Saturday, July 26, 2008

Going Inside - Book Review

Going Inside
A couple's journey of Renewal into the North.
By Alan Kesselheim
McClelland & Stewart 1995.

In 1989 and 1990 Alan Kesselheim (an outdoors writer) and his partner MaryPat Zitzer (both from Bozeman, Montana) were having problems in their relationship. They had been trying to have children. After more than 5 years and several miscarriages, they were still childless.

So they did what they knew how to do best - they went canoeing down a river. First they had to plan the trip - that took a year. They had to gather enough dried food, clothes and other necessities for a year in the Canadian wilderness.

In the summer of 1990, Alan and MaryPat (MP) and all their gear (food, clothes, maps, canoe, paddles, lamps, tents, sleeping bags, lighting fluid, etc) was transported by road to a small town called Grande Cache in west central Alberta not far from the Rockies. Grand Cache is south of Grande Prairie, on the Smoky River.

The plan was to canoe down the Smoky River, continue down the Peace River and end up at Lake Athabasca. There they would hole up for the winter and spring, and then continue canoeing north along the Kazan River (through what was then NWT and is now Nunavut) to Baker Lake and the Hudson Bay. That was the plan. They pulled it off almost perfectly with no major mishaps.

I say almost perfectly - because there was one little mishap - if you can call it a mishap. MaryPat finally became pregnant during this first half of this trip and ended the trip still canoeing while she was 6 months pregnant. She gave birth to their first son (Eli Kazan) in October 1991. MP has since had 2 more children . Marypat and Alan are now married (to each other).

The point of this book IMO is the description of the wilderness, the trip and the personal feelings between these two people while they were trying to find themselves. MP discovers she is pregnant in January when they are snowed in at Otherside River Lodge for the winter.

I found the story of the first half of the trip and the winter overstay on Lake Athabasca very enjoyable, and nicely detailed. But when winter and spring were over, the last half of the trip (during which MP is becoming more pregnant every day) is rather less detailed than the earlier parts. Possibly because all Alan could think about was Mary and her "delicate" condition.

But if you really want to know what it is like to LIVE in the wilderness (northern Alberta and northern Saskatchewan) then this is one of the MUST-HAVE books to read.

Alan and MP had completed an earlier canoe trip back in 1985. On that trip they had canoed down the Athabasca River from the source to Lake Athabasca, and then did the same overstay at Otherside Lodge over winter. They then continued their trip by canoeing down the Kazan river to Baker Lake in the summer. Alan also wrote a book about that trip as well.

The largest freshwater delta in the world is at the western end of Lake Athabasca where three rivers meet - Peace, Athabasca and Slave Rivers. I learned that from this book.

The more I read these types of books - people going on interesting trips through the wilderness - the more I know that I have to travel to all the other provinces and territories in the next 40 years of my life. So far I have only been to Ontario and Quebec - and that was just to Montreal.

Oh yes and I read this for the 2nd Canadian Challenge. And that is 8 books this month so far. There are 10 books listed on my sidebar, but I am doing the Munsch books as a separate challenge to my main free spirit challenge. So I dont count the Munsch books as part of the total. And thats why I list them as Munsch on the sidebar so we can all tell who wrote what. LOL

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