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updated: 12/7/2011 4:49 PM

Mike Jackson book review on "Paddle North"

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I grew up in a Chicago apartment that had wall-to-wall book cases. There were all sorts of books related to the sciences, philosophy, medicine and, of course, the outdoors.

It was more than four decades ago when I decided to become an outdoor scribe and broadcaster. I should have had my head examined back then. I say that because one tends to become a living target for someone else's opinions who just may disagree with the author of an article or book.

I have stated many times that I've never pretended to be an expert on outdoor issues, especially fishing, but just an individual who has hung out with a group of real angling pioneers and fishing innovators. Now, with that said, I will take my 40-plus years of controversial, journalistic experience and share with you some thoughts about an author and photographer that have come to my attention.

I am fortunate in that all three of my daughters know how much I appreciate good outdoor photography and written endeavors, especially when the published work pertains to the isolated scenery of the northwoods regions. And when a book about an area known as the Quetico and Boundary waters reaches my desk I'll throw another four logs on the fire and prepare to dig in for another trip down memory lane.

Greg Breining (writer) and Layne Kennedy (photographer) pooled their energies to offer the public a marvelous, hardcover book entitled "Paddle North."

I have personally always had a love affair with places like the Quetico (Quetico Provincial Park, Ontario), the Boundary Waters, the Sylvania Wilderness Area, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, and many other exotic wild and woolly locations around North America.

"Paddle North" (published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2011; $29.95 at 1-800-621-2736) could be called a passageway for drea-mers wanting to taste the realness of their fantasies.

History has been captured through journals, pictographs and other remnants left behind by the French Voyageurs looking for the riches of the north country as they canoed through the lands of Canada and Minnesota.

This beautiful book magically takes one as close as a person can get in print pages to the sights, smells, and sounds of the explorer's canoe paddles splashing in the crystal-clear waters.

And for those of us who sat in a canoe to traverse the wilds, this is a book that brings everything back into focus.

Many who visit the north woods and take their canoes along often haul aluminum, Kevlar, and other plastic-like craft. But in recent years garage-built, wooden models have shown up as pure works of art. And it's not uncommon to see these beautiful creations gliding along one of the dozens of lakes gracing the Quetico and Boundary Waters. "Paddle North" depicts some of the best of the modern-day building efforts.

Some people go to these still pristine locales to sidestep mundane routines in civilization, where big-box store clerks are far too busy to look up and appreciate life.

This book talks about the explorers who searched the trails in the 1600s. It talks about the birch bark and other wooden canoes crafted in the woods by men who needed the means of transportation that could last through the rugged winters and snowy conditions.

When I started learning how to survive and make my way through the Boundary Waters and other forested treasures, I was like a sponge, soaking up every bit of information and lore available.

With this book, you can do the same. Enjoy the journey.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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