Dale and Kathy shared wildlife stories

(0:07) Kathy – We had a bear (up at Lake O’Hara). This woman was hiking up on the Opabin Plateau and she came across this bear and it’s cub on a kill. The bear took a swat at her and dislocated her scalp a bit, but it didn’t do anything else. That resulted in a huge, week long effort to try and catch this bear and her cubs. I remember just going out with people and getting slung into places in the fog and the snow and sitting there with a gun. It was just one of those things. You are out with people you know and are sitting there waiting for a bear to show up (you are armed) with a gun and hopefully not get shot.

(0:55) Dale – You probably heard some good stories about the grizzly bear of Whiskey Creek. It was crazy. I am just going to say, it was really crazy! We were brought in from all the different parks. I was brought in from Yoho

(1:20) Kathy – Nobody had any gun training.

(1:22) Dale – Gun training was what you picked up on the job. I can remember walking through all that dense bush in Whiskey Creek, hearing the bear crashing in the bush ahead of us.

(1:43) Kathy – Somebody else is probably coming from the other direction.

(1:45) Dale – We are all in a line…trying to force this grizzly to come out into the open where they can get a shot at it. There are all of these wardens. They are standing on the hood of their trucks with their rifles waiting for this bear to come out. It was like a Mexican shooting thing where you have this big circle and everybody shoots each other. That is what you can envision. This bear was crashing around, you could hear it ahead of you. The hair was standing up on the back of your neck and you were wondering if you would get the barrel around fast enough because the bush was so thick. It was nuts! That was difficult, (Keith Everts) was there and Andy was making some decisions that I don’t think he should have been making, but we won’t go there!

(2:43) Kathy – I am just going to add one quick story because it has to do with starting out with the warden service, the first year that I was there. In fact, it was after I had been accepted enough to do something. I think that I had been there maybe a month. Everybody was still a little bit nervous, not quite sure (about what a female warden could do) and I got called out to be duty warden that night. Hal said, “Okay, they are painting the highway. What you have to do is go out with the warden truck. Here is how you turn on the lights, here is the siren and here is the ticket book.” Then he said, “See you. If anybody crosses the yellow line pull them over and give them a ticket.” They are not supposed to mess up the line. I had Jenny Clark with me. She just wanted to ride along. She was a naturalist there. We get out in the warden truck and I am driving along and sure enough this old clunker comes along with this 90 year old guy. He pulls out and he passes the painters…So I pull out and this guy in the meanwhile has pulled back into the main lane and I pull up beside him and he is not pulling over. I’ve got the lights and everything going. Finally I thought, “Jesus, what is with this guy?” So I start driving down the wrong side of the highway, in the passing lane and.I am going, “Pull over!” Finally, I said “Jenny roll down your window and tell this guy to pull over.” This guy is going, “Hmmm women!” He looks at me, “Women!” He is just not going to do anything right. He is not pulling over. So we are driving down the highway like this and she is yelling out the window. I am going, “Quick, quick there are people coming!” Finally what happened is his tail pipe fell off. I guess he was going a little faster. He started speeding up and his car actually fell apart. So he pulls over. He had to because his car wouldn’t run. I get out and I am going back to write out this ticket…I was on the radio because I thought, “If he is not going to pull over for me, he will pull over for the RCMP.” So I was radioing the RCMP. Well, everybody in town had their radio on because it was my first night out as duty warden. All of a sudden I see Hal coming out and then there is Dale and he coming out with his truck. Down the road, the RCMP was out for an evening ride on his bicycle and he rides up…All these people are around and this guy is going, “Holy shit, what did I do?” I got home that night and I said, “I really didn’t want you to come out.” We had a big discussion about that. With Hal and Dale I said “Look, let me do the job. You don’t have to sit there nervously waiting with the radio, waiting for a damsel in distress.” That was a big learning curve for them. I said, “It is okay. I got it.”

(6:33) Kathy – There was another incident in Rogers Pass. It was kind of an interesting story. I was working late at night and I could see this guy weaving up the highway in this old truck…I think they had phoned over to me to say that he had stopped at the Pass for gas. They said, “This guy is really drunk. He is just completely drunk.” I got into the truck and went over there and I said, “Take his keys and don’t give them back to him.” I went back to the office and then two minutes later I see this guy driving off. They gave him back his keys! So I jump in the truck and go chasing him down the highway. He actually finally did pull over. He was getting so drunk that he could hardly do anything. I am trying to get ahold of the RCMP and they can’t come out. So I go over and talk to him and he had a passenger who was a hitchhiker. I said, “Look, here you are in the middle of the highway.” And I went to the back of his truck and there is this horse. The side of the truck fell on this horse. We were trying to put this side back up and I thought, “What am I going to do with this horse?” This guy clearly can’t drive, the RCMP radioed back and said that they would be hours before they got there. I said to the hitch-hiker, “Can you drive?” He said, “I can’t drive. I don’t know how to drive.” This is the hitchhiker. Finally I think we unloaded the horse and led the horse back and the RCMP came and picked him up. It was just a really weird (situation). What do you do?

(8:28) Kathy – I think that is pretty much the highlights…I climbed Mount Logan. We didn’t actually get to the top, we got within 200 feet of the top. It was the first women’s expedition. I honestly think it was the first women’s expedition to a major peak ever. It was in 1977…I remember talking to Tom Davidson, I said “I was going to climb Mount Logan.” He was all excited and he says, “Who are you going with?” I said, “Well, we’ve got a bunch of women together.” He said, “You do?” Like “Oh!” Then he said, “What are you going to take?” I said, “We are going up on cross-country skis.” And then he thought that I was really bonkers! You didn’t use cross-country skis.

(9:35) Kathy – We also did the first women’s traverse from the Bugaboos to Rogers Pass. That was a big one…And we went from, it wasn’t all women, it was Sylvia and I and two guys. We went from Tete Jaune all the way to Blue Creek. That was a big (trip). We did have another all women’s expedition to ski from Jasper all the way to Banff, but we had really bad weather and we didn’t have a food cache. We had to bail halfway down, but we were out for quite a while. I remember flying over that Alexander Ice Fall with Scott Rowed and I said, “Well, we had to go up that.” He said, “You went up that?” It was 6000 feet of crevasses. I had lots of big ski trips. Other than that it was just basic mountaineering.

(10:52) Kathy – It was a while before other women came along that could handle (working in the warden service). They just didn’t have a dad that brought them up the way that I was brought up…

“So when would Diane Volkers have started with the warden service?”

I think it was in the 1980s. (Diane Volkers started with the Warden Service in 1978 in Banff National Park at Saskatchewan Crossing).

(12:28) Kathy – We also did a night rescue on the Columbia Ice Fields. Again, it was a practice thing, but it turned into a real rescue. It was Dave Norcross who was up there being the victim. Willi wanted to see if we could go in and do a night rescue without a helicopter. I am carrying this acacia (rescue sled) which is bigger than me. It is a rescue sled. You sort of take it in half, one person carries one half and the other person carries the other half. We had these huge packs and these ladders, these aluminum ladders because these crevasses were absolutely huge. Some of the biggest that I had ever seen. We are throwing these aluminum ladders across these crevasses and then crawling out on them. Ian Syme was on my rope. He got out in the middle of this ladder and it broke. So I am holding him. He always says that I saved his life. Then we had to sort of patch this ladder together and crawl across it. It was just a nightmare trying to get in there. We had headlamps. You could see these headlamps all snaking across the glacier at night. We finally got up to Norcross and he had fallen into the crevasse and he was soaking wet and he was hypothermic. So we had to haul him out on the acacia. And Willi says, “Not worth it!” It was fairly dangerous actually.

(14:14) Kathy – Those were the things (we did). Like I said, I would have to talk to Sylvia a bit more, but they don’t (have that now in the warden service). I mean you went out with everybody. Everybody went on climbing schools you know. So you had this huge camaraderie. You would go to a party and you would be there for a half an hour and they would say, “Rescue.” And off you would go. Come back, carry on with the party. Oh another rescue, away you go. This would go on all night long. It was just nuts in the 1970s…But I think that if people don’t do that sort of thing (there isn’t that same camaraderie). People in the army probably have some sort of an idea about the bonding experiences you have when you do these incredible things…

End of interview.

Dale and Kathy now live in Cochrane, Alberta and continue to enjoy the outdoors. Both are active board members of the Park Warden Service Alumni Society.

Kathy and Dale are published authors. The following is a chronological list of their books:

Don Forest: Quest for the Summits
by Kathy Calvert
Published by Rocky Mountain Books 2003

Rescue Dogs, Crime and Rescue Canines in the Canadian Rockies
by Dale Portman
Published by Altitude Publishing Ltd., Amazing Stories 2003

Riding On The Wild Side, Tales of Adventures in the Canadian West
by Dale Portman
Published by Altitude Publishing Ltd., Amazing Stories 2004.

Guardians of the Peaks
Mountain Rescue in the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains
By Kathy Calvert and Dale Portman
Published by Rocky Mountain Books, 2006

June Mickle
One Woman’s Life in the Foothills and Mountains of Western Canada
By Kathy Calvert
Published by Rocky Mountain Books 2015

Ya Ha Tinda A Home Place
Celebrating 100 Years of the Canadian Government’s Only Working Horse Ranch
by Kathy Calvert. Published by Rocky Mountain Books 2017

The Green Horse, My Early Years in the Canadian Rockies. A Park Warden’s Story by Dale Portman
Published by Rocky Mountain Books 2017

Vertical Reference
The Life of Legendary Mountain Helicopter Rescue Pilot Jim Davies
By Kathy Calvert
Published by Rocky Mountain Books 2020