New York's Men's Journal Magazine hired a studio photographer from Brooklyn, a post-master/writer from Thermond West Virginia and two Canadian river guides to paddle one of the country's most dangerous whitewater rivers - the Seal in northern Manitoba, for the purpose of publishing the quintessential Canadian adventure story. Add to this unlikely melange of characters, the possibility of capsizing in freezing water, the threat of polar bears, a midnight sail down Hudson Bay and Manitoba's worst boreal wild fire, this chronicle will carry the reader to the extreme edge of exploration.
About the author
Hap Wilson is an award winning-artist, author, photographer, guide, environmentalist, cartographer and eco trail builder living in Rosseau, Ont. His writing has appeared in Canadian Geographic, Explore and Canoe & Kayak. He has published a dozen nature and geography related books. His book Voyages-Canada's Heritage Rivers won the Natural Resources Council of America Award for best environmental book and the Bill Mason Award for lifetime achievement in River Conservation. Wilson, along with his wife Andrea, operate The Cabin Falls EcoLodge in Temagami, Ont. He lives in Rosseau, Ont.
Excerpt: River of Fire: Conflict and Survival on the Seal River (by (author) Hap Wilson)
New York City
"April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."
In retrospect, it is difficult to comprehend that this adventureactually began in downtown Manhattan, New York City. It isplausible to note that great scholars agree that nothing worth-while is obtained from something too easily acquired. So itmight be fitting then, that one of the most calamitous wilder-ness adventures of my life was to take root out of the depths ofsuch a prominent urban community. I had little fear of the vastCanadian territories that lay beyond the last vanguard of rail andbush track, but the abject thought of being ensnared within thegrimy clutches of such a huge and consuming metropolis pareda gaping hole in my armour. The patent distaste I had for thecity - any city for that matter, was legendary amongst my peers.
I had been to New York City on two other occasions, oncein 1987 while attending an ill-conceived outdoor adventure show,and then again in 1991 when I was to meet a friend prior to asailing trip in the British Virgin Islands. Each time I was duly en-tertained by all the consummate profanities of human existencepossible; everything from a recent outbreak in subway murders,arbitrary muggings of visiting tourists, throngs of inhospitablecitizenry, a thwarted fist fight with two armed security guards, toa bizarre attempted suicide from atop the Empire State build-ing - a sorry soul who had vaulted to a certain death only to becheated by fate to be blown by a gale wind through a window justthree floors down from the precipice.
I had even attempted to drive into New York during rushhour only to succumb to my own diffident driving skills andbecame hopelessly lost under the Brooklyn freeway, strandedamidst derelict shells of burned-out cars and roving gangs ofpipe-wielding punks. The most gregarious inhabitant of the BigApple turned out to be a city rat I met huddled in the door wayof Macey's Department Store before opening hour. I sat on thestep beside the rat commiserating on the state of our affairs.
Dawson and I had taken the train to New York from To-ronto, thus avoiding the angst of driving in a city where roadrage was an acceptable social exchange. I could relax on the trainand not have to worry about the negative aspects of drivingagain to a city of such renowned culture trapped within a matrixof complicated streets, tunnels, bridges and pedestrians. Just incase, though, I had slipped a twenty-four inch hickory axe han-dle down a hidden sleeve in the back of my pack that could beextricated quickly if the need arose. Not that I was looking fortrouble; whenever I found myself in the city, trouble seemed totackle me to the sidewalk.
"In River of Fire, Wilson captures the power, humour, adventure and intrigue.... the very essence of adventure on a northern river. Now, more than ever, society needs to re-awaken to the life-changing and profound experience that is time and travel in the natural and still wild world. In a manner of storytelling worthy of Aldo Leopold and John Muir, Hap Wilson's River of Fire will indeed light your soul on fire and into a yearning for still possible wilderness adventure." - Les Stroud aka Survivorman