Flash Back Fridays


By Arthur Mayse, October 1986

Strathcona Park Lodge, which sprawls along the rugged shoreline of Upper Campbell Lake, is much more than a holiday resort.

It is also a training center that specializes in such outdoor skills as canoeing, kayaking, mountaineering and wilderness survival.

All this, of course, didn’t happen overnight. The program, unique on this continent, was developed through years.

It was in its infancy, and the lodge itself smaller by most of its chalet-type frame units when Win and I first ventured to Strathcona over a gravel road that threatened to dump us into the lake at every turn and twist.

Posing at the famous Roosevelt Elk, the entrance to Strathcona Provincial Park.

Posing at the famous Roosevelt Elk, the entrance to Strathcona Provincial Park.

Big Jim Boulding, the former Campbell River school teacher who founded the lodge on a dream and shoestring, was still alive in those years. Even then, Jim Boulding worried about the future of Strathcona Park, a wild empire of mountain, lake and timbered slopes.

A mine had intruded. Other mining claims stakes before the park was established in 1911, threatened, and the loggers had an eye on Strathcona’s grand first- growth evergreens. The threat remains unresolved.

We remembered Strathcona Lodge kindly, and when Myrna Boulding asked us to come up for a week and teach memoir writing to an Elderhostel which was about to descend on her retreat, we were quick to accept.

Not that we had any idea what an Elderhostel was. Myrna explained.

“As I understand it,” she told us, “Elderhostel is an organization of seniors who stay in groups at one college or resort.. They’re strong on education and adventure.”

With that to go on, we scrambled a mini-course together and on the Sunday set out for Strathcona Park Lodge.

The road to Strathcona is still dramatic, with vistas of lake, forest and mountain unfolding constantly to the eye. But it is blacktop now, twice as wide as the track we first followed, and its dangerous sections are guarded with generously high concrete curbs.

When we pulled in under the lodge’s log gateway, a number of other cars were in evidence. Elderhostelers, we’d learned, make their own way to the havens chosen for a rendezvous. The Elderhostelers wandered the woodsy grounds, basked in the autumn sun on the balconies of their quarters, and swarmed to an accompaniment of animated chatter in the lodge bar.

Win and I had come expecting a bunch of venerable old trouts not a gathering from all walks of life so bright, brisk and interested that age scarcely figured in the equation.

Further, as we learned next morning when we faced our first class, the Elder hostelers were a delight to teach. They listened attentively. They asked keen and searching questions. And when we asked rather diffidently how they felt about homework assignments, they grabbed at the chance.

The assignments they turned in revealed a wide variety of backgrounds. One man had been paymaster captain of United States marines. One woman of Chinese extraction wrote fascinatingly of her life as a small girl in China.

A few were Canadians, but most were from the United States.

elder hostel at strathcona park lodge

Elder hostel groups have been coming to Lodge for a long time. It has always been great to get tourists that want to combine an educational element to their vacation.

We also learned more about Elderhostel, which defines itself as “an educational program for older adults who want to continue to expand their horizons and to develop new interests and enthusiasms. Our commitment is to the belief that retirement does not represent an end of significant activity for older adults, but a new beginning filled with opportunities and challenges.”

Launched in 1975, Elderhostel now numbers 100,000 members in all states and provinces, and in 20 countries overseas. About 850 colleges and training institutions host Elderhostel groups. American headquarters is in Boston, Canadian in To- ronto.

Win and I wound up our course with regret and came away impressed. We had spent a week with people chronologically old, but young in spirit, not giving in to age or minor infirmities. It was a bracing experience!