Heiko’s Legendary Story

The Indian Princess digs in her heels, determined to protect the valley forever. But a man stole her secret and her heart – and the chief tears her away from her home. The legendary Ghostrider shadow depicts the pain felt by the First Nation’s people when explorers and merchants discovered their land rich in resources. A heartache eternalized on Mount Hosmer’s rocky face – a suitable surface upon which to tell a story.

Fernie Ghostrider Legend

Far away in Bavaria, a young boy learned that by connecting to a beautiful landscape, the wounds and pain of a war torn land could be healed. The farm offered him not only tranquility and solace but the distraction that hard work can provide. His hands held the horse drawn plough and by the age of 14 they bore the calluses that would protect him in the forests of British Columbia.

He chose to work amongst the giants in Cathedral Grove. Surrounded by ancient Douglas Firs, he learned to listen to their stories. Like the First Nations people who understood the trees, he used his hands to hear the messages pass.

Heiko mtn lakes standing

After almost two decades in the forests of Cathedral Grove, he moved to another British Columbia town surrounded by giants. Fernie’s Rocky Mountains spoke to him as if he could hear the wind whistle their songs. Perhaps it was Hosmer’s shadow that inspired him too, to dig in his heels and refuse to leave Snow Valley.

He searched for more lines carved like stories in the mountainous landscape and a route to access the alpine. He remembered the young Bavarian boy who once stood at the summit, filled with courage and dreams rather than fear of the world war realities below.

His hands hard and strong from many years in the forest began carving trails on the surrounding mountains. Determined to share the mountain’s glory, his trails would become the pathway for its stories to travel throughout the world.

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During one of those long days on the mountain is possibly when the Griz first appeared. A Brothers Grimm style narrative of a feral child, who too is connected with his environment, that by honouring him, we can summon the powder-snow to fall. Was this vision created by exhaustion, or was it his way to encourage us to come to Fernie?

Origins aside, the legend of the Griz has been eternal to Fernie’s culture. Many others have joined his legacy of creating pathways through the forest. He leaves the storytelling to us now. However, as I sit with him in his living room – with windows facing the ski hill – he delivers his stories with the giant aspirations of that Bavarian boy. His hands still bear those calluses; he rubs them, uncovering stories of his youth. His hands are cold, as if in protest of rest. Linda soothes his hands with a bean bag warmed on their soap stone hearth. His mind still urges him up the mountaintop, his body uncooperative from too many days working on the trail.

Like the lines outlining the shape of the Ghostrider, Heiko Socher’s legendary trails and stories envelope us. On every mountain he has laid his mark. These brushstrokes seem to pull processions to the top of our mountains so that we may gaze upon a valley blessed in beauty. Amongst the giants, we connect to our landscape and celebrate the legend.

A Caretaker in the Valley of Bears

A caretaker in the Valley of Bears, Frank de Boon is a conservation officer who ensures safe passage for Canada’s indigenous animals. Masters at survival in a harsh Canadian habitat, these creatures do not understand land rights and property lines—their focus is food. Though they are able to withstand and survive Mother Gaia’s pranks, human roads and imposed boundaries can become death sentences for these majestic animals.

Stepping around a large spruce tree, I see him coming down the trail toward me. A side breeze prevents him from smelling me. He stops a few bounds away and stares… There is little for him to fear. He is in his prime. Raising his nose, he tests the air… To identify me… He emits a low growl, indicating that now would be a good time for me to clear his path. Turning away could provoke a charge. I stand rigid.

Frank de Boon

When their search happens to cross our imaginary lines, Frank must sometimes aim his rifle at the animal he swore to protect. More often securing the land we claimed rather than an animal’s rights in its ancestral land, Frank’s circumstance may seem impossible to bear.

Bounding forward in full charge, a roar bellows from him. I rush forward. Rising just before impact our chests slam… Open mouths clash… Front paws swing… Growls and roars explode from both of us… Branches break and shrubs are pulled up and destroyed as we battle back and forth.

I first met Frank at a yoga class I was teaching. It’s strange, now, to think that this man—who aims a rifle at bears—would bring such a calming presence to my class. But Frank is a shaman and is at peace with his task. He weaves his experiences into sacred tales of adventure, who is able to educate us about wild animals so we can begin to share this land. Shamanism is a mysterious and ancient practice that explores the magic of our existence, through Earth rituals, universal traditions, and animal spirit guidance. As such, shamans are stewards of nature who share their wisdom to guide humanity to live in balance with Mother Nature. The Shaman conveys his message like spiritual mist that stimulates a deep grounding force rooted into our earth’s ancient past.

The front of his body swings from side to side, showing his massive front shoulders. The prominent hump. The thick powerful neck. His hair rises, creating an enlarged impression. Proclaiming his strength and dominance. His lack of fear. Lack of concern.

I admire Frank for his quiet presence and proud resolve; I often wonder how he maintains balance in a life surely clouded in unrest and strife. His plight seems mighty next to many of our modern day grumblings of hardship and imbalance.

Though I’ve long known that my yoga practice connects me to an internal, higher consciousness, I was unaware of the shallowness of my spiritual connection. While I unite wholeheartedly to human consciousness, forgotten was my association to nature, animals, plants, and Earth. An external realm of consciousness waited patiently for me to discover it and its capacity to complete my soul. Frank brought Gaia into my studio, shifting my internal focus to her great power.

Following the trail to a small rise… I rub my back into the tree, leaving hair and scent. Turn and bite into the tree as high as I can reach. Sitting on my haunches, I lick the wounds I can reach, then go to a creek and lie in the cold water to soothe the pain and cleanse the wounds I cannot reach.

As yogis, we should all be caretakers and stewards of Mother Earth. While yoga encourages a harmonious relationship among humans, a shaman’s perspective balances this equation, and connects us to our ancient roots of existence.

Photos courtesy of Frank de Boon

Excerpts from Boundaries, one of a collection of short stories from Buffalo Feathers & Dragon Bones, by Frank de Boon, Conservation Officer from Fernie, British Columbia, Canada.

Yoga Connected Fernie

Fernie is a vibrant mountain town with a substantial coal mining history. Today nearly half Fernie’s 5,000 residents rely on pay checks from a coal corporation—for over a century the workers have extracted metallurgical coal from the beautiful, generous mountains. At the mercy of world demand for coal, our town suffers when needs are low, just like all small towns whose economy is dependent on mining and industry. This constant ebb and flow of economic health has created a community eager to identify itself with a diverse culture independent of its industrial roots.

A number of artists and writers have recently joined the ranks of Fernie residents, and the whisper of yoga is beginning to drift through the conversation of our town. You wouldn’t think that a bunch of coal miners could get down with downward-facing dog. I didn’t. But just as the world’s demand for coal is shifting, so to is Fernie’s awareness of yoga.

Cheryl is a spiritual trailblazer, inspired by the community Rishikesh, India. Advocating health, wellness and sustainable living, Cheryl is determined to promote yoga and the yogic lifestyle in our town. She endeavors to create a rich and diverse community, while supporting a balanced relationship with our industrial dependence. And it’s working.

It started when Cheryl assembled a group of fellow visionaries and yoga leaders, and planned a spectacular event showcasing yoga and conscious living. Going for the gold, we staged a world record attempt for the longest yoga chain in historic downtown Fernie. We called it The Feel Good Fernie Yoga & Wellness Festival. But leading up to the event it didn’t feel all good—I remember Cheryl confiding in me her fear that no one would attend, that no one in the town cared, and that we were struggling to promote the message of yoga for naught. I struggled to find words of consolation. At the same time, I began to question yoga’s place beside our coal mountains.


But like the doubtful, exhausted pioneers who discovered our valley and its riches, we refused to give up and continued on our journey. We had no idea that our efforts and positive thinking alone were beginning to carve the spirit of yoga into the cracks of our majestic mountain community.

When the Feel Good Fernie festival day arrived, we were disappointed that only 100 people had showed up a half hour before our world record attempt. Musicians were serenading attendees, and it was perhaps their sweet songs that drew more people in. It felt like no time at all before I realized there were over 600 yoga mats, towels, and blankets covering the dusty street.

Cheryl was dumbfounded and elated. Miners and corporate leaders, artists and adventure-seekers, the young and the old, all connected mats in a colorful patchwork quilt. For a small coal town struggling for economic validity in the face of a changing world, it was this quilt of yoga mats that wove together our strength and solidarity. This silent demonstration celebrated our diversity, embraced our connection to one another, and saluted the planet, with its raw beauty and power to overcome the hardships we—especially in a coal town—have inflicted on it. This silent demonstration urged us as a community to do the same.

The world record was not broken that day, but we did break the assumptions and stereotypes of yoga. Cheryl’s spiritual intervention proved that yoga can extend beyond the walls of a studio to create bonds between people. This simple practice united us and proved that our most valuable commodity is not coal, but the people connected by it. These are bonds that can withstand the inevitable storms and cycles of economic change.

This experience was the seed that grew into the Castle Movement at the Castle on First, a community collaboration dedicated toward wellness and mindful living. Who says you can’t teach an old town new tricks? Yoga did for Fernie. Our story is an illustration to other small towns—both in Canada and around the world—that from where we derive our economy does not define our people. Ours is a message that mindfulness, wellness, and yogic lifestyle truly can change mindsets. We hope that through the Castle Movement this message continues to resonate.

Previously posted on wanderlust.com