Author Bill Steer is combining digital
technology and old-fashioned trekking in a new book about Northern
Steertonorthernontario.ca, a Guidebook
of Adventures Found in Northern Ontario, takes readers off the beaten
path to discover the region.
“All our gems are off the road in
Northern Ontario,” said Steer, who heads the Canadian Ecology Centre in Mattawa. “We have vistas, waterfalls, interesting rock
formations and natural and cultural features that many people don’t
Steer said there is a real need in
tourism to provide enhanced or better information in digital form. In
his book, all adventures he describes can be located with an
accompanying CD that contains different files – KMZ (Google Earth),
GDB (Garmin), GPX (GPS compressed).
“These are the experiences not found
in the usual travel and visitor literature,” he said. “The
locations are not necessarily difficult to reach, since it could be
just off a road or trail.
“This is all about providing the
needed information, the directions, and the maps to find those
natural and cultural heritage treasures.”
The places are not hard to
find and include destinations in northwestern and northeastern
Ontario. Maps can be printed from the CD and the file extensions can
be uploaded in a GPS unit, or a Smart Phone, that contains a program
to read them.
Steer has been exploring the province
for a few decades and now has enoughmaterial to write a few more
“I will certainly be writing one
every year,” he said.
Stories and personal comments accompany
the descriptions of the destinations and he purposely included only
one or two photographs for each adventure.
“I could do video, and I could
include a lot more photos, but I don’t want to spoil people’s
adventures,” Steer said. “The photos simply help to just get
He has been to every destination
featured in the book and has returned to many in different seasons.
Some require a short walk while others may include a challenging hike
or paddle across some waterways.
“You can certainly pick and choose
what you want to do,” he said. “You can be a Sunday driver or
take on more of a challenge.”
One of the destinations is a 150-metre,
2.2 million-year-old fault cliff that is about a 20 to 30 minute walk
from a road.
While many locals in the Temiskaming
Shores area may know about Devil’s Rock, there are no signs
directing others how to reach it.
“It’s one of the best vistas in the
province,” Steer said. “And it is quite accessible once you know
how to get there.”
More of his favourites include railway
tunnels at Jackfish Bay and Mink Bay in northwestern Ontario. A short
distance from one of the tunnels is a plaque that commemorates the
last spike between Montreal and Winnipeg.
“I never realized the railway was
built in two sections – western and eastern – so it was really
quite exciting to see the plaque.”
Steer refers to himself as a “recycled
explorer” and when he meets people, he is sure to ask them what
their favourite places are and why.
His website also acts as a repository
and hopes that others will share their adventures there as well.
“It isn’t about me. It is about all
these wonderful places that exist,” he said.
Tourist operators can also promote
these types of excursions by utilizing the digital information
available in his book or by creating their own.
“The technology is there so we should
use it. We should be embracing this more,” Steer said.
Anglers and hunters that he comes
across are not open to divulging their favourite places, nor are
people who know locations of cranberry bogs or other private spots.
“I can certainly understand that but
I really want people to explore Northern Ontario and utilize the
local entrepreneurs. I am hoping it can direct some traffic to those
in the tourism business.”
Steer, who has been involved with GPS
training for several years through his work at the ecology centre,
said the book combines his love of the outdoors with modern
He also reminds those who use the book
to head out with a map, compass and GPS to be safe.
“We really need to know more about
our backyards,” Steer said.