Paddling North book review

A Paddling Adventure that Peddles the Dream of Going it Alone

– Book review by Eloise Dempsey

 

Read this book if: you’re staring at your screen, desperately wishing it was the ocean.

Buy this book for friends who: value adventure and wine in equal measure.

 

 

Paddling North A Solo Adventure Along the Inside Passage is the evocative story of Audrey Sutherland’s summer 1980 voyage through Alaska’s challenging waterways. What makes this tale special are as many and varied as Alaska’s weather patterns, not least Sutherland’s commitment to tackling the trip in a nine-foot-long inflatable canoe, solo, at the age of 60!

 

Paddling North: A Solo Adventure Along the Inside Passage

 

More than simply a story told from point A (Ketchikan) to point B (Skagway) – a distance of over 560 kilometres! – Paddling North captures Sutherland’s spirit of adventure and infuses it with an appreciation for the finer things in life: food, wine, and warmth.

 

Her motto, “go simple, go solo, go now” resonates throughout, leaving the audience with the sneaking suspicion that this book could easily be filed under self-help. Sutherland writes:

 

Doing what you want to do isn’t a question of can you or can’t you, yes or no, but deciding what your ultimate desire and capability is and then figuring out the steps to accomplishment”.

 

In other words, zero in on a goal and work backward to make it happen.

 

Paddling North: A Solo Adventure Along the Inside Passage

 

Coincidentally I read Paddling North while camping in Alaska, having recently pressed pause on my real life for months of uninterrupted travel. My thirst for adventure has a different flavour to Sutherland’s: I paddleboarded for a day but couldn’t imagine months on the water. Until that is, Sutherland’s no-nonsense yet remarkably vivid writing brought her experiences to life for me.

 

Sutherland’s passion for food is at the forefront of her journey. The book even includes recipes for hungry travelers, like her mussels Neapolitan, made with freshly gathered seafood, and her camp curry, which makes enough “for dinner and breakfast for one paddler”. It’s clear that Sutherland’s voyage would be nothing without her respect for the food that helped her power through “48,000 pounds of water moved in paddling each day”. When you’re stripped back to basic survival mode – keep warm, stay fed, paddle hard – the promise of a warm meal is the beacon that pulls you consistently onward.

 

Audrey Sutherland solo adventurer

Solo selfies – author Audrey Sutherland

 

And that’s to say nothing of the wine. Sutherland chills bottles of white in the ocean while Audrey paddles. She finds new and inspiring uses for cask wine bladders (pro tip: the aluminum works a treat to reflect body heat in a cold canoe). She even mixes it with grape juice for a cocktail that’s probably only best enjoyed while under the influence of such an epic voyage.

 

A journey through Alaska is bound to conjure up all kinds of wildlife, and Sutherland’s travels certainly aren’t lacking in these heart-stopping moments. She snags salmon to smoke and comes eye-to-eye with whales and wolves, but it’s her persistent thoughts of grizzlies and black bears that keep both Sutherland and the reader on edge. She wrestles with a desire for convenience brought on by being so bone-weary and the sheer risk of being neighbours with some of nature’s most powerful beings. Would you pitch a tent near a trail of bear prints?

 

This trip kickstarted 20 years of summer explorations for Sutherland, and it’s likely that in writing about her time in Alaska she will help kickstart countless more. “Go simple, go solo, go now.” Go on.

 

Paddling North A Solo Adventure Along the Inside Passage

Read this book if: you’re staring at your screen, desperately wishing it was the ocean.

Buy this book for friends who: value adventure and wine in equal measure.

 

Audrey also released another book about her great adventures, paddling around Hawaii. This one is also well worth a read: Paddling My Own Canoe: A Solo Adventure On the Coast of Molokai


Still Stoked book reviews

 

Check out more female-focused adventure or travel tales in our book review section

 

About the author

Still Stoked (Alexa)

Hiya, I'm Alexa. Always on some sort of adventure! I'm excited to share my stories & introduce you to other rad women, also living the dream.
I'm here to inspire you to do the same :-)

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