In 1964, Ruth (Ruthie) Oltmann came west, like so many before her, in search of adventure or, as she says “to follow her star”.
Oltmann landed in Calgary after travelling across the country, discovering what would become her destiny in 1967 when she had her first experience with The Canadian Youth Hostel Association and her first overnight backpacking trip.
Three years later, Oltmann became houseparent at the Spray River Hostel (and later Ribbon Creek Hostel), a move that would put her star on a path that would one day become an integral part of the Rockies, especially Kananaskis Country, where Oltmann has a cross-country ski trail – Ruthie’s Trail – named in her honour.
Through her work at hostels, the University of Calgary field station and the Kananaskis Country information centres, along with her hiking groups and her writing (including books My Valley the Kananaskis, Lizzie Rummel: Baroness of the Canadian Rockies and the first trail guide to the Kananasksis region), Oltmann has been able to share her love for the mountains with numerous people, helping them to find their own joy in this mountain landscape.
And now, with the release of her newest book, Ruthie’s Trails: A Lifetime of Adventure, Oltmann is able to share the joy she has found in the mountains, her many adventures and even her occasional misadventure.
Ruthie’s Trails is a lighthearted, yet passionate reminder that life in the Rockies can be highly enjoyable and filled with adventure.
And when the daily grind is especially grinding, Ruthie’s Trails and its perpetually young-at-heart and ever-smiling author is there to remind us to make the most of life and that the Rocky Mountains truly are one of the special places in the world: even if winter seems to settle in and hang out for 10 months of the year.
In fact, the last line from one of Oltmann’s trip descriptions, where she describes her time out as a “super-marvelous week”, can be used to sum up life in general and Oltmann’s time in the Rockies.
And during that time, Oltmann has traveled roughly 85-90 per cent of the trails in the four mountain national parks and Kananaskis Country.
“It has been a rewarding life and I am grateful to God for his guidance and care, and in looking back, I consider myself rich. Not in money, but in experiences, and in the amazing, spectacular places I’ve seen and the wonderful people I’ve met and known. It has all been a tremendous gift. Never in my wildest dreams would this skinny kid from Ottawa have imagined this life of great adventure,” Oltmann wrote.
Ruthie’s Trails: A Lifetime of Adventure, published by Mount Fable Press, retails for $19.95.
It is available in Canmore at Café Books, Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre and Second Story Books or at The Friends of Kananaskis Country shops at visitor information centres at Barrier Lake, Elbow Valley and Peter Lougheed.