Since 2020, Forest the Canoe co-founders Ryan Walker and Shana Shipperbottom have been providing their guests with full guided tours featuring outdoor adventures like hiking and paddling, as well as experiences with local foods and culture.
While the certified interpretive guides have had great success with their venture, they want to make their scenic tours up Highway 17 and along Lake Superior more accessible for locals and tourists alike.
Now, the Goulais River couple is ready to present their newest initiative: True North Adventure Bus.
Working alongside Sault Tourism, Walker and Shipperbottom identified some of the barriers that were prohibiting people from getting involved in recreational activities up north.
Transportation sat atop the list.
That’s when the idea of implementing a bus system had sparked; it would see residents and out-of-towners get picked up from local hotels and taken up north for a day of guided tours, and then be dropped back off when the day is finished.
“Being in Northern Ontario, the drive is a big barrier,” Walker says. “We thought, ‘What could we offer for tourism in Sault Ste. Marie?’ If we can create that connection from town to all our beautiful nature north of the city, it would be a great service that we could offer.”
“It’s taking a lot of the planning out of the picture for them so they don’t have to worry about that piece,” Shipperbottom adds.
With the financial assistance of the Tourism Development Fund, the life partners will be investing those funds into the rental costs of a bus and support their operating, marketing, and advertising expenses.
There are four True North Adventure Bus tours available, with a limit of up to 10 guests per tour, rotating from Aug. 25 to Oct. 8 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
The tours include Spirit of Superior, Friends of Fall Colours, Sault North Adventure, and Agawa Rock Pictographs.
“It’s a six-week trial period for now, so we can make sure it’s something the community is interested in,” Walker explains. “Hopefully, in the future we can make it a staple in the community where we can purchase our own bus and offer that service going forward.”
Each tour is fully inclusive as the costs will cover all the food, gear, and activities required for the day.
Walker says the pandemic was a challenging time for their business, but he senses residents are hungrier than ever to get out of the house and explore the area’s natural beauties and scenery.
“This year, it seems like people still have that great appetite for the outdoors,” Walker says. “I think the pandemic really opened people’s eyes to what we have in our own backyard. It’s good to see things opening up and making it more accessible for people to travel.”
“We love this area so much. It’s so beautiful, and it’s so wonderful to be able to share it with other people,” Shipperbottom says.
The couple noted many of their guests are first-timers, and their efforts created memorable experiences that the visitors will take with them for the rest of their lives.
“We’re mostly seeing people who have never been canoeing before, and they want to get out on the water and really learn what that experience is like,” Shipperbottom says. “It’s been really fun to help people learn that new skill so they can get out and do it on their own.”
To sign up for an upcoming True North Adventure Bus tour, or any of their other interactive tours, canoe rentals, or custom outdoor experiences, register on the Forest the Canoe website.