The Gray Jay

The Canadian Geographic Society has recommended that the Gray Jay be adopted as Canada’s National Bird (  Can’t think of a better symbol of being Canadian!

Photo by Mark Taylor

Photo by Mark Taylor

These beautiful birds are clever, resourceful and hardy (and they love blueberry pancakes!).


Where are my raisins?

The Gray Jay families in our valley are frequent visitors to the ‘Escape, undaunted by winter, and bringing smiles to all who take the time to appreciate a less-hectic pace.

Patiently waiting

Patiently waiting

The Gray Jay is a gentle bird, quietly “chucking” at you if you’ve been “too busy” to pay attention to them!  No squawking or screeching, as is common in the more raucous Blue Jay, and their most irritated call is a “rrrrivit, rrrrivit” when the cat tries to stalk them (good luck with that, Jynx).

The Gray Jay certainly receives our vote for the National Bird of Canada!

The Gray Jay

The Canadian Geographic Society has recommended that the Gray Jay be adopted as Canada’s National Bird (  Can’t think of a better symbol of being Canadian!

Photo by Mark Taylor

Photo by Mark Taylor

These beautiful birds are clever, resourceful and hardy (and they love blueberry pancakes!).


Where are my raisins?

The Gray Jay families in our valley are frequent visitors to the ‘Escape, undaunted by winter, and bringing smiles to all who take the time to appreciate a less-hectic pace.

Patiently waiting

Patiently waiting

The Gray Jay is a gentle bird, quietly “chucking” at you if you’ve been “too busy” to pay attention to them!  No squawking or screeching, as is common in the more raucous Blue Jay, and their most irritated call is a “rrrrivit, rrrrivit” when the cat tries to stalk them (good luck with that, Jynx).

The Gray Jay certainly receives our vote for the National Bird of Canada!


Happy Thanksgiving

Howdy, friends.  Ah, Canadian Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful.  And despite the fact that this is the first time in 20 years Rocky Mountain Escape has been closed for Thanksgiving, we still have much to be thankful for;

We are thankful of Mother Nature, reminding us that this is Alberta, and we can expect 6 months of winter or better.  🙂 Yaay! Skiing  🙁 Yaay, shoveling…

We are thankful of our longtime friends, supporters and occasional lumberjacks, the Chant Family, plus Mike!, who have never shied away from helping with our Fall Harvest.  Thanks also to David, Christine, Ali, Mark, and Margaret.  Through our combined efforts, we were able to clear out some dead leaners and stock up enough firewood to see us through for a bit.  Just in time to be ahead of the snow this year, too!

We are thankful for the great batch of volunteer visitors we had in this year.  From Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand (others?), this year’s class has been seeded with overall hard-working, reliable, and rather pleasant folks.  Your companionship, humor, and friendship was most welcome up here.  We hope all of you are continuing to do well upon your return home, or wherever your travels have taken you.

Last, though certainly not least, we are thankful to YOU.  Our family, friends, and clients, for the outpouring of support during our recent time of strife.  We are so thankful that you believe in the dream that is Rocky Mountain Escape, and were able to experience it and share in our vision.  Regardless of what the outcome with Alberta Health Services may be, we are thankful for the 20 years that you have given us.  It is only through your patronage that we have been able to sustain our operation.  We have faced fire, flood, drought, and blizzard (at -52 degrees Celsius!), economic downturn, travel restrictions due to terrorism, road closures and stuck vehicles, broken bones, stitches, and bloody noses, and through it all YOU have continued to come.  YOU have continued to say, “That’s where we want to be.  That piece of heaven that is Rocky Mountain Escape is where we want to get back to.  We can’t find that experience anywhere else.  Thank you so much for sharing it with us.”  So, THANK YOU.

Your thankful hosts,

-Chris & Laura

It is unlawful to feed…our friends?


Hello, friends,

Our Inspector returned this morning to post her own “Closure” notice on the door to our cookhouse.  Laura’s repeated requests during the Inspector’s last visit, and this one today, asking the Inspector to please clarify who was encompassed in the terms “registered guests” and “public attendees” as set out in the Closure Order (which is attached in our last blog post) were succinctly ignored by said Inspector.  Ms. Thind refused to provide any clear definition, verbally or in writing, as to if this pertained to “paying clients” only, or in fact extended to “friends”, “visitors”, “family”, or everyone except Laura & Chris.

While we recognize that Laura has a basic “right to life” as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 7, and thus can use her own kitchen to provide sustenance to her person, we are extremely shaken and disturbed by the threat of “…penalty and/or imprisonment…” as outlined in the above Closure.  We have received a generous outpouring of support, from you; our friends and family, but now are faced with the uncertainty of whether or not we can even invite you in for a cup of coffee and a bit of conversation.  We cannot comprehend that a show of emotional support by a visit from friends and family during this time of struggle may now, in fact, be unlawful.  We believe we may be protected if visits from friends and family are within the parameters of a “restricted function”, and continue to be by invite only, as outlined in the Public Health Act.  However, if we continue to be subjected to the same mindset of “guilty until proven innocent” as our current state of affairs, this may not be a safe assumption.

Laura has taken ill and will be unavailable for the next few days during her recovery.  I will attempt to respond to any questions or concerns you may have in the interim.

This matter currently remains in the hands of our legal counsel as we await further direction and decision.  Thank you all for your continued thoughts.  We appreciate all the feedback we receive on Social Media and your comments bring many a smile to Laura’s face.  I will continue to keep you all updated.


A way of life – Not permitted

Hello friends,

It is with heavy hearts that we inform you that effective September 15th, 2016, our private kitchen has now been closed to registered guests and public attendees by an Executive Officer’s Order from the Alberta Health Services. As you may know, we have never operated a commercial kitchen out here, nor intended to open, or operate, a commercial restaurant of any kind. However, Alberta Health Services has deemed we fall into the category of a food establishment and must meet applicable code in accordance with the Public Health Act and the regulations, and obtain a subsequent food handling permit. As of this writing, we have retained legal counsel and hope to share news and updates as we are able.

The Executive Officer who issued the Closure Order is Ravinder Thind and she may be contacted at or the Alberta Health Services Hinton Office at 780-865-2277.

We have included the Closure Order for your information below.

Chris & Lauraahs1 ahs2 ahs3

Helping Out at Rocky Mountain Escape


My name is Timo and I am from Düsseldorf, Germany.  I have stayed at Rocky Mountain Escape as a helper for a little bit more than 2 months. It has been an extraordinary special time.


Getting here was an adventure itself:  You first had to drive around 40 km up north on Highway 40 from Hinton, then get on the Rock Lake Road – in the winter time, very little traffic and infrequently plowed – and drive this one for another 27 km and afterwards find your way to Rocky Mountain Escape up a narrow trail for another couple of kilometers until you arrive at a beautiful clearing:


Afterwards Laura introduced me to my cabin (Cabin 1, where I would stay the first couple of weeks) and showed me around (cookhouse, all other stuff) and I was amazed how all those cabins and infrastructure got set up here.

My tasks mostly consisted of restocking the wood at the cabins and the cookhouse, taking care of other minor chores, making the fruit plate in the morning and basically helping Laura with everything she needed help with.

Furthermore, it was a very nice experience guiding guests through the Munn Creek valley and the Rock Lake area in my last couple of weeks (In the first weeks it was me who had to be guided by Laura).

Of course feeding the resident grey jays every morning (and during the day) was one of my duties too:


After one month I moved to the loft which is equipped with a propane heater. That made it a bit easier to keep the place warm, because I didn’t have to keep a woodstove going, every day.

All in all my life was way more comfortable than I expected and I probably have never slept better before.

During my time I met people from nearly all parts of Canada with amazing stories to tell. It was incredibly informative for me as a foreigner to get to know the Canadian people and get a deep insight into Canadian culture and way of living.

Last but not least: nature.

Staying at Rocky Mountain Escape is probably the best way to experience the Rocky Mountains, wildlife and the overwhelming scenery at Rock Lake.

Laura taught me a lot about resident animal and plant species and the geological development of the Rocky Mountains and of course not to forget: sustainable Forest Management.

While Chris was here during a weekend in late February, we harvested the wood supply for the summer months (or at least most of it).


I learned a lot from him about how to properly run machines, keep a place like this running and of course how to correctly and sustainably harvest firewood. This has been a unique lesson to me.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to spot a lot of wildlife except some elk, grouse, squirrel and several kinds of birds, but we were able see a lot of tracks and hear the wolves howling during some nights.

What else to say:

  1. The food is just awesome and tastes magnificent
  2. Molly and Leo (Laura’s dogs) are lovely and loyal companions out here.
  3. If you decide to stay here as a helper or guest, don’t forget to bring a couple of books.

To sum it up, it was an amazing experience living this kind of lifestyle and a unique time I will probably miss when I get home. I hope to be back sooner or later and maybe stay here as a guest.

Thanks to Laura and Chris for making this happen.

I am looking forward to seeing you again,







Season’s Greetings!


Howdy friends,

“…the Lady in her kerchief and I in my cap

Had just settled in for a long winter’s nap…”

WHOA!  Wait a minute, wrong story.  Napping at the ‘Escape?  What’s that?  Oh, you’d like to hear our version?  Well, ahem.  Sure, why not;

‘Twas a week before Christmas, and I’m put to the task.

No, I ain’t done this before, now that you ask.

Come home for the holidays” was the Boss’ request

But it gets cold in that loft!” as one can attest.

Time for some heat, we’ve got a woodstove right here.”

Ah, but first, you’ll need a chimney, My Dear.

So, laden with saw, a drill, and a hammer

Up I go, with my tools on a ladder.

 Pass Through

With my hole cut, I pass the pipe through.

I make a connection, then another, then two!

Off to get supplies, my helper deserts.

She warns, “If you fall from up there, it HURTS!

Up there

With my confidence bolstered, and my pride on the line…

I struggle and curse, but get done on time.

The lodge chimney is in, can’t say ’twas a breeze.

No points for decoration, but at least I won’t freeze.

You’ll have to excuse me now, for our guests are here!

We’re off shoeing and skiing, and spreadin’ Holiday cheer.


So I’ll end this post, in the fading Solstice light…

But Merry Christmas y’all, and to all a good night!

Light it up

A Greener cup o’ Joe

Howdy, friends,

This past week was certainly full of excitement up here at the ‘Escape. Leo had a rough week with imminent thunderstorms causing him to seek cover under the protection of hard shelter. His confinement was NOT aided by suspiciously high helicopter activity in the area, scouting what we suspected was the Rock Slide blaze located to the Southwest of us. However, airborne activity reached a fever pitch one evening with several low-pass flybys. The “Whump-whump” of rotor blades filled our valley and was soon replaced by the whine of a fixed wing spotting plane – which vectored in just a couple miles East.


This spotting plane was joined by a slurry bomber which, on its second pass, opened its bay doors to drop its payload on a small fire which had sprung up behind one of the two little hills that stand between our camp and the Hoff Ridge. Both fixed wing aircraft made a second pass, where-in the bomber again dumped slurry, before returning to base. The helicopters reappeared, first with dumb bailers, and finally to drop a Rapattack crew in to mop up the blaze. We tried to hike to the site of the fire later that evening but were unsuccessful managing the many drainages and ravines between us. We did, however, confirm that the area immediately around the ‘Escape is receiving sufficient rainfall to keep us on the safer side of wildfire risk. A call to the county confirmed that the blaze was under control and we were not in imminent danger.


Back on track the next morning, it was time to begin construction of our newest addition – a deck! John’s construction background came in handy, and in no time he and Chris had knocked together the frame.

DeckThe following day, Laura and John set upon the structure with paint brushes, effectively camouflaging it to match the remaining ‘Escape outbuildings we’ve all come to know and love;Paint

Okay, so I know you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with the afore titled …cup of Joe…?” Well, as painting was going on outside, Chris was reading and assembling inside – ahem, with a cup of Joe. No? Not biting?

Oh fine.  Ahem, drum roll please…We are at last ready to unveil our newest menu addition at Rocky Mountain Escape; Renewable Energy Coffee!

At long last, our much anticipated solar system is up and running, even though some of the complexities and electrical jargon were lost on Laura…

“Look, Mom,…to get optimal output you’ll need to channel 1.21 gigawatts into the flux-capacitor at precisely the moment you want to power your…”;


Array1Yes friends, Rocky Mountain Escape now has the ability to run our water pump, power our refrigeration, and communicate with the outside world with just the bounty harnessed from the sun. So next time you’re in the area, pop on in for a clean, quiet, greener cup o’ Joe.






A big thank you to the patience and flexibility of our supplier,, and to the man who taught me almost everything I ever learned about electricity and wiring, Ron Mitchell. Last but not least, a tip of the hat to Richard and Jan Chant, who were instrumental in working with and providing the pathway for us to turn our dreams of solar energy into a reality.

Until next time, Happy Trails!

Special Thanks to Special Friends


A friend of the ‘Escape since its inception lo these many years ago (around 20 years, I think).  David usually comes up to the cabins every year or so, pitching in wherever an extra set of hands is needed and taking a ‘nature break’ from his otherwise frantic, high-demand schedule.  This year, David didn’t get much of a respite up here and shortly before he left last Thursday said “Gee, Laura, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard!!”.  Next time, David . . .

Morning coffee

Morning coffee


From the UK, found us through the HelpStay web site and figured he would spend a couple of weeks up here helping out.  That was a month ago, and we were sure saddened to see him go on Monday.  John did everything – from daily chores, to helping cook and clean, to leading day hikes, to insulating and fixing things!  And John did all that exceptionally well!!!  Our best wishes go with John as he continues his epic journey to the northern most point in Alaska to the southern most point in Chili.

Last Supper

Last Supper


A young-at-heart fellow from California who Laura met playing bridge online (still my fav p!).  Craig and his wonderful wife, Gigette, and silky-soft, adorable Tazzie “popped in” a couple of years ago on their way back from Alaska.  No, the ‘Escape is not exactly on anyone’s way through . . . Craig came back this year on his motorbike – arriving just when torrential rains turned the Rock Lake Road into a slimy mud bath!  Last we heard, Craig had made it up to Yellowknife, and slowly wound his way back south along the coast.

Craig lending a hand

Craig lending a hand

So, a BIG, HEART-FELT THANK YOU to these special friends!

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!  AND, exciting news coming up . . .

Old Men Rock – II

Hello friends of Rocky Mountain Escape,
We wish for you, especially for our American friends, a happy 4th of July.  We have a special treat for this day.

Usually our resident bald eagles will sit in the tree tops overlooking the lake as they await their favourite fish to pass by, for lunch or dinner.  However, sensing the special social nature of these days, and with the pride of Independence Day beating in their breasts, they gave us a special greeting. 🙂  You can see here, Kris out canoeing and one of the eagles who came to sit near us along the shore of Rock Lake.

2016  07  02 kris and eagle at rock lake-2Also, to continue our theme from the 01st of July, about how Old Men Rock, here is a picture of Ray and his trusty mountain bike.  Ray, was going to bike as far as he could along the trail, past the Eagles Nest Cabin, and then hike the rest of the way into Azur Lake, a four day journey through the wilderness.

2015  07  01 - ray to azur lake As you may know, Ray is an brilliant photographer, and his pictures of this part of the world can be found at

Ray said to me as he headed out on the trail,  “I know I won’t be able, to do this much longer. But I will keep on hiking the Wilmore Wilderness for as long as I am able.”
(contributed by David Purcell)