Epic Day of Adventure to take centre stage at Orangeville Opera House

November 15, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“Thirty years ago, we did two or three canoe trips a year,” recalled Hockley Wilderness guide Al Pace about his family’s business, Canoe North Adventures. 

“Later in the year, we would celebrate with those clients by doing dinner parties. These days, we’re running 15 trips a year. So, now we issue invitations to come to the Opera House theatre to our current clients, who bring their friends, some of whom come back to us to book trips for themselves. It really is open to the public too. 

“This year, we wanted to stage an entire day of films and information, all about nature and the North. The day, Sunday, November 10, is in three parts.”

Beginning at 10:00 am, at the Opera House, “Canoe North Adventures presents Rapid Media’s Paddling Film Festival World Tour, featuring the best canoeing and kayaking films in the world.”

Included in this is, as Mr. Pace told us, “a special World-Premiere screening of a climate-change film. ‘It’s Happening to Us’ tells the dramatic story of the severe effects of climate change on the remote, northern community of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. It is a climate film created by a team of Inuvialuit youth that tells about Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, a really remote place very hard hit by climate change. This film really hits home with all the talk about climate change.

“They need to raise about $40,000 to go to Chile to show this film at the Climax Change Conference in Santiago, Chile. Be great if people just dropped $20 in the box to help them get there.” 

He continued, “During the afternoon, from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m., there are a lyrical couple of hours of Legacy Wild, a free afternoon event at the theatre, celebrating our wilderness canoe expeditions in Canada’s Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.”

Said Mr, Pace of this part of the day, “We have a wonderful musician from Guelph, Katherine Wheatley, who will perform original songs inspired by nature to be part of the afternoon. We do a showing of our top photographs from 2019 with music as back ground. I will introduce Canoe North Adventures 2020 Wilderness Canoe Expedition program, and describe our multi-day canoe adventures which are new for 2020. 

“Some of our clients will present their original poetry and story-telling. This is writing they do while they were on the trips; lots of them kept journals and sketch books. It’s very moving sometimes.”

This two and a half hours are full of information and reflection. Their son, Taylor Pace, “is M.C. for the day. In the afternoon, he will introduce a new short film that features stunning drone and go-pro footage from recent 2019 canoe trips.

“Lin [Ward, partner and, likewise, a wilderness guide] and Beth Grant are going to talk about a unique opportunity to explore the Canadian Arctic on a small-vessel cruise with Adventure Canada,” he said.

Mr. Pace remarked, “The whole day is dreamy – we do take nature into account; some people are planning to come to the whole day and have lunch at the break.”

Introducing another remarkable young man, in love with the North, he said, “Nicolas Castel grew up in Mono. He showed up to our lodge in Norman Wells one day. He had documented a group walk on an old hunting trail, reliving these trails and reliving their historic ancestors that lived there.”

This is the base of the third portion of the day, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., a feature documentary film, In The Footsteps of our Ancestors, created by Nicolas and his Trails in Tandem Team. It’s his first feature-length film. He was inspired to pursue film and videography while studying multimedia at Orangeville District Secondary School.

“The film follows a hiking group of Dene Youth and Elders while they retrace the historic Canol Heritage Trail; they go through the rugged Mackenzie Mountains, in the Northwest Territories. The film connects their cultural legacy of the Mountain Dene with the youth who are struggling to maintain their Indigenous identity and traditional skills in a modern world. Nicolas will do a Q&A after the film.”

He noted, “These three events are connected with the theme of connection to nature and the people in the north and the adventure of going there.”

“This is our 30th year running Canoe North,” he commented, thinking of the future of the company. “Now, we’re building it for the future generations. Taylor is fully invested. He’s guided in other countries. He’s just moving to Guelph and commuting back and forth to the office.”

Of himself and his own business of making pottery, “Of course, I’m in my studio when I have the chance. But during the winter there is so much preparation for our trips next summer: we plan menus, we have training programs; we do presentations for prospective clients.

“We’re booking for 2121. What can fluctuate our rates is if fuel prices spike but we’re pretty good at this now and we run a pretty tight ship. We’re running 14 to 15 canoe trips a season. Brand new clients have more questions. So, we supply them with more detail and we take them canoeing here to see what they know and give them some training. We have repeat clients and they know the deal.”

Mr. Pace likes the fact that “80% of our clients are from Ontario. I really like this – we can meet them at our cafe. They swam at the cottage and went camping when they were kids.”

After 30 years of it and still going very strong, there must be a deeper reason for the continued enthusiasm.

So, he told us, “It’s the transformation that we see in our adventuring clients that come to the north with a lot of trepidation. The landscape is so huge and the environment so pristine that it makes them wake up and ask questions. People sometimes change their lives after these trips and they do these significant changes with clarity. The combination of nature and strong leadership, we just think that is worth fighting for – we have 15 young guides and we feel a responsibility to the their futures too.”

For all the details and to register or buy tickets, contact online at

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