By Audrey Sutherland
Published by Patagonia Edition 171 and 303 pages paperback $16.95 each
In the world of adventure paddling, Audrey Sutherland is a legend and a true heroine. Known and admired for her solo wilderness expeditions, Audrey’s philosophy was “Go simple, go solo, go now,” a mantra by which she lived fully until age 94. Audrey crossed the bar in 2015, and her friends at Patagonia are celebrating her remarkable life with updated commemorative editions of her exceptional memoirs, Paddling My Own Canoe and Paddling North.
First published in 1978, Paddling My Own Canoe recounts a voyage along the remote and roadless (in 1962) northeast side of Moloka’i. Having seen the area’s spectacular sea cliffs and water falls while flying from one Hawaiian island to another, she determined that the best way to explore the rugged coastline would be to swim while towing an inflatable kayak. Swimming in blue jeans with her camping gear wrapped in a shower curtain and stowed in an army duffle, Audrey relished “the ability to build your own fires and find your own peace,” and Paddling My Own Canoe is considered a seminal work in the environmental movement.
At age 60, Audrey decided to explore the Inside Passage from Ketchikan to Skagway along the southeast coast of Alaska, again alone. She did so every summer between 1980 and 2003 (well into her eighties!), and Paddling North was originally published in 2012. Logging more than 8,075 miles in her inflatable kayak – alone – Audrey encountered 30 bears, four wolves, and hundreds of whales. Resigning from her job when a request for a two-month leave (for the first of her Alaskan journeys) was denied, she wrote, “Sometimes you have to go ahead and do the most important things, the things you believe in, and not wait until years later, when you say, ‘I wish I had gone, done, kissed…’ What we regret are not the errors we made, but the things we didn’t do.”
Beautifully illustrated with block prints by Yoshiko Yamamoto, either of these inspirational books (or both!) would be an excellent gift for the adventurer in your life. They’re available at Patagonia.com.