By Lisa Monforton
Sometimes you really don’t have to go that far from the big city to feel like you’re a million miles away. Walking amid the silence of the aspen forest on a bluebird winter day at Hideaway Adventure Grounds, with John Ritchie as his dog, Buddy, and our dog, Anouk, chased each other in the snow, felt like just that kind of much-needed escapism.
Hideaway is just a 20-minute drive south of the hamlet of Lac La Biche and two hours northeast of Edmonton. Ritchie lived on the property in a trailer for years while he managed a nearby campground and worked in Indigenous tourism.
Through that experience and his time working at a bank, Ritchie was struck with the idea that his land could be more than just a place to camp, but a transformational experience for people to experience and learn about traditional Métis ways.
Hideaway Adventure Grounds opened in 2018 and has become a place that Ritchie is proud to share with people. He invites visitors to experience Indigenous culture through storytelling and land-based teachings, identifying plants and bush-crafting skills, like building fires and shelters.
Matthew Morrison, a University of Calgary student, recently spent a couple of days at Hideaway with his girlfriend. Majoring in English, he is learning Indigenous literature but wanted to experience the culture first-hand.
John Ritchie performs a jig, as visitors look on.
“We selected a whole bunch of activities and John customized it to our interests, so it made sense,” says Morrison.
Ritchie guided Morrison and his girlfriend through the forest by snowshoe, pointing out various plants, and how they could be used in day-to-day Indigenous life, such as for tea-making or medicines.
The couple also learned how to clear a site in the woods and make a shelter. Their sleeping accommodations were a little more luxe – a four-sided canvas wall tent, complete with a kerosene heater and cozy blankets, making the extra blankets they’d brought unnecessary.
Guests can stay in these cozy canvas tents at Hideaway Adventure Grounds, near Lac La Biche.
One of the most memorable parts, Morrison says, was learning from Rose Nicholls, a knowledge-keeper who works with Ritchie. They spent a few hours sipping Labrador nettle tea, making bannock and then Rose showed them a traditional Métis dance known as the Red River Jig – fascinating for its fancy footwork. “I felt like this was a part of the culture that is part of everyday life,” says Morrison.
Hideaway Adventures is just one of many places to check out on a visit to Lac La Biche in Lakeland County. Read the full story at SnowSeekers.ca.
Plan your trip
For more info on Lac La Biche, visit the Lac La Biche County website.