Explorer, cartographer, conservationist, author, artist.
A self-taught writer, artist and photographer, Hap is the quintessential essence of a modern-day Renaissance Man. Abandoning urban living at an early age for a life in the wild, Hap soon became one of Canada’s best-known explorers, canoeists, and map-makers. An International Fellow of the Explorer’s Club and member of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, he has paddled over 60,000 kilometers across Canada, detailing his travels in numerous publications and guidebooks and preserving the country’s natural beauty with his wilderness sketches.
“The wilderness has less meaning to more and more people.
Those who are still comfortable in it are a dying breed.
Those who are willing to defend it are irreplaceable”. Brian Back
An avid conservationist, Hap’s desire to assist and educate others in protecting and enjoying their environment led to his establishment of Ecotrailbuilders. Operating under the precept – integrity, sustainability & wellness– the company’s goal is to lessen the environmental impact of trail building, ‘surgically’ placing trails within the natural environment and ensuring all structures are sustainably built.
Hap co-founded the environment group, Earthroots, a grassroots conservation organization dedicated to the protection of Ontario’s wilderness, wildlife and watersheds, in 1986. His book, Voyages: Canada’s Heritage Rivers, won the Natural Resources Council of America Award for best environmental book of 1994. Hap also received the Bill Mason Award for lifetime achievement in river conservation.
“Perhaps overlooked in his good work as an environmentalist is Hap’s incredible legacy as an explorer…
Anyone who’s anyone in the world of paddling merely follows in his wake.”
Hap Wilson has traversed the mosaic of Canadian lakes and rivers for over forty years, mapping them, measuring them, updating them, and turning old water routes –routes first travelled by the First Nations peoples over 5,000 years ago – into trails safe for today’s adventurers.
Path of the Paddle:
The Path of the Paddle – a major part of the Trans Canada Canoe Trail – is a prime example of Hap’s mapping and survival skills. Developing the 1,250 kilometer water route through the wilderness from Thunder Bay on Lake Superior to Manitoba’s eastern border was a grueling, five-year endeavor. Undeterred by violent storms, isolation, biting insects, bitter cold and the threat of hypothermia, and the occasional bear confrontations, Hap slashed open old portage routes and established new ones. Organizers christened Hap’s section of the Trans Canada Trail the “Path of the Paddle”, a tribute to Bill Mason, “Mr. Canoe”, a noted Canadian naturalist, filmmaker, and author of The Path of the Paddle (en.m.wikipedia.org).
Hap’s comprehensive guidebooks clearly detail the best canoeing, kayaking and hiking routes of the area. They also contain notes on the region’s history, geography, archaeology and flora and fauna, as well as outlining important outfitting, camping and safety tips. His Path of the Paddle account can be found in his guidebook, Lake Superior to Manitoba by Canoe. Hap divided his journey into 12 routes, each depicting varying degrees of difficulty. Diary excerpts, hand-drawn maps, GPS coordinates, and photographs provide up to date information, expert guidance, and anecdotal observations.
“His knowledge and great attention to accuracy make Hap’s guidebooks indispensable for safe wilderness travels”
Preserving Nature Through Art
For Hap, pen and ink is an extension, a way to capture – not just the instance of the beauty and wonder of the natural landscape – but to remember and preserve what he’s seen. And to keep people’s memories of the natural world alive, stimulating within them a longing to know that such scenes will continue to exist.
From fiction and non-fiction, to historical, adventure and globally acclaimed outdoor guides, Hap’s books offer something for anyone interested in the great outdoors or in the myth, legend, and mystery of the Canadian north.
His new novel, Out of Abaddon, is Hap’s first work of fiction. It tells a story of wilderness and urban survival in a world turned upside down. It’s an adventure story; it’s a love story. But Out of Abaddon also acts as a modern survival guide in the event of a global infrastructure collapse. It’s pure fiction, but the background science is very real and Hap’s knowledge and experience as a wilderness skills instructor adds an extra measure of authenticity.
“Taking the road less traveled has allowed me the freedom to pursue
all of my passions; and they all relate to nature.”
“Words seem woefully inadequate to describe your wonderful sanctuary and the hospitality you have provided us. Congratulations on creating what is certainly the most representative spot of true Canadiana that we have seen and will likely ever see!” - Rick and Nancy
Hap Wilson has an uncanny blend of wilderness acuity and emotional intelligence. These traits set Hap at the high watermark for explorers and guides, enabling him to create pathways for the feet and soul of all of us that have followed his trails or paddled alongside him. - Jonathan Behar
"It's rare you find a team like Hap and Andrea Wilson of Ecotrailbuilders. Extremely talented, detailed and trustworthy, they have far exceeded our expectations." Brian and Leah Root, Chicago, Illinois
“In River of Fire, Wilson captures the power, humour, adventure and intrigue…the very essence of adventure on a northern river. In a manner of storytelling worthy of Aldo Leopold and John Muir, Hap Wilson’s River of Fire will indeed light your soul on fire and instill a yearning for still possible wilderness adventure”. Les Stroud, aka Survivorman
"The art work in that book is one of a kind and outstanding. Magical book." Doug Hamilton. "Proud to own both in early editions! Thanks". Ed Doadt