Avid Canadian explorer, Adam Shoalts, highlights tales of the wild

A young man gestures to a projected photo.
Adam Shoalts shows off some pictures from his 4,000-km arctic journey. Marks – Photo

By Tristan Marks

It takes a special breed to go into the Canadian wilds and explore the virtually untouched landscape for months at a time.

Epitome of that special breed, Adam Shoalts is a modern day explorer, often tasked by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society with charting Canada’s uncharted rivers.

This modern day explorer undertook a solo, season-long, 4,000 km canoe trip in the arctic circle in the territories. What’s more, he did it for fun.

Last week, Shoalts shared details of his journey with the Lincoln Garden Club. He was there with his new book, Beyond the Trees, which documented the experience.

Shoalts is a native of the Niagara Region having grown up in the rural boundaries of Fenwick.

“I’ve always been fascinated with nature,” Shoalts said while recounting his origins. “I loved plants my whole life.”

Both his father and grandfather were woodworkers, who utilized materials they gathered mostly by hand. They passed down their knowledge and passion for Canadian nature to Shoalts.

He said the seeds for his latest adventure took root in 2017 while trying to find something to do for the Canada 150 celebrations.

“Whenever I need inspiration, I turn to history books,” said Shoalts.

He read and took inspiration from the Voyager Canoe Pageant, a similar canoe trip that stretched from Alberta to Montreal as part of Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967. However, Shoalts decided he would “raise the stakes a little” and move the route up 2000 km into the territories.

Shoalts described the issues he encountered along the journey, such as powerful rivers that threatened to wash him out into the arctic sea, or labyrinths formed out of massive ice floes, as well as the solutions he had to come up with to move past them.

“Most days I would find a safe place, set up my tent, and pass out from exhaustion,” he said. “Eventually, I ran out of water and that’s where the hard work began.”

Once a river became too over-choked with plant growth, Shoalts began to portage his canoe along with his bags until he reached the next one.

To speed up his journey and avoid waves caused by heavy winds, Shoalts began to travel at night.

“I could do that because I was past the arctic circle, you know, the land of the midnight sun,” he explained.

A major theme of Shoalts’ account was just how close he got to nature- and how close it came up to him.

“Especially in isolated areas of nature, animals are curious,” said Shoalts. “I don’t even have to work hard to get their photo.”

Shoalts accented his story with photos he took during the journey. One was an arctic grizzly bear, fresh out of hibernation and hungry, that he had to evade. Another was of a curious arctic wolf who followed Shoalts along for about a kilometre, who Shoalts described as a much appreciated companion.

Since he was speaking at a Garden Club event, Shoalts also showed pictures of a wide array of plant life he came across in the tundra, including what berries he foraged to supplement his provisions.

As Shoalts neared the end of his journey, the seasons began turning, the midnight sun began to disappear under the horizon and the weather began to grow colder.

However, Shoalts kept mum about the conclusion to his tale.

“If you want to find out what happened next you have to read my book,” he said with a smile.

Beyond the Trees is available in book stores now.

The Lincoln Garden Club meets the third Saturday of every month.

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