Adam Shoalts has visited places all over the world that are so remote and inaccessible that few people, if any, have ever seen them.
But there’s one place the explorer, who now calls Sudbury home, had never been before — until now.
This month, Shoalts was invited to the well-tread halls of Queen’s Park to receive a Speaker’s Book Award from Ontario legislature Speaker Dave Levac.
“That was the first time I’ve ever been in Queen’s Park. It was kind of nice to see inside the halls of power, and look at all the old paintings,” said Shoalts, who is originally from Pelham.
His latest book, Alone Against the North, An Expedition into the Unknown — a story about his 2012 expedition to the Hudson Bay Lowlands, canoeing along the uncharted waters of the Again River — earned him the young authors award during the ceremony.
“It was pretty neat,” Shoalts said. “Just to be on the shortlist was pretty special, but to win the actual award — it feels nice for a writer to have your work acknowledged, so it’s nice to know that people are paying attention to the book and it’s being well received. It’s encouraging.”
Young authors awards are presented once every two years to authors 18 to 30 years old. Shoalts turns 31 next week.
“I will never again be eligible,” he quipped.
Shoalts said he wasn’t even aware that his book, published by Viking/Penguin Canada, was being considered for a Speaker’s Book Award “until just a few weeks ago when I received an email from Queen’s Park saying, ‘Your book is on the shortlist.'”
In addition to the honour and recognition of winning the award, Shoalts said he was also thrilled to meet other award winners, including Leonard ‘Red’ Kelly, a retired NHL hockey player who played centre for the Maple Leafs throughout the team’s glory years. As an avid hockey fan, Shoalts described it as “remarkable” to have a chance to meet the 89-year-old hockey legend who ended his hockey career by helping his team win the Stanley Cup in 1967 — the last time the Leafs ever took home the trophy.
“I wasn’t even thinking of my own book, I was thinking of Red Kelly,” he said.
Kelly along with co-authors David Dupuis and Waxy Gregoire received the 2016 Speaker’s Book Award for writing The Red Kelly Story, looking back at Kelly’s childhood in Port Dover, as well as his hockey and political careers.
“He won Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs of all teams. It seemed hard to believe, but there he was in the flesh,” Shoalts said.
“It was pretty neat to be there among some very accomplished authors,” that also included Steve Paikin, a past award winner who was shortlisted for his book Bill Davis: Nation Builder, and Not So Bland After All.
Shoalts is now looking forward to celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary in his own unique way.
He’s publishing a new book in October called The History of Canada in 10 Maps.
“It’s not your ordinary history. I’d say its kind of a cross between Game of Thrones and Canadian history,” he said. “It’s a very epic, violent, exciting epic adventure story, told through 10 maps that I’ve selected.
“It’s not about my adventures, so much as it’s about the adventures of these other explorers,” he said. “It tells the story of the country through these maps.”
The oldest of those maps was created by Viking explorers, showing what is now Canada’s East Coast.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the Vikings, and I’ve done Viking archeology digs in Sweden. I wanted to really do justice to the Vikings, it’s such a great adventure story.”
Shoalts is also making plans for another adventure of his own.
“I’m going to canoe across Canada’s Arctic,” he said.
He will spend five months alone in the Arctic, covering about 4,000 kilometres of frozen tundra in the process.
“I’m starting off in the mountains on snowshoes for the first few weeks, and using a little inflatable raft to cross rivers,” he said. “And then I’ll be canoeing for several thousands of kilometres and hiking, going from the international border with Alaska to the coast of Hudson’s Bay.”
Earlier this month, Shoalts stopped at Nova Craft Canoe’s factory in London, Ont., to learn about the technology used in the canoe he will be using in his journey in a few months.
“It’s pretty high tech now. It’s really tough and I need a really tough strong canoe to endure all the punishment I’m going to put it through on the ice and white water rapids, and all the things across the Arctic,” he said.