More Mountain Memories

Remembering The Summer of ’47

By Paul Rudan, Mirror Staff
Originally Published on September 3, 2004
Reprinted with the permission of the Campbell River Mirror

It isn’t a big mystery but it is a tall tale. At the top of Sayward’s Mt. Hkusam is a cairn. While there’s nothing unusual in seeing a man- made stone pile at a landmark, throughout the years many a climber wondered just who erected the cairn.

More than half a century later, Joe Antonelli of Campbell River has stepped forward to take the credit. “We were just a bunch of young guys working for the B.C. Forest Service in summer of ’47 and one day we made plans to climb Mt. Hkusam,” said Antonelli, now 84.

Hikers pose with a marker specially made for their Klimb

Antonelli was 27 years old when he, his two brothers and four other men were working as tree planters at a camp located between Lower Campbell Lake and the former Loveland Lake – now part of the Lower Campbell after hydro dams were erected decades ago on the watershed.

One day in August 1947, the seven men – Joe, Marsh and Ken Antonelli, along with Len Platt, Eddy Glover, Ron Logan, Don Grant and Joe’s dog Pete – headed out to climb the 5,000-foot plus Mt. Hkusam.

“There weren’t any trails back then, not like there are today,” chuckled Antonelli.

Wearing work shirts, pants and basic shoes, the group headed up the mountain carrying with them a marker Antonelli had specially made for the day-long journey. It was a destination sign and they built a stone cairn to hold it in place. The arrow-shaped markers on the sign pointed to such places as: North Pole, 2,673 miles; New York, 3,406 miles; Tokyo, 2,631 miles; Hollywood, 1,034 miles; and Courtenay.

“I made and painted the signs and figured out the approximate mileages and, with a compass, the approximate directions of the destinations,” recalled Antonelli. “When I built the cairn we put a jar in it with all our names inside.”

While the destination sign is long gone, the cairn remains and, perhaps, so does the jar that contained the men’s names. Shortly after working at the tree planting camp, Antonelli married and settled in Pemberton where he worked as a ranger with the Forest Service and then went into business for himself. He always intended to return to the Campbell River area and when his wife died, he came back to the Island two-and-a-half years ago.

“Since moving back to Campbell River after a 55-year absence, I have talked to several old-timers who said (the cairn) has been a 57-year mystery as to who had put that thing up there,” said Antonelli on Wednesday. All the men, with the exception of Logan, are still alive today, said Antonelli, and Grant is a former chief forester of British Columbia.

Other than the cairn, the only evidence of their climb in 1947 is a photograph of six of the men gathered around the destination sign – the only person missing is Antonelli.

“My regret is not being in the photo myself with the rest of the guys,” he lamented. “I guess the camera I had in those days lacked a self-timer but that’s the way it goes for photographers.”

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