Sunday, April 01, 2007

North American Canoe Country
The Classic Guide to Canoe Technique
Calvin Rutstrum

The first item to compliment regarding North American Canoe Country is the wonderful illustrations in the 1992 softcover copy. The illustrations are by Les Kouba. The canoeing scenes depicted in woodcuts are vivid and dramatic and even solemn when needed.

Rutstrum seems to be a very methodical person with an emotional streak - methodical when speaking of technique and emotional when lavishing on the adventure, spirit and peacefulness of the paddlers' life.

Personally, I enjoyed both method and emotion. The book would be a better read with more of a focus on the emotional and romantic aspects of canoeing. Paddling technique is quite artistic and timeless as Rutstrum exquisitely lays out for the reader. I certainly will be a much better paddler in the long term with North American Canoe Country under my belt. What really makes this book a classic are lines like these where Rutstrum tells how he feels about paddling and whats sparks his romance with the sport:

"As you settle into the smooth, quiet rhythm of this stroke, you dare not even whisper. To call your partner's attention to a caribou camouflaged against a rocky background beyond the point , or a flock of young merganser ducks hugging the shore current, you rock the canoe gently. A short while back you altered your conduct for wilderness society. In time, the orderly, respectful protocol of the wilderness will come as naturally as breathing., and only then you will be accepted into the silent forest mansions."

Bounday Waters shoreline from the canoe

"In the lone journey you live closer to the nerve ends of feeling, where subjective response to the world around you becomes complete - objective response having been lost in the very intimacy of your natural existence. With companions, you saw the world with the eyes of aliens seeking novelty. Alone, you become a part of that phenomenon which was novelty, an integration that only the lone traveler ever experiences."

I think that what Rutstrum describes I have felt on day-long rides on my road bike through the mountains and valleys of Central Pennsylvania. When you are alone you notice things more distinctly because you are relying on your own senses judgement. Exploring new roads is more exciting and adventureous. I miss those days. Those experiences are remiss in suburba...unfortunately.

North American Canoe Country is an easy read, fun, and has a variety of subject material to keep you interested. If you don't have much time and are not interested in technigue, read the chapter on the strories of real-life adventurers by canoe. They are worth the read and are inspiring.

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