Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cliff Jacobson: ACA Legend of Paddling Recipient Shares His Love for Paddling

Cliff Boundary Waters Canoe Area
With 16 books in print and hundreds of articles penned, Cliff Jacobson is the most published paddling author of the twentieth century and 2003 ACA Legend of Paddling Recipient. Jacobson was recently interviewed by Falconguides, a publishing company, in which they asked him about the memorable "firsts" in a career highlighted by bestsellers and decorated with awards. The following are excerpts from the interview that illustrate Jacobson as a humble man who has passion for the outdoors and the heart of an adventurer. 

How did you first get into canoeing? What drew you in and kept you coming back to it time and time again?

It began in 1952 at the age of 11 at a rustic Boy Scout camp set deep in the Michigan woods. The canoes were wood and canvas - and magical! The canoe was a ticket to the wild in wilderness. Yes, one could hike to remote places, but it was faster and easier by canoe. On a long backpacking trip you'll travel super light and "rough it," but a canoe will "smooth" the way. 

The canoe has a beauty and grace that is unmatched by other watercraft. The same canoe that  can carry you on a picnic down a placid river can float you to the Arctic Ocean.

Tell me about your first multi-day expedition. What did you learn and take away from that first trip?

It was a 21-day trip from Folyet, Ontario, to James Bay (300 miles) via the Groundhog, Mattagami, and Moose Rivers in Ontario. It rained for 17 days, the river was flooded, the bugs were horrendous, the rapids were frightening, and the topography wasn't pretty at all. Of all the northern routes I've done, this is my least favorite and one I would never do again. But it was very adventurous. It tested my skills and it encouraged me to keep learning. I learned that there are few second chances on these northern rivers. Doing things sloppy or merely "good enough" is not GOOD ENOUGH!

Is there a particularly memorable trip that always pops up first when reaching back into the memory bank?

Yes, the Hood River (Province of Nunavut, Canada), north of the Arctic Circle. I've done it twice: On the first trip (1984), we encountered nearly 100,000 caribou, some so close you could touch them with a paddle. On the second trip(1992), Su Harings and I were married at Wilberforce Falls on the Hood River. It is the only recorded wedding at this spot. 

The wedding day: Wilberforce Falls, Hood River, August 12, 1992

Wilberforce Falls

How did it feel to be inducted into the American Canoe Association's Hall of Fame?

It was quite an honor, naturally. I remain surprised through because, frankly, I don't consider myself an expert canoeist. I'm decent but not in the league with today's top paddlers. Good judgement, more than paddle skill, keeps me out of trouble. 

I know you're an avid outdoors man with many pursuits. If you could impart one piece of advice to the next generation of avid outdoors men (and women) looking to make this their lifestyle and work, what would that advice be?

My advice is to always remember that "skills are more important than things." You can get by with mediocre gear if you know what you're doing. If you don't, you're in serious trouble, even with the best gear. Learn first, buy second!

To learn more about Cliff Jacobson and his many books, click here.

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