David 'Hap' Wilson

Environmentalist / Nature Writer

Attended KCSS • 1966–1970

Inducted 2007

The quintessential dysfunctional student.

David “Hap” Wilson was ‘the quintessential dysfunctional student’, constantly raising the ire of teachers. “I spent more time at my desk in the hallway than in the classroom, was once disqualified during track and field events because I ran the cinder track in bare feet and was called down to the principal’s office because I illustrated on the border of a hand-out sheet. I remember Mr. O' Beirn saying that ‘this will reflect negatively on your future’. There were times, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed the school dynamic… the challenges. My family was separating at the time so it was particularly hard for me to adjust and to trust authority, hence the reason why I continued to question authority and become an environmental activist!”

Luckily for nature lovers, wilderness trippers and environmentalist everywhere, Hap Wilson chose canoes over comics, started a love affair with the wilderness and carved out a career for himself that is unmatched in this country. He was nurtured by the outdoors and saw the irreparable damage done by developers and industry to the wilderness (his home) and needed to become actively involved in protecting it. Hap has been a wilderness guide for over 30 years. He has led over 300 wilderness expeditions in Canada and is well known for his ecotourism / travel guidebooks. His expertise serves him well in his many endeavours from operating his ecological tour company, Sunrise Adventures, to his work as an eco-tourism consultant. He co-founded the group Earthroots in 1986 and is still active as a board member along with well-known lawyer, Clayton Ruby; has been a speaker at several high school functions, including Cum Laude grad dinners in the U.S and was even retained as actor Pierce Brosnan’s personal wilderness trainer for the feature film Grey Owl.

Hap is also a self-taught professional artist, photographer and writer. He began with his own illustrating business after high school, producing over 200 illustrations for customers such as Simpsons, Austin Marshall Card Co., Pioneer Village and Armadale Communications. He won the “Preserve North York in Paint” contest in 1972 and his painting hangs in the council chambers in North York. Mr. Wilson has written eight books beginning in 1978 with Temagami Canoe Routes, and including Rivers of the Upper Ottawa Valley [1993], Canoeing and Hiking Wild Muskoka [2002] and The Cabin [2005]. Hap has also produced a beautiful coffee table photo book entitled Wilderness Manitoba. He writes for several magazines. His original maps and illustrations were featured in the Canada Parks book, Voyages - Canada’s Heritage Rivers, which won the National Resources Council of America Award for best environmental book of 1995. In 2007 he capped his career to date when he was presented with the prestigious Bill Mason Award for a lifetime of conservation efforts. Hap is currently developing 60 km. of wilderness hiking and cross country trails at the 700 acre nature reserve and resort, Red Leaves, on the shores of Lake Rosseau in Muskoka. He lives with his two young children and alternates between his cabin in Temagami and a Muskoka farm.

Mr. Wilson has two messages for students: “After you finish school, buy a backpack and travel” and “One must persevere and not forget what is important ... Life is more about grounding, sharing and giving than making money. Never stop learning, never stop questioning. This is the formula for success and clarity and peace”.


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