P.G. Downes, edited by R.H. Cockburn: Distant Summers: P.G. Downes’ Journals of Travels in Northern Canada. Volume 1: 1936-1938; Volume II: 1939 - 1947 (Ottawa: McGahern Stewart Publishing, 2012)
P.G. Downes’ Journals are a rare and wonderful treasure. He kept stunningly accurate records of his travels, including sketches, photographs and maps. His interest in the people of the north distinguish his journals from other travelogues. Two large volumes made for a wonderful time of reading and discovering the lands and the peoples of the north. Each trip had a different itinerary and different challenges. Downes usually traveled with a companion, but the last trip is a solo journey that tested his skills as a paddler and a wilderness survivor.
I’m sure I’ll be coming back to these journals, with their detailed appendices about individuals; Cree and Chipewan religion, lore, customs, traditions and practices; the operations of the Hudson Bay Company and other trading companies and so much more.
These two volumes record a narrow window in the story of the far north, and it is a time that is now past. What a joy to share the journey!