SH: A lot happened down there too.
AL: Yes and the same at The Crossing. When I worked with Mike Comeau there, my first year and Terry Damm the second year, there was always stuff going on, and we provided a presence, keeping an eye out there, keeping an eye on people. It’s sad to see that change.
SH: Yes, I agree with you …. especially those major stations.
AL: Well the (Banff-Jasper) parkway is busy and it’s iconic. The park uses it to draw people in. It’s one of the highlights of Banff and Jasper. So, it baffles me why we don’t put more effort into it.
SH: Yes, especially in the summertime. Anything else you want to talk about AL? There was already a good women presence by the time you were hired on …
AL: Yes I remember my first job as a campground cowboy, I got paired up with Elaine O’Neill. I thought we were just a fantastic team up there.
SH: What about the Warden Service was important to you? Preservation, protection, keeping people safe, etc?
AL: Mostly the protection …. protecting the park. Like I said when I was young, my whole thing was catching poachers or whatever, but I broadened it to … I did a lot of non native plant work when I was in Elk Island, and did a lot of wildlife work. So understanding protection through science as well as protection through patrols, and enforcement. That was always my main focus, and when I look back on it, it’s kind of ironic that it ended up that the majority of my career was spent in public safety or visitor safety. I liked doing the public safety because of all the fun stuff, like you got to go heli slinging, and climbing and you get go skiing all the time. But keeping people safe was okay but you kind of wished people would look after themselves a bit better. So it’s ironic that that’s what I ended up doing the most of in my career.
SH: Yes there are a lot of people that need to be kept safe. Did you ever do fires?
AL: No I never did. I worked with Alberta Forest Service for three years before I started with National Parks as a Forest Guardian, but on the shoulder seasons I worked in initial attack for them. I had fire experience but when I came into the parks, I went on the training so they could pull me into fires, and I actioned a few fires up at the Crossing. Just little spot fires on my own, but I was never on big campaign fire. That was one area that I didn’t explore in parks.
SH: Are there any legends or stories associated with the Warden Service that you can share? Is there anyone in the Warden Service that stands out in your mind?
AL: That’s a hard question, because there are so many. Working on the public safety team in Banff, legends like Tim (Auger) and Gord (Irwin) and Marc (Ledwidge) and Brad (White).
When you think of the backcountry working with Frank Burstrom, or Dale Loewen or like I said, Johnny (Nylund) was one of the people who had so much influence on me. Johnny was a big one. Working with guys like Scotty (Ward), and having the opportunity to work with Mike Henderson when he was starting out with the dog. I got to be his quarry all the time, and kick stuff around with him, because he was brand new to it. I guess the only thing I brought to it was I had a love of dogs and a little bit of understanding. Obviously Hendo was a pretty competent guy.
And then in Jasper, working with guys like Steve Blake, Rupert (Wedgwood) and Max (Darrah), and then some really good Chief Park Wardens. I worked for Jack Willman in Elk Island, and Bob Haney and Ian Syme in Banff, and working with Steve Otway here and for the last few years Dave Argument had taken over, he’s a good guy. There’s so many people out there that are heroes in my mind and that stand out. It’s hard to narrow it down. That was the thing about the Warden Service, it was a collection of amazingly talented and special people. Everybody …. There wasn’t a dud in the bunch, they didn’t last.
A.L. on patrol Rocky Pass, South Boundary, Jasper National Park, Sept. 2008
A.L. on patrol Rocky Pass, South Boundary, Jasper National Park, Sept. 2008.

SH: Is there anything about the Warden Service, as you knew it, that you would want future generations to know?
AL: I did some horse mentorship at the end of my career. I took leave without pay in 2018 so I had a full year to experience what retirement was going to be like, and then when I came back in 2019. I didn’t go right back into the Visitor Safety shop. I worked for Dave Argument doing special projects and doing some horse mentorship so riding with the monitoring team and riding with the wardens, just helping them. I got to hang out with them a little bit and tell them what it used to be like but unfortunately, I think that it’s changed. If there was ever a possibility of it going back to being more holistic, it would be great, but I just don’t see it happening as we’ve gone down this road of specialization.
If I was going to let them know anything, there was really good things about the Warden Service and it being all encompassing, just having everybody, regardless of what function you were doing at the time, involved and aware. The warden meetings that we held in Banff, where you’d sit down around the table, and tell what everyone was doing, was great. It just became part of everything, so even if it wasn’t your responsibility, you’d hear that there was something going on over there and could help each other with different things. It was a special time and I feel sad that they’ve thrown that away.
When I did that last summer in the backcountry in 2009, the last time I’d ridden the boundary was in 2006, because I went back to Sunwapta in 2007. To see the cabins, when you don’t see people back there all the time, and the only time they get any attention is when, either Greg Horne takes the initiative, which he does, because he’s an amazing person, a one man team, and cabin steward in Jasper. But other than that you need to have people working there, and keeping them up, painted, keeping the pack rats and stuff out. We put some huge hitching rails in back in the day, you could tie an elephant to them, and to see those all rotting and barely standing. All the drift fences falling down or barely standing. Finding trees an inch in diameter growing in the middle of the trail on the north boundary. It was very sad, to see.
SH: I remember hiking into Berg Lake with my son a few years ago, and we tried to find Adolphus Cabin. I had a fairly good idea of where it was, and we spent probably an hour and a half looking for horse tracks, and stuff, but there was no sign, and we never did find it.
AL: The only time I know of horses going in there, especially now because the Berg Lake trail is out, but we did a horse trip in there once a year, and it’s just monitoring doing a horse trip to do cameras. But basically, you’re just survival cutting, just cutting to get the horses through. Back in the day you’d have lots of time but now you’re doing it once a year, you can’t cut the trail like you use to …. you just have to get through.
SH: What made the Warden Service such a unique organization?
AL: I think I’ve covered that …. with how special that fellowship was. It was like a family, and there was a safety net under you. I think there is an insecurity out there right now and you can see it with the number of people having difficulty with the job. I guess I’m referring to things like PTSD and that sort of thing, that are becoming more prevalent. We dealt with some horrible wrecks, but we always had each other. When I was on that rescue (Strathcona-Tweedsmere students), the whole group, primarily guys like Percy (Woods) and Jon (Stuart Smith), because we’d gone through it together, had your back. You could expose your heart to them. I think now with that safety net gone I think people feel a little bit more exposed, a little bit more vulnerable.
SH: Good answer. Okay AL, do you have any lasting memories as a park warden? Favourite cabin, horse, trail, humourous stories, etc.
AL: I guess my favourite park cabin, probably because I had it as a district cabin, was Palliser.
SH: Good choice.
AL: I loved that area. Bryant was super busy but you go down Palliser is like going into a really remote area, even though it’s not that remote. Being up at that end of the valley and getting to ride up over the passes to BC and Leman Lake. I really liked that cabin.
Trails …. I liked all the trails around Divide Cabin, going up over Peters Creek and Shale Pass, all that area was a gorgeous ride. I feel bad because I’m just talking about Banff, but I guess because I never was a district warden in Jasper, because there are beautiful places in Jasper I just never got to spend any time there. Caribou Inn, I only spent a night there but that looked like a gorgeous place to explore.
SH: Where’s that one AL? I don’t know that one.
AL: It’s right on the north end up from Blue Creek. Aztec Cabin is up there I think. It’s right at the far end. That’s beautiful, and obviously Blue Creek is a pretty area. Jasper is just so much bigger. You do a lot of riding through trees but you get to a beautiful spot. Little Heaven was beautiful, but again, I think from an emotional sense, when you work a district you just really have time to fall in love with it.
Then of course Jappy, he was my horse. He was such a good horse. He only blew up on me once I think when I was packing him. He was just on the go, and he hated when I would stop to talk to people on the trail. He would just be, “Okay let’s get going”, and I’d be talking, and he’d just start going around and around in a circle … “I just want to get out of here. Let’s just keep on going. I just want to get out of here.” He just was such a fun horse to live with … he had so much enthusiasm.
Jappy the catch colt wonder horse
Jappy the ‘catch colt wonder horse”

SH: Do you ever miss being a Warden?
AL: I really liked looking through some of my old work journals to get some ideas for this interview, so I really like reminiscing. In Jasper, kind of like Banff does, we get together, a bunch of the guys for coffee every once in awhile. It’s not a regular thing, but we do it as much as we can. Shooting the shit with them is always great, going down visiting. As far as if they offered me a warden job tomorrow? No. I’m good.
SH: Do you have any photos of yourself as a Warden that you would like to donate to the Project, or that we may copy? Do you have any artifacts/memorabilia that you would like to donate to the Project (Whyte Museum). (We discuss this off tape).
SH: What year did you retire? What do you enjoy doing in retirement?
AL: My timing I think for retirement was perfect. My actual last day of working in the office was March 30, 2020. The effects of Covid were just being felt … everybody was going to be working from home, that sort of thing. I’m so glad I didn’t have to work through that. I wouldn’t have liked doing that at all. So the timing for me worked out really well for retirement.
I got a puppy. I’d never had a puppy before. I got her in the beginning of July and I spend most of my time with her, taking her for walks. She’s a real goer, so we go skiing and stuff in the winter.
SH: She’s a little Silver Lab right?
AL: She’s a little Silver Lab and Weimaraner cross. Her name is KG. I named me after my little sister. I had so many dogs before that. I had Keta, with a K-Ly so I wanted another dog with a K name.

A.L. and Keta on Destiny Ridge, Jasper National Park
A.L. and Keta on Destiny Ridge, Jasper National Park.
SH: I know you’ve done some traveling. You were just in Africa.
AL: Yes, we did a family trip to Africa, tracing my great grandfather’s trek through there, he was a missionary in central, South Africa. That was really interesting. My grandmother was born in a place called Kuraman, where the mission was, and she was born in Dr. Livingstone’s house. So we actually got to see the house, and put some ashes of my dad and little sister there. It was great. Very cathartic. And then of course we did a safari at the Kalahari desert and more just east of Kruger we spent about a week in game reserves on the east side of Kruger. It was fantastic. Because of Covid I haven’t done a lot of traveling since retirement. I bought a truck and trailer to go camping and that kind of thing in the summers.
SH: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think I should know about the Warden Service?

AL: I think you know it all. You’ve been there.

SH: Is there anyone else I should talk to? I made a list of my cohorts,
Steve Malcom, Rupert Wedgwood, Percy Woods, Grant Peregoodoff, Dave Smith, Mike Eder, and Steve Blake and Max Darrah

Thanks for doing this AL. It’s been great.

Brazeau Cabin – South Boundary patrol – September 2008.  
                                              Ian Syme,  Steve Malcolm, Steve Otway, A.L. Horton
Brazeau Cabin – South Boundary patrol – September 2008.
Ian Syme, Steve Malcolm, Steve Otway, A.L. Horton.

Susan Hairsine worked for Resource Conservation and Operations in Mt. Revelstoke/Glacier, Jasper and Banff National Parks, as well as for Public Safety in Western and Northern Region for over 30 years. She obtained funding for an oral history of Parks Canada’s avalanche personnel and oversaw the successful completion of the project. Her experience working with several the interviewees during their careers has been an asset to the current project. She was also the Executive Assistant to the Chief Park Wardens of Jasper and Banff National Parks.