Park Bagger by Marlis Butcher

The year was 2008; BC’s sesquicentennial. A noteworthy year. You may recall we were in the midst of a global financial crisis. Hedge funds were losing money, investment bankers were forced to buy suits off the rack, and financiers were throwing themselves in front of subway trains (devastated, no doubt, by their ill-fitting suits).

It was a dismal and terrifying time. Of course, I was too young to remember most of this, being barely forty at the time, but I read of it in the news. Meanwhile, as our savings plummeted along with the rest of the world, we chose to make the most of it, turn out frowns upside down and see our rose-coloured drinking glasses as full-on half-full.

In conjunction with our provincial anniversary celebration, we embraced fiscally responsible staycations, and decided to more thoroughly explore our beautiful province. No Mayan Riviera for us; no sir! Let’s explore our provincial back yard, we said, or something similar to that, and having loaded our compact SUV with gear, we took to the open road.

Once more we fell in love with our province, exploring pristine parks on Vancouver Island, the mainland coast, and across the southern interior. We spent half the year camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, and reading local authors as we “discovered” BC’s scenic nooks and crannies, many new to us, each one a gem.

So, it was with a blend of enthusiasm and whiff of nostalgia that I dove into an advance reader copy* of Marlis Butcher’s Park Bagger (RMB April 2021), her first-hand account of “bagging”—exploring and experiencing—all of Canada’s national parks, a remarkable feat for any outdoor enthusiast. As you may be aware, we live in an awfully large country, with a vast and inspiring collection of national parks.

“This book not only serves as a motivating planning tool but quite simply [as] an armchair escape…”

From Park Bagger’s preface: “Falling down mountainsides, being pinned to cliff faces by driving sleet, paddling kayaks through giant whitewater, ricocheting a canoe through deep canyons, and being clotheslined off a mountain bike in a dense forest are some of the consequences of exploring the farthest reaches of Canada’s wilderness. But there are also much larger rewards to be experienced, such as the pleasures of strolling through dreamy woodlands, contemplating life while paddling on calm waters, and meditating in the Arctic under the midnight sun. Then there are adventures that can be both daunting and awe-inspiring, like encounters with bears, bison, and butterflies. The promise of these experiences is what pushes me to explore Canada’s national parks and discover my country.”

I found this book both timeless and remarkably timely, as we travellers will begin once more to emerge like springtime groundhogs, planning excursions domestically for the foreseeable future. This book not only serves as a motivating planning tool but quite simply an armchair escape, for the land-locked, locked-down peripatetic in all of us—a wonderful way to fuel dreams of getting outdoors and exploring this wonderful, flawed country I’m perennially proud of. And if we can enjoy even part of it with a judiciously managed footprint, well, even better. If you’d like to experience the Canadian outdoors in a unique way, Marlis Butcher’s Park Bagger can help facilitate that, transporting readers through this country’s beauty, with this engaging memoir and reference book for nature lovers and travellers alike.

*Park Bagger will be released on April 27, 2021.

Marlis Butcher grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, but discovered a love for the outdoors early in life. Whether camping with the Girl Guides or volunteering to shovel snow, she strived to get outside. Her head for maths, however, led her into a career in Toronto’s major financial institutions. During those 30 years, Marlis used her vacations to follow her heart. She travelled the world, exploring the wild places of Canada and the curiosities on every continent. Along the way, she took outdoor skills and wilderness survival courses. As friends and colleagues asked her to share her unusual stories, she started writing, and embarked on a new career. Her detailed travel journals and photography became the basis for several published magazine articles, and caught the attention of The ExplorersClub and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, in both of which she’s been honoured with membership. Marlis lives in Burlington, Ontario.

  • Title: Park Bagger: Adventures in the Canadian National Parks
  • Author: Marlis Butcher
  • Publisher: RMB | Rocky Mountain Books (Heritage Group of Publishers)
  • ISBN: 9781771604789
  • Pages: 448

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: Thanks! 

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of the Gone Viking travel memoirs (Gone Viking: A Travel SagaGone Viking II: Beyond BoundariesGone Viking III: The Holy Grail) and A Season on Vancouver Island. He’s won numerous book awards and received a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.