Peace Valley Guest Ranch

The Peace Country is beautiful all together, but some places have reserved a particular, timeless beauty that seeps into your pores.  Such a place is the Peace Valley Guest Ranch, a haven of peace, quiet and nature maintained by the Allen family of Grimshaw, Alberta.  I’m going to use big pictures and few words to show you we were excited to visit the Ranch for  a watercolour retreat:


The Ranch House (where guests enjoy superb meals made without electricity, dining by candlelight) is a 100 year old log structure that originally served as a post office.  Mail was delivered by steamboats via the Peace River.  In the evening, a fire is built in the yard and guests tuck in to hot biscuits and jam while taking in the moonlight, owls, bats, fireflies and northern lights.


The ranch decor is authentic: the washtubs, saws and buckets are original to Peace Country settlements.


Washstands and candlelight in the cabins recall simpler times, but the quilts, mattresses and pillows are luxurious for modern hips and heads.


Lovely objects and flowers offer plenty of photography and painting opportunity.


Friendly dogs greet guests and patrol the area for deer, cougars, bears… but mostly squirrels.


The Peace River is vast and offers more material for artists.  The changing fog, clouds, and colours are a lifelong study.


The river vista offers wonderful opportunity for wildlife viewing.  These young males had a splashing good time in the morning mist.


The hills are never ending.  Keep an eye out for birds, saskatoons, wildflowers and elk.


Two hours riding in the glorious hills, drinking in sweet warm air in vast, peaceful landscapes is simply incredible.  Imagine in this picture the soft thud of horses’ hooves, the squeak of leather, the gentle walk of a creature who knows its job well… on this ride we saw billowing clouds, distant lightning, and a rainbow.


Above Dunvegan

Dunvegan Lookout.jpg

Dunvegan Historic Site is nestled in the valley, on the banks of the Peace River.  Carry on northwards and there is a spectacular view of the river downstream.  Here is Carolyn’s go at the scene.  The mix of soft wet in wet and scruffy, dirty, strong foreground was great fun to create.

Painting Expedition

Wind.  Rain.  Just really cold.  Welcome to painting in the great Alberta outdoors!  Still, it must be done.  This is really good for bulking up one’s artistic know how.  The thrill of painting in the elements is unmatched by any studio experience.  The paint and paper and water doing uncharacteristic things builds patience, technical skill, and the acceptance of mistakes…  sigh.  The practice is what makes it perfect.  This is our first plein air expedition of 2019.


Painting at a local pond along the highway and railway tracks, there isn’t much to choose from as far as subject matter goes.  The train was colourful and horizontal.  Judy managed to fit the historic NAR building in as well.  Actually, just now there is quite a dirt pile around the building, which is still under construction, so we have both made the dirt browns a little nicer than they are.  Both Carolyn’s and Judy’s sketches are done in pen, then painted with Cass watercolourcolours.


It always helps to have a critic.  Once the camera started coming out Pip took off for a walk around the pond.  Spying a muskrat, he jumped in the water up to his belly and enjoyed himself very much.

Peace Span II

Peace Span II

The Dunvegan Bridge is probably our most famous local attraction in the Peace Country of Northern Alberta, Canada, so Carolyn painted another version of her original watercolour Peace Span.  The Northern Lights are kinda attractive too 😉

There are not a lot of ways to cross the mighty Peace River, and this bridge at Dunvegan Historic Site is certainly one of the most scenic.  During the day the valley is beautiful in every season, and at night it is lit up and sparkling across the water so travellers catch glimpses of it as they wind down the hills.

Spring Thaw

Spring has sprung early in the Peace Country, although we expect a little snow before its time to plant anything!  The thaw always brings something interesting.  A small creek loaded with ice and snow melted from the bottom as the water began to erode the ice.  Below is a tree trunk with layers of ice beginning to drip.


Here’s the bigger picture.  You can see how the layers dangle quite high.  The actual creek bottom is about four feet below.