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Book Review: Once Around Algonquin

After having sat in my "to be read" pile for almost six months, I finally picked up, started and soon finished, Kevin Callan’s “Once Around Algonquin; An Epic Canoe Journey” and it was thoroughly enjoyable!

Once Around Algonquin

For some reason I had expected it to be some kind of dry reference guide or route planner; the kind of book that I'd characterize as useful or valuable, but not highly engaging.

Boy, was I wrong!

Having followed Kevin online for years, listening to his advice, learning from him about winter camping and plant identification, I should have known better. Kevin seems to have the ability to make any topic both interesting and funny. If I had to define the man quickly, I'd tell someone to imagine a person who is one part Bill Mason and an equal part John Cleese or Michael Palin!

But I digress...

In short, the book was fun, informative, educational, and at times, quite personal. Once I started it, it was hard to put it down.

The backstory of the book is the adventure which Kevin, and his paddling partner Andy, take in completing the infamous “Meanest Link” canoe route through Algonquin Park. The pace of the book is brisk, as Kevin recounts, day by day, progress on the trip, complete with humorous mishaps and unexpected surprises.

Along the way, Kevin provides interesting bits of history about Algonquin Park: its origins, colourful characters, and management challenges over the years. With his trademark playfulness and plain language, important lessons are passed along regarding safety, etiquette, and the values of outdoor education. We also learn a bit more about Kevin himself, and Andy too. Enough to appreciate even more the special qualities they each bring to the canoeing and outdoor communities.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading some notable authors on similar topics over the years, for example Sigurd Olson and Roy MacGregor. In my opinion, this book has earned a place in my library next to the works of those men.

I hope you have the opportunity to pick it up and enjoy it yourself!