As summer quickly arrives here in North Vancouver, it’s time to get inspired to head out into those beautiful mountains. The following picks are tales and poems of backwoods hiking, river kayaking, and general outdoorsy-ness that will get you running out to MEC as soon as you hit the last page.
A present-day adventure story complete with polar bear encounters and surprise waterfalls, Alone Against the North is the true story of one man’s quest to canoe and map an unexplored river in the Hudson Bay Lowlands in Northern Canada. Backed by the Canadian Geographical Society, Shoalts sets out into the wilderness amidst clouds of black flies which turn out to be the real antagonist in this story. Shoalt’s narration of the landscape is remarkable, and his knowledge of the local flora and fauna of the area will leave you feeling quite familiar with the sparse inhabitants of Northern Ontario and Manitoba.
A BC story to its core, The Golden Spruce is a staple on the gift-shop shelves of all the BC Ferries for a reason. It tells the tale of an incredible golden spruce tree which once stood on Haida Gwaii, and was revered by the Haida people as well as the loggers who clear-cut the island around it. Focused on logger-turned-activist Grant Hadwin’s protest of clearcut logging, the story is heart-wrenching and steeped in BC history. A must-read for anyone venturing off the mainland this summer.
Pauline Johnson is a pillar of Vancouver history and her story is rife with familiar references. Included in Charlotte Gray’s biography are some of Johnson’s most popular poems, nestled into the amazing story of Johnson’s life and rise to fame. As the daughter of an Iroquois chief father and British immigrant Mother, Johnson has a unique perspective which is conveyed through her poetry and performative career. Check out her biography, or take some poems with you for those quiet moments on floating docks or in canoes.
A powerful and brutal account of two Cree boys who grow up in the North woods of Hudson Bay and join the Canadian Army to fight in the trenches in World War I. The boys are taught how to survive and hunt off the land by their aunt, a Cree medicine woman and healer who is also the voice of Cree history and culture in the novel. Their marksmanship leads the boys to become expert snipers in the war, which begins a path downwards into addiction and depression. Three Day Road has survival knowledge on the Canadian wilderness and an emotionally staggering story which is sure to impress any adventurer.
A beautiful collection of photography and personal narrative, Great Bear Wild is sure to inspire. The Great Bear Rainforest stretches along the central coast of BC up until the BC-Alaska border in the north, and is home to the white Kermode “spirit” Bear. The photographs are the real heart of this book, but McAllister’s prose will also nudge readers North.
A biography of the Canadian explorer Joseph Burr Tyrrell who joined the Geological Survey of Canada in 1882 to chart vast areas of this country that were unknown to Europeans. Tyrrell was an egotistical young man who dreamed of romantic adventures and fame, and his story into celebrity is full of discovery, misery, and mosquitos.
A strong collection of eco-poetry, Open Wide a Wilderness includes 192 poets and almost 300 poems. For reading around a campfire at night, or when you simply need a bit of Robert Service in your life, this is a great pick for the nature lovers out there.
Prisoners of the North compiles the stories of five great Canadian characters: Joe Boyle, Vihjalmur Stefansson, Lady Jane Franklin, John Hornby, and Robert Service. Having lived in the Yukon himself, Pierre Burton expertly captures these stories of courage, isolation, and survival in Canada’s northern regions.
By Jen Steckmann, NVCL Practicum student
To learn more about Jen, click here