A view of the cabins on Stuart Wood Island, on Moat Lake. Photo via moatlakeretreat.com

Cabin has saved others before recent rescue of Courtenay hiker

Strathcona Park A-frame structure has provided refuge for about 40 people, says owner

The Moat Lake cabin where a missing hiker took refuge recently has saved someone’s life on more than one occasion.

Owner Jamie Wood says over the years the A-frame cabin, which sits on land his family has owned for decades, has been a safe haven for about 40 people who were lost or stuck in bad weather. Courtenay hiker Murray Naswell was simply the latest.

“This guy isn’t the first guy that cabin saved,” he told the Comox Valley Record.

Wood has found notes long after someone had been through, telling him the cabin saved them while they were stuck. Some even leave a name and contact number to make amends.

“Most I never called,” he added.

A few have been less grateful. In one case, they burned every piece of wood he had stocked. While Wood has a website about the cabin, most of the expected visitors are friends and family. He has some foreign visitors come by, but he says he doesn’t really rent the retreat, though people “chip in” to help cover basic amenities such as propane.

In the latest case, a search team found Naswell on Monday, July 8, about five days after he was last seen during a summit of Mount Albert Edward in Strathcona Provincial Park. That day, the effort had expanded to 120 search-and-rescue members from around Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, along with helicopters and canine teams. Naswell said he arrived there Friday and was there through to Monday, when searchers found him after he’d lit a fire and was cooking some spaghetti.

RELATED STORY: Courtenay hiker survives five-day ordeal in Strathcona Park

That he was even at Moat Lake was a bit of a fluke, as he had originally been aiming for Circle Lake. He’d had trouble coming down and finding his way after fog rolled in quickly on July 3. Naswell said he is grateful to the cabin owners.

“If it wasn’t for them having that cabin there, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story,” he said.

Wood, who lives the Campbell River area, is still a little mystified, and not necessarily happy about what happened or the attention he’s getting. On the day he talked to newspaper he had yet to hear from Naswell directly, but had heard the hiker had left a note saying what food he had eaten while there and that he was thankful for having found it. Naswell had confirmed this with the newspaper.

“I left a detailed note of what I took,” he said.

Wood said he feels for Naswell’s family and what they must have been going through while the hiker was missing. Naswell, himself, admitted to making a mistake in leaving later than usual for the summit on July 3, as well as under-dressing, but the area had been in a prolonged hot, dry spell and he did not expect the dramatic weather change.

The owner, who’s been involved with searches in the area before, wishes he could have gone to the site himself to check it out.

“Too bad I wasn’t up there on the weekend, or my kid, we could have saved the search-and-rescue and the taxpayers probably about three- or four-hundred grand.”

There is one simple message Wood hopes anyone going into the woods will take away from this incident.

“Do not hike on your own,” he said.

Wood’s grandparents first built on the site in 1954, with Wood’s uncle Norm adding the A-frame in 1963. While the original log cabin fell victim to heavy snow in 1974, the A-frame remains, along with a smaller cabin that was added.

While the land is still privately owned, it forms part of Strathcona Provincial Park, after it was added through an agreement with his family. Wood says there is a long history to the lake and the area after his grandfather first opened up the Forbidden Plateau.

“Basically, the park surrounds us now,” he said.

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