What is it about the Rocky Mountain parks of Western Canada the captivates the first-time visitors and long-time locals in equal measure? To hear Spring Creek resident and singer-songwriter Brad Bischoff tell it, it’s all about the mountain experience.
Few have truly lived a traditional backcountry life the way this Canadian Rockies park warden has. As a young man and greenhorn warden, he sent long days in the saddle with no one in sight, enjoying dusky summer nights among mountain landscapes that would make your jaw drop.
Funny then that Brad grew up far from the Rockies, and fell into this path by chance.
“I moved to Jasper from Ottawa after high school in 1977, as an 18-year-old,” says Brad. “I did various jobs, including working at the ski hill. Through playing hockey and baseball, I met some wardens. I saw their lifestyle and what they did for a living and I thought that was pretty darn neat.”
Speaking to a warden friend, Brad learned he would need a diploma if he wanted to join the warden tribe. After graduating from Lethbridge College, he found work with Parks Canada in 1981
“As wardens at that time, we were alone in the backcountry for weeks on end with horses,” he recalls. “I loved the solitude and the horse work, and it was a thrill for me to be out there working in the showcases of our country. It just gets inside you. Pretty soon the songs started coming.”
Most of the way through his 35-year career as a Parks Canada warden, a parallel vocation of music announced itself to Brad. At a 2009 reunion of Canada Parks wardens held in Banff, Brad and fellow song-writing wardens Ray Schmidt and Scott Ward formed a musical act called – what else – The Wardens. The rest is mountain parks musical history.
The Wardens’ music provides an authentic soundtrack to Bow Valley life and harkens back to a magical time in the Rockies. They are currently working on their fourth album and have a constant booking of live performances across western North America.
If you like country music, you’ll love The Wardens’ backcountry music with colourful true stories providing their song-writing inspiration. Turn the sound up for songs like Suicide Bridle about chasing escaped horses or Wheels on the Wildlife Trap about the never-ending job of keeping elk, bear, cougars and sheep out of the mountain towns. WTF (Warden of The Future) is a humorous look at how much has changed with today’s wardens relying on phone apps, 3D maps and satellite technology.
Life today is different for Brad, too. He and his wife Debbie are new homeowners in the modern mountain neighbourhood of Spring Creek, Canmore. He’s three years retired from Parks Canada, but Brad keeps busy writing songs and performing with The Wardens.
“There’s just something so gratifying about the connections that we make with our audiences when we share our stories,” Brad explains. “Playing in the Legion in Bassano of the Maple Creek Hotel is every bit as special to us as when we opened for Blue Rodeo and The Banff Centre and played at the Canmore Folk Festival.”
The Wardens have also preformed at Spring Creek’s neighbourhood pub, The Mineshaft Tavern. Friday evenings are a feature night for local bands, making the Mineshaft a great place to connect with Spring Creek neighbours or artists like the Wardens.
Brad and Debbie moved to Spring Creek in May 2019 and note everyone at Spring Creek was so good to work with, making it an easy move. They love everything about the neighbourhood and look forward to their time enjoying Canmore’s mountain life when Brad’s not touring.
“We just love the community,” says Brad. ‘There’s a lot of inspiration and stimulation here in the mountains from recreation and lifestyle standpoint. Really what more could you ask for?”