Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevareid

If you are interested in canoeing, outdoor adventure, or the North Woods country I recommend Canoeing with the Cree. My in-laws from Northern Minnesota got me the 75th anniversary edition for Christmas and I enjoyed reading this classic.

Originally published in 1935 and written by Eric Sevareid, who went on to fame as a radio and television newsman, the book tells the story of two high school graduates who undertake a 2,500 mile canoe trip from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay. Sevareid, age 17, and his friend Walter C. Port, age 19, pilled their supplies into a used 18 foot canvas canoe and set out on this amazing journey. Sevareid came up with the idea to file reports of their adventure with the Minneapolis Star and convinced the editor to pay them. These reports became the basis for this book and helped get Sevareid started in his journalism career.

Reading Canoeing with the Cree is like stepping back in time. The writing is refreshingly unpretentious and communicates the excitement and innocence of the travelers. It also describes the amazing largely untamed wilderness of the North Woods in the nineteen thirties. One has to be in awe of their courage and determination. Without a radio, motor, or decent maps, and with only the most basic foodstuffs, they traveled 2,2500 miles in fourteen weeks. Reading along you find yourself wishing you could embark on a grand adventure, although maybe a shorter and less dangerous one.

In fact, the trip inspired others to duplicate it:

In May 2005, Scott Miller and Todd Foster embarked upon a 2250-mile historical canoe expedition from Saint Cloud to Hudson Bay. Todd and Scott were inspired to take the trip after reading “Canoeing with the Cree” by Eric Sevareid, a book that recounts Sevareid’s trip with his friend Walter Port along the same route in 1930. 2005 marks the 75th anniversary of Sevareid and Port’s trip. In July, Matt Lutz took over paddling for Todd due to some wrist problems. The expedition made it York Factory on Hudson Bay in late August.

The spirit of adventure is alive and well three quarters of a century later.

If you are looking for something a little different to read, and you enjoy stories about the great outdoors, pick up Canoeing with the Cree. It’s a classic.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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