Get off the beaten path with Wilderness Eco-Adventures

Nov 02, 2018

So, you’re planning to visit the Bruce Peninsula! Amazing! You’ve seen the epic photos of the towering Niagara Escarpment and the sparkling turquoise waters of Georgian Bay. You’ve seen the selfies your friends posted from the Grotto, the frosted mugs of beer at the Tobermory Brewing Company and the mouth-watering Tobermory Fish Tacos. There are plenty of iconic things to see on a visit to The Bruce, but what if you want to make a real connection with this land during your visit? What if you want to understand why this place is a UNESCO world biosphere reserve? What if want to dig a little deeper?

It was a short, easy hike that could have taken 30 minutes. But with Rod leading the way and pointing out things on the forest floor, in the trees and along the way, we learned so much more and spent half a day discovering Lindsay Tract. It was like seeing the forest through the eyes of a local expert or seeing the world through Rod-coloured glasses.

Well, The Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association’s Wilderness Eco-Adventures are the answer! With thousands of tourists flocking to the Peninsula each year, the folks at the Biosphere Association are inviting you to experience the Bruce in a new way—with a focus on conservation, education and fun. Digging deeper is their speciality and they truly believe that the more you know about The Bruce, the more you’ll fall in love. They’ve developed a series of full day, half-day and three day Eco-Adventures that pair you with local guides to give you a better understanding of what makes The Bruce so special. After tagging along on one such adventure, I can assure you, you will be off the beaten path.

Bushcraft: A half-day eco adventure
Full disclosure, I’ve lived in Grey and Bruce Counties my entire life. I’ve driven by the parking lot of Lindsay Tract many times and never made the turn. Today was my day. I’d be taking a half day eco-adventure through the tract, learning bushcraft and discovering what makes this Bruce Peninsula Forest so unique.
In the parking lot, we met our guide Rod Steinacher. Right away, I knew this was going to be interesting. Rod is an experienced birder and a long-time outdoor education teacher, his easy demeanour, his depth of knowledge and his hearty laugh let the group know we were in for a great afternoon.
Joining us on the eco-adventure was a family of five from Pennsylvania. A husband and wife and their 22, 21 and 15-year-old children. Having never been to the area, the Merz family had heard some of the popular attractions on the Peninsula get crowded. They opted to try something different and were rewarded. “This was a great way to spend an afternoon and it is ideal for children of all ages,” said Andy Merz after the hike. “The Bruce Peninsula is gorgeous but some of the more popular sites are crowded. It was nice to enjoy an adventure that was peaceful and educational.” Read their Trip Advisor review right here.

Scroll on for a look at the day in pictures.

Rod gives the Merz family an overview of where we’ll be searching for geocache’s in the Lindsay Tract forest. By the end of the day, the Merz family likened Rod to ‘the most interesting man in the world’. A great guide equals a great adventure.

If you’ve driven right past Lindsay Tract before, make sure you stop next time. This beautiful forest is packed with great hiking and cycling trails as well as a wetland area with a viewing platform. Taking the Bushcraft eco-adventure tour with Rod brings this place to the next level.

From paper to handheld GPS, Rod explains how we’ll use the device to zero in on our geocache target. We located two different geo-caches. One with a log book and one that was an exchange cache.


The treasure the Merz family took home from our second geocache.

Rod can spot a rare species on the forest floor from an amazing distance. Things I would have strolled right by stop him in his tracks. Here he shows us one of the many species of small orange or red Hygrophorus mushrooms.


Mama Merz writes in the geocache log book. I wonder how many other Pennsylvanian families have found this one before?

Add this to the list of things I might have walked right by without Rod’s eagle eyes: An Auricularia fungus, possibly 'Wood Ear', which seems like the perfect name.

And another…  a very young individual of one of the Coral fungus species.

After our geocaching experience, Rod changed channeled his inner bush pirate to prepare for our hike. Yet another reason the Merz’s likened him to the most interesting man in the world.

The forest meets the swamp within the Lindsay Tract property.

The view of the wetlands from the observation tower. This is a great place to observe migrating bird species.


Can you guess what made these holes? A yellow-bellied sap sucker!

The aptly-named Northern Maidenhair Fern.

A quick lesson in ten-minute bannock preparation. We cooked the bannock in a dutch oven over a small camp stove after quickly kneading the dry ingredients with oil into this dough.


There’s something about breaking bread with new friends in the forest. We devoured two loaves of bannock topped with locally made jam.


Rod instructs his charge on how to use dried grass and a titanium fire stick to get a flame going. We also tried peeling the oil off birch bark, which works well as an accelerant for starting fires.


The next thing you need in the woods: Shelter. Rod gave the crew a lesson in basic knot tying
so that erecting tarps and tents would be easier.


The best for last: As we made our way back to the parking lot, Rod scoured the forest for a beech tree. He found this stunning example of black bear claw marks on the trunk of this tree just off the trail. The bears search out beech trees to climb for their nuts, and as they climb their claws leave tell-tale marks behind. Rod figured these were over a year old.

It was an amazing day learning about the Bruce, and one that taught me things I would never have discovered without a guide. That’s the goal of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association. “By introducing people to the wonders of the natural world while engaged in a favourite activity such as hiking, biking paddling or snowshoeing we hope the program will stimulate their interest in conservation,” explains Biosphere Association chair Elizabeth Thorn. As an added bonus, all proceeds from the Eco-Adventures go back to the Biosphere Association’s conservation work, and the group hopes a few visitors will be motivated to volunteer. “With only 1500 year-round households, we need help to conserve this special spot which has one of the highest concentrations of rare species in all of Canada,” explains Thorn.