Homegrown author and explorer awarded literary prize

Adam Shoalts, right, is presented the Speaker’s Book Award by Ontario legislative Speaker Dave Levac last week in Queen’s Park. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Pelham native Adam Shoalts wins Speaker’s Book Award

BY NATE SMELLE
The VOICE

Born and raised in Pelham, explorer and author Adam Shoalts developed his love of nature early on, venturing out into the forests and wetlands of the Niagara region with his family. The sense of wonder he experienced on these excursions as a child evolved into an impassioned curiosity for the natural world, leading Shoalts to some of the most remote vestiges of wilderness remaining on the planet.

“The wilderness is really my great love, my passion,” he said.

“I wrote about it in one of my first pieces, which was published in the Voice. For me, I just really love the wilderness. I love the solitude and the feeling of being in an untouched place — somewhere where nature is just existing independently of humans and human creations.”

While living in Pelham, Shoalts was regularly featured as a guest columnist in the Voice, writing about nature and the outdoors. From there he moved on to work as a freelancer, writing for Canadian Geographic Magazine. Choosing to document and share his encounters with the wild paid off last week when Shoalts was awarded the Speaker’s Book Award for his latest book, Alone Against the North: An Expedition into the Unknown.

Telling the story of his expedition from the Hudson Bay Lowlands to the Again River, the book has been praised in literary circles across the country and around the world. For his work, Shoalts brought home the Young Authors Award — given to authors between 18 and 30, every two years. This week Sholts turns 31.

“I was thrilled when I found out that I had been shortlisted for the award with so many other great authors,” he said.

“When I found out that I had won I couldn’t believe it. As a writer, it feels good to know that my work is being appreciated. I am very honoured.”

Shoalts said he writes about his explorations in a way that will appeal to everyone from the seasoned traveler to the armchair adventurer. By sharing his encounters with the wild, he hopes to inspire people to make time for appreciating the outdoors. There is plenty of research supporting the theory that the more time people spend in nature, the healthier they are both physically and mentally, he said.

“I think it does a lot of good for anyone, from any walk of life to just disconnect and unplug from technology for a while, put away the screens, slow it down for a while, and go out into the woods. You don’t have to do a crazy 4,000 kilometre journey alone across the arctic. The local park is fine. Just take some time to get out into the forests of Pelham to appreciate the plants, the wildflowers and the birds. It has a very relaxing effect. If you have a bad day at work and you’re frustrated, just go out into the woods and unwind.”

Shoalts sees the wilderness as an amazing place full of mystery and adventure — a poetic hunting ground of the imagination. With so much to marvel over and draw inspiration from, he said he could never get tired of going out into the wilderness.

Sometimes while hiking, Shoalts said he will spend 10 minutes or more just staring at the forest floor, looking at different species of lichen, and identifying wild mushrooms and other living creatures.

“Your imagination runs wild when you’re in the wilderness. So much of our human stories and epic literature is set in the wilderness, so clearly, it’s something that speaks to the human psyche and goes deep into our souls. It’s more important than ever in a world of some 7.5 billion people and counting, that we treasure what we have left, so it remains for future generations. The fun thing about nature is that there is always more to learn. Biodiversity is incredible.”

Defining nature as an essential part of our heritage as Canadians and as humans, Shoalts encourages every Canadian to experience Canada’s wilderness at least once in their lifetime.

“In a world that is becoming ever more developed and urbanized and crowded, I think it’s really important — especially in 2017 with our 150th anniversary happening — that Canadians spend time thinking about our wilderness and the future it is going to have over the next 150 years. Are we going to preserve it, or are we going to follow in the footsteps of the rest of the world’s countries and allow our large wild untamed spaces to be lost?”

To celebrate Canada’s 150th year in style, Shoalts is planning to traverse the pristine landscape of the Canadian arctic on foot and by canoe.

Beginning his voyage from the Alaska border this May, he will paddle and portage more than 4,000 kilometres over the tundra with his compass pointed towards his destination on the shores of Hudson Bay.

Will luck, maybe he’ll send the Voice a dispatch or two.

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The Voice of Pelham
Pelham's independent news source from the heart of Niagara.