A few years ago, I was browsing a fishing forum (big surprise) and I came across a thread about some books that had inspired the posters. One name stood out to me – Sigurd Olson. It wasn’t the first time I had heard his name mentioned in the context of “great outdoor writers” I was intrigued. A few google searches about Olson revealed that he spent much of his life paddling the Quetico/BCWA region in Northern Minnesota (he was a big reason the BCWA was created). A quick check at my local library and they had one book on the shelves “The Lonely Land"
Similar to one of the other books I reviewed (Distant Fires Review) it’s a story about an epic paddling journey. Olson and 5 companions set out to trace one of the more famous “Voyageur” highways in Canada. A 500 Mile journey that covers the Churchill, Sturgeon Weir and Saskatchewan rivers. The book is written in a journal format and includes illustrations.
I really enjoyed this book. Originally published in 1961, Olson captures a simpler and quiet wilderness. With somewhat basic gear and none of today's technological advances the paddlers seem to exude both extreme confidence in their capabilities and a healthy respect for Mother Nature. Most times you can find me with my nose in a good mystery or action novel which reads fast and easy. The Lonely Land is a bit more cerebral than my normal fare, but it didn’t deter me (Me um good read guy). His descriptions of the people, topography, action and fauna that they encounter on the journey created wonderful images in my head. Olson also includes maps, historical quotes and research about life on the Churchill Rive during the Voyageurs era. I was motivated by this book as well. At the time of the trip Olson was 56 years old and most of his companions were on the other side of 40 – it gives me hope (although my 1 canoe trip may leave me a bit light on experience)
If you love the outdoors and are interested in the history of our fur trading Ancestors, I think you will enjoy this book. Like other paddling books I have read this one had me scouring the internet for deals on paddling and camping gear. You can find it here Lonely Land Amazon or your local library.