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Books that made a profound impact

Good thoughts. Recently I was camped in Yosemite in the fall, under some old growth ponderosa pines, ppines. I was in the wall tent listening to the wood stove crackle and pop. The moonlight was throwing shadows of pine tree branches and cones on the roof of the canvas and I was reading John Muir. It never made more sense.

I had a consulting project in Yosemite in 1974, 46 years earlier. We got a tour of where Muir had lived, where he had worked from the Park Superintendent. I had access to the Park library and many of the volumes were signed by Muir. I have seen several Chataqua performances of Muir, including one in the Park. He still walks with me in the Big Mountains.
There has been a progression of books that have led me to canoe camping/tripping, starting with a children's book whose title I can't remember. It was about the animal kingdom. I do remember seeing it still on my parents' rec room bookshelf after my Dad died. I was rummaging round the basement helping Mum thin out the memories. Never thought of keeping that title for my own children and children's' children.
The next book was another title I can't quite remember, something about pond life. I found it amongst young readers hard covers in the storage room "library" of our grade 8 school. I might've been the only awkward kid to ask the janitor for the key to that dusty sunlit room. That book was my introduction to natural history and nature writing, both of which interest me to this day.
A few short years later I discovered Ernest Thompson Seton's Animals I have Known, Grey Owl's (Archie Belaney) Tales Of An Empty Cabin and onward eventually to Bill Mason. Admittedly I saw his NFB films first, Paddle To The Sea and Rise And Fall Of The Great Lakes, Cry Of The Wild, Song Of The Paddle and Waterwalker. There's something to be said of teachers who on a slow day set up the film projector and screen to run a spool or three of interesting docs to shut up and quieten down a room of unruly kids. Thank you teachers. I went on to buy and devour Bill Mason's books.
I have 2 of Mason's books here beside me in my reading chair. A book I am currently reading is a title of ET Seton The Arctic Prairies, about a 6 month canoe trip by the author and a naturalist to the remote region of the Canadian Northwest in 1907. Also in the same vein of natural history and nature writing I have open the wonderful prose of Robert Macfarlane (He is best known for his books on landscape, nature, place, people and language.) However old I get this stuff never gets old. Just like a canoe trip, for me it's less about the destination and more about the journey.
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"Dangerous River" by R.M. Patterson. Just before I read that about 30 years ago, a friend and I were talking about doing a Yukon Territory-Alaska trip--Peele/Olgivie, McKenzie, Rat, Porcupine, Yukon to the Haul Road. Spending two weeks wading up the Rat wasn't really appealing to me at the time (I still don't like cold water). Then I read Dangerous River, about Patterson's time on the Nahanni in the 1920s, and that changed my perspective of what can be done. We never did the trip (danged partner got a job!), but I'm still in awe of Patterson's lifestyle and commitment. I've read a lot of the books mentioned here, but this one really took.

"Crusoe of Lonesome Lake", by Ralph Edwards, is a similar book about men of times past--WWI era in remote BC. More awe and respect on my part.

One a related side note, while paddling the Noatak River in Alaska this summer, we stopped at a Inuit fellow's cabin (where he cooked us some salmon for lunch! Really nice guy.) He was one of the few Alaska Natives of the area that eschewed living in town (as much as Noatak Village can be called a town), and lived most of the year by himself on the Noatak. He told us of some of the hikes he had done around his cabin, e.g. walking way up one valley and down another. Having spent enough time ourselves dealing with the tussocks so ubiquitous to the area (think walking on and between furry basketballs), we asked him how he dealt with the cursed SOBs. His reply: "I live here." That short statement I think perfectly sums up humanity--we are the times (and place) we live in. Will people in the future be amazed and in awe of us in our current times? (Yeah, back in the day, we had to actually type on our computer keyboards. Life was hard, but that was the way it was back then.)
Just started "The Twenty-Ninth Day" by Alex Messenger. Very well written 600 mile canoe trip across the NWT on the Dubawnt River. A chance meeting with a Barren Grounds Griz changes their plans. True story.
Just started "The Twenty-Ninth Day" by Alex Messenger. Very well written 600 mile canoe trip across the NWT on the Dubawnt River. A chance meeting with a Barren Grounds Griz changes their plans. True story.
I had heard about that book, but didn't realize it took place on the Dubawnt. Seeing as I'm trying to get up there this summer, maybe I shouldn't read it.....

Edit: Just ordered it. Sleeping at night is overrated anyway.
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Campbell Of The Yukon

After my first trip on the Upper Yukon River, I found an old copy detailing Robert Campbell's canoe journey from the McKenzie to the Yukon via the Liard River to found Fort Selkirk for the Hudson Bay Company. It makes most of us look like a bunch of wussies.

Oh wow, that is one of the first books I ever read.

The one that started me was Adney's Skin Boats and Bark Canoes - I realized that by starting to build boats and get around in them, I could in a small way become a part of that history of small craft that drove the population of so many parts of the world. I'd certainly been in and out of canoes before I read that, but it was the one that cemented me as a canoeist.
I'd like to get a chance to make a bark boat, before I get too old.
Wonder how I missed this one? The book that really changed my life was Ted Moore's Canoecraft.
In the mid 90's, the Ministry of Natural Resources donated a bunch of aluminum canoes to our school. They were in a variety of conditions, ranging from bad to very bad. We kept the best two for our club, then the remaining ones were to be raffled off using silent bids.

I was fairly broke back then, so my bid was not that high, 60 or 70 bucks I think. The day after I placed my bid, I left on a 14 day canoe trip with the school. I didn't have my own canoe, so I was really hoping my bid would be successful. When I got back, a buddy of mine pulled me aside and told me that two of the shop teachers had opened all the bids and then bid one dollar more and obtained all the canoes. Then they cut them up for scrap metal.

So having just returned from looking after 25 kids on a 14 day canoe trip, losing around 30 pounds in the process, I was righteously indignant, or more to the point, completely pissed off. I stewed for quite a while, especially since all the canoes had been destroyed and the guys had profited personally.

With no hopes of being able to buy a new canoe, I went to the library, (this was a few years before the internet), and the nice lady there helped me find books about canoe building, and she arranged an inter-library loan for Canoecraft. That book was the catalyst that drew me into a passion that is still going today. In some ways, canoe building became the central part of my life for many years, and each canoe I built was an expression of my personality at the time.

So as the saying goes, don't get mad, get even, or something like that.
Might I suggest..
"The Lure of the Labrador Wild " (Wallace)
"The Adirondack Letters of George Washington Sears"
"Adirondack Canoe Waters North Flow "Jamison)
"The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America" (Adney and Chapelle)
"New York Exposed: The Whitewater State Vols 1+2 (Squires)
I have read every book others have offered up. Sigurd F. Olson’s books and the man himself, he helped pulled me out of a bad downward spiral in the late sixties. He was instrumental in encouraging me to pull up stakes in Minnesota, make the move to Alaska, as his oldest son had.
The books that really got me interested in the outdoors as a 11-12 year old were, THE LONE WOODSMAN by Warren H. Miller, TRAP-LINES NORTH by Stephen W. Meander and the books by Ellsworth Jaeger, WILDWOOD WISDOM and WOODSMOKE.
A number of good teachers and my mother read books to me as a child, encouraged the love of reading books as I got older. To them I am eternally grateful, I’ve never been bored, when I had something to read.
………B. Birchy
The book that most directly affected my canoe tripping must be Sleeping Island by P.G. Downes. I didn't read it until I was in my late 30's and I'd already done a lot of canoeing and some canoe tripping by that time but this book really gave me the desire to do more and go farther. For whatever reason it resonates with me more than any other canoeing/camping book I've read. As a companion to that book find a copy of Distant Summers. It's two volumes of his journal entries of his canoe trips to the north.

As a kid I read a lot of adventure books but it's hard for me to know if they had an affect on who I turned into or if I was simply drawn to them because of who I was. Sleeping Island, on the other hand, I can directly attribute to a lot of great memories made.

Not in canoes, but boating: Sailing Alone Around the World by Slocum, and Kon Tiki by Heyerdahl. I probably read them before I was 12.
I'm the opposite of an earlier poster: I read some books about paddling long before doing any -- I was too busy hiking. The most outstanding for me were Sigurd Olson's great books about paddling, some of which I've reread since getting on the water myself. The trigger for actually doing it was a book NOT about paddling: Swampwalker's Journal, by David M. Carroll. I love natural history, and that book made me want to get closer to wetlands. I thought the best way would be to get a a kayak or canoe, or even a raft. After some research & trials, I got a Hornbeck Blackjack, and fell in love with the whole experience, not just the natural history part, especially loop camping trips. (And thank you for reminding me of Paddle to the Sea!}
I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention John J. Rowland’s book CACHE LAKE COUNTRY, Townsend Whelen and Bradford Angier’s ON YOUR OWN IN THE WILDERNESS, Paul Provencher’s I LIVE IN THE WOODS and although not a canoeing book CAMPING & WOODCRAFT by Horace Kephart. Kephart trained and was a librarian.
I think it's safe to say that "Song Of The Paddle" is one of the most influential books on canoeing out there. It not only formed my tripping style, but it has also impacted the non canoeing part of my life. It struck me on Bill Masons recent birthday that he may be the most influential person in my life.

One of his influences led me to the Tilley hat. I not only wear it tripping, but for any activity where I'm out in the sun. The Tilley also led me to their wool winter ball cap which has been my cold weather go to hat, and the Tilley that I' probably have worn the most.

Another big thing is the Duluth packs. They really do a lot for my tripping, making it the easiest and most practical way to transport stuff across a portage.

Probably the biggest influence Bill had on not only my tripping, but my life was the Campfire Tent. It not only added to my camping experience but it led me to the baker tent. I keep a baker tent set up in my yard and it has enabled me to spend a lot more time outdoors. I have enjoyed many cold rainy evenings around the wood stove that I can almost guarantee I was the only one in the neighborhood outside at the time.

Bill never really convinced me on wood canvas boats though. I just never thought they were a good fit for me, probably because I'd seen him smash at least one. I also had never really had seen any since I was a kid, so they weren't on my radar. But, low and behold,(whatever that means) his message had gotten through to me indirectly, as a result of my finding this forum. His message did get through to Robin, and inspired his love of Chestnut Canoes. It was his enthusiasm for w/c canoes that lit the fire in me.

If it weren't for Campfire/ Baker Tents and w/c boats my life would not be as rich as it is now, by a long shot.