The presence of the Great Spirit

Just past the Columbia Icefields, a newly married couple picked us up and took us to Jasper where we caught the train to Prince Rupert.

On the way, we made a lucky stop at Kitwanga. The station master gave us a bed in the wayman’s cabin. In Kitwanga and Kitwancool and along the Skeena River, there were interesting totem poles still standing. The Skeena River and the high mountains made for magnificent scenes. Isolated clouds floated overhead, evoking the presence of the Great Spirit, the inspiration for so many legends...

The train ran along the Skeena River and let us out at Prince Rupert, where some generous people took us in. We were hoping to have a chance to sail from there to Vancouver on a salmon-fishing boat going home. But everyone was too busy fishing. The season was at its height. A few days and a few gouaches later, we left by the same road, admiring the tall cedars like candelabras, the vast estuary of the Skeena and the canyons in the Rocky Mountains.

We made many stops on the return trip. Whenever we saw a particularly interesting landscape, we would ask the conductor to stop the train and let us off on one of the small platforms built for that purpose. They would drop us off with our buggy, the suitcase and our two sets of elk antlers. Ghylaine would wander patiently as I painted. We would then set up camp, and the next day catch the train going by at the same time.

Columbia Icefields. Credit: Frédéric Back, Alberta, study, July 24, 1949
Frédéric Back Kitwancool, July 1949
Totems of Kitwancool. Colombie-Britannique, July 1949
Skeena River. Credit: Frédéric Back, British Columbia, study, July 1949
Totems. Credit: Frédéric Back, Kitwanga, study, July 1949
Prince Rupert. Credit: Frédéric Back, study, August, 1949
Salmon fishing boat. Credit: Frédéric Back, Prince Rupert, study, August, 1949
Falls on the Maligne River. Credit: Frédéric Back, Banff National Park, study, July 1949
Grain Elevator. Credit: Frédéric Back, Hudson Bay Junction, August 14, 1949