Kelly Harlton

Kelly HarltonIt took place at Grade 6 camp, I would have just turned 11; this ‘old guy’ with a beret or on his head sporting a thick beard shows up. He starts off by whipping up a pack frame out of 3 sticks, slinging it onto his back, and then continued on by taking us for a 2 hour hike. On that hike it seemed like he must have shown us 100 things. He swooped down, plucked some yarrow leaves, had us crush them to get the strong sage like scent while explaining all the uses. A few steps later he bent down, parted the moss, and pulled up a 3 foot piece of spruce root. In a short moment he had the bark stripped, the root split and demonstrated to us how to make a rabbit snare. The hike continued with “taste this”, “smell this”, “eat this”. This little walk profoundly changed the way I looked at the wilderness. Before that moment it had just been a sea of green trees and grass. It was like the veil of green had just been lifted! I was so enthralled when I left camp, that I began a lifelong quest to collect survival manuals, study wild edible plants, gather outdoor gear and clothing, and of course spend as much time as possible stomping around the bush. One year later at the age of 12 I did my first winter overnight solo in the bush. I was known as ‘Camper Kelly’ by my peers until high school. That first hike was nearly 40 years ago, today Mors Kochanski jokes that I am probably his oldest student.

Of course I had to access this new wilderness of mine so that got me into canoeing, backpacking, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing. Hunting and fishing were natural extensions and I was a residence trapper for several years. I did some prospecting and staked a claim when I was 17 where I spent a couple summers placer mining.

After marrying my beautiful high school sweetheart Judy, we chased the oilfield and moved up to Slave Lake where we raised 2 absolutely amazing kids, Pepper Jean, and Taiger John (yes that is their real names). With hundreds of miles of wilderness all around, I was in heaven! We started a family run outdoor business called Wildside Wilderness Connection – instructing wilderness skills and survival, and Kayak and canoe Tours-Rentals-Lessons. the Kayak/canoe portion of the business we shut down in 2009 after 12 years, but the passion for Instructing Survival Skills remains!

At some point in time I stumbled across a copy of Bushcraft (at the time it was published as Northern Bushcraft). What Impressed me was the stuff in that book actually worked! the trees and plants and animals it talked about were actually in my area! It was like the author had actually gone out and tested what he wrote about! Unlike the bulk of the many survival and woodcraft books I had in my collection. In the photo supplement there was an old guy with a beard and a beret. Nah…it couldn’t be…a phone call to confirm my suspicions, and before you know it I had my book signed, and Mors ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ courses under my belt! Through these courses I made friends with, and started to network with Randy and Lori Breeuwsma of Karamat Wilderness Ways. Many great ‘bush buddies’ were made in these survival circles, and of course it is a great honor to work under Mors and alongside of many other terrific survival instructors, and incredible students, too numerous to name here.

My Fun

  • Watching my wife and kids realize their dreams.
  • Doing cool things as a family (Mountain biking in Moab, Surfing in Costa Rica, etc)
  • Every other year for 18 years a 2 week whitewater wilderness canoe trip with friends
  • In 2010 Pedaled bicycles across Canada with my sweetie
  • Active In Search and Rescue
  • Lieutenant in the Fire Service (volunteer)
  • Business entrepreneur investor
  • Bit of a Geek (system administrator, fix computers, good at smartphones, GPS’s etc)