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Maple Ridge adventurer presents ‘In Search of Wild Places’

Chris Cooper presents new book, planning an Arctic trek at 75
One of Chris Cooper’s coast expeditions in a 31-foot canoe, painted by a First Nations artist. (John Dunn/Special to The News)

The photographs of Chris Cooper’s wilderness adventures, taken over the last 60 years, are all around him on the walls of his Pitt Meadows home.

Now, at almost 75, he’s sharing those images in a new book. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more photos to come. He’s not trading in his kayaks for a chair that rocks.

Cooper is actually preparing for an upcoming 32-day Arctic expedition to Baffin Island this spring. He hasn’t been to Baffin since 2007, and recalls spectacular scenery, like looking up at sheer rock faces, 4,500 feet high. That’s double the height of the Squamish Chief, he says, to put it into perspective.

He’s looking forward to getting reacquainted with the polar bears.

“They come right up and check you out,” he said of the Arctic’s top predator.

And he will again get to spend time with the Inuit people, who have taken him on fishing trips on the sea ice.

He will be part of a group of seven, which includes another Maple Ridge adventurer in Nancy Preston.

This week, Cooper is starting a book tour, sharing stories of his adventures, and some of those fantastic images. He is a hobby photographer, adventures with professional nature photographers, and has now self published a book of stunning nature photographs collected over a lifetime of loving the natural environment.

“It’s been an amazing life of adventure, and it was time to do a book,” he said.

It’s called “In Search of Wild Places,” and it starts with a photo of him and his lifelong travelling companion Bob Needham, on top of the Golden Ears Mountains in 1962, when he was just 15. It continues through his many adventures in voyageur canoes, whitewater kayaking, and trekking in the Arctic.

Cooper will be presenting his book and his stories at Fraser Valley Regional Libraries over the coming months, starting at the Maple Ridge Public Library on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m. After other stops around the system, he will be at the Pitt Meadows Public Library on April 19, at 6 p.m.

He will be talking about his Spirit of the Coast journey, which is the story of travelling the coast of B.C. by canoe, visiting communities along the way, up to Alaska.

Cooper spent a career as an adventure guide, and was instrumental in establishing the Voyageur Canoe business in Western Canada. He owned the largest fleet of historical Voyageur canoes in Canada. He commissioned First Nations artists, like Tahltan artist Una Ann Moyer, to paint his canoes with animals like bears, wolves, eagles, salmon and other animals, including that of her Raven Clan. Coastal people are inspired to see them drifting into their communities.

From a practical perspective, he said the voyageur canoes are rock steady, and as big as 42 feet long, they can carry 10 people and all of their gear.

He has no problem filling the seats.

“I just have this huge canoe family, and they’re always lined up to go,” he said.

Cooper has journeyed all over the world, from as far north as Canada’s northernmost territory on Ellesmere Island, pulling gear across the ice in a sled, to paddling sea canoes along the coast of Peru. In 2008 his expeditions took him to the UK, and his connections led to an exchange between First Nations youth in B.C. and young people from the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

He has an affinity for the place – his family moved from the UK to Vancouver when he was just nine. They settled in Haney in 1957.

“Chris Cooper, with his insatiable desire for adventure, has spent a lifetime In Search of Wild Places,” said fellow traveller Alice Purdey in the introduction to his new book.

“He has experienced rock climbing, mountaineering, ski touring, Arctic expeditions, white water canoeing, and extensive journeys in his various ocean-going canoes, which range from 25 to 42 feet in length. Chris share inspiring photos of his adventures in this engaging book.”

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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