I have a new book out this week. It’s a re-write of my Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario. I’ve updated the route information and added 10 more routes—hence the name change to Top 60 Routes of Ontario.
The choices of extra routes were a blend of brand new routes (Abitibi River, Woodland Caribou, Lake Timiskaming/Ottawa River, Georgian Bay’s McGregor Bay, Killarney’s Great Mountain Lake, Algonquin’s Big East River) and favourite ones taken from my collection of previous guidebooks (Bonnechere River, Algonquin’s Wendigo to Radiant Lake, Algonquin’s Oxtonque River, Killarney’s Bear Lake Loop).
This is my 17th book. My first book—Killarney—was published when I was 27 years old. (Sounds like that John Denver songL “He was born on his twenty-seventh year…”) I’m just about to turn 55.
The majority of books were paddling guidebooks. There were other topics spread throughout. I wrote about how to be a Happy Camper, composed Ways of the Wild, described some Wilderness Pleasures, explained why I’m Dazed But Not Confused, shared a bunch of camp recipes in The New Trailside Cookbookand recently scribed A Complete Guide to Winter Camping.
All the guidebooks were bestsellers—except A Paddlers Guide to Quetico and Beyond. That happened to be one of my favourite books, but it was a bomb at the bookstore. You’ll continually see it in sales bins, right beside Wilderness Pleasures. That was an even bigger bomb, even though it was the highest-rated books by the media, even labelled as one of my best books, and won several awards.
My publisher believed my Lost Canoe Routes of Ontario would be my worst seller—but it ended up being the third best. The first was A Paddlers Guide to Algonquin and second was A Paddlers Guide to Cottage Country (The Happy Camper ended up being the biggest hit overall).
Of course, the majority of these books' original titles were totally different. The Algonquin guide was Brook Trout and Blackflies. A Paddlers Guide to Ontario was Up The Creek. A Paddlers Guide to Rivers of Ontario and Quebec was Further Up The Creek. The names were all changed while I was out on a long canoe trip. The original publisher went bankrupt, another publisher bought the rights, reprinted the books and changed all the names. The decision was made due to old book titles not being easily found on a new searching format; something on the computer called "Google."
The Cottage Country book was my first guidebook. The idea came when I moved to the Kawartha Highlands to work as a Fish and Wildlife technician over 35 years ago. I would paddle a bunch of weekend canoe routes I discovered from an old government book: Ontario’s Canoe Routes. The guide gave a brief description of various routes and contacts for more information. One area was in the Kawarthas, what is now as the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. The district Ministry of Natural Resources had produced a brochure of the routes, but they were no longer maintaining them. The same went for the routes in the Leslie Frost Centre, which eventually became a managed area called Haliburton Waterway Trails; and the Massasauga routes on Georgian Bay, which became Massasauga Provincial Park.
So, I guess my plan worked. Back in the beginning, I figured if I wrote up the routes in a book then paddlers would come and the government would have to manage the areas and protect them.
Of course, now my nickname to some is the “Wilderness Pornographer.” Some curse me for writing up the routes—but far more enjoy spending time paddling them. I always followed the sage advice given by legendary paddlers Bill Mason, Sigurd Olson, Eric Morse, and Kirk Wipper: “If we don’t use them, we’ll lose them.”
Hope you enjoy exploring more routes this season and I hope to see you out there on the portage.