Tree huggers

Our Heritage Guide, Bruce Bembridge, wearing the traditional Swiss guides hat. Lots of weird hats on this trip. Photos by David Lansing.

The itinerary for yesterday morning called for a “guided hike” at 10. That’s all it said—guided hike. There was no mention of grizzly bears or breathless ascents on a five mile trail nor climbing 1,260 feet up the side of a mountain. No, sir. Just a “guided hike.”

Like I said, I’m definitely the most urban guy on this trip. So when I walked into Bruce Bembridge’s funky little office (snowshoes on the walls, Hudson’s Bay blankets on the chairs, a beaver pelt here and some yellowing maps there) wearing my Rainbow flip-flops, he suggested that I might want to go back to my room and get some footwear that was, in his words, “a tad more substantial.”

How far are we hiking? I asked him.

“Oh, just a ways up the mountain,” he replied. See, that’s the problem with these outdoorsy types: They think a five mile hike with 1,300-feet of elevation gain is “just a ways up the mountain.” I think it’s a heart attack waiting to happen.

So I went back to my room and put on some hiking boots and a few more layers of clothing. When I got back down to where Bruce, who is one of Chateau Lake Louise’s heritage guides, was standing in front of the lake chatting with our group, he’d also gotten me a couple of walking poles. “You might need these,” he said. I noticed no one else was given walking poles. No matter. I took them.

A forest full of tree huggers. Photo by David Lansing.

Bruce turned out to be a regular Will Rogers, full of information and blustery stories about bears and avalanches and getting lost in the woods. At one point, he stopped to tell a story about the trees and how you can tell the difference between a spruce and a fir (spruce needles are sharp and hurt like hell when you grab a bunch, as Bruce insisted we do; fir are soft and pliable). He told everyone to gather around a fir while he talked and then he asked us to give the tree a hug.

“Now, no matter what your politics, you’re all officially tree-huggers,” he said.

Yuck, yuck.

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1 comment

  1. Allan’s avatar

    OMG, I did that with him in winter (well, late spring), but we had snowshoes. We didn’t hug a tree. Too many people were making marks in the snow (never drink tea on a long trek – or just before getting in a small plane) so we were careful where we fell, sat or gripped.

    I remember that office. I think he’d happily live there if they let him. I wouldn’t be surprised to find him in a sleeping bag on the floor or under a snowy lean-to outside the spa entrance.

    He is an institution at the Chateau.

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