In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond by John Zada

Every year, I think to myself “I should read more non-fiction” and inevitably go a little wild picking out books in such a variety of subjects that I’m quickly overcome by the dearth of possible information. In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch is my first non-fiction read of the year, and may very well be my favorite of the year.

On the central and north coast of British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, containing more organic matter than any other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. The area plays host to a wide range of species, from thousand-year-old western cedars to humpback whales to iconic white Spirit bears.According to local residents, another giant is said to live in these woods. For centuries people have reported encounters with the Sasquatch–a species of hairy bipedal man-apes said to inhabit the deepest recesses of this pristine wilderness. Driven by his own childhood obsession with the creatures, John Zada decides to seek out the diverse inhabitants of this rugged and far-flung coast, where nearly everyone has a story to tell, from a scientist who dedicated his life to researching the Sasquatch, to members of the area’s First Nations, to a former grizzly bear hunter-turned-nature tour guide. With each tale, Zada discovers that his search for the Sasquatch is a quest for something infinitely more complex, cutting across questions of human perception, scientific inquiry, indigenous traditions, the environment, and the power and desire of the human imagination to believe in–or reject–something largely unseen.

Teeming with gorgeous nature writing and a driving narrative that takes us through the forests and into the valleys of a remote and seldom visited region, In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond sheds light on what our decades-long pursuit of the Sasquatch can tell us about ourselves and invites us to welcome wonder for the unknown back into our lives.

Summary from Goodreads

My Review

The summary mentions fantastic nature writing interspersed among the anecdotes of Sasquatch sightings, and I must say that for those paragraphs dedicated to the beauty of the Great Bear Rainforest alone, the book is worth the read.

It is not only nature that John rhapsodizes lyrically about, but also the people of the Great Bear Rainforest, the varied Canadians, and the Native peoples. In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond is more than a look into the legend of the Sasquatch, it is also a portrait of the people who purportedly live side-by-side with them.

John Zada looks at the Sasquatch question with an open mind and openly vacillates between true belief and skepticism. His journey introduces him to a variety of people who come at the Sasquatch legend from all different directions: skepticism, science, belief, spirituality, ambivalence, fear, respect, contempt, and derision. By the time I finished the book I had also experienced many different outlooks on the Sasquatch themselves, and to be honest, I couldn’t tell you where I stand.

But then, by the end, I don’t think it was John Zada’s purpose that he discover the secret of the Sasquatch. If anything, he seemed to have left the Great Bear Rainforest with a love for the land and the people, and through his book, was able to inspire a fondness and respect in me for the area, as well.

I highly recommend this fantastic book, whether you’re into legends, travel writing, portraits of communities in unfamiliar landscapes, or just appreciate good writing.

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