North America Interviews

 
 

EXPERT Q&A: Frontier Spirit

 

We catch up with three figures behind luxury travel up north on what drew them there, why they stay, and what their dream days look like

By: WHITNEY JAMES
 
 
 
 
 

Fraser Murray

 

WILDLIFE GUIDE AND GENERAL MANAGER AT NIMMO BAY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

Son of Nimmo Bay's founding couple, Fraser Murray is now the man behind the operations of this exquisite Northern retreat. This floating basecamp has been a family affair for 35 years and is both a perfect spot to relax and adventure—at least if you ask Fraser himself.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Q:

A: 

 

One of Nimmo Bay’s most special features is how remote it is. What is it like to live permanently in such a secluded location?

Having first moved to Nimmo Bay at the age of four, it would be strange for me to be anywhere else. I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet and I am truly living out my childhood fantasy. I live surrounded in the gloriousness of nature and I get to explore its oceans, rivers, mountains and forests. The very best part is that I get to experience the magic of our area for the first time over and over again through the eyes of our guests.

 
 

"When I am at Nimmo Bay I have all that I need; I have my family, I have my work, and I have purpose."

 
 
 

Q:

 

Nimmo offers a lifetime’s worth of activities for guests. What’s your favorite?

 
 

A:

My dream day might not be a day that most guests are looking for, as it would most likely involve sleeping in followed by a leisurely brunch, hanging around the lodge with friends, telling stories and having a drink, sitting in the hot tubs while the rain pours down, then when the rain dissipates sitting around the floating fire as it roars and keeping it stoked under the perfect canopy of stars until the early hours of the morning.

On the other hand, if I woke up feeling the itch to get off the dock, waking up early and taking breakfast and coffee to go, jumping in the boat or helicopter and heading out for the day to explore a part of the coast or mountain range that I have yet to explore. This so often is how our new programs are developed. We head out and find something that is so incredible that we know that we need to share it with our guests. When I have a day like this—­one that allows me the time and the brain space to build the programs and to visualize the next step and how things will come together, that is truly the biggest dream for me.

 
 
 

Q:

 

What is the best part of guiding in the Pacific Northwest? 

 
 

A:

I would have to say that after all of these years I am still surprised by the bounty of our area. With such a diversity of large mammals in our ocean and on our shores, all framed by the strength of the mighty cedar, having the salmon flowing as the life line of it all, the possibility for human interaction seem endless. Being able to sit back and be an observer of such a true and raw state of nature, I am continuously surprised and amazed. If there is one thing that I have learned in all of my years guiding in the Pacific Northwest it is to expect the unexpected. For a man who hates routine this is definitely the best part of guiding.

 
 
 

 
 

Ellie Gray

 

DAUGHTER OF ICONIC BUSH PLANE PILOT, MANAGER AT ULTIMA THULE LODGE IN ALASKA

The oldest of the third generation of her family to be raised in Alaska, Ellie Gray is a natural-born outdoorswoman. She started young as an adventure guide at the family lodge, the Ultima Thule, got her pilot's license at 19, and is the youngest finisher in the history of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Needless to say, she already qualifies as a true Alaskan legend.

 
 
 

Q:

 

Rumor has it you grew up on a glacier! Can you tell us where and what that was like?

 
 

A:

That's not exactly true... I grew up near a glacier. Many glaciers in fact. The area surrounding the lodge is considered one of the most glaciated regions on earth, after the poles. The Bagley Icefield alone stretches over 120 miles in length and it's one of the places we visit on our flight safari adventures from the lodge. Only a few of the hundreds of glaciers out here even have names. With wheel skies on the airplanes you can go from the lush 80-degree warmth of summer at the lodge, to the middle of winter as far as the eye can see in less than 20 minutes. It's pretty incredible.

 

"We often stop for a picnic lunch in the middle of a glacier while in-route to the Pacific Ocean for an afternoon of beach combing."

 

We also work with NASA, using our airplanes and pilots to carry scientists and laser altimeters to study the changes in the growth and melt of the glaciers each year. It's fascinating to be so immersed in the life of our glaciers.

 
 
 

Q:

 

As the oldest daughter of a legendary Alaskan bush pilot, was it a given for you to continue in the family business?

 
 

A:

 

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I think it was a given in my own mind because early on I understood what a unique and special lifestyle I was born into. I've been fortunate to travel extensively, and it's at the end of a journey when I get back near to the Wrangell Mountains that I realize I live and work in the best place in the world.

 

What is the biggest reason to take an epic Alaskan glacial safari with the Claus clan?

Because it will change your life. Pretty simple. I don't care who you are. We've had people from every walk of life come to visit, and this wild world stays with them for the rest of their lives. My grandparents had guests years before I was born, and they still keep in touch. As everyone leaves they vow to come back and even if that doesn't happen, their worldview is changed and affected for the better. This wilderness gets into the deep areas of your soul. 

 

Do you have an especially memorable “Alaskan” story you find yourself telling time and time again?

My life has naturally followed a very "Alaskan" story line—being home-schooled, getting my pilot's license as a teenager, running the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race with my own team of huskies and finishing as the youngest woman ever at 18 years old. Meeting and marrying my teenage sweetheart who also grew up in a piloting family and got his first airplane when he was only 14 years old. Working side by side with my family to continue a lifestyle and third-generation business of sharing the best of Alaska with guests from all over the world at our lodge. I have been truly blessed and I'm passionate about sharing these experiences with our guests—who all quickly become good friends!

 

 
 

John Caton

 

FORMER MUSIC EXECUTIVE AND FOUNDER OF CLAYOQUOT WILDERNESS RESORT IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

Canadian-born John Caton is the founding heartbeat behind Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. After trying his hand in the music industry and real estate, John found himself drawn to the wilds of British Columbia after suffering a major coronary attack. He and his wife, Adele, founded Clayoquot, and have been there ever since.

 
 
 

Q:

 

What was it that called you specifically to British Columbia?

 
 

A:

It was actually a fluke. We had planned on originally building our resort in Ontario in a special spot on Lake Superior. However, a short-term work opportunity arose in British Columbia after my heart attack. And then soon afterwards, to make a long story short, Adele and I spotted the property that is now Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, figured out how to acquire it, and the rest is history.

 
 
 

Q:

 

What was the vision behind Clayoquot? 

 
 

A:

Actually when Adele was in business school, she wrote a plan for a North American Tented Safari Camp, and our collective dream blossomed from there. When we spotted the property that is now Clayoquot we knew that this was the place to realize our vision. We wanted to create a place where we could play all day!

 
 
 

Q:

 

How does your new lifestyle at Clayoquot compare to what you left behind?

 
 

A:

My old lifestyle was 'a lot of days on the road' away from my family.

 

"Clayoquot is truly a family business, and I am so happy to be surrounded by my kids and grandkids."

 

Plus, I am so much more focused on healthy lifestyle now. I am actually training to ride my horse across Canada in 2017 for the opening of the Trans Canada Trail—the plan is to ride from coast to coast over a period of 5 months.

 
 
 

Q:

 

Explain a typical day at the resort

 
 

A:

I am a very early riser and I always enjoy starting my day with a shower in my outdoor shower… I love watching the open sky welcome the rising steam. Afterwards, I walk over to my office for some quiet time before all the guides and staff trickle in for our 8 AM morning meeting. From there the daily activities begin. The days are long when we are in season, and I do not go to bed until I am confident that every guest has been properly looked after.

 
 

 

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