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A Four-Year Hitchhiking Odyssey

In April 1997, Matt Jackson quit his job, strode to the edge of the Trans-Canada Highway near Lake Louise, Alberta, and began the journey of a lifetime. His plan? To spend several months hitchhiking across Canada, meeting Canadians from every walk of life and experiencing firsthand our country's breathtaking landscape. The trip was supposed to take three months–maybe four, tops.

But the road has a mind of its own, as Jackson soon discovered, and he didn't arrive in Newfoundland until three-and-a-half years later. By that time he had traversed nearly 30,000 kilometres of gravel and asphalt, shot more than 25,000 photographs and met hundreds of people from every corner of the country. With each and every bend in the road, Jackson was inspired by the generosity of Canadians–from farmers and fishermen to cowboys, hippies, miners and stay-at-home moms–who welcomed a stranger into their lives and earned a lasting place in his heart.

He spent a week working on a game ranch in northern Saskatchewan, rounding up elk calves and stretching bison hides. He hitchhiked on a sailboat across the Great Lakes, plying waters the voyageurs once travelled in huge ten-metre canoes. He thumbed through the Quebec heartland wearing a red CANADA T-shirt. He travelled above the Arctic Circle into the land of the Midnight Sun where he dined on traditional Inuit fare. He walked over the Chilkoot Pass and paddled the Yukon River down to the Klondike gold fields at Dawson City. And he rode across the windswept prairies to Fort Walsh with a group of Native horsemen, who were kind enough to lend him a horse.

Jackson's journey was also rife with unexpected turns and high adventure. In northern BC, a gale force wind nearly blew his tent off a mountain ridge while he was sleeping inside. He was robbed in Dawson City, Yukon, and was forced to confront the would-be thieves. In August of 2000 he inadvertently thumbed through the Burnt Church fisheries blockade in New Brunswick. And in northern Alberta, a testy bison bull tried, without apology, to trample him.

The Canada Chronicles is the story of Jackson's unforgettable journey, one that was destined to turn from exploration to whimsey to utter absurdity on occasion. While it's the account of a young man trying to make sense of a country that defies explanation, it is also a good old-fashioned road tale mixed with humour and plenty of pure, unadulterated Canadiana. Readers of all ages will recognize themselves as Jackson hits the road and tries to figure out what there is to learn from it.

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