder if that fence line is still there?
I had been painting for a year after the passing of my friend and mentor Mario Airomi. It was challenging to find any time to paint but it was an importnat effort for me. I was finding my way after marrying in 1975 and graduating from Queens and Honours Physics (Nuclear 1976). Life was very good with the new science and occupation of meteorology firmly underway as well. I was on a brief leave before reporting to my first posting at CFB Shearwater in Nova Scotia just east of Dartmouth on the Atlantic shore. I was driving down in the 1975 Malibu with just enough stuff to setup the apartment. Life was very good.
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

#0108 "Summer in Lunenburg Harbour"

From the fall of 1981...

This is one of the bays in Lunenburg Harbour, Nova Scotia during the summer of 1981. The cirrostratus was coming at us and the fair weather was not going to last.
Nova Scotia is one of those truly beautiful places with fresh paintings to be found around every corner. We loved the place and the people and the weather. I learned a lot of meteorology from those skies. The concept of three dimensional vorticity swirls and pervasive deformation came from those clouds although it took me several years to put those fluid dynamics into terms that I could teach.

I tried my very best in my Studio under the basement stairs. The few strokes required to paint the outboard motor on the small boat where fun. The kids were typically playing around me in my cramped quarters. My Dad really enjoyed this painting.
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Monday, February 26, 2018

#41 Golden Daisy Mums

A blast from the past and the spring of 1976... I was into photographic realism at the time. It is a good way to learn.
This is a group of potted mums borrowed briefly from friends. The background is the blurred pattern of our university sofa. We needed something on the walls of our married student's apartment on Van Order Drive just north of West Campus, Queen's, so I painted the only thing I could find. This is one of Linda's favourites. We still have it.
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#0061 "Deserted Dwelling"

Oils on canvas board - 18x24 - Winter 1977-1978

This was an abandoned homestead near Primrose on the King's Tour, Prince Edward Island during the fall of 1977. This is one of my favourite works - it just kind of flowed into place... At one time this was a proud homestead surrounded by fertile land. I wonder what happened to the generations of family that were raised there. The rough line was still straight and strong but no one lived there anymore.
A deck of front lit stratocumulus filled the sky. Pale blue sky peeked through holes in the cloud revealing no layers of system cloud above. Some virga wafted downward from the more vigourous cumulus elements.
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Saturday, February 24, 2018

#2065 "Summer Cirrus"

I was out for a mid summer paddle in my kayak. The camera was almost in the water in order to get this ultimate in very low perspectives. I was holding the camera over the side of the kayak and guessing that it was being held horizontally. Ripples along the far western shore and in the western basin of Singleton Lake caused most of the reflections from the sloped sides of those tiny waves to be directed from the sky. The cloud colours can be seen in this rippled reflection but not the shape of the individual clouds. The lake in the shelter of Point Paradise within the eastern basin of the lake was calm. This mirrored surface reflected the tops of the trees on the distant shoreline as well as the clouds in the sky. The taller white pines left of centre along that shoreline identify the point of land that is almost an island in the west basin. This is the point that Farmer Singleton rowed from twice a day to milk the cows that ranged in the pastures of our property. I painted that point in #1714 "White Pine Island" which was based on #1713 "December Morn". The tall white pine on the far right supported the nest of the Singleton osprey.
The clouds always have a story to tell but this time it was enough just to enjoy them. However here is what little that I know for certain. Their were several layers of cirrus in this sunset sky but I could not even be certain which layer was higher or lower than the other. I made an educated guess if the cloud elements were assumed to be the same size but in truth, I cannot be certain. With a knowledge of how the wind changes direction with height one can deduce whether (pun intended) the temperature the next day will be warmer or colder. If the winds turns clockwise with height the next day is apt to be warmer. If the winds turn counter-clockwise with height then temperatures will be colder. The spacing of the cloud bands are also directly related to the wind speed within that layer. Wider spacing means bigger gravity waves and stronger winds just like the waves on a lake.

I forget what really happened. In reality it is just another beautiful sunset that I felt needed to be painted. If I had to make a guess though I feel that the winds were backing with height. The winds seemed to turn counter-clockwise right from the northerly breezes over Singleton to the level where the jets fly. Note that the east basin of Singleton stays calm in a northerly flow while the west basin is stirred up by the wind funnelling down Lyndhurst Creek. This would indicate that the next day was going to dawn just a bit cooler.
The graphic that I made has the red cirrus and winds at the lowest level followed by the yellow level wind. The brown winds where a bit higher and the southwesterly purple winds were the highest. Regardless what I happened I had a lot of fun with this painting.
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Friday, February 23, 2018

#2067 "Big Joe Mufferaw Pines"

This is based on #1784 "Mattawa Pines". I really liked the smaller painting a lot and thought that it deserved a larger format. When one starts a new painting you need to feel aspirations of making it your new favourite - better than anything else who have ever done before. You hope that every brush stroke you have made in your life up to that point, were all just steps to this new canvas and the brush strokes you would soon be applying to it. It is good if not essential to have these dreams. Sometimes dreams come true. Sometimes the canvas can become a nightmare. Every canvas puts your credibility as an artist on the line. That's OK. This canvas went really well and I had a lot of fun with the very thick and buttery oils.
The story behind this scene follows:

My son and I and a group of new friends were paddling down the Mattawa like Big Joe Mufferaw in mid June 2016. This view was from the first day is in the eastern end of Trout Lake outside North Bay. It had rained hard the night before but the dawn brought overcast stratus and some light drizzle - perfect. We took the southern route and had the time of our lives! There was enough water to run all of the rapids except of course for the major falls.

Big Joe Mufferaw was a French Canadian folk hero from the Ottawa Valley, perhaps best known today as the hero of a song by Stompin' Tom Connors. Like Paul Bunyan, he made his living chopping down trees. The name is also sometimes spelled Muffero, Muffera, Muffraw, and Montferrand. The last spelling is more common among francophones; anglophones who had trouble with it used one of the other spellings.

In addition to being the subject of many Paul Bunyan-esque tall tales, Mufferaw is sometimes enlisted as a defender of oppressed French Canadian loggers in the days when their bosses were English-Canadians and their rivals for work were Irish-Canadians. In one story, Big Joe was in a Montreal bar, where a British army major named Jones was freely insulting French Canadians. After Big Joe beat the major, he bellowed, "Any more insults for the Canadians?" I would have liked Big Joe a lot!
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

#0358 "George and His Dozer"

Meet George Craib, our neighbour in Hammertown (circa 1842) on his favourite bull dozer working on our front field... which used to be our front hill. He did a fabulous job and used all kinds of equipment... scrapers, tractors, several dozers. He was very, very good at moving and shaping earth! He was smiling in spite of the arrangements for his daughter's wedding later in the week. The sunrise behind him was the sky at about 6 am on Monday July 5th, 1993. I was on my way to work at the Ontario Weather Centre.
George was one of those quiet, calm and capable Canadians who took pride in the land and did his very best to look after nature and especially the forests. He worked hard and made the impossible look easy. We need more like George.

Hammertown was founded in 1842. There was a blacksmith shop at the crossroads of the 12th Concession and 17th Sideroad. The ringing of his hammer could be heard a long ways - especially with a strong radiational inversion ...

I gave this portrait to George as my way of saying thank you for makng the project on the 12th Concession of King Township a success. We planted thousands of trees together and he has many of my Peterson Blue Bird houses on his extensive property. Within a few years, the abused twenty acres of land was a natural paradise that abounded with nature that had returned.
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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#0359A "George the Artist"

Another memory from July 1993...

Meet George Craib, our neighbour in Hammertown (circa 1842) on his favourite bull dozer working on our front field... which used to be our front hill. He did a fabulous job and used all kinds of equipment... scrapers, tractors, several dozers. He was very, very good at moving and shaping earth! He was smiling in spite of the arrangements for his daughter's wedding later in the week. The sunrise behind him was the sky at about 6 am on Monday July 5th, 1993. I was on my way to work at the Ontario Weather Centre.
George was one of those quiet, calm and capable Canadians who took pride in the land and did his very best to look after nature and especially the forests. He worked hard and made the impossible look easy. We need more like George.

George gave us some very good advice about blending the old farm house. We should have taken that advice. Otherwise we followed every suggestion that he made. You must always let an artist follow his better instincts. George had an integrity and honesty that the world needs more of. We were honoured to call him our friend.

I gave this portrait to George as my way of saying thank you for makng the project on the 12th Concession of King Township a success. We planted thousands of trees together and he has many of my Peterson Blue Bird houses on his extensive property. Within a few years, the abused twenty acres of land was a natural paradise that abounded with nature that had returned.

I have hundreds of George stories and they are all true. To call him a colourful character would be an understatement. He had pet geese and ducks and cats. Once he used a hundred dollar bill to clean up some goose poop at the bureacratic licencing office. His goose would follow him from job to job and fly alongside the road. I rebuilt his chicken coop and sometimes helped him on his projects.

George was a master and a dear friend - I can't thank him enough for his knowledge and wisdom.
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

#0355 "Clay"

"Clay" is one of those big, goofy and friendly dogs. He pees on at least one if not all four tires of your car every time you park in the drive.
My son and I used to visit and take Clay for long walks in the fields and forests along the 12th Concession of King Township. We all enjoyed the walks together and saw lots of nature. That was years before we moved to and restored Watershed Farm.

I knew the black Labador well and the paint just flowed with personality. Clay had a great character and was a good dog! A good dog makes you want to be a better person too. Clay passed on soon after this and we got our Chesapeake within a year when we moved to the farm on the very crest of the Oak Ridges Moraine.
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Monday, February 19, 2018

#0089 "Off-Season"

From the winter of 1979-1980. This would have been painted in Edmonton after we moved.

An abandoned lobster pot at Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia in the winter of 1979. A fisherman was afraid that I intended to rip it off...but I only wanted to look at it!

This is another look at the same lobster pot that I painted in #0065 "Abandoned in the Snow". The lighting and orientation are very different. I rarely paint the same thing twice.
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

#0066 "The Granite Prince, Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia"

From the spring of 1978... and my days at CFB Shearwater.
My favourite boat "The Granite Prince" in Peggy's Cove before it got radar. It was a beautiful day in the spring of 1978. There was no advection fog which was a treat. We were out for a drive and a meal at the Sou'Wester Restaurant in the BC Era - Before Children. I painted exactly what I saw.

This would have been painted in the apartment in the Wood Lawn Mall area of Dartmouth.
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Friday, February 16, 2018

#0081 "Iced In"

From 41 years ago... it is fun to revisit these early works...
I found this beached and abandoned lifeboat on the shore of Bedford Basin, Halifax during the winter of 1978-1979 BC (Before Children). Presumably, everyone survived! This boat was just around the corner from the sunken tugboat featured in "Twilight of a Tugboat" (painting #82). I was never able to discover the story behind this lifeboat. It was beat up but still serviceable.

This is one of my favourite works. I would have painted this in the apartment in Woodlawn Mall area of Dartmouth.
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Thursday, February 15, 2018

#0093 "Quaint Cove"

Another memory from 1979...

This is the view in Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia from the Government Pier in the spring of 1979. The red boat always stays red but the super-structure changes from white to turquoise and back again over the course of several years. In 1979, the top was turquoise.
Peggy's Cove was quiet in 1979. There were tourists but not like now. We spent a lot of time at Peggy's Cove in the BC Era - Before Children. The best days were during the nastiest and windiest fall and winter storms. One could safely watch the waves crash over the rugged granite shore while enjoying a bowl of really tasty chowder at the Sou'Wester Restaurant ... Good times all brought back to the top of one's memory by a simple painting. For me that is what art is all about. If the art invokes similar memories in others, then that is definitely special.
One of the few pictures of me painting... in the Under-the-Basement-Stairs Studio
CFB Shearwater was my first meteorological posting. If you wish to learn about the weather, go east young man. The weather was always changing and the art of a careful analysis of the science and the observations were key to understanding the meteorology and the concern of the day. I wish I had a few of those early analyses on hand plotted maps with coloured terrain. The weather of the eastern seaboard taught me a lot. I am still learning.

The Sou'Wester is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2018 and still going strong. We always return when we get back to Nova Scotia.
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

#0065 "Abandoned in the Snow"

Another vivid memory from the winter of 1977-1978 BC (Before Children)...

An old style lobster pot in the snow at Eastern Passage just east of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the winter of 1977-1978. I had carefully lifted this lobster pot from the stack beside the fishing hut. I did not wish to paint a thousand lobster traps. After taking a few pictures I placed it back on top. I noticed a man in a pick-up truck watching me very closely probably to make sure that I meant no harm. The lobster pot really was not abandoned in the snow for more than a few minutes.
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Sunday, February 11, 2018

#0563 "Spruce Shadows"

From Friday, January 18th, 2002...
It was another brutally windy day at the crest of the Oak Ridges Moraine on the 12th Concession of King Township. . Although it wasn't cold, the wind would have blown the easel over with the canvas sail. The trees we planted were not quite large enough to break the wind.
This is the view from the art room window looking toward the northwest around mid morning on Friday, January 18th, 2002. The spruce branches cast unique shadows on the snow and I was interested in the shapes and colours. Those are the family's Chesapeake's blurred tracked leading into the snowdrift. There were birds flying in and out of the row of dry golden rod along the fence line. I decided not to put the fence posts or wire in, as they didn't add anything to the shadows, which interested me.

There were a few squalls that crossed the farm and hid my shadows. The light changed quickly but I think I captured the essence of the shadows without getting stuck on the details.

The canvas had been primed with a dark coat of raw sienna.
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Friday, February 9, 2018

#2064 "Who Made These Tracks"

There is no question mark at the end of this title. I know the answer and thus it is more of a rhetorical question. I know who made these tracks. This trail runs along the northwestern edge of the Long Reach Peninsula. It is very well used. At one time it had been a well marked and extensively used snow mobile trail. That was before our time at Singleton Lake. Now the trail is used mainly by deer, coyotes, fisher, otters and perhaps some wolves too. Bobcats certainly use the trail. I have yet to see the cougar but they are reported to be in the area. I also made one set of boot prints long this path on this particular day. The snow squeaked under my boots indicating that it was colder than minus 8 Celsius. Cold, frozen ice crystals slide on one another making a sound. At warmer temperatures the ice crystals just quietly smush together. A meteorological friend reminded me to include this information. This painting is the partner to #2063 "Where Do the Rays Lead".
Deer love to browse on small hemlock seedlings - so much so that if there are a lot of deer, the young hemlocks are browsed into extinction. This leaves (pun intended) a forest of large and old trees but with no young hemlocks to replace them. This could be happening in this forest allowing the sugar maples, oaks and other trees to move in.
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Thursday, February 8, 2018

#2063 "Where Do the Rays Lead"

I happen to know where this sun lit trail leads so I did not include the appropriate question mark. I was headed southwesterly to the tip of the Long Reach Peninsula and the Fiddler’s Elbow that I have paddled through so many times. The question was rhetorical in a way as I was much more interested in where the painting would go. I was searching for subject matter with leading lines and a lot of depth that would be suitable for a large canvas. The intended canvas would cost $500 before a brush was even applied to the weave but I did purchase it on sale. I wanted to use that really high quality canvas for something very special.
The trees were mainly eastern hemlock with a few shagbark hickories, red oak, beech and maples added in for a good mix. There might have been a few white oaks but they are rare in this forest even though they are much preferred by the wild life. I saw lots of large deer tracks along with some coyote prints. There was also a heavily used otter trail across the peninsula that would have greatly shortened any trip for an otter headed o n a northwest to southeast line.

Deer love to browse on small hemlock seedlings - so much so that if there are a lot of deer, the young hemlocks are browsed into extinction. This leaves a forest of large and old trees but with no young hemlocks to replace them. This could be happening in this forest allowing the sugar maples, oaks and other trees to move in.

Backlit trees on the arm of Long Reach at 2 pm on Saturday January 20th, 2018... I was out for a walk looking for a large studio painting with depth.
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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

#2062 "Mulleins"

I also use art to learn about the natural world...January 20th, 2018.
Mullein plants grow almost anywhere. The tall spikes of yellow flowering rosettes are a favourite landing spot for the birds of Singleton Lake. Verbascum thapsus (great mullein or common mullein and yes, I had to look it up) is a species of mullein native to Europe, northern Africa, and Asia. The plant was introduced in the Americas and Australia probably with the pioneers. Mulleins prefer well-lit and disturbed soils where it can sprout from long-lived seeds. Mulleins are intolerant of shade from other plants and unable to survive tilling. Verbascum thapsus is a biennial plant meaning that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the first year, the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots then it enters a period of dormancy over the winter. Usually the stem remains very short and the leaves are low to the ground, forming a rosette during that first year. Many biennials require a cold treatment, or vernalization, before they will flower. During the next spring or summer, the stem of the biennial plant really elongates into a two metre or taller landing post. There are far fewer biennials than either perennial plants or annual plants.

Mulleins were apparently historically used as an herbal treatment for coughs, congestion, chest colds, bronchitis and inflammation. Native Americans and soldiers during the Civil War era made teas from leaves of mullein plants to treat asthma. During the 1800’s, settlers used their compounds to treat tuberculosis. Mullein produce a lot of seeds which can survive for decades before germination.

The male bluebird is painted in the characteristic hunting stance ready to dive on any unsuspecting insect. There are very few brush strokes on this bird. If I counted them there are probably 10 strokes and certainly fewer than twenty. I decided to leave those strokes alone for fear of messing them up.
The background was actually looking downslope into Singleton Lake but I decided to turn it upside down and look upward. The subjects are the mulleins and the male blue bird and in this rare case the background really is just window dressing.

 As I have been accustomed to lately, the signature is a very subtle scratch in the wet paint. I sometimes use a red dot for the letter “i” to make it almost possible to locate the signature. I feel the art is more about the image than my signature anyway. Maybe a red dot will be all that is needed for a signature...
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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

#2061 "The Lifeline"

The red cedar is a special tree. It is actually a juniper family member and not really related to the similarly named white cedar. It has two kinds of bluish-green leaves - sharply pointed needles and softer, more rounded scale leaves. The small cone actually looks like a berry with a bluish-white powder on the surface. It is slow growing and the old bark peels off in long, fibrous strands that would be useful as a rope in a pinch.
The red cedar offers food and shelter to a host of nature. I have watch blue birds and robins compete for the berry-like cones on the coldest day in the deepest part of winter. The robins typically dominated the blue birds. The blue birds must like the Peterson Blue Bird houses that dot our Singleton property - so much so that they want to be the first to claim them in the spring. They never leave the lake. As a result we see the blue birds of happiness all year long. They like the stone on eastern side of the home for the sheltered exposure to the sun first thing in the morning.



Science has shown that birds nesting in pairs on cold nights reduce their heating losses by 23%. Trios of birds do much better and reduce their heat loss by 37%. I have witnessed at least five (maybe more as they flew so fast) blue birds emerge from a Peterson Blue Bird House after a cold winter night. That is why I now refrain from cleaning those houses until spring when the warm weather has returned but the birds are not yet nesting.
Deer browse the branches of this special tree. Squirrels, mink, fisher and countless other birds use this tree as shelter. This tree also provides shelter from the cooler northwesterly winds.

This is the particular red cedar as it appeared at 4:45 pm on Saturday January 13th, 2018 between winter storms. The line of cirrus on the western horizon had a story to tell about the next winter storm. The pink cirrostratus on the horizon reveals the approaching warm conveyor belt.
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Monday, February 5, 2018

#2060 "Sunset Shades"

The shades were being pulled down on the 16th day of January 1918 leaving only shades of blues and greens. I enjoy puns. The sunset weather was overcast altostratus with some light snow. The painting was a twilight variation in blues and greens. There are indeed a lot of colours to be found in the deepest part of winter.
I focused across the last island to be submerged during a flood toward the only permanent home that we can see from Jim Day Rapids on the western shore of Singleton Lake. I included the details of the other seasonal structures on the west shore of Singleton Lake including Wickpick's.

I used quite a lot of paint on this smooth and very slippery surface. Painting is supposed to be fun. This one was a blast of winter.

I actually forgot to sign #2060 "Sunset Shades" when the paint was wet. I did not wish to autograph it the next day as I felt that scratching my name in the drying paint would take away from the image. The painting is amply identified on the back so I left my signature off the front out of respect for the oils.
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Sunday, February 4, 2018

#2059 "Singleton Sunset Reflection"

From Thursday January 18th, 2018 in the Singleton Studio in front of a cheery fire in the wood stove...

The sunset at 5:45 pm on Saturday January 13th, 2018 was striking but what caught my eye was the very long line of cirrus. I admit that at first I thought it was a jet contrail. It was not. Firstly that would be a very unusual flight path for a jet from the northwest to the southeast. That line in the sky was actually a deformation zone. The cirrostratus on the western horizon was moisture with the next warm conveyor belt. Another winter storm was on the way and the story was reflected in the open water of Jim Day Rapids. The milder temperatures had opened up the rapids a bit more.
The sunset colours change at the speed of light. When those shades are gone with twilight they will not be back for almost 24 hours. The colours of ice are even more transient. Shades of blue and tourquoise come and go with the low sun angles. These ice hues are in sharp contrast to the brilliant reflections of the sunset in the calm waters of Jim Day Rapids. In some ways it is a shame to put all of this on a panel so small and rough. I used a lot of paint and wore out some brushes.
Winter wild life made good use of the opening. The otters seemed to think of it as their own. We watched them chase some trumpeter swans away. The swans returned to feed and rest so the wild life must have worked out some mutual agreement. In the one image below the otter was nipping at the webbed feet of the swans as they beat their wings just enough to gain the safety of the ice shelf. In the following image the otter had poked its head up through one of the many holes in the ice and was surveying the presence of the swans after it had chased them out of the open pool of the rapids.

There are many holes in the Swiss cheese ice of the eastern basin of Singleton Lake. The otters seem to go up and down at will and almost anywhere. They are very proficeinet hunters of the fish. Perhpas the fish are more sluggish in the winter. Regardless the otters seems to score another meal with each dive.

The swans a a couple of flocks of blacks and mallards have also been making good use of the open water of Jim Day Rapids during this cold La Nina winter. The otters typically try to shoo them along but they always come back to feed and rest.
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#0176 "A Misty Morning at Paul's Tree"

Another memory from 1987 The fog was lifting during the early morning hours at our campsite on the "small" island on Bass Lak...