Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands is a mecca for outdoor adventure, and Barrie Martin’s Yours Outdoors programs are the perfect way to experience what the region has to offer. It’s a creative experiential programming that celebrates art, nature, history and outdoor recreation while reflecting the principles of green tourism.
Two of my favourite programs are winter outings that show off our rich Canadian history.
I had the privilege of recently joining in on Fur and Flintlock and I had an absolute blast. Check out the video of the day on my KCHappy Camper YouTube channel.
It’s a day of going back in time and experiencing the 18th century fur trade in Canada. Historians Mike Buss and Wayne Parker led the group on a bush walk past an active beaver pond and creek and talked about the ecology of fur bearing animals, past Indigenous technologies and lifestyles and the economy of the European fur trade. The hike led to a century old log cabin where we munched on freshly baked bannock and baked beans with wild rice, and washed it down with a mug of hot buttered rum toddy.
A demonstration was given around the cozy wood stove where Mike showed off various tools of the trade, including flint and steel fire making, trade goods, various pelts, and traps. And yes, we even went back outside for the big finale: the firing off of a loud and smoky flintlock gun.
Your main guide, Mike Buss, knows his stuff. He worked as a wildlife biologist for 30 years and has lived on the property you’ll be walking for 35 years.
This is another incredible program run by Yours Outdoors. Snowshoe Into Canada’s Past is run by winter trekking legend, Craig MacDonald. You really have to check this one out. He happens to own the largest collection of heritage snowshoes—we’re talking over 40 pair of various styles used for different snow conditions and separate regions across North America.
Seeing Craig’s snowshoe collection is worth the price of admission in itself, but the bonus is to lash on your own pair of snowshoes and hike through a forested winter wonderland. The walk takes you through the scenic Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation’s Marsh’s Falls property and focuses on the cultural and historical aspects of snowshoeing.
Modern day snowshoes can be rented or you can pull on a pair of winter moccasins and try a pair of traditional wooden shoes with babiche lacing and lamp wick bindings—the ultimate snowshoe experience.
Craig MacDonald worked for the Ontario Government for 47 years, re-developing historic portages and winter trails in Haliburton Highlands and Algonquin Park. He’s also the well-known producer of Temagami’s Nastawgan Map. Craig spent 27 years researching the region and interviewing over 200 Anishinabai elders. He also traveled over 1,000 miles in the backcountry exploring the “nastawgan”—traditional snowshoe and canoe routes of the Temagami region that have been used for thousands of years.