Monday, 21 January 2013

Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve

Located in the corner of Ontario’s Highlands is a true diamond in terms of snowmobiling that if it wasn’t on your bucket list before, will certainly make top of the list now. Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve is the reality that all snowmobilers hope for. Situated on 70,000 acres of land, this privately owned forest hosts 300km of snowmobile trails which are maintained to perfection. It not only makes a great place to ride with your friends, but it can be turned into a winter vacation given all the amenities and onsite activities.

The entrance to the forest totally built our anticipation level - just like when you were a kid arriving at an amusement park. You could see teams of dog sleds gearing up for a run to your left and historic buildings and snow covered trails filling in the rest of your 180 degree view. The huge parking lot housed several trailers with eager riders already anxiously waiting to hit the trails.
The main lodge dead ahead of you is where you will be able to purchase your daily trail pass, which will only set you back a mere $44. It’s a minimal fee to pay for the restoration of your faith in the sport - considering the lower-than-usual snow fall so far this year. It is also here where you can purchase gas, check into your onsite accommodations or take a look around at their homemade wooden paddles – produced from the trees in the forest and milled on the grounds. It is also a good idea to grab a trail map and plan all the hot spots you want to cover during your ride – there are plenty to choose from.
Sight-seeing is a must when you’re in the forests limits. The map provides you with an exact location of where the lookouts are and how to get there. But it isn’t until you’ve reached the top that you’ll understand why they are made easy for you to find. The views are amazing!

The change in elevation throughout the forest is one of the reasons why you can expect to always find snowy trail conditions here when everywhere else is on par or minimal. The slight change in temperature often found in the higher elevation of the forest is what can make the slight difference in rain fall to snow fall. At one time the forest staff did make their own snow to help with coverage in areas that are more subjected to sun, but have gone back to relying on Mother Nature once and for all.
As you ride on the trails, it isn’t hard to spot freshly groomed tracks; something that is considered much of a rarity on provincially run trails. With maintenance crews and groomers running and working on a daily, even hourly, basis it isn’t uncommon to be the first snowmobiler to put tracks on the trail.  If you love the "all-natural" approach that suits the surroundings, you'll appreciate the handmade wooden trail signs with hand painted lettering as trail markers. It brings back a sense of hominess as you navigate your way on to the next lookout point. The ice gorge is a sight you’ll not want to miss. If at any point you get cold during your ride or wish to heat up a sandwich you packed, take advantage of the five warm up cabins on the grounds.
The Forest is a great place to enjoy a peaceful ride with your family without encountering the weekend warriors that you might meet on more heavily travelled trails. It helps that the secluded riding environment is bordered on the north side by Algonquin Park. The park even puts a limit on how many day permits they can sell, which means there are never more than 100 people riding in the park on single day passes at any given time. The only exceptions are the one day they hold their annual poker run in support of the local fire department, and the riding privileges that come as a season pass holder.

Need a little break from snowmobiling? Why not head over to the famous Wolf Centre and learn about the mysterious native animal. Their collection of animals and knowledge resources, all Canadian based, are sure to answer any questions you might have had. If not, ask one of the employees, sit in on their documentary film or take a seat in the observation lounge to watch the pack of wolves roam the 15 acres set aside for them. The Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve is full of animals; they even have a 2-year-old bull moose named Hershe and several hogs that make sure no food goes to waste from their onsite restaurant, The Cookhouse. Whatever your reason is for going, there is plenty to see, do and explore. Be sure to check out their website and ask plenty of questions while you’re there, we only just skimmed the surface of what is there for you to enjoy and learn. 

A brief history
In the late 1800’s Thomas Chandler Haliburton sold the land to a London based “Canadian Land and Emigration Company”. They had planned to break down the property and sell it in 100 acre lots to immigrants as farmland. However, due to the lack of suitable agriculture, the plan was squashed and the forest was used as winter logging camps and eventually a sawmill yard. Over the years, the timber was over-harvested and in 1962, a German citizen, Baron von Fuerstenberg, acquired the property.
Logging still takes place on the property, but with a whole different approach. Today it has been awarded Canada’s first Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) environmental certification for great leadership in sustainable forestry practices. In 2009 it’s sawmill was reopened and a year later a wood shop was added where they sell raw lumber and custom designed furniture to the public. For a more detailed version of the history, please visit their website.
Make plans now for your Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve adventure; come to know snowmobiling in Ontario’s Highlands!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Biggest Old Sled Show in Ontario

Since its start in 1999, the Old Sled Heads of Eganville have held two major annual events. The Bonnechure Cup Race, which is a famous draw for vintage sled racers - this year the Canadian Vintage Championship Race is from Feb 22-24th, and a vintage sled show. But this isn’t your average sled show. If you’re expecting to find five shinny old models that lay on a piece of carpet in a showroom, you’ve come to the wrong place. This is the Biggest Old Sled Show in Ontario, where hundreds of sleds and dealers, parts and accessories are on display for show or sale. People flock from all over to come and pay a visit to the small town of Eganville, located between Renfrew and Pembroke. They even have a Long Distance Award to hand out to the dedicated person who travelled the furthest to participate. This year it was Pierre Bellange of Hearst, ON who registered and towed his 1982 Ski Doo Elite just to be in the show. Just in case you’re wondering, it took a cool 9.5 hours – one way.

The main attractions are obvious; the old snowmobile show and shine, the swap shop – where you can buy and sell old parts, but they also have various activities along with their clubhouse for you to explore, get warm and buy some tasty snacks for the kids. This year the crowd count was one for the books and with admission only being $5.00 you can’t ask for much more in terms of some good old family fun. Its even nice to know that your money is going to a worthy cause. Being a non-profit organization, each year the Old Sled Heads pool the money that was raised from both events (including the race) and give it back to the community.

Here are the trophy results for those who couldn't make it to the awards :
Pre 1970 Original - Allan Jewell Callander ON 1965 Polaris Lil Andy
Pre 1970 Restored - Terry Leonard Lanark ON 1968 Bolens Diablo Rouge
1970-75 Original - Gary Lafreniere Sturgeon Falls ON 1974 Ski Doo Elan Deluxe
1970-75 Restored - Terry Herbison Brockville ON 1970 Ski Doo Olympique 399
1976-80 Original - Mark Trahan Petawawa ON 1978 Arctic Cat Panther 4000
1976-80 Restored - Paul Crouter Sterling ON 1979 Yamaha SRX 440
Best Mini Sled Original - Dan Hewitt Pembroke ON 1972 Arctic Cat Kitty Kat
Best Mini Sled Restored – Ceclia Buelow 1972 Sportcraft Swinger
Best Race Sled - Rob Buelow Eganville ON 1973 Rupp 3rd Dimension
Best Rare Iron - Dan Michaelis Eganville ON 1975 Manta
Best of Show - Allan Jewell Callander ON 1965 Polaris Lil Andy

But heading up to Eganville doesn’t only have to be about the show. While you’re there taking a look down memory lane, why not bring your own sled and make a weekend getaway out of it. Ontario’s Highlands has plenty of beautiful trails for you to ride on and several accommodations for you to call home for a night. Once known as the “Snowmobile City” you’ll have no trouble finding several routes and loops when your urge to snowmobile comes a knockin’.


Red Wolf Retreat is a place for those seeking adventure but would prefer to leave a small carbon footprint as they do. Why not go a little crazy and spend your weekend in a Yurt? A small circular structure that follows an open concept that doesn’t cause any permanent damage to the land. If that doesn’t sound like something you feel like snowmobiling up too, then check out their cottage rentals instead.

Stuart Log Cottage is a terrific place to rent for a romantic getaway or a weekend away with your kids. It is close by to many attractions and has easy access to snowmobile trails. Just be warned, if you’re not into roasting marshmallows on your fireplace or getting cozy under a blanket in a rustic lake-side cabin, this isn’t the place for you.

There’s a little bit of everything when you Come to Know Snowmobiling in the Ontario’s Highlands.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Welcome to Ontario's Highlands

Welcome to the first installment of our blog, “Come to Know Sledding in Ontario’s Highlands”!   
Over the next few weeks we will introduce you to some of Ontario’s most beautiful snow covered trails and unique vistas. If you are already a snowmobiler, names like “Ride Around the Park” and the Haliburton Forest may be familiar to you. If you have often thought about trying snowmobiling and wondered where to start- this is the place! There are several outfitters in the area covered by the Ontario’s Highlands that would be happy to set you up and show you what you need to know to enjoy a day on the trails. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) has great information to introduce you to the sport as well.
Club Events are not hard to find in Ontario's Highlands OFSC Districts
And there’s no lack of choice when it comes to accommodation. Whether you prefer the intimate personal touch of a family-owned bed and breakfast, an “easy-in and easy-out” motor inn, or the luxurious pampered atmosphere of a resort and spa, we’ve got it all.
But there’s one aspect of your visit that you’ll remember just as much (if not more) than the incredible scenery and outdoor adventure: the people you’ll meet.  All of the dedicated owners and operators in the hospitality industry love people-that’s why they do what they do. And the folks waiting to welcome you in Ontario’s Highlands are some of the most friendly you’ll find anywhere. So, let’s have a look at some of the great snowmobiling experiences in store for you in Ontario’s Highlands!
If you look at our map, you’ll notice that The Ontario’s Highlands wrap around almost half of Algonquin Park (the oldest and one of the largest provincial parks). This provides the route for the “Ride Around the Park” or RAP Tour as it’s known. This is one of the oldest and best-known planned snowmobile tour routes. At 850 kilometres, depending on your experience (and stamina!), the tour will take between three and seven days to complete.  There are several possible stops along the route with accommodations, great food, fuel and more.  This is the tour that makes it on to Bucket Lists everywhere!
The double-wide trails in the Haliburton Forest and Reserve are a treat for all to ride.
The Haliburton Forest and Reserve is a privately owned, 70,000 acre woodland area boasting over 300 km of trails and fifty frozen lakes. The Wolf Centre is a considered to be a world leader in wolf research and education. Industry critics have rated the Forest as one of the top 10 snowmobiling destinations in North America. The base camp at Lake Kennissis has all the provisions you need from fuel to sled rentals and more. One thing to remember: in order to keep traffic manageable, the Reserve limits the number of daily riders to 100, so plan ahead to get your permit.
These are just two of the better known sledding attractions in Ontario’s Highlands. The fact of the matter is that there is great sledding throughout our area. The eastern portion of OFSC District 1 has some excellent trail loops that run through the heart of the Highlands. Have a look at their Trail Loops map for more details. OFSC District 2 covers much of the central region of Ontario’s Highlands and has over 2,000 kilometres of groomed trails available. That should keep you busy! 
Check out their website for more information.
Wherever you go snowmobiling in Ontario’s Highlands, you’ll be met by smiling faces, a warm welcome and cold crisp days of adventure. If you hibernate during the winter, that’s OK too. You’re always welcome. But our guess is that if you’re reading this blog, you’ve either waited too long to try sledding, or you’ve already got the belts and plugs changed and the ol’ throttle thumb is getting that familiar twitch.
Ontario’s Highlands consistently has some of the highest snowfalls in Ontario. Even when other visitors to other areas are debating whether to a get in some late-season golf or maybe try for one last bike spin, we’re getting the groomers ready and trimming the trails to perfection. Keep checking back- we’ll be giving you more information on where to go, what to see and who to stay with when you Come to Know Sledding in Ontario’s Highlands!
Ontario's Highlands, where the trails are great and the people are friendly!