By Eric and Katharine Fletcher
Five entrepreneurial tourism operators take you on an Adventure in Time, deep in the heart of the Valley.
Who ever thought you could explore Earth as it was, five hundred million years ago? Or paddle in a Voyageur canoe just as the earliest explorers would have done?
These are only two treats in store for you as you wander through time in the Valley, with five congenial, informative and fun Adventure in Time hosts.
This ingenious tourism package lets you go exploring underneath the ground at the Bonnechere Cave, paddle in a voyageur canoe, attend a pow-wow or stay overnight in an authentic tee-pee, go on an archaeological dig at Algonquin Park’s Basin Depot… or howl with wolves at Bonnechere Provincial Park.
Depending on the season, a variety of experiences can be yours for the asking. We enjoyed the trip last August, when naturalist and author Michael Runtz hosted a Wolf Howl at Bonnechere Park.
We were initially shocked. For some reason we’d anticipated a small group heading off as quietly as possible into the woods with Mr. Runtz.
We were astonished to find over 200 cars and 400 people, all intent on learning about these wild canines. After watching Mr. Runtz’ fascinating slide show, we all got into our cars and followed the leader, off into nearby Algonquin Park.
It was unbelievable how still and quiet 400 people (including tiny children) could be. As Mr. Runtz threw back his head and howled to the star-studded night sky, all of us stood transfixed, ears straining to catch the return howls.
Nothing. Orion constellation stretched overhead. Again he howled. Again, silence. In fact, we drove to three different locations, all 200 cars, before we stood in a long, quiet line along a gravel road. Being at the end of the line of cars, we faintly heard Mr. Runtz’ howl. But then we were rewarded: the silence of the night was split. Howls and yips responded. Goose bumps flared up our arms as the primordial call of the wild touched our souls.
This wonderful experience is well-matched, however, by the other Adventure in Time hosts.
Linda Sarazin spins good tales, too, telling the story of her people, the Algonquin, and how they have lived beside Golden Lake for thousands of years. Her company, the Anishinabe Experience, allows guests to try their hand at a selection of activities, from making a deer-hide medicine pouch, tasting cedar tea, to staying overnight in a real tee-pee.
We particularly enjoyed a traditional pow-wow -- and yes, with permission you can photograph the dancers. Just listen to the loud-speaker: announcements will politely ask you not to take photos of some sacred dances. As well, you are welcome to join in most dances.
Another fascinating component of the package is going “down under” with host Chris Hinsperger. After welcoming us to the Bonnechere Caves, Mr. Hinsperger took us on the longest journey of our lives: back 500 million years inside the limestone cavern! It’s a cool journey even in midsummer, so take along a jacket. We spied fossils of ancient sea creatures in this deep underground world.
From beneath the water to above it, our next adventure saw us paddling a replica Voyageur canoe with chatty, well-informed Alistair Baird. Sporting a toque, even in the hottest weather, Mr. Baird skillfully regaled us with tales of the early explorers and how arduous the portages must have been in the 1600s. After all, each man carried more than one extremely heavy pack, and the birchbark canoes were fragile, ripping and tearing at the slightest contact with rocks or trees.
Finally, Bonnechere Park’s archaeological digs fascinated us. We’ll let you into a secret: the digs are at specified time during the summer so call ahead if you want to participate in one. We missed it last year, but want to go on one this year.
Yes, Adventures in Time hosts offer an excellent variety of activities to choose from. And you cannot possibly do everything at one time, meaning that it’s something you can do again and again.
Adventures In Time vacations are designed to offer a selection of activities that will appeal to different interests, different activity levels, and different budgets. They are hosted in the spring and fall, when the parks are a bit quieter, so investigate your options now.
One sample package include:
Explorer: Set up camp at Bonnechere Park where excellent campsites, a rustic room in Okum lodge, or a cabin on the river can be yours. Wonderful easy-access beach with safe water. For over 5,000 years people have lived or visited Round Lake’s shores. On day two, time-travel to Bonnechere Caves and in the afternoon visit Pikwakanagan, the Algonquin community at Golden Lake. Day three finds you exploring the old logging settlement and homestead at Basin Depot in nearby Algonquin Park.
Other packages are the Daytripper, Bonnechere, Voyageur and Time Traveller. For times and dates, cost, level of difficulty and length of trip please contact:
Adventures In Time: Telephone: (613) 732-7068; Internet: www.bonnecherepark.on.ca
Bonnechere Valley Ecotour: A Driving Tour of the Bonnechere River Watershed.
Spirits of the Little Bonnecheres: A History of Exploration, Logging and Settlement, 1800 to 1920.
Discover the Spirits of the Little Bonnechere: A Cultural Heritage Activity Book for Youth.
Katharine and Eric Fletcher are freelance writers who live near Quyon, Québec. Their books include Québec Off the Beaten Path, Historical Walks: The Gatineau Park Story, and Capital Walks: Walking Tours of Ottawa.