Tour guide and curator of the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, JIm Blake, in front of the many magnificent pieces along the trail. /FRED GROVES Staff

Hike Haliburton reveals nature’s splendour

By Fred Groves
With the beginning of the fall colours as a backdrop, Noriko appeared on the hill.
As one of the dancers, who last week embedded herself into the serene Haliburton Sculpture Forest, her movements kept her audience, participants of the Hike Haliburton Festival, spellbound.
The only sound emanating was some quiet accompanying music and the whisper of a slight breeze.
“It’s like you called the wind,” said curator of the Sculpture Forest Jim Blake to Noriko. Blake also was the tour guide for the hike.

Hikers along the trail of the Sculpture Forest had a rare glimpse of dancers on Friday afternoon. /FRED GROVES Staff

Those who had the pleasure of joining him on the 1.5 kilometre excursion were not only treated to several dancers, but as always, the numerous sculptures that have an international flare.
Hike Haliburton did not occur last year due to Covid-19 and individual hikes this year were scaled back to allow for just eight registrants each. And while the fresh air and exercise are the predominant theme, when you get to see the imagination behind the sculptures, it’s an added bonus.
“Art is in the eye of the beholder and everyone has their own story,” said Blake.
Prior to setting out on the trek, he asked participants to sign a customary waiver and commented, “the biggest danger is that you will be inspired.”
On the hike through the Haliburton Sculpture Forest adjacent to the Sir Sandford Fleming’s School of Art + Design, there were 38 different pieces of art to view including Beaver, designed by local high school students and artist Mary Anne Barkhouse and Michael Belmore.
One of the more interesting pieces pointed out by Blake was one made of stone and miraculously, and somewhat hard to fathom was that no mortar of any kind was used to seal the large stones together.
“It’s held together by friction, gravity and hope,” he said.

Haliburton Hike Festival, considered to be the largest in North America, and spread over four days, this year included stops at Eagle Lake for the E-Bike Tours adventure, High Falls Hike and Ride and South Algonquin Trails and Snowdon Park’s Nature and Nuggets.
“It’s quite an extraordinary thing that started 20 years ago. We were sitting around and thinking what we could do different,” said Blake.
In all, there were over a dozen different hikes, all with easy to moderate to challenging. For the early birds, there was the 6:30 a.m. Forest Bathing and Sunrise in the Redstone River Valley.