Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publish Date: 2002
Special feature: Autographed
Grey Owl was born Archie Belaney in England in 1888. At the age of seventeen, he moved to Canada to follow his boyhood fascination for the Canadian wilderness and the indigenous people. Grey Owl’s appreciation of the beauty and fragility of the Canadian forests and his efforts to save the endangered beavers became the driving force behind his celebrated speeches and his four best-selling books, The Men of the Last Frontier, Pilgrims of the Wild, The Adventures of Sajo and Her Beaver People, and Tales of an Empty Cabin. In 1938, at the time of his death, he was the most well known conservationist in the world.
In 1997, almost sixty years after Grey Owl’s death, the Ontario government was determining the future use of the landscape he loved. For better or worse, the fate of this northern wilderness was being decided with input from the forest industry, environmental organizations, and the general public. Gary and Joanie McGuffin decided to make their own contribution by embarking on a journey that would take them into the heart of Grey Owl country. They aimed to show that the ancient forests and pristine waterways of the region constitute a magnificent natural heritage. that should be preserved for all.
While the general public’s use of the Internet was still in its infancy and most corporations were only just launching their very first websites, the McGuffins were using solar, satellite and digital technology to share their experiences in real-time via radio, newspaper and the Web. Their three-month-long, 1,900-kilometre (1,200-mile) canoe trek took them from Algonquin Park to Temagami and Algoma following the same rivers that Grey Owl once paddled, including the Sturgeon, Spanish, Mississagi, Aubinadong, and Montreal. They often found themselves on long-unused portages and navigating waterways through magnificent pine forests where few people now travel.
Together, Joanie’s words and Gary’s photographs tell an adventure story that includes encounters with wildlife, navigating perilous rapids and weathering powerful storms. It is also a story of achievement as the McGuffins’ efforts helped to shape the public debate over conservation policy which ultimately resulted in the designation of 325 new parks and protected places.