Beyond the Trees

This book tells of a remarkable journey across the Canadian Arctic, by a driven, determined, modern day explorer.

Adam Shoalts set out on a journey in 2017 to cross the northern expanse of Canada, solo.

Armed with a canoe, a paddle, a backpack, and a couple drums of supplies, Adam set off on the Dempster Highway, north of Eagle Plains. He took a route that likely no one has ever done, or ever dreamed of doing, paddling mostly upstream and against the massive current of the northern waterways.

My Dad read this book on his flights up to Dawson City this February when he came to watch the Yukon Quest International dog sled race. He enjoyed it, and left it with me to read.

I have never read of someone so driven and determined. His dedication to his mission of getting to Baker Lake, Nunavut before winter was remarkable. He was so focused, he’d tell of remarkable artifacts and items he saw along the route, but didn’t take time to visit or explore because he didn’t want to be slowed down. Imagine finding an old cabin after weeks of not seeing any sign of human life, and not stopping to explore?

He pushed on day after day, month after month, upstream, on portages, through rapids, and ice. And along the way, he educates the reader all about the north, and its animals, birds, history, plants, topography, and geology. I have a real passion for Canada’s north, and I appreciated the detail he included to share elements that may never be seen or experienced by a reader, like the sound of an angry muskox, or the charge of a grizzly, or even the deliciousness of an arctic berry patch.

Although I could never imagine a solo feat of this nature, I found myself identifying with his tortoise approach of slow and steady beats the hare, and how he just focused on the next task or challenge and pushed through it all. Although I would never have been able to reject the 6 pack of beer he was offered half way through the journey on a rare encounter with another person.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves the outdoors, or who is curious about those that do. For everyone who camped in their youth, or played in the woods, who listened to birds, and learned how to identify plants and trees. Give this book a read and you’ll find yourself longing for the view of your tent ceiling, the feeling of your sleeping bag bundled up around you, that fresh northern air filling your lungs, and the sound of the rhythmic waves breaking on the lake shore.

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Update: I discovered that the author filmed his journey! You can watch it here: