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Modern-day explorer traverses backwoods of Manitoba in 2 new books

Mar 10, 2018 09:56AM ● Published by Editor

Hap Wilson during one of his many adventures in the Canadian wilderness. (Photo:  Hap Wilson)

Avid paddler Hap Wilson is many things — an artist, author, photographer, guide, environmentalist, cartographer, eco-trail builder — and now the modern-day explorer has written another book.

Wilson has seen the most beautiful parts of Canadian wilderness and he's experienced some of the worst.


(Photo: Hap Wilson)

His love of the wilderness started when he was just seven. Back then his father was a filmmaker in Ontario. He created survival films for the department of lands and forest, and the actors hired for the films were Indigenous elders from Curve Lake First Nation. 

"When they weren't on the set they would take my brother and I out into the bush and teach us camp craft," said Wilson. "To me it was pure magic."

He continued learning and teaching himself. A lot of skill was learned through trial and tribulation, he said.

"I learned quickly that there was more to it than just the hard skills," said Wilson. It's about 20 per cent hard skills and the rest is psychology, understanding what it's like to be in the wilderness and how to handle it, he says.

The skills Wilson learned with the actors gave him the foundation he needed. Orienteering, boiling water in a birch bark bowl and especially paddling techniques have led Wilson to becoming the explorer and author he is today.

"I've been paddling since I was 14 and my love of the outdoors has grown since," he said.

Since then, Wilson has paddled more than 60,000 kilometres all over Canada and has been on more than 300 excursions. 

With all those adventures, it's no doubt that Wilson experienced some troubles.

"Eventually you get hit by lightening, you have to deal with bears and certainly personalities that you don't really know or live with until you get them 300 kilometres from the nearest settlement or road and then you have to deal with it," he said.

Wilson's knowledge of the Canadian wilderness has led him to writing multiple books about his adventures. He has created new trails all over the country for both provincial governments and private land owners. 

He has principles to follow when building new trails: always compliment the wilderness that surrounds his paths and leaving as little impact as possible. 

With his knowledge and respect for nature, Wilson also charts canoe routes and hiking trails to encourage awareness and protection for the Canadian forests and rivers.

He began researching and writing canoeing guides in 1977. 

"It kind of went hand in hand with being in the outdoors, photography, art, then I started getting requests from magazines to write adventure venture articles," said Wilson. 

He now has 15 published books, from canoeing guides to various places in Canada to stories about his own adventures while exploring.

The newest books by Wilson, published in late 2017, both follow his adventures in the Manitoba wilderness.

In River of Fire: Conflict and Survival on the Seal River Wilson discusses his paddle through the Seal River in northern Manitoba, known to be one of the country's most dangerous white water rivers.
Meanwhile Lake Superior to Manitoba by Canoe: Mapping the Route into the Heart of the Continent is all about Wilson's task of finding a water route through the Trans Canada Trail from Thunder Bay on Lake Superior to Manitoba's eastern border.

"It's a guide book, but it's also more than a guide book, it's an adventure story, it's a map book, it's an environment book, it's a book about degradation of parts of beautiful countryside," said Wilson.

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