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Book Review – Disappointment River, Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage

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A while back I had indicated that some more book reviews were coming Beyond the Trees Review . Over the winter I tend to read quite a bit, and while I read a lot of different styles of books, I always try to get in some “Outdoor Adventure” books into the mix. Disappointment River, Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage by Brian Castner Amazon Link is a hybrid of adventure guide, history lesson and overview of life on the Mackenzie River. The author has decided to re trace the route that explorer Alexander Mackenzie took to try to find the famed passage to the Northwest.

Castner sets off in a canoe to track the 1,225 Miles that Mackenzie and his crew took. Along the way he is joined by various friends to share the journey (and the paddling) and meets a lot of interesting characters along the way.

What I really enjoyed about Disappointment River was the combo of history and adventure. This is not a trip for the lighthearted; rapids, Musk Ox, thieves, and isolation are all in play. I also found myself fascinated by the trials and tribulations of the much earlier expedition carried on by Mackenzie and his crew. Think about it – Mackenzie’s trip was in 1879 – no GPS, no freeze-dried rations, and no ultralight Kevlar canoes! If you are not familiar with Mackenzie's journey I will not spoil it but the book is called Dissapointment River for a reason.

IMO the author also does a great job of describing life along the river today. As he and his travelling companions make re supply tops or pick ups, he paints a vivid picture of the people and communities along the banks of the Mackenzie River. I am a big fan of learning without feeling like I am being lectured to or in a classroom - this book really did that.

I also found myself amazed and inspired at the audacity of both Mackenzie and Castner. When I think of my life and things I stress about and try to compare it – well I am not sure I can. As with many adventurers the way they can break things out into bite sized chunks is impressive. It is also a good life lesson – stay present, what is my biggest priority today, maybe tomorrow and not getting to bogged down by the things that might happen.

Overall, this book is a recommend for me. I really enjoyed, had trouble putting it down and found myself both in awe and inspired by the author’s moxie. If you are interested in understanding life along the Mackenzie River or in Canada’s artic regions in both past and present tense, I suggest you check it out. I know for me it was a big reason why I was quite keen on booking a 3-night canoe trip this summer – it will not compare to Brian’s journey but it will certainly be a test for a Citiot like me Citiots Take Algonquin Park



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