While visiting almost 100 countries since beginning his travels in 1963, Daniel Wood simultaneously became one of Vancouver's most successful freelance writers. Along the way he managed to publish 15 books and win more than 25 writing awards. Published posthumously, Tales of B.C.: 50 years of wacky, wild & thought-provoking adventures (OP Media/Sandhill $24.95) is his last title. He died on September 19, 2021 of Leukemia.

Born near Boston in Newton, Massachusetts, Wood majored in English, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Borneo and published his first book of fiction at age 25, River of Gold (Longman, 1969). He came to Vancouver as a Viet Nam War draft resister, first teaching at an experimental elementary school, then lecturing for the Education faculty at UBC. His urban guidebook for field trips, recreation and educational outlets for kids, Kids! Kids! Kids! In Vancouver (D&M 1988) led him further into the writing profession. He was active as a formative force in the Federation of BC Writers, serving as its second president (after Jan Drabek), and the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, prior to a stint as editor for The Globe and Mail's WEST magazine from 1989 to 1991. In 2000 Daniel Wood became the first freelance magazine writer to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Magazine Awards.

[BCBW 2022]


Tales of B.C.: 50 years of WACKY, WILD & THOUGHT-PROVOKING Adventures by Daniel Wood
(Op Media Group/Sandhill Marketing $24.95)

Review by Mark Forsythe

“I was a City Slicker, a dude of the first magnitude. I didn’t know which foot to put in which stirrup. I didn’t know how to steer. Yet ahead of me on this September afternoon lies 100 kilometres of rugged bushwacking, thousands of potentially head-removing low branches, a dozen creek crossings, a dozen more horrifyingly steep ravines and talus slopes, and the abiding threat of grizzlies—all requisite encounters in B.C.’s last true frontier. I’m about to learn, I know, some scary lessons.” —Daniel Wood, A Greenhorn
Rides the Wokkpash Canyon Trail

Daniel Wood’s storytelling can erupt like a volcano, spewing vivid details, cheeky humour, ideas and bolts of wisdom. His knack for inserting readers into a story is impressive; whether fording wilderness creeks on horseback, crash-landing in a hot air balloon or sharing tales of death-defying kayakers in the Stikine Canyon. He takes you there and dunks your head into icy waters.

Daniel died last September at the age of 78. During his 50-year freelance writing career he transported readers to more than 100 countries, often with skilled BC photographers like Ron Watts. He tasted deep fried guinea pig in the Andes, encountered nomadic herders in the Gobi Desert and learned how to use a blowpipe in the jungles of Malaysia. He told his social media followers, “My work has taken me to some of the least known and most remote places on Earth. Because it is there—at the frontiers—where great, untold stories exist.”

Wood’s heart was also fastened to BC like a barnacle on driftwood. In the months prior to his death, he collaborated with Dale Miller, a trusted editor at British Columbia Magazine, to assemble an anthology of magazine pieces written for assorted publications. They selected 28 stories for Tales of B.C., an entertaining and enlightening tribute to his adopted province. Wood had arrived in Vancouver as an American draft resister in 1969 with the FBI on his tail. “My get-away car was my grandmother’s underpowered Ford Falcon,” he recalls.

BC’s extreme climbers, gold seekers, biologists, back-country skiers and various adventurers fired his imagination. He writes, “Stuck here on the ragged edge of North America, the dreamers, the idealists, the Marxists, the utopian hippie surfers (and all the others) have sought—in the province’s myriad remote valleys and coastal islands—a place to encompass their hopes. People pursuing their hopes and dreams, I came to understand, have stories to tell.” Wood conveyed those stories with skill and passion, propelled by an engaging narrative.

The stories in Tales of B.C. cut a wide swathe: adventure, issues, people, places, events and sciences. During a 1998 visit to Atlin, Wood noted: “This intimacy with the wilderness—this dependence on nature’s resources and respect for its dangers—underscores virtually every conversation.” He profiled BC‘s last one-room school at Gold Bridge, watched fans go bonkers over Elvis impersonators at a Penticton tribute festival and recounted an avalanche survivor’s (named Merton) nightmarish plunge in the Monashees. “It feels,” Merton thought at that instant, “as if I’ve suddenly mounted an enraged wild animal.”

Wood also tackled contemporary issues—from legalization of marijuana to the politics of medically-assisted death. He interviewed people who were arranging their own assisted deaths —before the courts provided legal sanction. One man tells him, “If I were a horse, they’d shoot me.” Considering the morality of euthanasia, Wood writes: “A large segment of society has come to believe (67 per cent in Canada) that having a choice about the circumstances of one’s final hours is the same as having a choice about abortion, or the sex of one’s marital partner, or whether having a martini or two marks the highway to Hell.”

Fascinated by the sciences, Wood goes in search of cougars with biologists on Vancouver Island, examines theories about ancient Chinese explorers arriving on BC’s coast and follows dinosaur tracks discovered by children near Tumbler Ridge. Among the memorable people profiled here are Harold Steves, the founding father of BC’s game-changing Agricultural Land Reserve. We meet writer and guide Chris Czajkowski who lives alone in a home that she built in the Chilcotin wilderness. “I can just make out the glow of the lantern, framed by Czajkowski’s window. The light illuminates the outpost of remarkable human endurance and courage—a singular retreat from a world that often seems close to closing in.” Tales of B.C. reveals a deep curiosity and reverence for the province’s people and places, infused with Wood’s infectious sense of discovery.

Daniel Wood virtually owned the Western Magazine Awards—he was nominated 52 times. Maybe more. He penned 15 books, was an award-winning magazine editor and was nominated for international travel writing awards. He was also a gifted writing teacher at UBC and SFU, and after sharing news of his terminal illness he told a former student: “I never had kids. I see my successful students as my writer offspring. You, collectively, are my legacy.” 9781777876401

Mark Forsythe has also told many stories about BC both as an author/co-author of four books and as the 18-year host of the former CBC Radio weekday show, BC Almanac.