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.
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.
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.
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.