It’s late, and the moon is out, we’re driving back country roads after dinner at Rhubarb in Carnavon, Haliburton. After 45 minutes of winding lakeside roads we arrive at Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Preserve. We pick up our key and find our cabin for the night; it’s not what I expected. Rustic with all the comforts of home featuring a TV, kitchen, sizeable bathroom plus two bedrooms, each with two single beds.
The parking area is lined with trucks. It’s then that I realize, this is a huge winter snowmobiling destination for families, friends and men. The cabin next door has been booked by a group of guys, celebrating a birthday on a snowmobiling, getaway-weekend. Luckily, we were so tired the noisy camaraderie didn’t keep us awake.
Quite a number of visitors bring their own Snowmobiles, but rentals are available on site, at the main office. There are more than 300 kilometers of well-groomed trails set in this beautiful scenic wilderness.
Next morning the sun is shining but it’s still cold, we spot people gearing up to hit the trails with snowmobiles. It’s something to witness, the city slicker in me is fascinated.
Haliburton Forest is spread over 80,000 acres of prime forest and owned by German emigrant Peter Schleifenbaum and his family. Schleifenbaum’s father had purchased the forest in 1963.
Hershe, the Forest’s resident Moose, who has been on site since he was two weeks old.
After breakfast, we head over to the Wolf Centre, a big draw for visitors to the forest. In the one-way glass observation room, we see three wolves sprawled out in the snow, deep in slumber. Its fascinating to observe. The wolves occasionally stir and poke their heads around; they can’t see us.
Granite, Alpha male
Schleifenbaum, who joins us, said they can hear movement coming from the building. Fifteen acres of enclosed forest are devoted to this wolf pack (numbering seven in total) enabling them to roam free.
The wolf centre houses a small museum filled with exhibits, thanks to taxidermy, of deer, bear and wolves in their natural setting.
Haida, Alpha female
Photographs of wolves and posters explaining their origins, line the walls, along with works of art from local wildlife artists. The Wolf Centre features a small cinema/classroom and a retail outlet-selling wolf related books and other paraphernalia.
Over a lunch of burgers and fries at the base-camp’s restaurant “The Cookhouse”, Schleifenbaum talks about his Forestry education. You realize quickly that Schleifenbaum is not only a visionary but also a savvy businessman. Besides the base camp recreational activities, he also runs a successful sustainable forestry business. Forming a partnership with the University of Toronto Forestry program, the forest serves as a summer base for research projects for students.
Schleifenbaum states, “only the best timber is harvested so the forest is not depleted”. He encourages visitors to tour the sawmill to see how various forest woods are milled. Wood products from the store are sold in nearby Haliburton village, which is run by Schleifenbaum’s daughter. By the time we leave the Cookhouse, the restaurant is brimming with snowmobilers returning for a lunch break.
Dog Sledding Siberian Huskies
We had originally planned on a dogsledding venture, but the beautiful huskies were all booked for the weekend. We visited the huskies being prepped for their next excursion by Peter’s wife, Elke Schleifenbaum.
They are such magnificent dogs, very similar in coloring, in some cases, to their wolf cousins. There are one hundred and fifty Siberian Huskies at the forest, raring to take you out on the trails.
Dog Sledding credit Yours Outdoors
Summer at the Forest
The Haliburton Forest is an all-season getaway, so there’s plenty to do and beyond the winter season. Here are a few highlights:
Canopy Tour – To get to the Canopy treetop boardwalk, you first travel by canoe, then hike half a kilometer, but it’s worth the effort to finally walk in the clouds.
Astronomy – Gaze at the stars with a guide. This program runs every Friday and
Saturday throughout the summer beginning in June.
Mountain Biking – pedal your way from one Wilderness Lake to another from May to October each year.
Camping, Canoeing and Hiking – there are designated campsites throughout the forest and plenty of hiking trails if that’s your thing.
Forest Festival – Fast becoming a well-attended signature event in central Ontario, where stars like Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), Measha Brueggergosman and Bruce Cockburn have appeared. Visit http://www.theforestfestival.com for August 2015 line-up.
For more information about the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Preserve contact:
Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve Ltd
1095 Redkenn Rd.
Haliburton, Ontario K0M 1S0
Phone: (705) 754-2198