MH: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think I should know about the Warden Service? 4825:

CS: As a biologist in Waterton, I had staff that was working for me. Having summer students come on, some still working for Parks now and some not. It was kind of like Bill Dolan said that he doesn’t mind if a student works for you for one or two years and goes and works somewhere else especially if it’s regionally because they know what a National Park is all about, they are a great partner then. A couple of them went to work for the Nature Conservancy of Canada so they are good partners then. Student positions were not all about hiring someone who was going to make a career with Parks. It was like going back to my comment about being a seasonal, not everyone wants to work full time. Yes, the mentoring was fun.

It was always fun talking to you dispatchers when we were in the backcountry, that Single Side Band or as I called it, Single Son of a Bitch. Jasper had more of a culture of the BS hour after the official radio call in the evenings, talking amongst the different cabins and stuff. They’d listen into the Banff one. I remember that summer in Blue Creek, the last two months I worked out there I didn’t see another person. 16-17 day shifts out there, not a hiker, not a horse party. I was fine with that but some people weren’t I guess.

One of the other highlights was being the first women pack team in the Pack Horse Competition at the Jasper Rodeo. Kathy Calvert, myself and Wendy ??. She was working as a guide at the stables at Jasper Park Lodge. Kathy had signed us up and radioed me in the backcountry to let me know. It was a three-day rodeo and the pack horse competition was in the middle of the event. We managed to get in a couple of practice events in to figure out how to do it. It was speed and also timing. The pack had to stay together and the guys would come and watch and time us because they were starting to get a little worried about us beating them. So Kathy and I were the ones to pack and Wendy was riding to the end of the arena holding the horses while we packed, saddle her horse and then ride to the end of the arena. The first night we went in, Darro Stinson and the other guys (who were really fast) were supposed to be up but were called out for a rescue so they were looking for another team to move up from one of the other nights. I heard the outfitters say, “Yeah the women are on that, we’ll go”. We beat them and got into the finals. There were four teams in the finals rather than three so they had to bring in another set of horses and we drew that set and they hadn’t been in the arena yet so they were all over the place and we didn’t win. It was fun anyways and everybody was rooting for us. And then they had the Warden Buckoff. Wardens feeling, they could handle a bucking horse. I was sitting beside Lisa Niddrie and John was riding in that and goes off over the saddle horn and the announcer was saying, “OHH that must have hurt” and Lisa turned to me and said, “Good thing I’m pregnant already.” The next week at the office they would be walking around limping and useless at work.

Cyndi still packing like a pro!

MH: Anyone else to interview?

CS: Bill Dolan, Dale Loewen. He knew a lot of the real old timer stories. I was driving with Dale one time from the office at Lake Louise up to the Chateau and he was telling me about a warden who had been there 15-20 years before. He was driving with him that winter and there was a car in the ditch and the guy gets out of the truck and throws a rock at the windshield and comes back and get into the truck and says, “Don’t you just hate dodges!” and drives up the road. Some people with PTSD or who knows. There were some strange people working for the Warden Service at different times. Dave Norcross. He’s been around forever. One of the wildlife things in Lake Louise with Dave Norcross, there was a grizzly bear that they had been trying to trap up behind the Chateau and hadn’t been able to, but the bear was down the lakeshore so they stopped people from going there and Dave drives his Warden Truck down partway and he decides to free range tranquillize this bear. So he does shoot it, we get it into the truck. We don’t have any restraints or anything. Here’s this bear sleeping in the back of the truck and 2-3 of us watching it and someone else driving towards where the trap was. We were driving along and we were okay, everything is fine, keep driving…driving past these crowds of people in front of the Chateau with a grizzly bear in the back of the truck…keep driving. Got it to the trap in time before it woke up. There was also another incident when Dave Norcross shot a Jaguar car (I think) in the Chateau parking lot, again trying to free range shooting a bear and managed to pepper a very expensive car. Think Parks had to put up some money that time!
Once in the backcountry, an Al McDonald story, he had that big chocolate lab that he’d bring with him in the backcountry. He went to check out an outfitters camp and while Al was in the tent talking with the outfitter, the dog found this sheep head that a client had shot and was chewing it up. Parks had to provide a big horn sheep head because the dog had destroyed it. So there were things that happened back in the day.

I didn’t do too many Public Safety trips but I did get on an intermediate ski school and we skied into Cyclone, Tim, Helene Galt, Evan Manners, myself and Brad Bischoff , Chris Worobets and Reg Hawryluk but he got sick and didn’t come so we had all this extra food we’d brought for Big Reg. It was spring conditions, isothermal and it took forever to get to the cabin. So Tim goes, “Okay all the gear out here, we’re going to leave stuff behind.” So we do that and the next day we pass the natural bridge and come onto the Bonnett Glacier and out to Johnston Creek over Badger Pass. So once we got out of the isothermal and past Badger Pass, we are coming down, camped 1-2 nights and we were heading to Johnston Creek Cabin and we were plodding along, everyone tired and Tim starts telling ghost stories to keep us motivated and going. We didn’t get into the cabin until about 2100. That was the only trip I ever did with Tim.

MH: Any final comments?

CS: Can’t think of anything now. There may be things I think of later.

Cyndi on Gar with Hep & Ernie Mt Robson in background, Jasper National Park

This interview was conducted by Monique Hunkeler

Monique Hunkeler first started working with Parks Canada in 1989 as Secretary to Banff National Park Finance Manager. She moved into a position as Dispatcher for the Banff Park Warden Service and later worked within Banff National Park and Town of Banff’s IT departments. She is experienced with the interviewing, transcription and archiving process the Park Warden Service Alumni Society.