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, SolarPanel.ca, 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 http://raysweb.net/willmore/

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)

Old Men Rock

Dear friends of Rocky Mountain Escape,

Happy Canada Day!
Here you can see one of the campers at Rock Lake camp ground showing off patriotism for this special day.
2015  06  29  canada day at rock lake

In the week leading up to Canada Day we have been impressed by the mettle of a “few rockin’ good men.”  First, a friend of Laura’s named Craig, came for a visit from San Diego, California. (Craig is on the left in this next picture)… by plane, train, or automobile?  No, Craig motored all the way up through the United States; through the Rocky Mountains, and arrived at the Escape on a BMW motorcycle!
2015  06  21  craig & john at rock lake lookout-cropLaura also received a volunteer at the Escape from the United Kingdom.  It is usual to see people here from that part of our world.  However, very unusual, John (on the right in this picture above) flew his motorcycle to New York city;  hopped on his bike and rode through the United States up through Montana, through the beautiful Waterton Glacier Park and all the way to the Escape.  John is on an epic tour which will take him next to Alaska, then back down the west coast of Canada and the United States, and down through to the southern-most tip of Chile.  Featured in this next picture is John’s trusty steed, a Triumph Tiger, aptly named an adventure bike
2015  06  29  rod-john-palo alto john with bike-crop

To the right of U.K.-John – nearest the rear of the motorbike, is another John from a city near Palo Alto, California.  Palo Alto-John rode his trusty steed, a Honda VFR, from California up through British Columbia and into Alberta, stopping along the way to spend time with friends and family.  He made it to Edmonton where he met up with a long-time friend Rod. (Rod is on the far left in this picture) The two of them decided to come out to the Escape and spent some relaxing time, fishing and canoeing at Rock Lake.

It is always delightful to meet adventuresome people, and to share wonderful stories, at Rocky Mountain Escape.  As you can see in the pictures, these men are terrific examples, that you are never too old to enjoy yourself!

April 24 – Special Friends Weekend

It’s that time of year again . . . gearing up for the busy summer season!  It has snowed every day for the past 3 days, but I’m sure that Spring is here.

We have a Spring Wood/Trail Maintenance weekend scheduled for April 24-26/27 and can accommodate up to four Friends.  You don’t have to be handy with a power saw or even an axe!  We have a stack of wood lengths (cut last fall) that will be bucked up and ready for a Friend to run a hydraulic log splitter, stack the newly split wood, or run the quad to and fro.  We’ll also be collecting more firewood from the new Side Hill Trail, and extra hands to nip willows and buffalo berry bushes as well as running the quad would be welcome!

Waiting to be bucked and split

Waiting to be bucked and split

What you can expect:  A comfortable log cabin, friendly companionship and good food.  No guarantees of good weather, but we’ll grill steaks on an open fire one night if at all possible!  Some of our migratory songbirds are coming back, and spring is a great time to see the wildlife (the 4-legged kind, not the Friends) in our area.

If this Special Friends Weekend appeals to you, please let us know and we’ll schedule you in!

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

New Season, New Program

Hello all past, current and future Friends of Rocky Mountain Escape!

We recognize that chatter from the blog has gone dark in recent months, perhaps it is merely that we are not used to having the pleasure of hosting so many wonderful people during our “shoulder” seasons? No matter, we’ve a moment to write now and alas, it is the start of a new season. Wait . . . what? 30cm of snow in 3 hours, and I just started putting our winter gear away!! Well, what would the first day of Spring be like at Rocky Mountain Escape without a little surprise from Mother Nature, eh?

First day of Spring

First day of Spring

So, amidst the changes that the melting snow is sure to bring, ahem . . . someday soon, we are happy to announce exploration into a new program along with our new season. Now, there has been some interest over the past several years from many of our guests and visitors who have voiced questions about the mystical world behind the scenes of the ‘Escape. Questions about what it was like to start this place up and how we maintain it today. Sometimes, those questions have led to a deeper desire to come out and see a different side of the ‘Escape, to maybe venture into the intricacies of what it would be like to host and run an ecotourism operation such as ours, or maybe just come out and have a complete disconnect for a week or two.

Another day at the office

Another day at the office

Catch up on some reading, writing, art, exploration.



Have you ever wondered what it might be like to don the apron and cook on our beautiful wood stove  IMG_0482 or to pick up the splitting axe and prove one’s mettle by the strength of your back and the sweat off your brow?

The wood crew

The wood crew

Maybe you’ve a suppressed need to master the art of “roughin’ it” in the wild outdoors, completely off grid as we did during construction. Well, of course, there was outdoor plumbing and we’ve always had running water, one merely had to “run’n get it”. Okay, maybe that last bit’s not too high on anyone’s list at the moment. As for the others…

Behold; the “Friends of Rocky Mountain Escape” program.

As a Friend of Rocky Mountain Escape, you will immerse yourself in our small, relatively remote ecotourism operation. As our Special Guest, you will have the unique opportunity to experience the lifestyle inherent with hosting like-minded travelers in a mountain wilderness setting. Whether you’re looking for a week or two, or a month or maybe longer for a more intimate immersion, our Friends programs run at various times throughout the year. Each season offers different windows of opportunity with which to view and live in our world. An alternative way to “get-away” without the expense of a holiday, if you will.

If our Friends program sounds appealing to you, please contact us for further information and details.

Until next time, Happy Trails!

The Canadian Dream

Hello, I am the aforementioned Kat (see Harry’s earlier blog post) and I am also a recent Zoology graduate from the University of Manchester.  I found this place while in the midst of a particularly draining university assignment and was in dire need for ‘escape’.  The wonders of the internet brought me to Laura’s website and here I am! Whoever said procrastination was a bad thing?

Rock Lake from above.

Rock Lake from above.

During my studies, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have travelled around the world on various field courses and even managed to bag a year in Seychelles working in sea turtle conservation in the name of ‘Industrial Experience’.  My travels have taken me from paradise islands, to tropical rainforests to the (not-so-dry) African savannah, but Canada has always been on the list, and until now remained unexplored.  I’m very fortunate to have a number of great friends who hail from this wonderful land, and a couple who have swapped the Fish & Chips for Poutine and emigrated to Canada, only to be envied by damp Brits from afar.  My affiliation with these Canadians and imposters alike has meant my imagination has been run wild with stories of the Canadian Rockies and the vastness of this inexplicably big landscape.  I had to come and see it to believe it, and now I’m here I still can’t quite get my head around it.

Harry and I arrived at the cabins late one Saturday and we were greeted by one of the most spectacular light shows I’ve ever seen.  As the sun set over the ever-nearing mountain ridges, staining the horizon orange, thunder clapped above us and lightning danced across the sky.  As soon as the storm lifted, we were left with the resounding silence of the Great Canadian Wilderness.  No cars, no planes, no telephones.   Total Bliss.

Starry Nights - utter silence fills the valley.

Starry Nights – utter silence fills the valley.

Our work here at the cabins is as varied as the guests who come to stay.  From guiding tours along some of the most beautiful trails I’ve had the pleasure to hike; to cleaning phenomenal log cabins; to cooking a beef roast for 11 people on a wood-fuelled agar and collecting drinking water from the local spring – no two days are the same.  Everyday there’s something new to be seen (Harry’s bird list is already encroaching 40 species) and learnt, whether it’s how to distinguish horse scat from bear droppings or just ‘how-not-to-chop-your-fingers-off-when-making-kindling’, each lesson is as important as the last.

Guests enjoying the view as the sun sets on a pleasant August evening.

Guests enjoying the view as the sun sets on a pleasant August evening.

A particular highlight of the last 3 weeks was the hike up to the Alpine Meadow, one of the more challenging hikes on offer here at the ‘Escape.  Unlike Harry, I didn’t spend my childhood surrounded by the serenely mountainous landscape of the Scottish highlands, but rather grew up in a supremely flat town in the middle of England, full primarily of roundabouts.  As a teenager I did start to go hiking more and was blessed with the occasional setting of Snowdonia, Wales. This is where I caught the bug for hiking, but until I started climbing that avalanche chute at the bottom of the Alpine Meadow, I had no idea of what a novice I really was.  The hike was steep, but it wasn’t just the lack of oxygen that made catching my breath so difficult.  With every step higher, the view just got more and more incredible.  Pausing for breath half way up, we were blessed with a stunning aerial display by a Golden Eagle – the first I’ve ever seen.  After a quick scramble to the top, we feasted on a picnic at 6700ft –the highest elevation I’ve ever reached (and probably the most well earned sandwich I’ve ever eaten).  Once we’d well and truly soaked up the view (though no time will ever be enough to do it justice) we headed back down.  We got to slide on our backsides most of the way down, which may well be the most fun a person can ever have sitting down.  The sore feeling in my legs lasted a few days, but the that feeling of awe will stay with me for many years.

A Golden Eagle soars above us, with a wingspan over 2m in length.

A Golden Eagle soars above us, with a wingspan over 2m in length.

Each step higher towards the Alpine Meadow unveils yet another magnificent peak.

Each step higher towards the Alpine Meadow unveils yet another magnificent peak.

Mountains Gandalf! Mountains!  View from the top of the Alpine Meadow

Mountains Gandalf! Mountains!
View from the top of the Alpine Meadow

We’ve had the most incredible introduction to the Rockies and I know this is only the beginning of what’s shaping up to be a series of brilliant pub stories, so I look forward to the next few weeks here at the ‘Escape and all the adventures yet to come!

Leo - the happiest dog in the world.  No blog post could be complete with out a snap of this happy chap!

Leo – the happiest dog in the world. No blog post could be complete with out a snap of this happy chap!

Who's in charge here? Molly.

Who’s in charge here? Molly.


Happy Trails!

Two Brits up Munn Creek without a paddle

My name is Harry Martin and I’ve spent the last three weeks learning the ropes as a guide, chauffeur, cleaner and general all round helper here at Rocky Mountain Escape.  It’s been a steep learning curve, getting to know the local trails, roads and wildlife, but I can’t believe how fast it has gone already.  I arrived in Canada shortly after graduating this summer, from the University of Manchester, with a degree in Zoology looking for a way to gain more experience, while seeing an incredible part of the world at the same time. I’ve travelled here with a friend from university, Kat, who was the one who found out about this place, and after getting in touch with Laura passed on the details to me.  Well I couldn’t jolly well say no to an opportunity to spend a couple of months in the Rocky Mountains of Canada could I!  With flights booked we arrived in Edmonton at the end of July to scorching hot weather and blue skies, not a bad welcome really.  A (relatively) short bus ride to Hinton saw us picked up by one of the previous volunteers, also named Laura, who took us up to the cabins for our first taste of proper wilderness.

The view from the top of the Berland ridge – stunning!

Taken on the way up the alpine meadow trail - my first big hike in the Rockies

Taken on the way up the alpine meadow trail – my first big hike in the Rockies

Having spent most summers of my childhood hiking in the Scottish Highlands I thought I was fairly familiar with mountain landscapes and “remote” areas, but boy was I wrong. Everything over here is huge, the landscapes, the wildlife, and the cars of course.  So far I have had a brief glimpse of a black bear on the highway, seen plenty of squirrels, had a moose in the middle of the road in front of me and I can’t forget the birds can I! Gray jays have been a regular feature, and will readily take blueberry pancakes (they’re very fussy) straight from the hand. As a keen bird watcher I have loved getting know the local species, including golden eagles and quite an array of beautiful warblers.

These beautiful birds are gray jays, and are incredibly curious and confiding

Spruce grouse are amazingly well camouflaged and they're instinct when faced with danger is to freeze allowing me to grab this photograph

Spruce grouse are amazingly well camouflaged and their instinct when faced with danger is to freeze which allowed me to grab this photograph.

Everywhere you go you're bound to bump into squirrels - which makes Leo a very happy dog of course!

Everywhere you go you’re bound to bump into squirrels – which makes Leo a very happy dog of course!

This female goldeneye has been seen regularly with her chicks down on Rock Lake - with 4 at the moment lets hope they all make it!

This female goldeneye has been seen regularly with her chicks down on Rock Lake – with 4 at the moment lets hope they all make it!

Undoubtably, a highlight of my time here at Rocky Mountain Escape was the opportunity to get on a horse for the first time for a ride through some spectacular scenery.  A 3-hour ride along the Athabasca river valley provided an incredible backdrop for a complete beginner.  My horse was particularly challenging and required constant control to make sure she didn’t try to overtake the whole group; I’ve always been a fan of jumping in at the deep end. 

Not a deliberate pose believe it or not - I happened to be scratching my head when Kat quickly snapped me in action.

Not a deliberate pose believe it or not – I happened to be scratching my head when Kat quickly snapped me in action.

As a keen wildlife and nature photographer the Rocky Mountains, with their diverse fauna and flora, has meant I’m out with my camera at almost every opportunity.  The photographs accompanying this post have been taken in the past couple of weeks and I hope to get out more soon! With fall approaching the colours along with the breath-taking scenery will surely provide a landscape I can barely do justice.  If you like my images be sure to check out my website (www.harrymartinphotography.co.uk) and/or my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/harrymartinphotography), or if twitter is more your thing you can also find me there (@harrymartin22) – I try to update when I can! Until next…. happy trails!!

A city girl in the Rockies

imageHello, I am Laura, the other volunteer. Yes, three persons, two Lauras, coincidence.

Well, let me introduce myself. I am a 24 years old environmental sciences-student from Spain. I live in the capital city, Madrid, a big city where the only nature we have are the small trees along the street, no big parks, not even parks, just small gardens. How you can imagine, the only animals are domestic dogs, sometimes if you are lucky a street cat. Even with this I love my city – it is so beautiful and dynamic but sometimes is too much, too much people, too much grey, is when I need to escape.

Since I remember I feel attraction to the nature, but living in a big city like Madrid, it is not as easy to go to the mountains for a long period. For this reason, I have been visiting other countries for the past three summers which can offer me what I was looking for – wild nature. I have been in El Salvador, Austria and Norway. Always in small villages with forest around, but it was not easy to find wild animals. For this year I wanted something different, something extreme. I wanted to live the real nature, and what is huger than the wild Canada? When I found Laura’s volunteering offer I couldn’t believe it – was what I was looking for!

I arrived at Rocky Mountain Escape a little over one week ago, and I was a little bit scared about what I will find, as Laura told me that the conditions could be hard.  However, I fully agree with my partner Tobias – she was exaggerating. This is awesome, our loft is much more comfortable than I expected, and I think I never sleep deeper than here.  And the meals…WOW!  They are great! Very tasty and original. Tobias already told all these things, so I am going to give you another point of view – the point of view from a city girl!

Laura and Tobias picked me up in Hinton, approximately one hour by car till the Rocky Mountain Escape cabins.  On the way we had the opportunity to see more wild life than all my other places together. We saw a female fox with her three puppies, they were so cute! A white-tail deer and a mum moose with her little calf, no more two days old, he was all legs, so funny! Now please, imagine what my impression was when after only thirty minutes in the Rockies I have seen all these animals! After that I did not see more big animals (where are you little bear?), but every day I see squirrels playing in my garden, a rabbit running between the trees and new tracks and scats in our road…This is incredible, actually I am living in their environment, in their house, they share with me their wild and amazing environment without asking for something in return. It is beautiful and pure. I am so happy here, every morning I am smiling when going to breakfast, seeing squirrels between dandelions and snowy mountains in the background.

I don’t know how is going to be the rest of my experience, but I have a great feeling. I hope to enjoy more the wilderness, learn more about this ecosystem and get more experience.

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

A long overdue return to “topside”

Howdy, folks,

I take shelter from our delayed June rains & listen to fat drops of rain patter off the tin roof of the cookhouse.  With Islander Chicken simmering on the stove, I take a moment to reflect on what has been a completely atypical weekend (for me!)  A much needed break from the consulting world had me making the drive out here with one primary objective: a return to Binocular Ridge.

I was trying to recall, with the Boss’ help, when last I’d made the ascent and subsequent ridge walk.  As near as we could both remember, it was 11 years ago (seriously?!).  Back before we had volunteers like Beth, Ben, Anthony, Ellie, Susan, Rachel, Andy, George, Michelle, Tobias, Laura, and many others…back when the “hired hand” was none other than yours truly.

I remember the last trip but vaguely.  I’d taken an energetic young couple up…either on their honeymoon or anniversary.  Though mid-Summer, a biting Westerly wind had me don my kerchief in the style of “outlaw bandit” to keep my face warm during the traverse.  I remember a comment in one of the guest books thanking “…the desperado…” for the hike.

Regardless, when Lady Christine and I broke the treeline yesterday, saw the Berland and Hoff ranges stretch out before us…I knew it had been too long.  Leaving the faint sheep track we’d followed up from the dry creek bed behind, I was able to reaffirm Christine’s faith that I indeed knew where I was going when I spied and recovered a lost pen-launcher & bear banger that Mom had mentioned – just days ago – had gone missing last season.

As always, every 10m of elevation brought a new and greater view.  We took refuge ‘neath a lone, hardy spruce standing as the last sentinel to catch our breath and wait out the first mild hailstorm.  Looking around, we spied Purple Saxifrage, Mountain Avens, & Alpine Lousewort just coming into bloom along the faint sheep trails that would guide us the rest of the way to the top of the grassy knoll.LousewortSaxifrageMount. Avens

Cresting the ridgeline, we took note of the threatening clouds but began our ridgewalk northwards to the bald alpine meadow.  Not long into our traverse, we encountered the last evidence of winter in the form of a huge cornice moulded from the wind & snow.  Christine ventured beneath the overhang to touch the snow like a surfer catching a ‘tube.Christine CorniceIncoming WeatherCirc (2)

We made the summit just as the weather darkened, time enough for a breath and a view before starting our descent.  We slid/scurried/skidded our way down the scree slopes before picking our way down the avalanche chute.  True to its name, there was a rather large slide this year, remapping the bottom portion of the chute – if not opening up the view from the creek bed.  Guests & guides alike should have no trouble finding the start of the trail going up to the meadow now.



As we drifted back into camp, still slightly drunk off the breathtaking views and perhaps a little bit of oxygen deficiency, we both came to the realization that we would need a little more time out here than the mere 2 nights we had originally planned.  So, a quick trip to town to do some laundry and clear our schedules and we are “off grid” for the rest of the week!

Until next time…Happy Trails!Close1