Our Trav­els: Hooray for Hik­ing

A lively fall fes­ti­val in On­tario cel­e­brates sport, food and the arts

Our Canada - - News - By Lau­ren Bau­man, Kitch­ener

At­tend­ing the an­nual Hike Hal­ibur­ton Fes­ti­val is a must for this na­ture-lov­ing cou­ple.

Ev­ery late Septem­ber, I look for­ward to the unique Hike Hal­ibur­ton Fes­ti­val, hav­ing par­tic­i­pated in the 13th and 14th an­nual ones in 2015 and 2016, re­spec­tively. My hus­band and I were among the 1,500 peo­ple of all ages and abil­i­ties who joined the fes­tiv­i­ties dur­ing this four-day event through­out the lovely Hal­ibur­ton High­lands in north­ern On­tario.

In ad­di­tion to tra­di­tional hikes (which are awe­some, es­pe­cially the many dog-friendly ones), the fes­ti­val show­cases the arts, cul­ture, food, drink and her­itage of the area. While we use our nearby fam­ily cot­tage as our base, many vis­i­tors come from all parts of On­tario and across Canada. Lo­cal lodg­ing, from quaint B&BS to fancy re­sorts, is posted on the festi- val’s well-or­ga­nized web­site. More than 80 guided tours are avail­able from Thurs­day to Sun­day, through­out the day and even­ing, spread out among four neigh­bour­ing re­gions, in­clud­ing Min­den Hills, Dysart et al, Al­go­nquin High­lands and High­lands East.

Due to the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity, as well as the im­por­tance of keep­ing a man­age­able guide-to-hiker ra­tio, pre-reg­is­tra­tion is en­cour­aged, as the quota for many hikes fills up weeks in ad­vance. You can take your chances of get­ting a spot at the last minute, as in my ex­pe­ri­ence some noshows al­ways hap­pen.

Choos­ing a hike from the va­ri­ety of­fered is the first chal­lenge, but af­ter read­ing the de­tailed de­scrip­tions, I picked some that were rel­a­tively close to my cot­tage and lasted

about two to three hours, max­i­mum. Some hikes in­volved ca­noe­ing/portag­ing or lasted more than six hours—def­i­nitely for hardier souls. There was even a “Ghost Walk” in Hal­ibur­ton Vil­lage, where spooky tales were shared, and a “Star Trek” was held at night. How­ever, I was de­lighted by my choices, dis­cov­er­ing new gems in the coun­try­side just a few kilo­me­tres away from the cot­tage I’d been vis­it­ing for the past 30 years.

Last year, we signed up for an early Satur­day morn­ing hike to the Har­burn Wells—a unique ge­o­log­i­cal phe- nomenon tucked into the wilder­ness that I never would have found on my own. A knowl­edge­able ge­ol­o­gist and en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor led us up a steep trail to the site, where we saw eight ket­tles (nat­u­ral sink­holes) rang­ing in depth from two to 25 feet, with sur­face di­am­e­ters of five to 15 feet. We took turns gaz­ing into the deep­est one from a rocky precipice: Fall­ing into the hole was not an op­tion un­less you were star­ring in an ac­tion movie!

On Sun­day, a brisk but sunny au­tumn morn­ing, we hiked to the Red­stone Lake Look­out—a mod­er­atelevel hike that wan­dered through the 160 acres of a pri­vately owned, man­aged for­est with groomed trails. The ter­rain was true Hal­ibur­ton High­lands: dense hard­wood bush, spring-fed ver­nal pools, val­leys and a spec­tac­u­lar view over Red­stone Lake, its treed fringe just start­ing to dis­play fall colours. We rested on old logs at the top, sip­ping wa­ter and just savour­ing the panorama. Our guide was an ex­pe­ri­enced and en­thu­si­as­tic Al­go­nquin trip­per who not only dis­cussed wood­lot man­age­ment but also gave a brief tour of his 10 kw mi­crofit so­lar sys­tem in­stal­la­tion.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in such hikes gives us the chance to meet other like-minded, out­doorsy folk. Strik­ing up con­ver­sa­tion seems to come eas­ier than in any other set­ting. Some hik­ers walk with poles or homemade walk­ing sticks, and oth­ers may lag be­hind the group, but a se­cond guide goes last in line to pre­vent any strag­glers from get­ting lost. How­ever, none com­plain about wait­ing for ev­ery­one to catch up at our fre­quent stops, be­cause the route is al­ways so scenic and the north­ern air so fresh.

Can’t wait for this year’s ad­ven­tures! n

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