About 30 years ago, businessman and outdoorsman Maywell Wickheim and community school coordinator Phoebe Dunbar began trekking through the semi alpine areas of the San Juan Ridge, exploring the peaks and valleys that afforded incredible vistas, whether in summer or winter.
The beauty of the area led them to think of opening up trails and creating stopover shelter huts to be enjoyed by nature-lovers.
The Kludahk Outdoors Club soon found many dedicated supporters, who contributed many hours and years of hard work to open up trails along the San Juan Ridge between Jordan River and Port Renfrew.
Untold hours of effort and expense were contributed by Maywell’s marine industry firm to establish a route that hikers could enjoy, viewing avalanche lilies, elusive wildlife and in winter, deep snowfalls and skiing.
Global warming has markedly affected our winters and our area’s snowfalls, Phoebe Dunbar, who supplied this photo, recalls the snows reaching eight feet in depth. Maywell, seen in this shot taken in April 2008, was undaunted by challenges like trekking in heavy snows.
This was a practice he had begun early and led me to recall Maywell at age 14 in 1939 when I was the seven-year-old little sister, fifth among six siblings. My parents Michael and Karen Wickheim, were immigrants from Norway, making their home on a small farm in Saseenos. It was a cold winter morning when Maywell announced to my parents that he was planning to hike to Mount Empress, a seven-mile trek through the wilderness to the 2,300-foot peak, which in those days meant heavy snowfalls in the higher altitudes.
Not unusual in teenagers, he felt he was invincible. Still, my parents did not share this sense, who could only visualize the many snowdrifts and cold temperatures he would need to overcome.
As the day wore on, and afternoon turned to evening, and darkness began to envelop our world, I recall the strain felt by my parents as they kept listening for an opening door – and their concern grew that they would not see their eldest son again.
Thankfully, late in the evening, he found his way home from his hike in deep snow, and there was rejoicing as the determined son returned to find warmth for his body and food for his belly.
Seven decades later, it seemed he hadn’t changed much.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.