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'Canada's Indiana Jones' to present latest adventure book the Arboretum

Canadian explorer Adam Shoalts will recount his 3,400-kilometre solo journey, from Lake Erie to the Arctic when he presents his fifth book, 'Where the Falcon Flies', on Feb. 8 at the Guelph Arboretum Centre from 7:30 p.m.– 9 p.m.
Canadian explorer Adam Shoalts explores the Arctic by canoe.

When Adam Shoalts looked out his window one spring morning, he noticed a majestic sight, a peregrine falcon flying across the sky near Lake Erie.

Soon after, the Canadian explorer grabbed his backpack and canoe, and set off to follow the falcon’s route north, on a 3,400-kilometre journey, from Lake Erie to the Arctic.

Declared as one of the “greatest living explorers” by Canadian Geographic, Shoalts will recount his three month long solo journey when he presents his fifth book, Where the Falcon Flies on Feb. 8 at the Guelph Arboretum Centre from 7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.

“I finished this last adventure for my latest book in 2022. It took three months. This one was a lot more spontaneous than the expedition a few years earlier, when I did 4,000 km across the Arctic. That one took years of planning and preparation,” Shoalts says.  

But this book, Shoalts says, was inspired by the flight of the peregrine falcon.

“So, I set off, in just a matter of weeks. But that just added to the adventure and fun of the whole thing. Some of the best adventures are the spontaneous ones, when I see something that inspires me,” Shoalts says.

Shoalts has been referred to as Canada’s very own 'Indiana Jones'. A professional adventurer, author and public speaker, his latest journey took him from Long Point on the shores of Lake Erie, to Ungava Bay in Nunavik, the northern part of Quebec.

Along the way, Shoalts was faced with a number of challenges including storms, gale force winds, bear encounters, and finding campsites in the urban wilderness of Montreal and Toronto.

“Although I have to get up at 4 a.m., put on my frosty socks, and grab my canoe for 13 hours of paddling, I do it because every day brings something new and exciting. There's always something unexpected around the next bend in the river or over the next hill,” Shoalts says.

“Even travelling through southern Ontario, in the most densely populated part of Canada, there’s so much wonder, and so much fascination in our world.”

Shoalts has participated in numerous archaeological digs and solo expeditions in the most remote wilderness areas. He is also the Westaway Explorer-in-Residence of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. 

“I think today, people think that the world is a shrinking place, that it is getting smaller. It’s true that technology has bridged distances with a single swipe of a phone,” Shoalts says.

“But if you leave the technology behind, and you get out into the world, whether its through hiking or paddling, it's as big of a world as it ever was."

The experience, Shoalts says, opens up so many possibilities where one can notice all sorts of things that can't be seen from a plane or a car.

“I have done many expeditions in the past, deep in the wilderness where you wander for weeks or months without ever seeing a road, a pop can, or another living soul,” Shoalts says.

“On this journey, I travelled through southern Canada, even passing through Mississauga and Ottawa. It gave me a new appreciation of those areas. I was amazed by how much green space still exists even in these spaces.”

Shoalts says, ultimately, what he hopes to do through his books and my presentations, is to inspire people to care a little more about the fate of wild places, whether its in Guelph, in the arctic, or anywhere in between.  

“I show people, look this is what I saw when I was portaging around Niagara Falls. I paint a big picture that might leave people wanting to get out and explore these areas," he says.

In places such as Guelph, most people don’t think of the arctic being in their own neighbourhood.

“Polar bears and caribou seem so far away. But whether its in Guelph, or Toronto, there’s a part of the arctic, no matter where you are in Canada. And that is in the form of Arctic wildlife,” Shoalts says.

“The vast majority of Arctic birds, are migratory, meaning they don’t spend the winter in the Arctic. They come south, including the Peregrine falcon, which inspired this particular journey. But there are many species of Arctic birds in southern Ontario.”

The fascinating thing is you can see one of these birds fly over your house, no matter where you are.

“It’s a reminder that everything in nature is interconnected,” Shoalts says.

“We have to preserve these wild places in southern Ontario because it’s critical as wildlife habitat that that Arctic species depend on. That’s the core message and at the heart of my book, Where the Facon Flies.

Shoalts was born in Pelham and grew up with a forest on his doorstep. 

“I feel like I had a head start on life because I figured out what I wanted to do when I was 7 years old. And I have never looked back,” Shoalts says.

“I was always clear that I loved the natural world, the outdoors and adventure. And that’s the path that I wanted to pursue in life."

Now 37, Shoalts says that hasn’t changed one bit.

“I still try to get out in the woods every day of my life. I still have that same feeling of wonder that I had when I was five years old, where your imagination can run wild. And I still get that feeling today, and I try to hold on to it as a reminder of why I want to do these journeys and adventures,” he says.  

“When you are in a difficult situation, you are low on food, you have spent 10 hours in a canoe and you are wet and cold, its that feeling that keeps my spirits high and motivates me to keep going.”

Shoalts is already planning future expeditions.

“I have some big ones coming up including 'Snake Quest' to find, document, and photograph every snake species in Canada to try to raise awareness of our reptiles," he said.

Shoalts also plans ro retrace the footsteps of arctic explorer, Hubert Darrell, who went missing in September of 1910 in the Anderson River region off the Northwest Territories.