Flash Back Fridays

Steve Smith 1976

Steve first came to the Lodge in 1977 with Doug Scott, the famous British mountaineer and Everest climber. He returned to work at the Lodge the following year and stayed about three years. Steve came with extensive experience in the UK working with what he called ‘hoods in the woods’. He was always cheerful with an impressive knowledge about outdoor tripping. The leaders learned a lot of new ways to work with inexperienced or difficult students from Steve. Among other things he was an excellent singer of British pub songs and played the mouth organ. Along with his wife Marlene, the vet- erinarian, Steve has been involved with the ‘Friends of Strathcona Park’. Steve and Marlene are more familiar than any other person that I know with the many trails and uncharted routes in the Park.

Soon after his arrival Steve was put to work helping Mr. Caflisch Sr., a stone mason from Switzerland, to dig out and build a root cellar. It was not unusual for new people to be given challenging jobs upon arrival to see if they were made of the right stuff.

Steve tells the following story about Jim Boulding:

Steve Smith in Centre

Steve Smith in Centre

I believe it was King George High School, probably grade eight or nine, who were at the ‘Lodge’ at the time. Jim insisted on including a visit to the infamous noisy and smelly generator (‘genny’) as part of their outdoor educational program. This was a normal ritual with some groups; in fact, it was not unusual when passing by the ‘genny’ shed to hear Jim shouting his description of the workings at the top of his voice because of the noisy engine. I must confess I would quickly pass by and feel a pang of sympathy for the young students. After supper on the last night of these 5-day school courses, supper activities would include skits by different groups. One particular often comes to mind.

One of the groups had experienced the ‘genny’ lesson with Jim and came up with a skit that night that everyone agreed was absolutely hilarious. About six students entered the ‘performing space’ carrying a large blanket and after lining up tightly, side- by-side, proceeded to cover themselves with it. Then, once under the blanket, they began to make loud machine noise and alternately raise and lower themselves imitating the pistons of an engine. Many of the audience did not really appreciate what was happening until six other students walked up to the noisy blanket, followed by a seventh student wearing Jim’s own famous ‘machismo’ cowboy hat! He began to shout loudly over the workings of the blanket and tried to explain the workings of the ‘genny’. The audience, including myself, instantly erupted with howls of laughter. Some of us had tears running down our faces and many held their sides after laughing so much. I cannot remember where Jim was at the time but I think he was also there.”

Steve some years later

Steve some years later.

Some years ago Steve was leading a COLT group off trail and came across bits and pieces of a backpack, parts of a down coat and other scattered items. The snow had melted more than usual and this allowed things to appear that might not have been seen before.

They returned to the Lodge and contacted the police. Steve went out in a heli-copter with the police and the rescue people to investigate. Among other things a shin bone sticking out of a hiking boot was uncovered. It was established that this was a lost hiker from a year or so earlier .

At the Lodge we remembered a party of several Americans who had stopped in for a few minutes. One was a young man with a rubber boat on his back. He was traveling with his sister and some other people. The story goes that the young man had engaged in some sort of disagreement with the others and had set out on his own, never a good idea in a large and rugged park like Strathcona.  According to Steve, he appeared to have fallen off a cliff coming down from Cream Lake on a diagonal route to Price Creek.

Apparently he was a nephew of a well known person in the United States, the vice-presidential candidate, Mr. Mondale. The Americans and people from Canada had organized an extensive search but the remains weren’t found until the day Steve’s group came upon them.

A COLT group hiking off trail

A COLT group hiking off trail


The Province, Saturday, Oct.14, 1978

A skeleton believed to be that of an American hiker lost last year has been found at the 3,700-foot (1,100-metre) level of Mount Septimus, 30 miles (65 kilome- tres) north of here.

Searchers found the skeleton after a group of hikers found a packsack and personal belongings of Gary Bressler, 20, of Valley Central, Kan., who disappeared July 24 last year while on a hike.

The skeleton was to be sent to Vancouver for tests to establish positive identification.

An intensive two-week land and air search was launched when Bressler was first reported missing. Bressler had let his companions – four other Americans – to take a shortcut to the group’s destination of Flower Ridge, a mountainous outcrop of rock.

The ground in the area was snow-covered during the search and nothing was turned up. The skeleton and personal articles became exposed when the snow-line melted to a higher level.