That Old Chestnut


The Chestnut Prospector is the most celebrated canoe in literature, and I have my eye on a blue beauty for sale online. For the past few months I’ve been reading everything I can about canoes. Recently, my search has become more urgent: I turn 40 in a month.

It’s not a midlife crisis – I am not shopping for a sports car or getting a tattoo (yet). My quest for a canoe is more an exploration of what I want the next chapter of my life to be, in the spirit of Henry David Thoreau as he famously set out into the woods to “live deliberately.” Thoreau was 40 when he embarked on the classic trip that inspired his book Canoeing in the Wilderness. He was known to paddle a Chestnut canoe, and once said: “Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing.”

I was googling Thoreau in lazy preparation for our upcoming “Outliers” issue, Thoreau being a great figurehead of outlying in more ways than one, and this news story from Toronto popped up. I read and enjoyed it. Yes, acquiring a canoe is the Canadian answer for everything, but sometimes it really makes sense!

You can of course read Thoreau’s Canoeing in the Wilderness online for free.

I used to be adventurous, always hiking, camping and enjoying nature. Now I work in an office tower, and in my rare free time I write. Both are sedentary and rather solitary pastimes. I crave movement. In my mind, a canoe is a transcendental vessel offering the desired mix of tranquility and adventure.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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