In the spring of 2017, author and adventurer Adam Shoalts embarked on an ambitious project. For four months, Adam would travel alone across Canada’s arctic region by canoe. The four thousand kilometer trek would see Shoalts go weeks without human contact as he would battle dangerous terrain, ice-packed water and horrendous winds. I haven’t even mentioned the threat of wildlife! Bears, wolves and muskoxen would threaten his safety. Oh, and don’t forget the hordes of black flies chomping at even the slightest bit of exposed skin.
No humans, though. That sounds pretty good right about now.
There’s something romantic about remote isolation. Don’t get me wrong, I am the last person on this planet equipped to “live off the land”, but to sit alone on a wide open expanse under the endless breadth of a starry sky just captures my imagination. As a species, we’re better equipped for something like this today as opposed to the late 1800s where many explorers would attempt to conquer the top of the planet only to be met with disaster.
For Adam Shoalts, this wasn’t his first rodeo. This is actually something he does often. In fact, he’s written a handful of books about it. Just a few years ago to be specific, he ventured into the Hudson Bay Lowlands – not far from where his journey would conclude in this book.
The courage and determination it took to make this journey should absolutely be commended. Shoalts took a real beating from the elements over the weeks and months in between Eagle Plains, Yukon and Bayer Lake, Nunavut but it all became a bit repetitive after a while. To be honest, not a lot happens to Adam. Thankfully, he’s more than capable of taking care of himself when danger arrives on his doorstep and because of this, it’s not what I would consider a page turner. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t rooting for Shoalts to experience a life-or-death situation, but it very much reads like someone who faced little adversity outside of the physical toll such a journey must extract.
Still, I liked reading Shoalts’ tangents into others’ past failed attempts to navigate the north. He offers up some interesting history about the region and why it’s such a risk to attempt to cross the Canadian Shield. Along his journey, he would walk past long since abandoned shacks as well as a memorial for a couple lost among the rapids. It’s not an area that welcomes inhabitants from down south. I enjoyed learning about the wildlife that make up the unforgiving ecosystem – well, maybe not the black flies.
Beyond The Trees is a testament to one’s drive to accomplish the seemingly impossible. I will say one thing – after reading this book, I never want to have to portage a canoe in my entire life.