At Home in the Wilderness
Book One: Tactics for Camp and Portage
by Beth and Dave Buckley
Ashford Outdoor Media, West Valley, NY 1994
$10 US or $14.50. (Delivered.)
Review by MICHAEL PEAKE --
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Dave and Beth Buckley are a pair of wilderness guides who live in western New York state but really live to canoe in Canada. This veteran pair has paddled dozens of trips throughout Ontario, as well as northern Saskatchewan and the Yukon. I have had the pleasure of knowing the Buckleys (they are Che-Mun subscribers, of course) and worked with them last June at the annual L. L. Bean Canoe Symposium.
At Home in the Wilderness is the first in a series of self-produced books the Buckleys plan to publish. I am usually wary of self-publishing efforts. They often lack the requisite quality and tight editing controls. However, the advance of computer technology has made the production of such books possible - and, indeed, more than acceptable. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to determine that this book was a small press effort.
There is no shortage of how-to books when it comes to living and camping in the wilderness, but changing ethics and changes in equipment mean that new books do have something to offer - as this one does.
At Home in the Wilderness is no rehash of camping principles and tall tales. Rather, it's a solid review of techniques and experiences done firsthand by the authors. The book's 100 pages contain eight chapters, with heading such as; The Fine Art of Staying Dry; Doing Your Homework; Campfire Critique.
Beth and Dave stress in the introduction that this is not a book for rank beginners but instead for those who have done at least one trip - and preferably if they caught the canoeing bug as the Buckleys did after they were married on a glorious trip through Algonquin park. That trip led them to become outdoor guides and to try to convey something of the magic they experienced to others.
The chapter titled, The Pirates of Eden Island, is a particularly entertaining one on dealing with bears. It relates some close encounters with a very aggressive group of bears in Quetico Provincial Park. The chapter also contains sound - and perhaps a bit startling advice - on dealing with what can be a very dangerous menace in the woods. They hasten to add their advice pertains only to black bears and NOT to grizzlies and polar bears.
One of their great inventions is the Dryfly and basic tarp set-up with triangular wings on the side. They can create a snug wind-proof shelter that contributes to the Buckley's sense of being "at home in the wilderness" - a notion that I believe is critical for a life-long enjoyment of the outdoors.
The Buckley's style of writing - like their presentations - is breezy and fact filled. They are not lecturing - they're informing.
The book's final chapter - Fanning the Flame - is both sobering and needed.
"We've all been tempted to hold favourite paddling destinations close to our vest hoping they may thus remain unspoiled by unspoiled by hordes of eco-tourists, hungry to experience the real wilderness. But a much greater threat comes from hydro, forestry and mining. That's the real rub. . . it's almost impossible to hide natural assets from industry. It's their business to know.
"People have a right to know too. . . about the intrinsic value of undeveloped wild area, even though they may never go there, or might sometimes go too often. From such knowledge could come a groundswell to save wild places from short-sighted development."
At Home in the Wilderness deserves a place on your bookshelf because it has something of value to offer. The book is well illustrated with many good black and white shots. My guess is you're going to hear a lot more from Beth and Dave in the years ahead. We're looking forward to book two, which we hope will include some of Beth's great recipes.
Che-Mun readers have a discounted price when ordering the book direct from the Buckleys. The price is $14.50 (Canadian) or $10 US. Write to: Ashford Outdoor Media, 6478 Ashford Hollow Rd, West Valley, NY USA 14171-9612 or call 716/942-6631.
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