North to Athabasca


In the summer of 2000 I took a group of young people from Jersey to paddle the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northern Maine.  I remember sitting on the shore of one of the lakes watching a float plane come into land and drop off a solo paddler.  I made a note in my journal to the effect on the 23rd June.  Several years later I came across a book “Canoe Trip” by David Curran, in which he describes his solo trip down the Allagash after having been dropped off on Umsaskis Lake on the 23rd  June 2000.  Although we were clearly on the river at the same time, apart from that distant view I have no recollection of seeing a solo paddler again on that trip.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so was pleased when towards the end of last year I came across a second book by the same author, “North to Athabasca”.  Once I sat down to read the book at the end of last week I quickly became  hooked and finished it in a couple of days.  With his friend Walter they decide to paddle a river, significantly more challenging than the Allagash.  Flying north into Saskatchewan their aim was to paddle the MacFarlane River, a rarely paddled river which flows into Lake Athabasca.
Actually getting to the launch site was a major undertaking and once on the river they were effectively in their own, although as is the case with many remote trips today they did carry a satellite phone.
The river flows through a pristine wilderness with all the challenges that traveling through such an area entails.  Through David’s writing we gain a flavour of what they experienced, ranging from the wildlife encountered to the physical challenges involved in paddling in the Canadian north.  They were clearly at home in such an area but I do have to say that I questioned their behaviour with one particular bear, if it had been me I would have been paddling flat out in the opposite direction.
At the end of the book, besides thinking I would always take a GPS with me, my overall feeling was one of envy.
It has been nearly 15 years since I last did a long canoe trip and reading “North to Athabasca” made me realize that it has been too long.  It is an easy book to read, the ideal scenario would be on an aircraft en route to a paddling trip.
Just be prepared to start planning your own adventures.

2 thoughts on “North to Athabasca

  • March 27, 2018 at 21:21

    I am the author of the 2 books referred to in this review and have to thank the reviewer profusely for this brilliant surprise. I had no idea this review even existed and found it by chance, killing time at my office, looking on-line for random stuff about Saskatchewan (It’s OK. I’m self employed and can waste all the time I want).
    I’ve returned to northern Saskatchewan every summer since 2012, alone, as I have always preferred, canoeing several rivers in the region. This summer I’ll be returning to the Porcupine River.
    So, thanks again. I love that you included having noticed me flying in alone to the Allagash in Maine. I know it’s not often done that way and even more rare up in the extreme wilderness of Canada. And, yes, people have certainly noticed there as well. I imagine (well, I know) they shake there heads. But, so far so good.

    • March 27, 2018 at 22:51

      Hi David. Many thanks for the comments, I really enjoyed reading the books. I am fortunate enough to be able to spend plenty of time sea kayaking but always have feelings of envy when I read people’s accounts of their canoeing trips. It was quite a coincidence that I happened to be on the Allagash at the same time all those years ago. Have a good trip in the summer.


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