With gorgeous snow conditions and the premier power saw man (Chris) coming in for the weekend, it was time to tackle clearing the remainder of the “Side-Hill” trail and George’s horse trail down to connect to the Munn Creek Trail.  Chris’ girlfriend, Val, was burdened with homework and had to stay behind – keeping the fires going in the cook house and cabins.  Our repeat guests, Maegan and Anna, opted for much-needed “down time” from their demanding schedules.

There’s a trail here . . .somewhere

A cold start to the work on Saturday, but bundled up and hard physical labor soon warmed things up.  Chris and I cleared almost to the Munn Creek Trail by the time the sun dipped below the Berland Ridge on Saturday – and temperatures plummeted!  Time to call it a day . . .after dumping the toboggan (with his mother in it!) into the creek bed when the trail disappeared.  “Honest, Mom, I walked over that part of the trail and the snow held!”  Oops . . . To Chris’ credit, the ski-doo didn’t go into the washout (which would have been a REAL wreck) and simply jerked the toboggan – with me clinging desperately to the sides – out of the hole.

The Power Saw Man

Having a coffee

The temperature dropped to -20 C Saturday night, but started to warm up early Sunday morning – accompanied by wind.  Back on the trail, Chris and I got the connecting trails to Munn Creek at least passable.  I have quite a bit of nipper work (dang willows and buffalo berry bushes – the bane of my existence!) left to do before the new trail is good for skiing.  There is one rather steep hill where the Side-Hill trail meets George’s horse trail that may test the ability of the ski-doo to pull the groomer . . . and my ability as a ski-doo driver.  “Don’t be gutless, Mom!”

Thanks to Val for keeping the home fires burning for weary and cold trail hands.  And thanks to Anna and Maegan to slaughtering me at Dutch Blitz (again) and for teaching us some new games!

Until next time . . .Happy Trails!

Rock Lake Trails Groomed and Track-set

With a couple of inches of new snow yesterday and mild temperatures today, I spent the day re-grooming and track-setting trails down at Rock Lake for cross-country skiing.  It’s 13 km from the cabins down to Rock Lake, with track set down my 3-km road as well as the next 10 km to the Lake.  The ski track is on the far right-hand side of the Rock Lake Road . . . surely (hopefully?) there will be no yahoos in quads or pickups who would deliberately run a tire track down the middle of my ski trail this time!

I am sorely tempted to put a BIG sign on the trail:   If you don’t have SKINNY STICKS on your feet – STAY OFF!!!


I’ve groomed and set the Green Mountain Loop – easy trail and gorgeous snow.  I also tried to set trail from the bridge over the Wild Hay River, along the Lake and back to the Green Mountain trail.  It can drift on this trail, and I was a little apprehensive setting it for the first time this season.  Things were going quite well, despite having to make an emergency detour through the willows at the first foot bridge . . .seems one of the drainages that this bridge goes over went a tad wild this year, and the bridge has been moved perpendicular to the trail!  Oops . . .  No worries – although I did walk through deep snow on the lake-side of the trail first, just to make sure the ice would hold the machine.  Well . . . the ice held me so I fired up the ski-doo again and gunned it (my son says “Don’t be gutless, Mom!“).  Throttle open, flying down the trail packing the snow to support the groomer, I round a curve through the trees and come face-to-face with a BIG poplar lying waist-level across the trail . . . OH RATS!!!   You’d think I might have thought to put the darn power saw in the ski-doo. . .  No way around, can’t squeeze under (I tried), so nothing left to do but turn the machine around and head back.  Turning the machine around on a narrow trail is an exercise in humility not to be undertaken by the faint of heart . . .


I’ve also re-set track to Windy Bay at the east end of Rock Lake – gorgeous view of the Lake and a nice place to have lunch if the wind is not screaming.  I haven’t bothered to re-set the trail going from the Equestrian Overflow into Doug Phillip’s trapper’s cabin . . . Will wait until the quads quit ripping up the trail – hopefully by Christmas.

The elk have returned to Rock Lake, after spending a few days this past week around the cabins and in the Munn Creek valley.  Wolf track on the Rock Lake Road, likely following the returning elk.

The Pine Grosbeaks and Boreal Chickadees are hanging around the cabins, delightful to watch (thanks to Glen Wood for snapping these photos!).

Repeat guests are coming in on Friday and, although the forecast is for cooler temperatures over the weekend, we should be able to get out for some great skiing and snowshoeing!  Not to mention ferocious games of Dutch Blitz . . .

Until next time . . .Happy Trails!

Cross-country Skiing at Rock Lake

With guests due in for the weekend, and gorgeous powder snow to work with, I was able to get about 30 km of ski trail groomed and track-set.  Scott and Lauren from Grande Prairie (via the US) and Brian and Tasha from Calgary joined in on a beautiful ski down at Rock Lake . . .AND helped Laura get the pickup out of the ditch. . .


Unfortunately, and all my back-breaking work aside . . .little of the ski track remains intact after two quads were on the trails.  With more snow forecast for the next few days, I will once again try to set track for skiers in the Rock Lake area.  It is unlikely that I’ll attempt setting the Munn Creek Trail until the quads finish ripping up the snow.

Waiting for more snow

The Rock Lake Road was plowed on November 26 to my trailhead – thanks to Manitok for that!  The snowcat didn’t go into Rock Lake, so anyone venturing in there would need a 4×4 with some clearance.  There is a fairly good snowpack into the information qiosk . . .which is where I gave up and turned around with the pickup (and, yes, I’m the idiot that backed clean into the ditch!).

Until next time . . .Happy Trails!

Fixing Glitches

Gotta love technology . . .and kudos to Ellie for her patience and hard work getting our new web site bug/glitch free!  A new post went up yesterday and now folks who follow our blog should get notifications.  THANKS!!!

Soft ‘Shoeing, Hard Skiing – LIFE IS GOOD!

We have enough snow to snowshoe, although I didn’t get any trails track-set for cross-country skiing before guests arrived last Saturday for the Remembrance Day long weekend. Chris had come in Friday night to give me a hand getting the ski-doo out and running for the season. Best laid plans . . .

Mark and Molly heading towards the Hoff Ridge

Mark and Becci opted for a short Saturday afternoon jaunt on snowshoes up the little valley towards the base of the mountain. That trail had been ‘shoed before, so the going was relatively mild. Jon and Karen took advantage of a warm, cozy cabin and decided R&R was in order for the afternoon. There is something magical about cabins, especially in snowy woods; they have such an enchanted feel to them. I’m very tempted to get my own back home, especially now that you can even get a prefab cabin with a loft; what a dreamy prospect!

On Sunday, we all strapped on snowshoes and took the side-hill trail over to George’s horse trail and down to pick up the Munn Creek Trail. I managed to twist my leg (somehow – go figure!) while breaking trail on the side-hill/horse trail and by the time we made it to the first willow meadow, I knew I wouldn’t make the first camp site another 3 km up the valley (plus 6 to come back to the cabins). Confident and keen, my guests decided to forge ahead while I gimped slowly and painfully back to the ski lodging. At least I ws on my way back to somewhere nice and comfy, and Leo and Molly stayed with the cripple . . .

Snowshoeing on George’s horse trail

Jon and Karen, a nice stroll

Our guests, on the other hand, made good time and arrived back at the cabins only about an hour or so after I did. They were safe and sound and none the worse for wear – although two snowshoes didn’t hold up. Looks like it may be a design flaw – and they’re going back!

Meanwhile back at the cabins, Chris had been a whirlwind of activity: generator and oil heater fueled up, jockey tank of gas off-loaded, wood re-stocked in the cookhouse, cabin fires kept burning, the ski-doo out and running and up and down our 3-km trail with his pickup to widen the snowtrack. AND dinner was on the go, with a new dessert made! A marvel that young man, simply a marvel. (Yes, he’s my son who grew up well despite his mother).

Chris decided that he could set ski track down our 3-km trail early the next morning so our guests could ski out if they wished. We could take their luggage down to their vehicles parked at the bottom. Our guests were enthusiastic, even though Mark and Becci had not cross-country skied before. That trail is usually not one I recommend for 1st-time skiers – you tend to pick up a big of speed . . .Undaunted and surprisingly eager to hurtle themselves down to their vehicles, Mark and Becci took some basic lessons from Chris on the (relatively) flat area around the cookhouse while Karen and Jon tested their ski wax, which they bought after consulting

I hurried down the trail in the pickup to catch some “action shots” of the skiers coming down the last hill.

Becci: I can do this . . .I can do this

Becci: Oh no! Out of control . . .

Mark – Speed Demon and FAST!

Jon: FAST, precise, total concentration

Karen – Never broke a sweat, always in control

Chris arrived at the bottom a short time later with everyone’s luggage and would follow them out to the highway just in case the Rock Lake Road got icy and someone needed a tow. The Rock Lake Road was good, although there is a fair bit of snow on either side of the travelled snowpack. Cars (or a Station Wagon) would quickly high-center . . . if the driver happened to be watching a deer bounding through the trees and inadvertently steered in that direction.

With no new snow this past week, and ridiculously warm temperatures, I didn’t set any new ski trails. Much to my dismay, I discovered that some yahoo had tried to come up my trail Wednesday or Thursday. This idiot decided to turn around at the top of the first hill, and what little he left of the ski track on his way up, he managed to completely obliterate on his way out. I was hoping to run into him (literally) on my way to town to pick up supplies. No such luck . . .and now we need more snow before I can attempt to repair the damage. Grrrrrrr

A single traveller arrived on Friday from Lloydminster, having moved to Alberta from his native Russia (same accent as you, Anton!). On Saturday we donned snowshoes after breakfast and headed to the Alpine Meadow/Avalanche Chute. There was one remaining trail camera on the spine of the Alpine Meadow that I was hoping to retrieve. The trail had been packed previously to almost the dry creek bed, so the going was fairly easy. We saw lots of snowshoe hare, squirrel, deer, one elk, several marten and weasel (plus scat) and maybe a lynx track on the way up. Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goat track (I can’t tell the difference!) were evident on the Avalanche Chute. Conspicuously absent were wolf track . . .

Climbing the Avalanche Chute with snowshoes was NOT EASY. It’s steep and traction was a bit of an issue. The little Denali bear paw ‘shoes I had on seemed to fare better than the Coleman’s Leon was wearing. Leon had enough by the time we slogged up to the poplars on the steepest part of the Avalanche Chute. Since we were so close and Leon was comfortable parking it under a big spruce and soaking in the view for a while, I decided to continue on. I have learned, over the years, that it takes drastic measures to turn me around once I get part-way up a mountain . . .I topped the spine an hour later.

On the spine

Looking southeast

Took some time to admire the view, spectacular as always, before retrieving the camera and heading back down. A combination of bum sliding, “skiing on ‘shoes” and “moon walking” had me back to Leon in short order. Leon tried a bit of bum sliding on the lower part of the Avalanche Chute and we were at the creek in no time. Easy as pie back to the cabins and Leon made a bee-line for his cabin while I scrambled to get dinner on the go. Thought I might have to go bang on his cabin door at 7:00 p.m., but Leon made it in time for dinner without the reminder. . . Amazing what quiet, dark, a bit of altitude and fresh mountain air, combined with a bit of physical exertion, will do to a person.

The cirque on the Hoff Ridge

Leon trying a bum slide

I tried out a new recipe (Slow-cooked Lemon-Garlic Pork Loins) on Sunday, which tied me to the cookhouse all day. Leon donned some snowshoes and headed for the Munn Creek Trail, with Leo and Molly eager to accompany him on his adventure. I assumed at least one of them could find their way back . . .before dark. They did and I was NOT impressed with the new recipe!

Our snow conditions are not the best at the moment – crusty on top wherever the sun has warmed the snow, down to bare dirt/grass in some patches and a sheet of ice on parts of the paths and trails. Snow and cooler temperatures are forecast for this week, and I am hopeful that we get enough new snow to groom and track-set some trails before new guests arrive on Friday.

Last Thursday, the Rock Lake Road was rough enough to jar the teeth out of your head for the first 10 km or so off the highway. Past the last compressor station at km-17, the road became significantly smoother with less traffic. I’m hoping that the Big Hill at km-15.5 has had a chance to bare off so we don’t experience an icing issue trying to get up the steep part . . .on washboard.

Until next time . . .Happy Trails!

New Website – just in time for Christmas!

After a few years (yes, years) of planning, designing, drafting and prepping . . .Rocky Mountain Escape finally has a brand new website with new pictures, new information and slightly higher prices (well, it is the first time in 10 years!).

The migration may have caused some of you to get duplicate posts today – If so, sorry, it won’t happen again, but technology never behaves!

I’d love to hear any thoughts about the site.

More winter updates coming shortly . . .we’ve gone into the deep freeze for a few days.

Until then, happy trails!


First snowshoe of the season

With guests arriving on Friday for a weekend get-away, I made the trip into civilization on Thursday to pick up fresh supplies.  Lots of wildlife were out and about that day, including several grouse, a group of Mule Deer, a few White-tailed Deer and two Golden Eagles slumming with the ravens on a road kill.

Mule Deer

Ruffed Grouse

Martin trap

The temperature was exceptionally mild for the weekend, and Cheryl and Paul were keen to try a short snowshoe trek.  So, down to Rock Lake where the ‘shoeing would be relatively easy, and on to the flat terrain around the Equestrian Overflow, Jackson Creek and the trapper’s cabin.  The fellow trapping the line had been out recently, setting Martin traps, and it was easy walking on the trail packed by his quad.  The Elk had been in the meadows, and Leo and Molly were able to cover themselves in Eau du Elk left behind in their snow beds.  Several times we stopped to listen to “something” moving in the trees, snapping branches.  I assured my guests that the “something” really couldn’t be a bear (wrong time of year, even though an old boar will typically come through here in early winter, but does so very quietly) or a cougar (they are deathly quiet!).  Sure enough, back at the truck at the end of the snowshoe, we heard the female Elk calling.

Trapper’s cabin

Cheryl and Paul

Trying to imitate a Loon call at Rock Lake

A quick trip down to Moose Landing at the lake, we heard a lone call of a Loon . . .but were unsuccessful in our attempts to entice it to call back.  In the quiet, we heard another sound that I could not identify – sort of a soft whoop/moan/grunt kind of call – coming from the start of the Wild Hay River area.  Hmmm . . .Out of curiosity, I drove down to the bridge going into the Green Mountain Loop, and we found an immature Tundra Swan gracefully gliding along the river with its’ fellow travelers (ducks that I didn’t get the chance to identify).

Green Mountain Loop

We’re melting and had pouring rain late last night (Sunday, Nov. 4).  I am hopeful that the unseasonably warm temperatures forecast for this week will bare off the Rock Lake Road and the paths around the cabins.  We’re supposed to go COLD (-20 to -25 C) by the weekend . . .

Until next time . . .Happy Trails!

Oh man – do we have SNOW!!

The end of October brought a dump of snow!  Always appreciated and I do love snow . . .but, oh my achin’ back.

Low cloud still on the Munn Creek Valley

I’ve been shoveling and blowing snow for the past two days, along with trying to get a snow-track in for our 3-km trail.  The snow blower works just fine . . .until we get above -5C.  Then the blower just pushes snow, and it’s faster to shovel.

Clearing a path

Setting a snow track

The Snow Buntings and Pine Grosbeaks are back and delightful to watch (no, these aren’t my photos – courtesy Google Image Search).

Snow Bunting

Male Pine Grosbeak

It’s a town day tomorrow, with guests coming in on Friday.  Molly and Leo will hold down the fort.

The Rock Lake Road had not been plowed yesterday (Oct. 30), and there is little hope of the County getting out here until (maybe) spring.  Folks coming in to Rock Lake or Willmore Wilderness from the Rock Lake staging area will likely need a 4×4 to negotiate the road.

Until next time . . .Happy Trails!

Sticking Snow

No, not the kind that gloms onto your gloves and toque, making you wish your eyeglasses were equipped with windshield wipers . . . First “sticking” snow means snow that will stick around until spring.

Most folks think I’m strong as . . .BUT

I have been laid low with a nasty flu bug, courtesy of the Thanksgiving Weekend, the past two weeks.  Anyone know what the saying ‘Under The Weather’ means?  Everyone knows what it feels like to be so sick even your eyelashes hurt, but . . .where did that saying come from?  I’ve been “under-the-covers” [shaking with chills and fever], “under-nourished” [who the heck feels like cooking??], “under the influence” [cold/flu meds] and “under-productive” [oh crud, most chores can wait] . . .but “under the weather”?  How does one actually DO that??

My mind wanders . . .probably due to my brain being squished by all that SNOT still in my head . . .Ewwwwww.

With sticking snow, I’m gearing up for WINTER – yipee!!!  That’s not the drugs talking, by the way . . .I happen to be one of those typical Canucks who actually LIKE winter!  Shoveled the paths to the cabins and around woodpiles for the first time this season (well, 3 times now since I originally drafted this post); put away rain gear, rubber boots and fishing gear; hope to get the ski-doo, track-setting equipment and snowblower out from summer storage this week.  Ski boots, toques and winter gloves will take their place on the workbench.

Freshly shoveled path

The wolves are running the valley, and there’s lots of track left by our resident snowshoe hares and grouse.  The lynx made a nocturnal visit, but I didn’t find any evidence that he was successful on his hunt for a midnight snack.  A cougar, or two, may be roaming the area as well.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Manske

Am on the mend, and may get out snowshoeing with guests this weekend.  The Rock Lake Road has not been plowed, but there is only about 4 inches of snow accumulation.  Until next time . . .Happy Trails!

HELP . . . .less

Our last volunteer, Becky, left for the season shortly after Thanksgiving.  Becky will continue her ‘Round the World’ journey, visiting a few more places in western Canada before meeting up with friends in the States.  Becky then says goodbye to North America, catching a flight to New Zealand and Australia for more adventures before returning to the UK sometime next summer.

Becky on the Hoff Ridge

Becky brought such a wealth of enthusiasm to the ‘Escape!  Easily sliding into the routine at the cabins, learning the trails, flora and fauna of our area, Becky’s untempered delight at discovering different wildflowers, mushrooms, scenic views and wildlife was contagious.  From guests, coworkers, camp dogs and cat, everyone loved having Becky here . . . especially the mosquitos (who, no doubt, have laid hundreds of thousands of eggs in Becky’s honor!).

Leo will miss Becky

So, to Becky and our other two wonderful volunteers Susan and Ellie – THANKS!!! for helping make the 2012 busy season such a success!




Until next time (and Laura may start to write in the first person again) . . .Happy Trails!