October 25, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

Settling spirits in the Callaghan 

Spooktacular Story 2

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For Brad Sills, owner of the Callaghan lodge, the search for answers has been ongoing for decades.

Looking back to those early ski touring days in the seventies, when he was trying to find the best trails for the lodge, Brad believes he stumbled into a primitive camp — their camp.

He believes one, or both, survived the crash and what he found were remnants of the survival — a bench seat made out of a log, rolled back tins of sardines, and, most significantly, parachute chord tied around the trees.

If only he could find it again.

Brad feels their spirit there too. He wants to find the truth.

What went wrong that March morning half a century ago?

When the remains of the helmet were found, Sills couldn't help but head into the area straight away. It's close to the lodge and if anyone knows his way around the Callaghan, Brad Sills does.

It wasn't until he was out looking around that he realized he was by himself and nobody knew where he was. The president of Whistler Search and Rescue knows better than that. He called an employee, who told him he was close by, just held up behind a grizzly bear. No big deal, grizzlies are a part of Callaghan life.

Brad was down an embankment and spotted the road above. He scrambled up to get there, to get some idea of his bearings. He looked down the road, knew exactly how close he was to the lodge. Then turned the other way and there it was. A big female grizzly walking towards him, 60 metres away.

He quickly scrambled back down the embankment, scrambled on top of a large boulder to appear larger than life, took off his jacket to again give the appearance of size and watched the bear make her way towards him.

Gruelling minutes passed as he watched the grizzly step closer and closer.

It stopped at the base of the rock, three metres away. And stared.

Brad spoke to it, his voice level and calm, explaining that he meant no harm.

He knew he wasn't supposed to look the grizzly in the eye. But he couldn't help himself.

He held her gaze, heart hammering in his chest.

It wasn't a showdown. It wasn't a battle of wills.

Brad believes it was a silent communication.

"I know you," the bear seemed to say. "Here I am."

The bear slowly moved on. Brad's breathing returned to normal.

Minutes later his employee burst onto the scene, stick in hand, ready to defend his boss. Tension cut with comic relief. Reality restored. The moment passed.

But it lingers with Brad now.

He can't help but think it was a sign.

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