Flash Back Fridays
Jim Force 1976
I first came to the Lodge in the summer of 1976 to take part in a leadership course for educators taught by Ray Preece and Geoff Evans. When staff wished to take groups to the bog they had to walk along the highway, which was rather dangerous. As a service project the participants of the leadership course cut a trail through the bush from the Lodge to the bog. Upon completion of the trail we had a great unveiling of the carved wooded sign that one of the participants made. Jim Rutter, dressed in a dress as the Queen and I dressed in coat and tails, a long-sleeved wetsuit top, as Prince Phillip, preformed the opening dedication to what is now known as the Preece Evans Trail. The trail has been used by groups ever since. However, for environmental reasons groups no longer go for a dip in the bog. But when they did it was great fun to really experiencethat the bog was made up of decomposing moss and not mud. It was the best of experiential learning.
In the summer of 1978, after separating from my wife and quitting my teaching job in Slocan, BC, I returned to Strathcona to take part in the Leadership Apprentice program of which there were five participants, with whom I still maintain regular contact. It was during this program that I was first introduced to Escalante and the West Coast. I still adventure out there periodically with other former Strathcona types. Other memories during this time were going on survival sessions with Jim Boulding. I’ll never forget him telling us that “Any college educated kid can learn the names of trees when they are alive, but for starting a fire when every thing is wet you have to know them when they’re dead: Hemlock for its finely branched twigs, Doug Fir for pitch sticks and Cedar for fuzz sticks.”
Another memorable line of Jim’s was, “You’re terrible at that,but don’t worry you’ll get better.” After the Apprenticeship program I stayed on for the remainder of the fall leading school groups and returned in the spring of ’79 to do more of the same. During the summer my two children, Sonnet age 9 and Sky age 8 came and spent a month with me at the Lodge. When I was out on the trail Bunny Shannon, the camp cook, who also had two children of similar ages, would look after them. One evening all four of them were missing from dinner. Bunny and I were quite worried and searched every where looking for them. We finally found them literally “hanging out” in the cargo net of the ropes course. Another time Sonnet and Sky returned to the Lodge quite excited after taking themselves on a bit of a hike in which they encountered a bear and her cubs near the old ski slope. They couldn’t quit talking about how brave they were and how they knew exactly how to behave when encountering a bear. During that summer I also had the opportunity to take the kids to Escalante with a Native Studies Group with Hilary Stewart and a group of young Leadership Apprentices. While we learned a considerable amount about Native plants and the uses First Nations Peoples made of them, the most memorable event involved beach combing. Throughout our time there the apprentices would go for long beach combing walks and return with glass floats. On the last day Sonnet asked if we could go for a walk and see if we could find a glass float reluctantly agreed as I had no hope in us finding any as the beach had been well combed by the apprentices. We walked for twenty minutes or so when I suggest that we turn around as it was getting close to our departure time. Sonnet insisted that we go just a bit farther. Sure enough within a couple of minutes we found a glass float sitting on top of the sand in the middle of the beach – at age 39 she still has it. It was a great summer adventure for the three of us. We returned the next two summers, ’80 and ’81. I led adult groups and the kids played their hearts out. It was a memorable time for all three of us.
Being at the Lodge over those years was vitally important to me. First, it allowed me to have my kids with me in a friendly family setting as well as one that was quite adventurous for us. It was also a time when I needed to have a strong sense of belonging, which the folks at the Lodge provided. While there I developed life-long friends, who are to this day an important part of my life. Another important aspect of my association with the Lodge was in my development as an experiential educator with an interest in leadership. Since leaving the Lodge, I spent seven years working with young offenders at the Enviros Wilderness School in Alberta, an opportunity I would never have had if I hadn’t spent time at Strathcona. Later I went on to earn a master’s degree in applied behavioral science with a focus on leadership as well as a Ph.D. in education. I am sure that without my Strathcona experience I wouldn’t have either. I am now semi-retired and teach as adjunct faculty in a master’s program in leadership at Royal Roads University in Victoria as well as teach leadership development programs at The Banff Centre in Banff Alberta. Much of the educational philosophy I was exposed to at Strathcona and particularly from Jim Boulding, I have used throughout my teaching career.