Catherine Hawkins – The Wilderness Ambassador

Who are you?

Catherine Hawkins, not Cathy or Katie or Kate for short. It’s Catherine. People always try and shorten my name and it’s very frustrating. I live in small-ish mountain town in Alberta called Canmore. I love living here because I can basically start any mountain adventure from my back door. I work at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies as the Education and Interpretation Coordinator.

What do you do for fun?

I spend time in the backcountry either hiking, camping, skiing or biking. Most of these activities I like to do with my black dog. I am very passionate about good food and love to cook. I like to knit while listening to the radio, usually the CBC. I volunteer my time to things that are important to me. Sometime I classify my work as “fun”.

What is your favourite community? Why?

The Wildlife Ambassadors. This is a volunteer group that I have been involved with for three years. It is made up of Canmorites who are concerned about the human/wildlife conflicts that inevitability happen in a town that sits right on top of important wildlife habitat and corridors. Every weekend in and around Canmore you can find the Wildlife Ambassadors out on trails chatting to locals and visitors about wildlife safety and in a lot of cases, respect. The Wildlife Ambassador volunteers are a great community because of the very diverse range of people it has attracted; there are mechanics, teachers, reporters, fish and wildlife officers, administrative assistants, filmmakers and high school students.  All these people have different backgrounds, interests and perspectives but all have the same passion and motivation for volunteering which is ensure the survival of wildlife in this area.

What is your superpower?

Badass knitter. Both of my grandmothers and my mother were/are amazing knitters so I think I have good knitting genes. I like to knit small things that don’t take too long to finish so tea cozies are ideal, though, I also enjoy knitting other small things like socks, toques, mitts and anything for babies. But the tea cozies are my favorite because my Momsie and I design different patterns for them and I either give them away to people that I love or sell them to strangers.

How do you use it to build community?

People need to chat and connect in order to build community. People chat and connect over tea. So the longer a pot of tea stays warm in it’s stylish handmade tea cozy the longer people will chat and connect. Also note. There is a café in Canmore called “Communitea” which I think is very fitting and supports my theory of how connected tea and community really are.

My Three Favourite Things About Catherine Are…

1. Her love of bears. I will say “love of the outdoors” here, too. Not only does she love bears, but Ms. Hawkins is also incredibly knowledgeable about these misunderstood, mostly peaceful teddies of the North. For example, she does not think they are “peaceful” or “nice” and is good at reminding people of these facts. Catherine is a hiker extraordinaire and has navigated some of the coolest peaks and trails in Alberta and BC.

2. Dry. Deadpan. Wit. This one time, at Bishop’s University, I shaved off my beard and left a “soul patch” under my chin. It looked stupid. There were a few comments, but, using my well-honed-made-fun-of-in-high-school-a-lot-wit, I repelled the slings and arrows fairly effortlessly. Until Catherine started lampooning the ridiculous facial hair. Much to the delight of the thirty-or-so partygoers in my house, her well-timed, perfectly delivered barbs were so much that I had to go back to the bathroom to shave off the silly looking triangle of hair under my lower lip. I have never grown one since and I have certainly remembered that Catherine Hawkins is a very, very funny lady.

3. Friends Forever. Catherine is a member of a very, very, very special group of ladies. They met at university and, since 2003 (when we graduated) they have spread themselves across North America and – from time to time – around the world. But they stay connected in myriad ways – emails, phone calls, Facebook, letters, surprise-cheer-up-visits. And it’s a beautiful thing. Such diligence in maintaining meaningful connections to the point that they are (and will be) foreverlasting is the truest kind of community out there. Eat, Pray, Love and Yah-Yah Sisterhoods and Stella’s friends and people with traveling pants ain’t got nuthin’ on Catherine and her incredibly community-oriented team of world-changers.

As told by John Horn…

Discovering a Town Square

It rained, and rained, and rained.

Early spring on the west coast can be like that.

Somehow we’d managed to be on the ball enough to all be in Squamish on the same weekend. That in itself was a major triumph for a group comprised of a dad, a gypsy pirate with no fixed address, a serious diver who lives on the island, and a Northerner with two massive (and massively high-maintenance) dogs that need a dedicated sitter if he’s away for more than 5 minutes.

Yahoos, the lot of us.

So there we were, on the best granite around, but it was wet.


Even the bouldering, half-protected by trees, had gone damp.

Smearing was really smeary, more like spreading butter than sticking rubber, you could aid up a crack that would normally be a walk in the park, desperately fighting for every inch of vertical progress.

I should mention we’re not the supermen and superwomen mountaineers who climb massive mixed routes or redpoint/onsight/free climb. We’re regular humans who got bitten by the climbing bug a few years ago in Northern BC, when dragged out to a little top-rope crag outside of Chetywnd.

We’ve led 5.10’s, but been scared as hell doing it.

tea in a cave

Cave tea is good tea

So, being in a climbing locale and not being able to climb, we did the next best thing,  maybe the next-next-next best, it depends on how you feel about trundling, rock-fights, and tea-in-caves) we invaded public swim at the rec-centre.

Only, we weren’t really invading much, because a good three-quarters of the people there were yahoos too. Mostly concentrated around the hot tub, conversations started with nods and “hey weren’t you working on…” questions.

We soaked our battered selves in the tub, and as we sat there it dawned on me that this was the town square of a community focused on active living – and a beautiful thing.

There’s been a lot of debate in Vancouver over where the real Town Square is or ought to be, even here on the ‘boot, but the more I connect with communities of practice or interest, rather than of physical space, the more I find a town square can be anything from your local haunts, to the dog-park, or even your own home.

Dear readers give some thought to your communities and let us know, where’s your town square – the hub of your community? Is it more important during your downtime, or is connecting there part of your daily routine?