June 7, 2021

My Alpine Love Affair

Heather Sinton is a retired agrologist who worked in reclamation and planning for natural landscapes. After retiring three years ago, she has learned to combine her lifelong love of alpine landscapes with her newly flourishing artistic passions — painting and photography. She shares (and sells) her photographs and original art on her website: sprigofheather.ca.

I have loved landscapes and flowers for as long as I can remember. I think my love of alpine landscapes was born during a mountain hike with my father, in Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada. I was probably about 11 years old. I remember the pleasing feeling of crossing loose shale, enjoying sinking and sliding ankle-deep in the shards. It was also the first time that I noticed wildflowers, because my father stopped frequently to take photographs of them — while I waited impatiently!

My second experience in the alpine was quite memorable and almost disastrous. I was on an “out-trip” from a summer camp at age 14. We climbed a mountain in the Kootenay Plains area of west-central Alberta. Our leader wanted us to learn how to use a pickaxe to glissade down some late-lying snow. When it was my turn, I positioned myself on my makeshift sled (a plastic bag) and pushed off. My speed picked up fast and I was quickly out of control and too inexperienced to deploy the ice axe to slow my descent. Luckily for me, the leader was able to catch up to me, stopping me just before I headed into a rocky outcrop!

My third encounter was a year later, on a three-day “out-trip” from the same summer camp. This time we hiked up to the alpine hut above Bow Lake in Banff National Park. It was a 5-to-6-hour hike and quite a steep climb. We were carrying heavy packs and I recall feeling light-headed and head-achy prior to reaching our destination. In retrospect, this was likely altitude sickness. We spent the next couple of days learning how to climb glaciers safely (no near misses that trip), making it to a mountain summit of over 10,000 feet.

The alpine didn’t see much of me while I was raising four children and working. However, in 2000, I started hiking again with my partner, David. We were both working as reclamation/revegetation specialists, with a focus on restoring natural landscapes. I loved spending part of my summer vacation working with him in our outdoor office over the next 15 years. The views from the ski hill over to the famous Lake Louise are stunning at any time of the year!

Retired now, we still love going back to our favourite spot and are glad for the summer gondola to assist with the hiking — my knees are less forgiving on downhill jaunts these days! In retirement, I have chosen to explore my artistic side, having spent most of my working life as a scientist. Not surprisingly my favourite photographic subjects are alpine landscapes and wildflowers. Now others wait on me while I painstakingly take my photos! Then during our long Canadian winters, I am slowly learning how to capture our world’s natural beauty in acrylic paintings.

I used to wish that I had had the energy to pursue these interests sooner. However, on reflection, I realize that my creative seeds were not dormant in earlier years, they were just growing in different directions. At work, I tried new and different approaches to solve difficult problems. At home, I had to do the same while raising my children. I also learned to sew, to can fruit, to cook, bake, and to entertain children and guests. So, for those of you reading this and longing for time and space to be more creative, there are ways to nurture our artistic nuggets along life’s winding pathways. It is good to stop, reflect, and realize that creativity is likely already woven into our life’s tapestry. It may change form and shape, but we can express our artistic selves in every chapter of our life.